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In Nollywood, female directors sexually harrass actors, says Kate Henshaw

By Funmi Johnson - Vanguard

Since making her Nollywood debut on the set of 'The Sun Sets' in 1994, Kate Henshaw-Nuttal has come a long way to becoming a noteable name in Nigeria movie industry.
Currently vying for the post of Public Relations Officer on the platform of the Actors' Guild of

Nigeria (AGN) and married to a Briton, Kate Henshaw is one of the few Nigerian female actors who have made their marks in the industry. She shares her experience in the movie industry, married life and of course, sexual harassment in the movie industry.

You look great, what is the secret?

(Laughs) I just try to work as hard as I can. And when ever I find time between six and nine o'clock in the morning, I'm in the gym for my massage and facials.

As a women who is eye of the society, it's important I do this because, my body is my workshop.

As a growing child, did you ever think you will end up being an actress?

Not quite. I actually wanted to be a musician because I love singing.

And what has happened to your passion for music?

It's still there, buried in the deepest part of my heart. But for now I sing only for fun and for charity, like what we did for the OGD All Stars Jamz. It was something we did to raise funds for charity and for scholarship for children. It was a good course and that is something I like doing. But to become a full time professional and make money from music for now please count me out of it.

What actually motivated you to sing for charity?

You know, there are so many people out there who need helping hands, who need people to put smiles on their faces. These are the people I want to help with my voice. I think that is more interesting than trying to make money for yourself.

You seem to have a large heart, could your background have influenced this?

My upbringing has a very big influence on the person that I am today. I have been through so many things in life. Still, I'm growing strong. The credit for my inner strength must first go to God and my parents for impacting so much into me.

What was your growing up like?

Growing up was fantastic. It was lovely. I attended St Mary's Private School, Ajele on Broad street and I had my secondary education in Calabar.

Although my mother was a full time house wife, we were quite comfortable and lacked nothing. My father was an agent for Pan American Airline, in those days when they used to fly into Nigeria
And life was great as we spent most of holidays abroad.

Is that part of what has made you what you are?

Yes, because I did not lack anything as a child. I was deprived of nothing by my parents and growing was done in a family that shared so much love. As children, we were told always to tell the truth, to do only what is right and at no time be greedy.

I had a wonderful up bringing I must confess.

Can you share some of the experiences you had on your way to the top?

It was not all easy getting to where I am today. People will take you for granted and you'd do jobs and don't get paid. The most painful aspect of the situation is that, there is really nothing you can do about it. But nobody can try that with me today any way.

Those were some of the initial obstacles one faces as a beginner. Before I started acting, I was into modeling and sorts of jobs to make ends meet and so when I went into the movies I wasn't exactly hungry as most wannabes are when they begin.

So are you saying you were more fortunate than others?


How do you manage the home front with your increasingly tasking career?

For the home to be complete, there has to be the father, mother and child. My husband is extremely supportive.

My mum, used to come down to look after my daughter when she was a baby and my sister is staying with us. So all of them have been very helpful. It's good to have support at home, then your mind will be free to go out and do your work and give your best to your career.

If the home is not settled, my mind will not be settled, I won't be able to do what I want to do so, it's very important for the home front to be solid.

So where is your husband right now?

He is at home.

Does he watch your movies?

Yes he does.

How does he feel when you're being kissed on set?

(Laughs) He will just joke about it saying, 'Who is that guy, what is his number, give me his number, let me call him' I will tell him that 'your oyinbo people , they do worse than I'm doing.' He is really a wonderful person and extremely supportive.

So you can say you're lucky to have him?

Not just lucky, I am blessed to have him. When I think back and I ask myself, who else would have been able to take this from me, to support me all the way and let me travel here and there.

“Oh I'm going to Abuja”. Eh, when, for how long, okay, save journey'. He's just like that. It's not easy but he has been there all the way.

Do you think in marrying him you made a right decision, when there are so many Nigerian men who'd have you for a wife?

The issue here is not a matter of wether I married a Nigerian or not but a matter of where I found love and understanding.

I'm sure there are Nigerian men who are married to career women too. Women that are Managing Directors of banks like the Stock Exchange woman, Ndi Okereke, and Okonjo Iweala, who is a World Bank MD.

It's all about having a man who is willing to support you and let you do what you love and also help you balance up the home front. If you are not working, you will not be able to help out in the home as you should.

What was your experience at the Berlin Film Festival like?

It was fantastic, I was treated like a royalty. I had a chaperon with me all the time and the experience was amazing. The reception, the hotel accommodation, every thing was lovely. I can not fault it at all. It was fantastic.

Of course we had Bollywood stars and a host of others at the event. It was a happy occasion and I was very well received.

What comparison can you draw from the treatment you got there in Berlin and what happens here?
There are lessons to be learnt.

We have someone who is building up the image of the country in a good light, who is an ambassador of the country and they celebrate such person. We should be able to celebrate that person, to appreciate that person, 'you are doing a good job, we appreciate you, continue doing what you are doing'.

I have few people coming up to me, to tell me, 'oh you are doing a great job, we are proud of you, thank you, you are a strong woman' which is really good.

Still, you work with some producers, and they just take you for granted. Even now, You just have to keep fighting and say no, this is what I want, this is how it should be or no if it's not like this, I'm not taking my turn. That is the only way you can make yourself to be seen and heard.

What is your opinion about sexual harassment does it really exist in Nollywood?

Yes it's real.

Have you ever been sexually harassed?

Never, I have never been sexually harassed. I was not harassed for my first job and it's not now that anybody will come and tell me anything of sort.

But the practice is real and it cuts across borders. Let's be fair to the men as well. I've been on location some times where I see the girls troop and dress in a way that could tempt even the devil.

The situation is such that they are ready to do anything to get roles.

And of course the man has to be somebody that has heart of stone or is dead down the region to be able to resist these set of actresses. I've witnessed a situation where a female producer totally embarrassed and harassed a male actor. I will not mention names, that was years ago when I was starting out.

You mean she was out rightly asking for sex?

Yes she did and this was years ago. I was on set at that time. If you are a self respectable woman, you know you have confidence in yourself and you know that this is what you came for, a job, just pray to God and believe you don't have to sell your body.

I know that people are faced with different circumstances, some are looking for money, some are looking for fame, and some are looking for a way out of a certain situation.

I'm not mocking anybody, I'm not saying you are a terrible person, certain things happen to certain people and you just have to live with it, adjust it, correct the mistakes along the way, so I'm not mocking anybody.

What is your view about women flaunting what they've got?

A woman must take pride in her body and her dressing but she doesn't really have to bare it all to be seen or called sexy or beautiful. Looking goes beyond exposing some intimate part of the body.

I know several beautiful Nigerian women whose faces alone have fetched them encomiums for their carriage and sense of dressing.

One does not need to wear skimpy clothes and show off their expose cleavage to show off their beauty, it takes more than that.

What is the thing you'd like to change in the Nigerian entertainment industry if you have the opportunity to?

We should uplift our local stars and artists more and leave all these Oyinbo people in their country. Nigerian artists are doing great. There's so much disparity, especially in the music industry. You bring the foreign artists in, pay them hundreds of thousands of dollars, they do ten to thirty minutes on stage and that is it.

I don't want to mention the show I was part of, where our Nigerian artists were given second class treatment in contrast to their foreign counterparts.

Our artists need to be respected. Unlike in the past when the foreigners held sway at the night clubs the story is different today. Our people have not only taken over the night clubs, they have also taken over the radio and television stations.

How supportive were your parents when you went into acting?

They were not initially but all that has changed.

So what was the driving force that's kept you going?

I was just doing it, I did not know it would bring me this far. I was just doing it for the love of it. My first movie I was paid thirty thousand naira. I was not really concerned about the money then.

So how much do you earn now?

I don't know (laughs). I'm very happy with what I get. That's all I can say.

What do you do to unwind?

I like traveling and I do that once in a while especially when I have rest from the hassles of filming. I also watch films.

What kind of films?

I like thrillers, they are very interesting.

How do you feel when you watch yourself on the screen?

Happy. I'm always happy.