I’M A HEART BREAKER
At age 40, Star of 'Checkmate' and mother of three, Tara West, still cuts a figure that could make men ogle. However, the actress disclosed to Sunday Sun that she does not lose sleep when men disappoint her. Reason: She broke over a dozen hearts when she was much younger.
“I broke a lot of hearts when I was much younger. When I was 25, the tables were suddenly reversed. I did not lose sleep. I had come to realise that in life, you pay for everything you do. It is nemesis! What ever goes round comes around.
Between 25 and today, I have had five heart breaks but I never lose sleep because I was paying for what I had done. For some years I looked for a particular guy called Alex. I met him when I was 21 and I told him I was too young to get married but these were all lies from the pit of hell.
“I was full of lies, I was a player, I was having fun. I couldn't imagine a marrriage somewhere to some guy.”
According to West, she was abandoned by her family after her dad died when she was 13.
“I lost a whole lot growing up. I became a woman at a very tender age. I had my first child at the age of 16 because I was naïve. People talk about their teenage years but I never had that. At 16 I was already fending for myself, I was paying house rent and school fees and taking care of my son and then I had a couple of people depending on me. At that time, I discovered that I could use what I had to get what I wanted.
“I was not born with a silver spoon. I lost my dad at the age of 13. My dad had kids from eight women and after his death, their mums came for their children but no one came for me.
“I had to do a lot of things on my own. I just found out that in 1993, the woman I thought was my mum was not actually my mum. My mum is a Sierra Leonean by the name C. Johnson. I don't know her and I have never met her till date. I have tried to locate her but it has yielded nothing but I know that some day soon, I would meet her.”
As a consequence of the absence of a loving mother, Tara ended up on the streets: “I made a lot of mistakes growing up on the streets. There was nobody to talk to, for guidance. I lived life the way I liked. I blundered and learnt the hard way. I had a terrible temper. I was a very beautiful woman. Men found me irresistible but I was very principled, maybe strict. I am blunt to a fault. If I had somebody somewhere advising me, I would have been more diplomatic. I lost a lot of jobs and friends and that followed me into relationship with the opposite sex. I could just lose it and walk away and I did not give a damn.
“My hands were always slapping faces and I was saying 'to hell with it!' But over time, I have come to learn that life is not like that.
“I was in the theatre business but we earned very little. One thing I couldn't do was prostitute because I had a strong will but I was driven that far. I am a very proud person.”
Determined not to be a lady of easy virtue, Tara resolved to rely on her God given talents after Segun Bankole, veteran dancer discovered her: “I danced professionally for six years. I was discovered by Segun Bankole, a veteran. I played the role of an eighteen-year-old woman in a play entitled 'The king's Son.' I took two years off to finish my secondary education and when I couldn't further because of funds, I decided to do the things that I knew best. That was how I got into the theatre and joined the 'Farufa Dance Group' led by Ephiphanio.
A year after I joined them, I became the lead dancer. That same year I joined 'Larry Williams Playhouse Academy.' By 1986 I had graduated. I became his assistant director then I moved on and danced for several groups.
“I did not make money from dancing. I did it because I loved it and I would do it all over again. I used to sing too and acting part time then.”
However, what finally put her off dancing was when her brassier was stolen after a dance performance in 1989 in mysterious circumstances.
Tara got her first big break on the set of Amaka Igwe's 'Checkmate' where she acted the role of Lola Fuji. After that she had a stint with NTA. She featured in 'Third Eye,'and 'At Your Service,' among others. “We also did stuff with MAMSER, Jerry Gana liked the role that I played on a campaign for MAMSA then. I was as good an actress as a dancer.”
“To God be the glory! I was a co-founding member of the Actors Guild of Nigeria (AGN). The guild has given a voice to the industry today. We fought when veterans did not believe in the dream. The likes of Ifeanyi Dike, Sony McDon, Okey Bakassi, and myself started it in 1995.
“Each time I look at the industry I smile because this was my dream.”
According to Tara, who has logged over 25 years in the industry: “ I feel sad with what is going on in the industry today because when we started, we got our jobs strictly on merit. It did not matter if you were dating the director or producer. If you were not good enough, you didn't get the role. That was 25 years ago. Today, every marketer, every producer, every director wants to sleep with you. If these girls are comfortable, no man will take advantage of them.
The average Nigerian girl is a proud woman but things are not in place. So they get desperate because most of them are bread winners. They have to feed their children and take care of families. Every woman cannot be as strong-willed as I am. The men know that these girls are vulnerable so they take advantage of them. I am not a saint. I have dated people in the industry but none can come out and say, 'I slept with this woman because I gave her a job.'”
“I don't have one right now and I am not really dating. But I have a lot of admirers, all to the glory of God. I still have the men coming this much. I am scared though because I have had some disappointments. I am looking forward to getting married someday but that would be when I find a man who would not bother with society; who will not bother with what his people would say. A man who is God fearing and not selfish, who would love my kids. I am not a particularly young woman anymore. I look younger than my age. I have three kids, my first child is 24. Whoever is going to come should be ready.”
“I am a mother of three; Deji, Ronny and Adrian. I was 40 on the 19th of April. Single motherhood is something that I enjoy. I love my kids. It's just that the bills get so much sometimes. Their fathers are taking care of them. But it can never be enough. I love kids. I have embraced single motherhood and it is beautiful. And some day when the Lord says 'he' should come, we are going to do it together and have three more kids and hey! I want to adopt 16 kids. I just love kids. I love hearing their cries around me. My youngest baby is five-years-old.”
“I have an NGO called 'Support for The African Youth' (SAY). Basically, its objective is to empower the youths. It also has a department for counseling. I believe the foundation of the individual determines his outlook to life.
“I counsel a lot of young girls at my NGO. I let them know that they could put a little thing together for themselves and be independent. We are looking at setting up a micro credit scheme. We intend to help these young ones. If I had that opportunity, it would be a different story today. I try to make this young ones understand that they don't have to compromise; they could do something for themselves..
“I got the inspiration for the NGO in 2003 after I was robbed. I had returned to the country from Benin Republic where I had stayed for seven years. What touched me most was that these guys were young men; the oldest was, say 27. They spoke good english. And I saw myself connecting with them and I wept. The took everything I had on me. In the morning I got the idea for SAY because I understood what those kids were going through. I am also working on releasing an album very soon.”