Negative stories make me stronger, better — Empress Njamah
The history of Nollywood will definitely not be complete when the stories of the likes of Empress is not told.
Not only as an actress with style, but one who takes her job with all seriousness. Born 28 years ago, of a Nigerian father and Cameroonian mother, with her brothers - John and Aquila Njamah - also slugging it out in the movie industry.
Her foray into the Nigerian home video industry was first met with stiff opposition from her father who had some reservations about all his children taking on same line of career. “He keeps telling me the side effects of the profession, but when he saw that I was really not discouraged, he had no choice than to let me be.”
The dark skinned delectable actress has also completed her degree programme at the Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ogun State, where she studied English Language. She also had done a six months drama course in London. Sprawling on the couch in her Festac home where Home Video People took her on , the ever lively actress opens up on her personality.
You are hard to pin down for an interview, why?
Because I feel granting an interview over and over again is just saying the same thing that has been said before in another paper. It is a media and lots of people would read it but when we talk about the same story all the time, it sounds like a crap to me.
When I want to talk to the media, I would let them know because right now, I don't think I really have stories to talk about than what everybody already knows.
May be, they feel there is something new going on about you that they want to know?
One thing with the media is that if one comes with an information, other media would come with the same question, so, it is as good as picking up that paper and rewriting what has been said already, since that is the same thing I'm going to say. I feel a lot of people like putting their nose on some things that don't really concern them.
Are you saying people live your life for you as a celebrity?
Yes, because we appear more on the billboard than the normal person on the street.
Can you explain why almost all the members in the Njamah family are into acting?
It is just like you asking your friend, “why is it that three of you are doctors?' It is a personal decision.
The first person who took acting as a profession was my elder sister (Blessing Njamah), followed by John, then my humble self. What will I do now? I know, I'm good and I'm trying to do it well.
Well, may be the movie industry is an avenue to get quick money?
I would have been thrown out of the industry ever since. It is a talent I have, so I don't need to go and build it. I have it and I was born with it, so why would I not use it and then put food on my table? It is very interesting doing what you know how to do best, and you are getting paid for it. Just like getting paid for playing.
It is something I enjoy doing and I do it with a smile and money comes with it. It is not all about doing it because of money as many people do now. If you are not good, you are not good. If you want to do it, you need to have the talent, understand the job, and know what you want to get from it before you venture into it.
You just mentioned what others have said concerning different people coming into Nollywood and making a mess of it, does it mean that there are no laid down rules to address such issue?
The truth of the matter is that Nollywood is not stable, we are not there yet because there are lots of square pegs in round holes.
We are looking forward to when we will have professionals who would want to do something and do it right. At times, when the international artistes are called in to perform in a film, it is like bringing out the chaff from the beans.
There are lots of people who want to do it and do it right, but right now, the emergence of quack artistes are telling on Nollywood.
Everybody says the same thing...
Yeah, because the right people are not talking about it. The right people who are meant to discuss about Nollywood are probably doing something else rather than tackling that problem. There are some people who should be listened to, but they are not saying anything. So, when they are ready to do it, then we will move forward.
Sexual harassment in Nollywood
It is a general phenomenon but if you are truly good, you don't have to sleep your way to the top. If you are not good, no one will tell you how far you can run.
Let's talk about your dressing, your unique hairdo and the rest of it
A lot of people say, it's my trade mark. For those who appreciate the way I dress, I appreciate them so much for really observing... but I wouldn't go out of my way to look unique. I wear things that suit me and they must be very colourful.
I'm a dark skinned person, so, I should wear things that are colourful. I like bright colours, I like to be artistic and I like to wear things that I'm comfortable in, I don't wear things that are in vogue.
And talking about my nails, I've always had flair for colours, anything we are going to talk about has to do with colours. A lot of people call me for their hair or nail, I'm a consultant to them. I'm used to making my hair very full and I got that from Diana Ross, colourful hair from Madonna.
I've always liked to stand out from the crowd, but I wouldn't go out of my way to do something I don't love to do. If people say, my dressing is bad, well, it's good for them and for those who appreciate me, well, fine, but I don't dress to impress. I just live comfortably.
If you are set to go for an occasion, what is the total cost of your outfit?
It depends. I wouldn't say I wear expensive things, it would be like flaunting myself, but as a growing child, I've always had the feeling that if something is not expensive, then it's not good. I grew up being able to afford some things.
So, it means you go for expensive things?
I just explained it the best way I can.
Your growing up
I can't start talking about my growing up because it was wonderful. My growing up has been fun. My mum has been the best mother I have, my late father also was wonderful. I have the best family ever. And from my childhood, I've always loved to become an artiste so I grew up watching “Tales by
Moonlight”, acting is just in my family.
How much was your first pay as an artiste?
The first money I got was thirty thousand and that was 10 years ago.
...And comparing it now, is it worth what you can get as a pay for your role?
We are talking about 10 years obviously, the money has appreciated. Of course, not, I wouldn't collect such money, not even for a common role.
What is your worth now as a star?
You know, I wouldn't tell you that but I'm not being paid my worth now as a star.
Because Nollywood has not gotten there yet. We are not being paid our worth, but most of us do the work for the love of it.
There is something that attracts men to you, are you aware of that?
Well, if you singularly call men, I think, there is a problem. My mum once told me, I have a good heart, my pastor told me I have Chinese heart, my friends around tell me, look, “you are a good person,” so, when you see a good person, you always want to meet that person, get to know that person and be the person's friend.
So, you think there is nothing very special?
What else could be more special than the heart? I see beauty from the heart and not from the outside. I see your heart as being beautiful and it's beautiful. A lot of people might say, this girl is ugly, but the most important thing is my heart.
It's not my make-up or my dress sense or anything because they are all vanity and if vanity attracts me to you, then that's stupid.
You talk like a born again Christian?
I come from a Christian home that does not forget to pray. I don't miss my Sunday church, nor my weekly activities in the church, if I'm not busy. I don't fail to talk about my Bible any simple way I can but I don't carry it on my face.
It does not mean that if we don't go to church, God will not hear us.
What kind of man would you settle for?
The kind of man I know I will settle down with is the man God has prepared for me. Every girl out there has her husband, but the most important thing is to pray, know him and marry him. It is very wrong for you to marry a man that is not yours.
Take your time, don't just marry because your best friend is getting married or because you just attended a marriage ceremony or watched in a movie how a lady got married and had a happy home.
Get married when you know that you have time for it and you are ready to devote your time to be a wife and you are ready to understand what it takes to build a family. When you are ready to stop doing the things you do when you are single. And remember, you can't build a home without Christ.
Are you thinking of getting married soon?
“Any woman wey tell you say, she no dey think of how to settle down dey tell you lie.” If any woman tells you that, it is rather, she is frustrated or she doesn't know Christ or she is refusing to believe that Christ lives. Every woman wants to build a home, every woman can't wait to wear that dress. Every woman thinks of settling down.
So, we should assume that your next target is how to settle down?
That is the question, I would have loved to answer last.
Who is your role model?
To be honest, sometimes, it is difficult to pick who my role model is because I tried to learn from people to build myself. My role model is anybody who impacts me positively.
If anyone picks up your diary, what do you think such a person would be reading?
Empress Njamah is a playful person, very jovial, she never has dull moment, friendly and light-hearted.
If you come across anyone saying negative things about you, how would you feel?
There is more of negative stories told about me than positive ones, but negative stories have only helped me to build my strength and to be a better person. I know people won't stop their gossip, let them continue. They are saying bad things because they don't know me.
Would you like any of your children to take after you?
The only advice I would give to my child is that, he/she knows what he/she wants, build it up, practise it and be good. Try and be better and follow your dream. The only thing I can't forget to tell my child is about Christ.
You sound more as if you are too religious?
It is not a sin.
The first time you picked acting as a profession, what was the reaction of your parents?
My father was not in total support of it, he keeps telling me the side effects of the profession, but he did not tell me not to do it, those negative things he told me then, are what I'm going through now in the profession. For my mum, she was in total support.
Your sad moment
The day my father died and that was five years ago.
I'm always a happy person, so I don't have special happy moment.
I have one spirit and if it's not agreeing with you, too bad.
Being an actress has helped me in so many ways and has also brought me down in many ways. The positive thing, is the star recognition I get through the job, but the negative side makes me sad. Lots of people want to read negative stories about you, they want to know how you break up, or why you are not living happily.
Your relationship with Timaya
You are a woman like I am and the only thing I would want to tell you, the crowd, the audience, and the whole world is how I want to get married. Celebrities should have their privacy. It is not everything that should be written on the pages of newspapers whether Yes or No.
They are simply saying celebrities should not have friends again, we can't talk to a friend, before they will start talking about it. I am only granting this interview because, it is Vanguard. I am granting it because of the respect I have for the paper. Let's talk more about the industry where I belong and leave that gist. When I am ready to marry, I will definitely invite you.
I will make everybody to know because I am not planning to stay single. Timaya is a very close friend and I confide in him and that is just it.
Advice to young girls
If you see that you don't have all the qualities to be in the movie industry, please don't dream of coming because you might not succeed. There is still time, find something else to do. Don't be a square peg in a round hole.