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ARTISTES MAKE BETTER COUPLES

By Nonye Iwuagwu
Gloria Young
Gloria Young

Artistes make better couples
Gloria Young has much to say: about her acting career and the many scandals dogging her heels, especially the wife-snatching scandal. She speaks on these and more, in this interview with 'Nonye Iwuagwu

You are not seen in movies these days, unlike when you started out. Is there a reason for this?

No. As an actress, you have to be willing to work whenever you are called upon. I believe if I am called upon, I will work. Why not? But then, I like to be careful of the movies I do. But I don't refuse scripts based on that. I like to know who I am working with. I like to know the people I am dealing with, more or less.

If I don't do home movies, that does not mean I am not working. It means I do many other things as well. I do TV. I just finished a TV show. I do radio programmes as well. I also do stage. Nobody can box me into a corner.

Is it not curious that you don't get many scripts any longer? You used to be a hot cake.

There is no controversy where that is concerned. Remember that in those days, we didn't have that many artistes. That was why it looked as if the scripts were going round a select few.

But now, there are so many people who are doing the same thing. Now you get a chance to rest in-between.

I just finished a job recently. Most people don't get to see all the movies out there. The stories are just as good; the scripts are just as good, but they don't get as much publicity as some other movies.

Is that not because the coming of younger ones has made you irrelevant?

Definitely not. Once you are an actor, you are an actor forever. You get better with age.

Naturally, you can't do those small girls roles any more. But you will continue getting jobs until you die.

So, how relevant are you now in the entertainment industry?

I have a dance/drama troupes. I work with them. We do performances in different places. That keeps me busy, but it doesn't stop me from working. I also do stage productions like I told you.

The jobs do come in, like I told you. I kind of like it that I am not boxed into a corner where they will only call me for home movie productions. If your face is seen so much, you will lose the uniqueness that you have. I try not to let my face be overused. It is not good.

What do you do with the dance/drama troupe?

We do stage plays. We dance and we do recitals. We perform mostly for secondary schools, and we help them with their literature curricular by acting the plays.

We have been doing it for almost three years. It is just that I remained in the background.

I still act all the time, but you cannot see me doing the same thing in 20 movies. I can do 20 different roles and I am still the same person that I am.

That means you are versatile…

Exactly.

But you play wicked roles more…

I am surprised you are saying this. I have acted the sad woman; the troubled woman and the woman with small, small boyfriends.

The big woman with small boyfriends shot you up in 'Glamour Girls'…

Yes. That is why most people think that is all I can do. You see, people don't even get to notice me when I am doing the other kinds of roles.

Glamour Girls was my first movie. Yes, it shot me into limelight. But if I had allowed it, it would have put me in a corner.

Producers started calling you for such roles after 'Glamour Girls'?

Yes. But most times, I refused them.

You dance?

Yes.

With your build?

Why not? God gave me the build. I have tried everything to lose weight, but I have not been able to. I have been told I have big bones. As long as I am comfortable, I don't mind. I have always been like this right from time I was a baby. I do dance a lot.

How did home movies come about in the first place?

I would say the profession was chosen for me. I was acting like a child in primary school. I was given roles and I was doing them well, and everybody was happy with me.

I didn't take it serious, anyway. All I wanted to do was to write. That was how I ended up in journalism.

But out of the blues, I was given a script and I was told to come for audition. They had done three auditions and they still hadn't found who to play 'Doris' in Glamour Girls. The producer was not satisfied.

Jennifer Okereke (God rest her soul) and Liz Benson came to my office and said they would want me to audition for a role. I was excited. These were people I see on TV. I felt it was a challenge that I could rise up to.

So I went with them. I was tickled seeing all the stars –Bob Manuel, Zack Orji and the rest.

But I still held my own. I wasn't nervous. I wasn't a small girl. I felt it was a challenge; if I didn't get the role, it was not a big deal. It is not like now that girls are so desperate.

They gave me the script and I took my time to read it. When I was ready, I played the part and they said it was perfect, everybody started clapping for me. That was how we started rehearsals.

When we finished, I forgot about it. I was back to my office until the movie now came out. It was a bomb! It caused so much uproar. I became a star! My face was all over the posters. I couldn't do any other thing else. I realise that if I worked hard on this, it could be my profession. I started getting scripts from left, right and centre.

But I had to pause and decide what I wanted. It took me a while before I decided to do it full-time. Initially, it was a part-time thing. It kind of helped me because I was not desperate. I have never been the kind of person who does movies back to back. There were many other people out there. What mattered then was the script and not the face. But these days, it is the face that matters.

Are you saying the industry has changed, not only positively but also negatively…

I wouldn't say negatively. You know how it is with a child. When a child is born, he must go through every stage, he must crawl, then walk and then run, and finally become a mature person.

I don't think our industry has gotten to that stage of maturity yet. We are still making mistakes. That is how we learn. Remember we are not copying anybody, we are doing our thing ourselves.

How did you parents take it when you decided to take up acting as a profession?

To be honest, my father didn't like it. He didn't understand what all the hullabaloo was about. It didn't look like a serious profession to him. He was okay with my acting when I was in primary school. But it took him time to accept it when I decided to take it up as a profession.

It was my uncle living in the US who came back to Nigeria and made him (my father) change his mind. My uncle told my father that the movie has shot me up, I was known all over US and Australia. My father grumbled, but my uncle made him change his mind; and then he gave me his blessings.

Since then, the sky has just been a starting point.

How, exactly, has it been?

It has been perfect. I will not tell you how much I got for my first movie. It was quite good, considering what I hear some people get for their first movie. Mine was pretty good.

I wasn't a desperate small girl you could throw around. A lot of things passed me by. I had a little support from the people who were already there, unlike what is happening now. The older ones nowadays are not giving the younger ones a chance; they are not supporting them. And then, these younger ones are not willing to listen to them.

You get to hear of sexual abuse. I have never had that kind of experience from anybody. I think it is the way you carry yourself that would determine whether you would get harassed. If you show desperation, they will come to you.

Then again, why can't you say no? If it is for you, nobody can take it. If you have the talent, it will show. This talent is God's gift, you cannot hide it under a table. It is like a light and it must shine though.

But the young girls are desperate now and they are willing to do anything. It wasn't like that during our time.

Our own time was better and because we have been growing, you see a lot of things evolving. By the time we get to the height, we will sort the wheat from the chaff.

In terms of talent, are actors born or made?

That is pretty difficult to say. I used to think an actor's talent is in-born. But he has to hone his skill. You are born with the talent, but you need to work on it. But then, if you are not born with the talent, if you cannot act, you cannot act no matter all the schools you go to.

My husband believes strongly that actors should be educated. If you want to act, go and learn how to do the proper thing.

You don't have any regrets being an actress?

Oh no! Except for the fact that I wished I was paid better. No matter what anybody tells you, forget it. You cannot be paid what you are worth in this country. It is taking a lot of time for people to understand that this is a profession. They think, 'Oh, she is just acting'. Others say, 'They are playing'.

But I have decided that this would be my career, I can do other things by the side.

And then, since it is my profession, it should take care of my bills. That means I should be able to buy my car, pay my rent and take care of my family.

But that is not what is happening now. We all have what we are doing by the side. It is not like in the US where an actress is getting paid millions of dollars for one movie, and she can afford to do just three in a year.

The average Nigerian actress would tell you that she has done 20 movies in a month and she is feeling proud. They are overusing you! What is that? Let us call a spade a spade. How can you do 50 movies in one year and you feel proud of it?

I should do one movie in three months. Give me one month to rehearse, the second month to do the job and the third month to come back to life and rest. So by the fourth or fifth month, you can now give me another job.

Look at them, especially the young ones, saying, 'They are paying me N500, 000 for a movie;' and you are doing 50! Come on! Let us face reality.

Well, I am not there o. I don't know their bargaining power.

Doesn't your job affect your real nature?

I am a very natural person.

But I cannot go to the market and behave anyhow. I cannot get angry with a bus driver. I cannot lose my temper anyhow. I have to watch the way I behave. I must hold my mouth; if I get to my house, I can scream.

But then, I remember when I was running around for my wedding and I went to the market with my friend. People were staring at me. I kept moving. Then, they started waving; automatically the prices started going up. I couldn't buy anything. We had to leave.

That is what we face as actresses. Unfortunately, when my in-laws come and they want me to take them to the market, I cannot do that because prices will go up. I cannot go to the market with them. But I can go down on my knees and cook for them. I am a woman.

You are married to an actor.

Yes.

Why?

You don't plan these things. I don't think anybody says, 'Okay, I must marry a lawyer or a doctor'. I didn't plan it, it just happened. I fell in love, and it was pretty strong because I fell in love with my friend. We were close and we were good friends. We could talk. I couldn't have gone into a relationship where I couldn't express myself, I would have run mad.

My husband and I are very close. We always have things to talk about. Even when we don't see, we still communicate. We gist a lot and that is the beauty of it all. It is not that we can't be quiet together, but that is another beautiful thing about our relationship. There is always that peace and comfort that surrounds our union.

A number of marriages where artistes intermarry have crashed. How have you managed yours?

I don't talk about my marriage based on that. My marriage is just like any other. There is nothing extraordinary about it. I have seen people who have lived together for 50 years and they are still going strong. So, what is the big deal? Is it because we are actors? That should even make it stronger.

You must work at you marriage despite your profession. You must give it what you are supposed to give it. As a woman, if you are supposed to give it 60 per cent, then bring it and let the husband bring his 40 per cent.

Do you feel comfortable seeing him do love scenes in the movies?

Why not? You should ask him if he feels comfortable seeing me do love scenes.

There is really nothing to it. In fact, he finished doing a movie the other day and he was telling me the actress he was acting with found it uncomfortable to kiss him in a love scene. He had to describe how he kissed the girl.

When we eventually saw the movie when it came out, and it got to that scene, I was like, 'See this silly girl, she didn't even do this thing well'.

Come on! the director is there, the cameraman is there, everybody is there. There is no way the thing will get more intimate than necessary. It is just acting.

You people should be the ones to worry. There is no TV screen to show you what your husbands are doing outside the home. We see what our husbands do on the TV. A man could be an actor and he is the best husband while another man can be a lawyer and he is a dog. It doesn't have anything to do with your profession.

If the role requires you to kiss, you should do it well.

So you can do love scenes well?

Absolutely. I am comfortable doing it. It is the person acting with me that usually feels uncomfortable. I know where to draw the line. It is not just because I am a married woman, but I have a background. I was trained properly.

How do you manage the home front, since your jobs require you and your husband staying out of the home for days and weeks?

We have been managing. God has been helping us. It has been difficult, but that makes it sweeter. At least if you go out for a week or two, somebody would have missed you greatly.

Lets' come back to 'Glamour Girls,' how much of you was in that movie?

I am a total opposite of what you saw in Glamour Girls. I am a home girl. Oh yes, I like to enjoy myself. Don't get me wrong, I still do my karaoke, go to the night clubs and have fun. But I am still a home girl

I don't know how to woo a man. I don't know how to have small boyfriends.

You have been associated with a lot of scandals.

Yes, and it hurts. The press was not fair to me. As a journalist, I didn't expect all the bad press I got. I was given all kinds of sensational stories.

The other day, I just saw an old magazine with the headline, 'I am the most glamorous of all the glamour girls'. I never said that. I even had to read the entire story and I didn't find where I said that.

Ten years later, it still hurts. The press was not fair to me. But I got used to it and I have developed a thick skin.

The scandals even continued after you got married…

It became worse. For almost a year and half, I stopped buying and reading soft sell magazines so that I would stop reading such. I heard that I was keeping one million and one boyfriends. It looked as if there was a kind of vendetta against me. I stopped granting interviews and I switched off totally.

How did your husband take it?

Interestingly, the scandals made us get closer. You can't marry who you don't know. He knew who he married, he knew everything about me. He believed in me so strongly because he knew me.

But we learnt that you snatched him from another actress?

When he comes in, you can ask him if I snatched him from anybody. Haba! That lady was using me to sell herself and it worked for her. I will not mention her name, but she succeeded in whatever she was doing. Now she is a star.

Yes there was a small controversy about the whole thing, but I was silent on the issue. I realised what she was doing and I allowed her to go ahead. The public got tired of reading, and everything became normal again.

Have you forgiven her for trying to drag your reputation in the mud?

She never hurt me. There is nothing to forgive. It was like a fly, and I hit it off. She didn't mar my reputation. She was selling me and she was selling herself as well. But the only thing was that I didn't need the publicity, I was already up there. She needed the publicity more. Her action got her roles. She is acting. This was somebody that was on the periphery, she was playing waka pass. All of a sudden, she found out that she could use me to sell herself. She went ahead to say, 'Gloria Anozie stole my husband'.

Nobody bothered to investigate the real thing. I was saying. 'no comment' until one journalist came to the house and insisted that I talk. I told him if the actress believed she had a problem with me, she should come and meet me.

She couldn't come and meet me and tell me to my face that I stole her husband. I have seen her so many times and she is looking for a way to make friends with me. That is the truth.

But did you take Nobert Young from her?

Naturally, in a relationship, if a guy dumps a girl for another person, the girl should be upset. But the way she went about her own was too much. If I were the one, I would hide my head in shame. How can a guy dump me for another woman? Man, leave me? I will hide my head in shame! Nobody will hear of it because it would look as if the other lady was better than me.

She didn't realise she was saying I was better than her. This girl went to school o, but all she cared about was publicity. She needed to sell herself and it worked for her.

Away from that, you wear a nose ring. Is it part of the glamour look?

It is just like an earring. I take it off sometimes. I saw it on Janet Jackson and I liked it. Since I feel we have the same structure of nose, I decided to wear it and I like the look.

I am just me. I like my long nails, painted as nicely as they are now. I like my wild hair. This is just me.

After this, what is next?

I am doing so many things with children. I am giving back to the society in a way.

We have a show that we planned for sometime this month. It is just like the Idols show that we had recently. I am calling it Gowon Estate Idols. It is a talent hunt competition. I am hoping to be able to showcase some young people's talents to the world.