Stephanie Okereke Nollywood actress, Stephanie Okereke Linus (MFR) speaks with TADE MAKINDE in this interview about her marriage and career.
How has life been as a wife?
Beautiful. Life has been beautiful, good and fun
Fun because you are happy with someone you really love and looking forward to share the rest of your life with. It makes it interesting because it’s a long journey.
You took your time before you eventually got married. There must have been some pressures while single from many.
How did you handle it?
In the Nigerian context, there can be pressures maybe when you get to a certain age or stage, you know what is knocking on your door. I was talking to someone recently and she was like no one is coming, but it is not a race. When you understand marriage is not a race and that when your time comes, it is your time. Some people can marry early and live 10 years of misery and pain and then you just get married in one year and you are having so much bliss in your life and that person that had married for a long time is even wishing that she could just have this moment with this man that I am staying with. One of the biggest trap that the enemy has is to pressurise you and put you in a corner so you can make a wrong decision, especially in marriage. That is the biggest thing and when you make that wrong decision, then you are in for it. It is so good that you take your time and ask God for the actual direction. You know He gives you the endurance, patience and everything to stay in that marriage.
In your case did you experience that kind of pressure?
Not really. I could have been married a long time if I wanted, but I had a vision for what I want for my life. Even for man. It is good for man to mentally decide that he wants to get married. It is also good for us, women, to be mentally committed when we are ready for it. I am going into this not because of the way the society has formed it to be, that one is ripe for marriage within the age of 23-27, but it is good for one to mentally decide that she wants to be in a marriage so that it won’t be a burden when you enter into it. You are entering with your eyes wide open and whatever comes out of it you must have made up your mind and be prepared that this is what you want.
When you met your husband, how did you know he was Mr. Right?
(Laugh…) I think it started when I came back. My head was all over the place and I wasn’t in the mood for any kind of relationship. It eventually got to a point that I told God I was ready. It was like a journey for me at one time and I did not want to be in that space. I told God that I wanted to be in a serious relationship now. It was like a conversation between God and I. He said okay, are you ready, and I replied Him in the affirmative. It’s funny. It wasn’t like I was looking for a husband but I was ready to be in a serious relationship and have a courtship. That was why I said you have to be in a mental state because it is not good for you to end up dating the wrong person. I met him. Initially we didn’t have the mindset to date. It started with a business arrangement. He said he had an idea that could help my career. Of course he got my attention and we started seeing. I think it was the third, fourth meeting we started adjusting. He asked me out on my birthday and we dated for a year
When did you make up your mind to accept him?
It was in the course of the journey that I started realising he was all I wanted in a man and I knew in my spirit. You just know these things and it just happened. He must have known earlier that I dug him, but he was just waiting for a special moment to make it happen where I will always remember. Maybe that was why he decided to tell me on my birthday.
Do you think women should get worked up on the issue of marriage?
It is not at all costs. People have different reasons for getting married, but at the long run you need to really check what the major reason of getting married is.
Why did you take your wedding abroad?
Imagine my wedding taking place in Nigeria? It would be a carnival and I didn’t want a carnival for my wedding. He didn’t want that too. We are very alike and we wanted something really special. It was not that we couldn’t do it here, but we had travelled wide a lot during the course of our relationship and we really wanted something special for ourselves and our families. We weren’t thinking about the people, it was about us trying to make that moment special. It wasn’t what we decided, we also asked God. It was not like we chose where to get married. It was something spiritual for us to do and God also confirmed to us that we should go there and get married.
How did you receive the confirmation?
During the wedding arrangement in Nigeria, we were thinking on where to do it, either in Nigeria or elsewhere. So we were thinking of Paris, but we wanted to be sure and we needed a confirmation on where to go. It was like you wanted something and you also needed a confirmation because it is going to take a lot. All the people that went came back safely. My husband and I met with the chairman of an airline. He donated a plane to move all our guests. What better confirmation do you need than that?
Your wedding took place abroad. Are you guys also planning to raise your kids in
Nigeria or abroad?
The world is becoming global; it’s going to be both Nigeria and abroad.
Have you guys decided on the numbers of kids to have?
Am I supposed to tell you that?
Okay. As many as possible.
When will you start because I expect you to have been pregnant by now?
Are you God that is going to decide on that? This kind of thing, you don’t decide it yourself.
Since you got married, you have not featured in movies?
I have appeared in lots of them. It depends on how many you have watched yourself. I am working on the ones I produced myself. Its entitled ‘Dry’. It has to do with the challenges women go through during child birth. That will be my first project since I’ve been married. The first phase was shot in Nigeria while I am taking the second phase abroad.
It was because of how the story was written.
The selected locations in Nigeria…
Ogoja in Cross River State and Abakaliki. Also in Abuja and a little in Sokoto.
How long have you been working on it?
Since I was in the university. I started it when I was in my second year.
That would be when?
About 12,15 years ago. It’s been a burden to me that I needed to do this project. Every time I tried to turn away from it, I found myself coming back to it, so I needed to get it over with.
The federal government’s support for the entertainment industry started with a N200 million largesse, but there had been lots of complaints on it. Suddenly, another N3 billion has come.
Do you think it’s okay to be doling out money like that or to address
The money is good. I commend this government because it is the first to show interest in the Nigerian entertainment industry. It is actually the first government to give money to the industry. It is good because we need it, but what we need most is not even infrastructure, it is the policies that will help the structures stand.
The issue of copyright and other policies surrounding piracy and distributions are there to be addressed. If we get this, the industry will drive itself because we have been driving ourselves with this massive piracy. We need to put data in place. You know it’s like an open market and there is no control. It has got to the stage where your works are being pirated to your face and there is nothing you can do about it. There are no laws there to protect our works. Those who want to invest are not coming because they are not sure of getting returns on their stake. Though the copyright commission has been making some arrests, it should be on a larger scale. We should set out laws that will put an end to all these.
Before acting, what career did you
Taqwando and high jump, but I stopped because the bar always hit my legs. I did that when I was in school.
The tenure of Ibinabo Fiberesima will end sometime. Would you consider leading your own generation?
(Laughs…) She is doing a good job. She can rerun.
You don’t like to lead people?
I do lead people every day. It’s not like I can’t lead people in the open or public, that I am not scared of, but it depends. Even as it may, leading AGM is not on my radar for now. I have different things and projects that I am working on right now. Don’t forget we are supporting Ibinabo to come out with good things.
How do you manage to look cute?
At a point after my marriage, I discovered that I had added weight, but I had to shake it up. I engaged in some exercises, watched what I ate and also cut down on so many things. I also cook. I like cooking.
Do you consider having a food outlet?
I don’t know about that. I just love cooking because I love to try new things and my cooking is fun. It is like inventing things. You come out with your recipe and people’s recipe and adjust to the things that work for you.
What project are you working on?
We are trying to bring maternal issues to fore. We had have cases of lots of women in Nigeria that died during child birth. It is even higher than people who die of HIV or on our roads every day. Unlike women when pregnant, it is a 50/50 chance. Being someone who has been advocating that our health care system needs to be better because when you fall sick in Nigeria, it is always between you and God. I have been there when I broke my leg and it was just the mercy of God because there are certain things that happened that can just make you go crazy in the hospital. It is to encourage people. There are certain things I am passionate about though, it’s just that I am taking it one step at a time.
What’s the budget for the movie?
Don’t worry about that. I am not giving you the budget for now until when I finish the job. It has a lot of cost. My next plan is to complete the shooting abroad and I am working towards its premiere at the end of this year and I am going to do the premiere almost everywhere. I am working on a new strategy for everything, including the distribution.
Are you not scared that this work might be pirated?
Everybody is pretty having a nightmare, but that has not stopped us from bringing out contents; that is why we are pressurising that certain policies are being declared before the end of the year to help protect our works and that is what we are advocating for those policies to happen. But the producers have been working out plans. The government needs to come in with these policies and with enough machinery and enforcement to make these things to happen.
What was your growing up like?
My parents were a little bit flexible. It was not that they were not comfortable with my being an actress. Because I have always been bigger than my age, my father always said I was growing like a tolo tolo (Turkey). He said I should ensure my brain grew with me. To them, you just had to know the reason you wanted to do anything. Like me, coming into this industry, I keep asking myself and asking God every day the purpose I am in this industry because life is all about growth. Over time, people will say you have impacted, but it has to be more than that. You have to also find a way of reaching to the people and affect their lives. We are eight in number. I am the sixth and the third girl. I am not the only one in the showbiz. I don’t know what happened to my elder brother, he was supposed to be a big time producer in Nollywood, but it seems he is more interested in show promotions and other things. Also, my younger sister, who is an up-and-coming gospel singer, also has another sister who is also into presenting and online stuff. We are all virtually more or less into showbiz.
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