Vivacious Benita Nnenna Adaeze Nzeribe, is among the few top actresses in Nollywood who hard work and mother luck has helped get to the top of their careers. From a humble beginning in '96 on the set of "Beyond Our Dreams", a TV soap, Ihiala, Anambra State-born Benita, is now a top player in Nollywood movies. "I've paid my dues. It was not easy when I started then. I used to travel all the way from the East to Lagos for auditions," divulged the English graduate of Abia State University.
Continuing, the star actress with verve and panache who registered her bold presence in Nollywood on the sets of Notorious Virgin and Gold Diggers' in '99, has this to say on relationships: "At present, there is no man in life. I'm not searching. I'm only pausing pending the time my ideal man will come my way. I've chosen to be single since my last affair collapsed.."
Shy and easy going, Benny, as she is fondly called by her colleagues and pals, also shared some of her most kept secrets,
Recently, you were involved in a car accident. How did it happen?
Nothing much, sometimes in life some things just happen to test your faith in God. I thank God for everything. I'm very strong now. The accident happened here in Lagos while I was driving with a relative of mine. She was on the wheels when it happened. Except for my Chrysler Jeep that was heavily damaged, none of us sustained any injuries. They are still fixing the car.
You are looking prettier these days. Is any man responsible for it?
(laughs heartily) I guess I just rediscovered myself.
Were you lost before?
No! when a woman tells you she rediscovers herself, it means much. Well, as a man you won't understand. God has also been good to me….
Talking about movies, like how many have you done this year?
Well, I've not done much this year. I have shot about three movies this year. But Peace of Mind, is one of my most recent movies. It came out early this year. I acted alongside Olu Jacobs, Ejike Asiegbu, Ken Okonkwo, Fred Amata, Juliet Ibe, among others. In the movie I played the role of a troubled and battered housewife who went through much in her marriage at a very tender age. A well-scripted and family-oriented movie. Every home deserves a copy of Peace of Mind; especially young couples…It was fun on set.
Financially, were you okay with the movie?
Yeah! They tried much with my artiste fee, but I can't tell you the amount.
In the movie, your husband kept beating and battering you. In real life, can you tolerate such a husband?
In real life, I always pray to God not to give me the husband that will turn me into a punching bag. He will surely give me the man that will love and pamper me, despite my short comings.
Is there a man in your life at present?
Sometimes in life you pause. So, there is a possibility I'm pausing for now. That does not mean I'm not functioning. I'm only pausing in terms of relationships and please that does not mean I'm searching. I'm only single but not searching.
I'm not going to look for a relationship, even biblically, a woman does not look for a man, it is the other way round. So, a man should look for me and not me going to look for a man.
So, in essence, you are still single because the men have refused to come look for you?
No! that is not the reason. They keep coming, but I have chosen to be alone right now. Remember I'm still pausing. I just want to be alone.
Was a heartbreak your reason for choosing to be single?
I don't want to delve into that right now. The unexpected happens once in a while and after making amendments in your lifes, you just want to be. I'm not saying that I want to be celibate. No! I just want to pause and think about my life for the time being. I'm also using this time to reflect on my past life. And whatever you think made me choose to remain this way, it is very personal. I'm not denying the fact that something cause my new status as regards relationships.
So, for how many months or years are you going to pause?
(Laughs). Okay! I might get out of my pause this month or next month. It depends. But it will surely happen when God decides to bring that person that will help get me out of my pause. And that remains a secret between I and my God.
Talking about men and marriages. What qualities do you want your ideal man to possess?
The truth is that I want a man that is complete. A man that will understand, respect and love me. I don't need a saint, because there is none. I also want a man that is straight with me. He mustn't be Mr. World or a Bill Gates in terms of money. I want a man that knows himself inside out. A man that loves a woman, knows his limit, no matter what he does. And I think that is every woman's dream.
So, you are still searching and have not seen a man with all these qualities?
I keep saying it to whosoever that cares to listen, I'm not searching. No woman searches. The men have to search for us and that's the way it is.
Does that also mean that you will be altar-bound as soon as a man with these qualities come your way?
(Chuckles) Till then, let's see what happens.
Back to Nollywood. How come you have starred in only three movies since the beginning of this year. Did they ban you secretly?
No! Nobody banned me, I've not been around for sometimes now. I travelled and stayed long. But, I will be going on set very soon. Besides, Nollywood is going through much restructuring and re-organization.
Aside acting, what other things are you into?
I'm also a model. I do interior decorations also.
Your entry into Nollywood, how did you do it?
I started first on television around '96, with Beyond Our Dream. I was also an English undergraduate then at Abia State University. I came in basically because of my love for acting. In fact, I started coming to auditions from the East then to Lagos while still in a convent school then. I went to several auditions then here in Lagos. My first movie was around "99/2000. I did two movies at a stretch then, Notorious Virgin and Gold Diggers.
From then till now, like how many movies have you starred in?
Jeez. I've lost count of the number of movies I have featured in. They are many. Close to 100.
Did your parents approve of your going into acting then, considering the many negative publicities associated with artistes?
They did not wholly come out to kick against my choice, but there were little skepticisms here and there. But thank God I've been able to prove them wrong. They did not say it boldly. They allowed me be after seeing the success I've made out of my acting career.
As a young and rising actress then, how were you able to cope with sexual harassments from producers and directors?
Sincerely speaking, I was lucky, nobody harassed me sexually. Maybe, because of my innocence then.
You are from the popular and controversial Nzeribe family in Anambra State. In fact, Chuma Nzeribe, is your uncle. Does it affect your career in Nollywood?
Sincerely speaking, it does not affect me or weigh me down. I'm so proud of my family. We might not be the best. Every family has its ups and downs. I'm from a humble home.
But how do you feel whenever your uncle, Chuma's name, comes up as one of those fighting Gov. Ngige and the same time holding Anambra State to ransom?
(Laughs). I really don't want to discuss that here, it is a family matter. It's also politics, and sorry I'm not very good at discussing politics. I can't precisely tell you this person is right or wrong. But I know my uncle is one person that has good reasons for whatever he does.
If given the opportunity, will you advise him to leave the governor alone?
(Chuckles) Sorry, no comment.
Tell us more about yourself and family background
Well, I'm Benita Nnenna Adaeze Nzeribe. I'm an adult from Uzoakwa in Ihiala LGA in Anambra State. I was born in Aba and grew up in so many places. I did my primary and secondary schools in Aba and Umuahia. I also attended a Convent school with the hope of becoming a reverend sister. But I left when I felt I was not called towards that. My growing up was also normal and nice. Nothing too fantastic. Little pains here and there. The fondest memorable about my growing up years, was when my dad bought me my first car at the age of 14. Growing up was fun for me. We are four in my family: two boys, two girls. I'm the third child. Dad is an international businessman and mom is a retired chief nurse. That's it about my family. Nothing spectacular.
Was English what you had always thought of reading in the university or it happened by chance?
No! I had always wanted to read theatre arts, but as at the time I got into ABSU, they were not offering theatre arts, so, I opted for English…
Some of your colleagues are at present under ban, courtesy of movie-makers. What is y our view on the raging issue?
Well, in situations like this, it is only God that can really see our hearts. But for me, I have chosen to remain silent till the storm is over. What will be, will be. Despite all these, I'm optimistic we will get to our destination… I'm also silent not because I'm scared of anybody, no! I'm silent because I don't have facts of what happened.
You must have achieved much as an actress. What would you say is your biggest achievement in Nollywood today?
I might not have made it so big. But I believe that God has been so good to me. Especially, when I look back from where I was coming form. I'm also not the kind of person that forgets where I'm coming from…Whenever I look back, I know God has been really good to me as an actress. I keep praying that we all join hands together to build Nollywood and make it a better place for us. Out of nothing, Benita rose to become something in Nollywood, that is a big achievement.
What would you say has been your most difficult experience in Nollywood?
None that I can remember now. But it was rough and tough getting to the top in Nollywood. At a point, it was like a mirage. But I told myself that if people get there, I will also be there. And God has been so, so good to me.
Did you ever think of quitting then that the going was rough and tough?
I never thought of quitting because I knew I would surely get there. It's either you make it or you fail.
Did it also occur to you that you would get to the top of your career this soon?
I told myself I will get there, but I don't know how. I had this thing inside of me, which keeps telling me I would get there.
As a star actress, how would you rate Nollywood?
I won't say we are excellent right now, because we don't have what it takes to be excellent. We do good movies and I'm very proud of Nollywood. In fact, in Nollywood we are performing miracles.
In your own view, what do you see as the biggest problem facing actresses today?
Our personal lives are no longer personal to us again. Most times, people misunderstand us. We are decent human beings with consciences contrary to opinions about us, especially in the media. We are not the way they look at us. I have my limits in whatever movie role that comes my way. It is so because I'm an African. I can't go beyond kissing in a movie and it must not be deep kissing.
As a popular and pretty actress, how do you cope with your male admirers?
Well, I get by and tell myself the truth always. I'm usually very nice and polite whenever they come my way. But if I discover they want something deep, I will turn you down politely. I usually tell them loud and clear that I can't offer anything more than friendship.
Is marriage on your mind?
Marriage is on every young girl's mind. What is on my mind is a peaceful marriage and it does not come easily. You pray for it to come.
Are there pressures on you from your parents to settle down?
(Giggles) This job makes people to place you above what you are in all ramifications. Normally, every mum wants her grown up daughter to be married. If the right man comes why not…But there are no pressures on me right now to get married.
The fact that you are still single, does it weigh you down sometimes?
How can it weigh me down? I'm not running out of time. I'm just there.
Can you marry an actor?
Well, if the actor loves me and has all the qualities I want in my dream man, yes. Your job does not really matter to me. What matters to me is happiness.
Who are you role models in Nollywood today, in terms of acting?
I have Liz Benson anyday. On the foreign scene, I have Cameroon Diaz and Angelina Jolie. I also admire Brad Pitt, RMD and Ben Affleck.
I know you believe so much in love. But has the game of love been fair to you?
Yes and no. It bites and hurts sometimes and makes you happy sometimes too. I've had a heartbreak once in my life. It is one of those things.
Do you have any regret in life today?
Regrets? None that I can remember, honestly.
If you are not acting today, what else would you have been doing?
Maybe, singing. I used to sing much before.
What are your phobias?
My biggest phobia is height. I also have a phobia for failure.
If you are to meet God today, what one major favour would you ask from him?
I would ask Him to grant me my heart desires. And these heart desires of mine are secrets between Him and me.
What is your philosophy of life?
Very simple! What will be, will be. Destiny can be delayed but it can never be changed.
What kind of legacy do you want to leave behind when you are no longer there?
Good name, fighting spirit and will power to emulate.
Many of your colleagues say you are cocky, pompous, arrogant and conceited. Are you?
No! Benita Nnenna Adaeze is a very shy person who is being misconstrued by so many people. I'm humble. You get to know me better when you are close to me. I like being on my own, a very shy lady. I don't like cocky or snobbish people. As far as I'm concerned, we are all equal in the eyes of God.
In the next couple of years, where do you hope to be?
By God's grace, I want to attain a big height in Nollywood and also have a happy home. God will do it for me.
So, how is life in Nollywood?
Life in Nollywood is good. It's really been nice. Ups and down, it is so in every business.
And how are you coping with stardom?
It's okay! I get by somehow (laughs)
What are the things you like and hate about stardom?
What I don't like about stardom is that you don't have your life. You can't live the way you want to live. You are extra careful in doing most things. I love the fact that most times, you jump the queues…Doors are also opened for you.
Are you romantic?
For lack of a better word, I'm extra romantic (Laughs longer).