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'I Was Called Names For Playing Lepa Shandy'

By Franka Nwusulor

For some 'lepa' ladies, the shape is a curse, especially in this generation when men are said to like 'well-rounded' women. The 'Oyibo' men too no longer fancy the 'I' shaped ladies, hence the reason for the latest breast and hip enlargement surgeries now making waves. Even bums can be enlarged these days! But for Folashade Adenike Kassim, the lepa shape is her success story.

She had been in the industry since 1995 and had done some movies such as Back to Africa, and the TV sitcom, Family Circle, but still little was heard about the slim, fair actress until 2001when she played the role of Lepa Shandy in the movie of the same title produced by Gbenga Adewusi.

Folashade is truly thankful to God for her shape, which brought her stardom. If not for her slim shape, Kolade Ogunjobi would not have approached her for a role: "When Kolade Ogunjobi brought the script and told me about playing the role of Lepa Shandy, my initial reaction was that this guy was trying to mock me because of my slim stature. We laughed over it because I didn't consider his offer serious. But three months after, he called and asked me to come meet the producer of the movie. That was the first time I saw Gbenga Adewusi."

The fair-skinned actress blushed when we commended her figure and said she does not have a beauty regimen.

"If I tell you I don't maintain my shape, you won't believe me. When I'm hungry I eat, when I'm not I don't. When I was younger, my dad used to complain about my shape but now I'm enjoying it. No one can guess my age for one. If I tell you, you won't believe me but I'm in my late 30s," she said.

From her looks, she could not be a day above 20! But then she insists, "I'm dead serious, I'm in my late 30s." Lepa Shandy may have made her but it also tainted her good name with a speck of bad repute.

"Playing the role of a bad girl who snatches husbands, wears skimpy dresses, really made people to taunt me and call me names." But then, the magic was already woven around the name Lepa Shandy. People loved her as much as they hated the character she portrayed.

"My role as Lepa Shandy was complete opposite of myself. It was a very challenging role, but I thank God. The movie was titled after my slim figure and yes, today, Lepa Shandy has become like my real name."

Basking in the glory of her stardom, she explained her fame as the will of God: "Luck counts in the theatre industry. Some people have been in the industry for years without being known. I feel its now my time to shine that's why I have risen. It's been seven years now but I'm still my humble self and I don't refer to myself as a star."

Before her break with Lepa Shandy, Folashade felt she was being relegated to minor roles by some producers in Nollywood, whom she claims were loyal to people from a certain tribe.

According to her, "at the earlier stage, the tribalism in the English movie sector was very high. Unlike today when there is crossover from even Yoruba to English. Then, we would do auditions, and when the last line is released you won't find any Yoruba person. What you'll see on the list is either Chinelo or Chidinma. It was that bad. Then, Ayo Badmus called me and encouraged me to turn to Yoruba films."

Now, Folashade is giving back to the industry that had favoured her tremendously. She has since gone into film production, with three films now to her credit. Her First, Omi Ewuro was directed by Yomi Fash Lanso; her second, Akamo by Femi Bolorunde and the recent one Ifihan (Revelation)was recently launched at All Seasons Plaza, Agidingbi in Lagos.

This films has Lepa Shandy playing the part of a lady who went into prostitution out of circumstances beyond her control. The story reminds you of the famous Pretty Woman, but the end is somewhat tragic.

Folashade said the story was not just a figment of her imagination, but was actually a true-life story, which was recounted by a friend of hers. "The person wanted me to play the role of the protagonist and I had to oblige her."

The recent launch of the movie was a successful one, with quite a huge turn out of people. Folashade explained the source of her funds. "All my movies are sponsored by my efforts. I don't get my money from marketers, I sort for money myself. The first movie was sponsored by my uncle, the second by my husband and this one by my father."

Producing only films of the Yoruba genre makes it appear as though Folashade is extending her loyalty to the Yoruba film industry too far. But she quickly protested this fact. "It's not that I don't want to produce films in English, it's just that they are very expensive and I don't have the money for now, maybe later.

"I'm not the kind of producer that produces a hundred movies a year; at most, I produce just one a year. It's not producing many films but producing good films that count. To God be the glory, I have never lost out in any film I produce, I work with only one marketer, Highwaves and you can ask him, I have never lost out in any film." Folashade has lots of respect for the industry, which has always been her passion.

"When I was little, my father used to take us to the theatre, and then I got older and started going by myself. Before I started acting, I was into make-up, I was working behind the stage as a make-up artist and a lot of people knew me as 'Shade make-up'."

She admires people in the industry such as Olu Jacobs and his wife, Joke; Chief Eleyinmi (Oba Funsho Adeolu)and Sola Sobowale among others. But then, she revealed that she could not marry from the industry nor has she dated anyone from there.

"I don't think I would have married from the industry. Maybe because I did not see anyone there that I liked; my male colleagues are handsome though but I never saw them as marriage partners but as friends. Besides, I was already dating my husband before I joined the industry. I dated my husband for 11 years before we got married in 2004."

So what's keeping the cry of a baby from the home of Mr. and Mrs. Adepoju Kassim after four years of marriage? Folashade's assured words revealed her deep faith in God. She believes that when the time comes the children will fill the house.

Aside acting, the youthful looking actress revealed her amazing talent of sewing.

"I sew clothes but I did not learn fashion and designing. I don't know how I came about the knowledge, though I remember my mum used to own a fashion shop and I would always go to the machine and pedal. But nobody really taught me how to sew. And I sew my own clothes even now." Folashade's dad is from Osogbo, Osun State while her mum is from Sierra Leone. She attended Ire-Akari Primary School and High School, then University of Lagos were she studied data processing. She has been in Lagos all her life, grew up in a soldier's home, and married her friend of many years, Prince Adepoju Kassim.