“I want to see Nollywood produce movies that can win the Oscars” – Oge Okoye

Her face tells you her name. This London-born Nigerian beauty from Nnewi, Anambra state, Nigeria, found her niche as an actress and lent an air to the ever glorious breeze of fame, more than a decade ago. The ever gorgeous, elegant and exceptional actress has got a unique style for interpreting her roles so effortlessly, and she is adept at capturing the minds of her viewers; keeping them on the edge of their seats. Having been harangued by judges of the Court of Rumor Mongering, she believes it’s one of the prices one should expect to pay for being a celebrity. This eloquent and soft-spoken actress, Oge Okoye, speaks to Cosmic Ray’s Amoo Kristin on several issues in this interview.

What in your early days prepared you for who you have become?

I would say, fear of the unknown. Being the single child of my parents, and raised alone, was a challenge for me to marry hard work. I worked towards what I wanted to become, and here we are.

What would you say jump started your acting career?

It was my quest to touch people’s lives. That passion and dream inside of me, made me work hard towards what I wanted to become. I watched some role models whom I wanted to be like, and even better if God permits. I read theatre arts in school, and I started going for audition even while I was still in school, in my first year.

You are a mother of two. How do you combine being a mother with your demanding career?

It is hard work, loyalty, and that ability to pursue your passion and dream. And sacrifice as well; because without sacrifice, you won’t be able to take things from their pieces and place them in the right places. And I try as much as possible to create time for my family.

There is this believe that women should not have a career and a home because one would suffer. As a role model to women, do you think Nigeria has gotten to stage where women should be allowed to do both, without sacrificing one for the other?

We are now in the 21st century where civilization has taken over. We have gone beyond the days of our parents, where women stayed in the house, and their job was just to look after the family and cook their husbands’ meal. A woman should be able to work hard to earn money from a job that suits her personality. And in that way, she’ll be able to assist her husband in running the family, financially. I’m doing a good job to the best of my knowledge, and none is suffering. It’s all about good planning.

How long have you been in Nollywood?

Over 14 years now.

What would you say you’ll be remembered for as Oge Okoye?

I sit down every day and try to soliloquize. If you work so hard for a certain period ofPicsArt_1464249959104 time, you should be remembered for something. It’s not about, oh yeah, your fans love you. Hell no! It goes beyond that. I look up to people like Liz Benson and Uncle Olu Jacobs. I’ve always wanted to be like them, and if possible, even better. I believe I’m still climbing that ladder, not gotten to my destination yet. My foundation has been on a low key for a couple of years now. It’s a foundation that has to do with positive life for children with special needs, motherless babies and less privileged children. These children are often left out. That’s why I really want to help, especially those that want to go to school, giving them the opportunity. Making them believe that no matter how you are or what it seems, you can still be whoever you want to be if you work hard.

There have been so many criticisms against you. How do you cope with them?

This is what I’ve signed myself into in life. I should be able to take whatever it brings: the ups and downs. Criticisms sometimes go a long way to make someone better. We all make mistakes. We learn every day. I’m not a monopoly of knowledge.

Have you at any time regretted being who you are?

Some criticisms can make you, and some can break you: breaking you in the sense that, it could give you depression, if you cannot handle it. And that’s why if you are in this business, you have to be thick-skinned. You can’t be chicken-livered in this business. Hell no! Just do what you have to do. Do the best you can, and leave the rest to God.

If you were not Oge Okoye the actress, what would you be?

I’ve always wanted to be a star. I just didn’t know how or what would become of it. That’s always been my dream. My parents wanted something else, I wanted something else. I wanted to be in the showbiz; in the limelight. I feel this is the only way I could reach out to other people. No regret at all.

You were conferred with a chieftaincy title few years back; can you tell us about it?

{Laughs} I did a couple things there in that village through my Foundation. I’m thrilled and excited that I’m remembered. The title is for real, it’s an honor. {Laughs} I really don’t know how I’m going to look with the ofor, the beads and everything. It’s an honorary chieftaincy title.

What do you do for fun?

I watch movies in my house; my comfort zone. Going out to the beach; it’s very quiet and gives a lot more time to think and do better and partying at the right time. I love travelling as well.

Nollywood stars are usually stereotyped. Patience Ozokwor is always the wicked step mother, and you’re always the rich bad girl. Do you at some point reject such roles?

{Laughs} It’s really not cool to be stereotyped to a particular character, or a role. It’s WhatsApp-Image-20160527really cool to diversify, you know, in different angles. That’s why I try different characters. It’s true they keep giving me the ‘bad girl’ role. Maybe because I deliver, in terms of being able to interpret the character, or play the role I’m given. We’re improving. We are getting there. Even Patience Ozokwor you mentioned has done a couple of different movies where she did something different. Look at the ‘THE MEETING’, Rita Dominic. I give her kudos. She nailed it. Did you see the transformation? That’s it. People really stereotyped her as the real glam, touchy kind of girl. It’s not only the bad girl role I play, I do different characters. I did a movie where I played the role of a mad woman; a really mad woman! You need to see the madness. I couldn’t believe the character would come out that way. I’m like; “Oge, are you the one that did this?”

Where do you envision the Nollywood industry in the next five years?

I would want to see Nollywood in another dimension, in another level, in terms of good equipment or facilities to produce real good movies, movies that can win Oscars. I think we are doing a good job, we are getting there. But in five years, I want to see something better. I want to see all Nigerian movie producers united as one body under Nollywood, and not this division where there’s Yoruba movie industry, Housa’s, and all that. No! We should all come together as one united industry. I really want to see two, three or four of our movies, pushing into the Oscars. We can do it. The government has to help us. Corporate bodies have to assist us.

Some movies shouldn’t have been produced; that’s immoral movies that can affect children negatively. It has been argued that it’s as a result of trying to copy the Hollywood style. Do you think such movies should stop?

The movies we do in our different characters and roles, is to push out a message out there to people. It can be regulated in terms of PG rating, because in some stories, we have to tell that message in one way or the other. That’s why we have films for 18 years upwards, from 14 years upward and so on. That’s the little way we try to regulate these movies. It’s about the producer telling the story. It depends on how the producer wants to interpret his own story.

Some Nollywood stars do fade away after a couple of years. What are you doing to ensure you stay in the limelight?

I WANT TO SEE NOLLYWOODIt comes to me, thinking, and I’m like, I can really do something else. Yes I’m an actress, this is my passion, this is what I love doing and I’m still doing it and I’ll continue to do it. Even when I get old, I’ll still be doing it. I’ll keep it. Generations to come would see my works. I’ve introduced my make-up line. I’m introducing my glueless wigs, and jewelries. This is my own little way to touch people, the young ones that want to look beautiful and fashionable like you. It’s my little way of bringing out affordable things for them, and giving out jobs too, in my own little way. There are so many young girls that really want to look fabulous; they want to be glam like you are, wear the kind of hair you wear. But they can’t really afford much. That’s why I came up with this. It’s very affordable. If you cannot go for Brazilian hair, you can go for synthetic; it will still make you fabulous and beautiful.

There is much talk about sexual harassment in Nollywood. Have you ever been a victim of such?

{Laughs} I’ve never experienced it. I do hear about it, the way you heard. A whole lot has been said and heard. I have never experienced it, so I wouldn’t talk for other people. If it truly exists, I don’t know.

How do you handle over eager fans?

I just have to be nice. I try to be there, chatting with my fans and try to talk to them politely. Some people want to chat you up late in the night, but you just have to talk to them politely.

How do treat unwanted advances from the opposite sex?

{Laughs} Honestly, sometimes you are over friendly and next thing you flip because they don’t just want to get it. You try to make them understand, but they push you to the wall. And when I flip, they say; “oh, she’s rude. Oh, she’s a snob.” I just have to deal with it maturely. Be friendly, but don’t overstep your bounds.

Sometime ago, due to the constant bashings from the public, your publicist said you have developed hypertension. How true is that?

{Laughs out loud} I swear to God, that’s the dumbest thing to everade say. When I saw it, I was like; “are you kidding me? Hyper what?” Perhaps she didn’t use the right word. What kind of hypertension at this my little young age? Hell no! She was misunderstood by the media, because she said that wasn’t what she meant. She felt the bugging was much and she just wanted to like; “Get off her back!” You know how the Nigerian press turns stories upside down to suit their taste.

You have a make-up line called Crystal Glam. What’s the inspiration behind the name?

I named it after my daughter. My daughter’s name is Crystal, and it’s meant for her.

What should we be expecting from Oge Okoye?

I’ll tell my own story in due time. Expect a whole lot.
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