I HAD A BABY AT 14 BECAUSE OF PEER INFLUENCE –ADA AMEH
In terms of size, Ada Ameh is one of the biggest actresses in Nollywood. Does her big frame bother her? She speaks about it as well as her life as a single mother, in this interview with 'NONYE IWUAGWU
It's amazing that you hail from Benue State but speak Yoruba and Igbo fluently...
Haba, why won't I speak Yoruba very well. I grew up in Lagos. In fact, I am an Ajegunle babe. As for the Igbo language, I got to master it in the course of my career.
Why did you decide to be an actress?
Sincerely speaking, as a growing child, I had wanted to be a doctor or a musician. Music and acting are in the same showbiz family, I don't think I have missed anything in that respect.
So what happened to the medical doctor dream?
To be a doctor, you have to get into the university and study Medicine. I lost that along the line. I found myself acting and I think I enjoyed it. So far, it has been so good. It has been 12 years now. It has been very beautiful and interesting. For now, I don't think I want to give it up for anything, except God says so.
How come you didn't further your education?
I have not gone to the university yet. I am trying to go to school now.
Maybe you are trying to make all the money first…
Actually, it is not about making money. Acting is very interesting. Besides the money, I enjoy the job. Very soon, I will go back to school.
You have an NGO.
Yes. We have started. It is just that we are not formally incorporated yet. We have started doing some fieldwork. We are trying to set up a rehabilitation centre for prostitutes and destitutes. We want to give the girl-child a second chance.
I believe that if you talk to the girl-child and give her value for her life, she will find her feet, especially those of them that have been abused. If you give them a second chance, they may not make that mistake again.
So how do you hope to combine your studies with your career and your NGO activities?
For now, I have moved to my state – Benue. I have spoken to my local government chairman and he told me to bring my proposal. I don't think I will find that difficult. I am not going to run it alone; other people are working with me. I think I can manage.
Back to your career, how come you do more of comedies movies?
In the movie industry in Nigeria, we have a problem with typecast. If you play a particular role and you get it right the first time, they believe it is the only role you can play. It really pricks my heart when I watch some movies and I know I can play a role better than an actress is doing. I don't think I have been used yet. I have not been given the chance to prove my versatility.
But you started in a comedy.
No. If you would remember, Domitila was not a comedy movie. It was a movie that had to do with prostitution. For now, they still think comedy is the best I can do. But I know I can do more than that.
You have stayed long in the movie industry, what is the magic?
For those that left, I believe they couldn't stand the test of time. It is not easy. We have well over 50,000 artistes out there. I don't know if a lot of people know that. And we have people who are still aspiring to come on board.
If you don't have the patience, if you cannot stand firm and wait, you may drop by the wayside.
After more than 12 years in the industry, how many movies have you featured in?
I cannot lie to you, I have lost count of them. But I know I did movies like Iran and Iraq, Evil War, One Good Turn and many others.
It was Domitila that shot you into the limelight.
Oh yes. And it was my very first movie.
How did you get into the movies?
I will always be grateful to Zeb Ejiro. God really used him to bring out the best in me. He gave me the opportunity to do something with my life. I was able to convince the world that I could stand on my feet.
He came for one function and I was fortunate to be there. Miraculously, we started talking and I was speaking 'conc' Pidgin English. He said he liked the way I was sounding. He was really thrilled. I didn't know that he was recording some of the things I was saying in his brain.
And so, I told him I needed a job and moved on with my life. He gave me a chance and that was how I came into the industry. That has opened doors for me and broadened my scope. It has taken me to a point where I can start thinking of other things like the NGO I talked about earlier. One thing gives birth to another. I think the movie thing gave birth to all the other things that I do.
You didn't go to the university, yet you speak English so well...
Thank you very much. But I think I should attribute that to my upbringing. My father was strict. He made sure we spoke good English at all times. I learnt that when I was small, I was never ashamed to ask for the meaning of any strange word I came across. Life itself is an institute. If you open up yourself and you are not ashamed to learn, you will learn a lot and become polished.
Did you say your parents were strict?
My mother was very strict. In fact, she is still very strict. At my age, if there is anyone I get scared of, it is my mother. I am the first daughter in my family. When I was growing up, the woman was not easy at all. She knew I was very stubborn. I was a tomboy.
My father was the nice guy. She was like the woman in the family. We were good friends. He was the only child of his parents. He gave us the leverage to relate to him as friends. He would tell you the truth at all times. He avoided spanking us, unlike my mother.
If you had such a strict mother, how come you got pregnant without being married?
That is the irony of life. Sometimes, I ponder on that. I had a child when I was 14. My peers influenced me. But it has been some time now. My daughter is 20 years old. Remember I told you I was very stubborn as a child. Then, my friends used to tell me about their boyfriends. In those days, what we did was to write love letters. But this particular friend told me that we should go beyond letter writing. That was how the whole thing started. It was just peer influence.
Could your experience be the reason for your NGO?
Oh yes. The taste of the pudding is in the eating. I have been there. I have been on the streets. I grew up in Ajegunle. I had a taste of poverty, not because my parents could not afford to give me what I wanted. I had friends who were very poor.
That is why I need to tell girls the home truth about life before they make mistakes.
Do you think you could retire from acting and concentrate on your NGO?
Retire from acting? Kai! Don't you think that will not be nice? I love doing movies. In fact, alongside the NGO and the movies, I will still open a very big restaurant. But I love doing movies. I don't think I will ever stop it. That is one of the things that make me feel very happy.
How do you cope with fans?
If you are yourself, I don't think you will have any problem coping with fans.
They will not mob you; they will only appreciate you. If you played a very wicked person in one movie, if some fans see you, they will start shouting, 'See this wicked woman,' and all that. But I tell them I am just doing my job.
I still go to Ajegunle often. I still go to the market, although I disguise myself most times. I am always with my sunglasses.
When you got pregnant as a young girl, were your friends there for you?
Of course, most parents didn't want their children to be associated with me. But some of my friends stood by me. Their parents would not allow them to come close to me. They would sneak out and come to the house.
Was the pregnancy easy?
At the age of 14? It wasn't easy. You walk around the street as small as that, and you are pregnant? People will boo you and say all manner of nasty things against you. Some said, 'See dis small girl wey don carry belle.'
But the moment I heard a nasty comment, I fought the person. At the end of the day, I might end up crying.
What of the father of your daughter?
You make me laugh. I don't really want to talk about him. I don't have anything against the father of my girl. But relating with him? I don't know about that. One of his sons is my very good friend. He cares so much about my daughter.
I am planning to pay him (her girl's father) a visit one day. I don't know what will happen on that day because it has been a very long time.
But I don't have anything against him. He is the father of my child. But believe me, if I hadn't had that child, I don't think I would have become somebody in life.
How is life as a single mother?
Going through life as a single mother is not an easy thing. It is not easy at all. I respect every single parent, be it man or woman. It was the grace of God that sustained me. I don't want to hold anything against the father of my kid. I have put the past behind me and I have moved on.
What did you do when you found out that you were pregnant?
I just told myself this was my burden. I am not mincing words. Initially, I saw the experience as a mistake. But I found that I would be holding myself back if I continued to look at it that way. I had to let go. The deed was done already. I had to think of what next to do.
Believe me, for all those tears, going on the streets and not knowing what to do, I bless God today. When I see my girl, I know that something better will come.
Why didn't you think of aborting the pregnancy?
My God! I thought of it. But for me to go to the hospital and do it? God! I couldn't! I was so scared. But if I had done an abortion then, I may not be who I am today. I may not be alive.
Could being a single mother be the reason you are not yet married?
Don't single mothers get married? They do get married. The truth of the matter is, I aspire to make heaven. I want to make heaven. There is no portion in the Bible that says a single parent cannot come to God. When a husband comes, I will get married. If there is no husband, I will remain single. I am not crazy about marriage. You have to believe me.
I am not saying I wouldn't want to get married. I love to love and I love to be loved. When Mr Right comes, he will marry me with all my excesses. Any man that comes to marry me should know that he is marrying two people - my daughter and I. I love her so much.
Tell us a bit about growing up…
I am from a polygamous home. My mother happened to be the second wife. She is from Akwa Ibom State. We used to be 10 in our family, but I lost three of my brothers and I am left with just two. I have five wonderful sisters. I don't know where I would have been without my sisters. They have been there for me.
Did you resent your father's first wife?
Why would I resent her? She left before my father married my mum. I don't know what happened.
So what was the relationship between you and your stepbrothers like?
The comedy aspect of my life should be attributed to both parents. My father was in the Nigerian Navy, and he was a very wonderful man. He would tell you that the only thing that could keep you going is love. The bond that can hold any situation is love. He always emphasised that.
It never got to a point that we had to go and 'jazz' somebody. We fought, yes. But we always made up. The bond of love was there.
We used to fight. My younger ones are very peaceful, but not me. I always insisted we shared the property in the house. I had only one brother from my mother, and he died. So, I always told my stepbrothers that though my mum is from Akwa Ibom and I did't have a brother, they should not feel that they owned the house. I always told my mum that the only difference between a man and me was just the organ.
My father felt so bad the day I said this. That was when I knew the thing I said was very bad. You don't inherit somebody's things if the person is still alive.
But I tell you, my brothers are very wonderful, and they are so supportive. When I got pregnant, it was one of my brothers that got to know first, and then he told my dad.
How did they take it?
My brothers didn't beat me. They felt for me. I was sent away from the house. My father was pissed off, so he sent me out of the house. But he later accepted me back. Believe me, it was my brothers that made it possible for me to come back to the house. My father never had peace until he brought me back to the house.
Where did you go when you were sent out of the house?
I lived with my aunty. She is late now. The husband was working in Government House in Lagos. I stayed with them for a while before I came back to the house.
You are very big physically. Do you eat a lot?
I have big bones. I am big, bold and beautiful. But it is just my tummy that is very, very big. I eat a lot, but not much at a time. It is just that I eat as many times as possible. I eat anytime I am hungry. I can't eat a very large amount of food at a time.
Then again, I have problems with junk food. But I have cut down on them. I have lost some weight. I cut down on a lot of things for health reasons.
Could your size be the reason you are not married?
Haba! Thre's nothing like that. I repeat, I am big, bold and beautiful. I didn't create myself like this. Remember, we all can't be slim. We are Africans so we should have bumbum.
Who said men have not been coming to ask me for marriage? Am I not the one who does not want to get married yet? Size has got nothing to do with it. Some like them big, in case you don't know. I was in a relationship some time ago and the guy told me that he liked me big.
What do you hope to achieve in the future?
Adah Ameh wants to work for God. My life history is a testimony. There are some things I wouldn't want to tell you. Just take it that my life is a history. If not for God, I don't know where I would have been. Some day, I will serve God.