BY ADEDIWURA OKELEYE
Uzodinma Iweala has given us a more in-depth view of ace Nollywood actress, Genevieve Nnaji‘s life in a series of conversations compiled into a feature for Ventures Africa’s 2016 African Innovation Series.
The actress discussed various aspects of her life with Uzo. She talked about her childhood and surviving tough times, growing up heavily influenced by her three brothers which made her a tomboy at some point, her vision for Nollywood, her company The Entertainment Network which she owns with business partner and close friend, Chinny Onwugbenu who is also the co-owner of MUD cosmetics.
Here are some excerpts from the feature:
Speaking about her childhood, she said, “I was a tomboy. I had three brothers right behind me. My sisters were too busy with themselves – you know how elder sisters are. I played football on the street. I got into a fight with a neighbor of mine who was a boy and I beat him up… I was six years old. We were mates and he was fat. He definitely asked for it and he got it.”
On her dad’s disciplinary methods, she said, “My dad was the kind of person you didn’t want to speak to you because you would actually feel the disappointment that you are at that time. In fact he had a way of – its not even pleading to your conscience – I think it’s a silent threat to your conscience.”
On how helping her mother sell things shaped her, she said, “She traded, she sold stuff, she got her children to sell stuff for her and we had to. We had no choice. We were living in her house. We cried. She did things you needed to do at that time. Your friends are not doing it. Why should you be the one to be doing it? You’re embarrassed about it, but I’m grateful for that because I think if I wasn’t even given that chance to be humble, I probably wouldn’t appreciate what I have today and understand that it doesn’t make me better than the next person. And [I] just know that everyone is equal and everyone is entitled to love and respect.”
Genevieve Nnaji also talked about how important her first salary was to her saying, “Even the kind of car I drive right now cannot give me that kind of joy that my first ride gave me. I must have a minimum of my first salary in my wallet — two thousand Naira. I can have more, but that’s the minimum. It was my first salary. It’s dear to my heart. That was my welcome fee into the world of entrepreneurship. It’s just there. I love it. I spent more than that to get the two thousand though on transport fare, cause by the time they tell you to go and come back so many times, you’ve spent way more than that, but that was who I was. I worked for it. I have to get paid for it. I’d probably squander every money that is dashed to me, but the one I would sweat for, I don’t play with. I don’t talk money because I want people to focus on work. Money is not good for creative people. I don’t value myself materially. Take everything.”
When she was asked about how she came up with the storyline for her latest movie, Road To Yesterday, she explained, “I’m someone who’s dark a lot of the time. I just wonder a lot. My mind really travels a lot and I think during one of these mind journeys of mine, I was wondering about the thin line between life and death and I was thinking about something my mom had told me, stories in the family and stories from random people about how their loved ones who have passed, have appeared to them, right before they passed or the time they’re passing.”
Speaking about what spurred her to make the movie, she said, “I made this film because I realize people grow and move on. Things change in their life, but they don’t expect things to change in yours. People don’t expect that you are human because you are a superstar. In other words, you can’t grow, learn, and make mistakes. They don’t expect those normal things from you. You are expected to know it all because you are famous.”
To read the rest of the feature with Genevieve Nnaji, visit VenturesAfrica.com.