‘My Controversial Lifestyle’— Benita Nzeribe
http://nollywoodgists.com did not meet Benita Nzeribe in person for this interview. After a telephone conversation with the Nollywood star, during which she told us she was on location we agreed for a telephone interview. It was held on Sunday, February 8, 2009. The first facination http://nollywoodgists.com had for the the Nollywood star was her choice of ring back tune.When we called her, “I had a dream,” the immortal speech of the late American civil right leader, Martin Luther King Jnr., filtered into our ears.
Why did she “I had a dream” as her ring tune?, we asked her.
Her reply: “I wasn't born yet when the speech was made, but it has a captivation for me. It's prophecy which has come true in Barak Obama makes it one of the most motivational speech in the history of man. So I want to dream too and I want my callers to share the dream.”
Yet, this was Benita Nzeribe who has controversy almost as a middle- name. So, why is she so controversial.
"It is because of a role I once played. Ever since I have been called one of the bad girls of Nollywood,” she told http://nollywoodgists.com.
Nzeribe, a graduate of English from the Abia State University, started acting in the late 1990s with soap operas and after two years appeared in her first movie. Acting, she said, is her first love, and though her parents did not approve of choice of career, today they are proud of her. “I am from a monogamous family. A family of two boys and two girls. Dad is an exporter while mum is a retired nurse,” she told http://nollywoodgists.com . Nzeribe is from Ihiala Local Government Area of Anambra State. For exceptional achievements in her chosen career, she had received a number of awards.
A jolly good fellow, she laughed and chuckled all through the interview and revealed many things to http://nollywoodgists.com which we hope will make your day as you read it. Enjoy.
Unlike most actresses in Nollywood, you appear to be reserve. What accounts for this?
People see actreses, especially here in Nigeria as irresponsible, people who live indecent lives. But I know I have remained myself even though I am in acting. In all, I do, I remember that I am supposed to be that person I am and not anybody else. People do what they do, not because they are actresses, but because they are who they are. Some sleep around not because they are actresses. And if they are resented they are resented because of what they do, not because they are actresses.
We see you more on soaps these days. Are you leaving the movie scene?
(Laughs) If you remember, I debuted in this industry with a soap opera before I moved to doing movies. I still do movies. Tomorrow, I'll be travelling out of Lagos to a location for a movie.
What's the name of the soap you debuted with?
It was called Beyond Our Dramas, and it was on network. I think it ran for two years or so. It started in 1998.
You moved to movies from there?
Yes. My first movie was with Infinity Merchants entitled Gold Diggers. It was directed by Ikenna Igwe and the second was Alternative directed by Lancelot Imaseun.
You must have made a fortune in this industry because you have appeared in a lot of films?
I have truly lost count of the movies I featured in. And I wouldn't deny Nollywood. Not that what I have got is huge. I have made a living out of Nollywood, but it is not as huge as you think.
Do you do any other business to compliment what you get from Nollywood?
Yes. I do so many other things. I am into interior decorations. Right now, I am discussing with an American-based company. It's a company that deals on security, buildings, etc. They get to different countries and establish there. They are talking to me to be their face. I also have an NGO which I don't like talking about, because I believe that whatever you do for the less-privileged in your community, it is between you and your God and you'll get your reward from him. I am not doing it because of anyone.
What's the name of your NGO?
(Laughs). I told you I don't talk about it because I do not want to sing its praises or let anyone know that I am doing this or that for these people.
For how long have you been running it?
I think I have had it for about five years now. Before now, I gave it to someone to handle. Now I am more into its day-to-day running.
Let's go back to the endorsement deal you were telling me about. Is it a Nigerian- owned company based abroad?
It is an American thing. We are still talking, though. But what I know is that they go to countries of interest, set up a company, pick up a male or female who will represent them in public by being their face. Until I understand the extent of what they want me to do, I can't talk about it authoritatively.
Why do you think they chose you?
I don't know. I just received a phone call that I should attend the meeting, that's it.
Are you one of those actresses who demand cut-throat amounts to appear in a movie. How expensive are you considering that you are an
I am affordable. Reasonably affordable, because Nollywood is still growing. We are not yet in that league where your pay will get you a private jet. But we will surely get there.
What is the biggest amount you've received so far?
O my sister, I know you do not expect me to answer that.
I want you to do just that. That's why I asked?
I don't like talking about money, because when you talk some people might believe while some might not. Most times I am a very discreet person. What I earn is between me and my producer. But I am affordable and very considerate. Don't get me wrong, I am not cheap.
Some of your fans believe that beneath that sophisticated and tough looks lies a very shy Benita. Would you say they are correct?
(Laughs). I am shy at times, but people don't see me like that, because of the roles I play. They think I am one tigress or a lioness but then, I am a shy person, not stupidly shy though.
In as much as you have appeared in many movies, I want to believe that you have had cause to reject a script. What are those things that will make you accept or reject a script?
First, its the storyline. It has to be appealing. Secondly, I have to look at the part I am to play, if I have to do more than I can handle. There is a limit to what I can handle. I tell people that I cannot be an American because I am not. Also, here in Africa, we have tradition and culture, we live by the rules. In as much as I am on TV, there is a limit I must not go. If I call my director and complain to him about it and he says we are sticking to the storyline, I will call the producer and say “sorry, I can't take it.” Also, I need to know the director of the movie because I don't like being with wishy washy directors.
What do you mean by “wishy washy" directors?
I mean a lot of people call themselves directors these days. I am not saying that I stick with the big names because there are some that are not known that are really good. I wouldn't be found in a production where a director is crossing lines and don't know what he's doing.
So, the opposite of all these will make you accept a script?
Yes. Lastly, if the money is big and the storyline is scoffy, I won't do it.
Do you have any actor or actress you like to work with?
I blend with everybody because I am a professional. When I get on set, I am there to do business. Then after that, I get on with my private business. The producer decides who he wants on set.
You are very fashionable. What informs your style?
My style comes with comfort. I first of all think of my comfort and don't wear things because everyone else is wearing them. I wear them because they go with me. And again the occasion dictates. I consider my stature a lot.
What would you say is your most expensive item?
It is a diamond. I didn't buy it. It's a gift.
Many regard you as one of the most controversial actress in the industry. Are they on the right track?
Well, I will say yes. I am controversial. What really started it was the controversial role I once played. The character was a bitch. A wealthy girl from very rich parents. After doing the bad girl role, people started saying I am Nollywood's bad girl. Sometimes, people tend to look at you as if you are really the person in the film. But when they meet me they have a change of heart.
Nzeribe is a popular name in Nigeria today, courtesy of some public figures. Are you related to them in any way?
I am not related to Arthur Nzeribe or May Nzeribe, etc. But I am related to Chuma Nzeribe.
Is he your brother?
(Laughs) I am not talking about him. Yes, he is my brother. I love him, and no apologies.
Many also see him as too controversial. What do you think?
Le me tell you this. There is something about Chuma Nzeribe. You and other people might want to se him negatively, but I am telling you now that he has got a good heart. If you think he acted irrationally check it very well he obviously would have a very good reason. He doesn't do or say anything without having a reason. That's one thing people don't know. Once he believes in a thing, he sticks by it.
How old are you now?
Hmm! I am an adult. But I started acting very early in life. I hit stardom before I was 20-years-old. I was in my late teens.
When are we to expect the wedding bells?
Keep your fingers crossed. Very soon. Maybe this year.
When you talk about kids you get so passionate?
I love kids. I have always loved them. I think I'll love to have three. Even my NGO handles a lot for kids. Especially the sick ones, homeless and the motherless.
Why have you not been linked with any male actress in the industry. Is it that you don't have male friends?
I have friends but I know my limits. When we meet on set we blend but after that, well, I remain myself. I do have some friends. They come to my house. I am not a class- conscious person. I blend with all kinds of people.
You've been able to maintain this shape of yours for years. Do you have a beauty secret?
Not really. I am not even an exercise freak. I drink a lot of water and juice but don't joke with my monthly facial and my spa appointment.
By Osamudiamen Ogbonmwan