Star actress and Saturday Independent columnist, Omoni Oboli, scored another hit when she recently became the face of Venus beauty products from PZ. Senior Correspondent, Hazeez Balogun,met her at a location in Festac Town during the week, and she spoke about the new deal and other issues many actresses of her calibre would shy away from
You are about to go on set to shoot a movie; do you sometimes feel tense or nervous?
Well, I would be lying if I say there is not some kind of… I wouldn’t call it nervousness, I can call it apprehension. I feel apprehensive when I am about to do a major project. It is not negative; it’s a positive kind of apprehension.
Some of those scripts can be long, do you memorise everything?
Yes, like the one I will be shooting now, the script is so long. But I have to memorise everything. Yes, once in a while I will chip in some ad-lib where necessary. Remembering my lines comes naturally to me, I don’t know about other people but I can easily remember my lines.
Your name, Omoni Oboli, has a rhythm to it; some say it is just a stage name.
No, it is my real name. Omoni is my real name, Oboli is my husband’s family name. That is what is on my passport and my documents. The name may sound catchy but you know what they say, all things work for good.
The story now is that you just got a billion naira deal with a cosmetic company
Ah. I wish. Yes, there is a deal. I just became the brand ambassador for Venus beauty range and I am excited. I will be doing a lot of television adverts, a lot of print adverts, billboards and other campaigns. There is also a campaign they are about to do called ‘Venus is in’. I will be a part of that. There will be lifestyle instructional videos that will be shown in universities. The deal is basically about promoting the brand. If you see the products and the packaging, you will know that it is beautiful. The product and the formula is very well done. Normally, I have a very sensitive skin. When I was told that I was considered for an endorsement, I asked that some of the products be sent to me to try. As a brand ambassador, I should have to test the product to know that I will be its ambassador. I used if for one day and I called them back. I told them that the product was actually good. For me to use it and not react to it, then the product must be good.
Is this your first major deal?
No, it is not. I have a deal with Dettol antiseptic. The advert was on television and billboards. There is also a phone company that is about to be launched in the country; I am one of their spokesperson. When they commence you will see.
Four or five years ago, the name, Omoni Oboli didn’t ring a bell, but today you are a household name. What will you say brought you into the limelight?
Firstly, I will say it is favour from God. And also, a lot of professionalism. I do not want to pass the wrong message out there when I say it is just favour. Some people may start thinking that all they need is the favour of God. There is a lot of work to be done as well. God loves me and opens ways for me, but I do not take that for granted. I make sure that I do my job and do a good job. I also treat people the way I want to be treated. Sometimes, all these things have a way of coming back to work in your favour. Sometimes some people are in a position to recommend someone, and they remember how well you treated them on another set, and from there, you get more jobs. The culmination of all these things is what has worked for me.
What were you doing prior to acting?
I am not new to acting like people think I am. I did some acting while I was in school in the University of Benin. In fact, I played the lead role in about three movies. But at the end, I had to let go of acting because it was not working. I had to concentrate in school. So, I left the industry for over a decade. Yes, over 10 years. Coming back was very difficult because it was like starting all over again. Then was not like now where everybody’s name is everywhere. There was no Internet boom then or Facebook.
What brought you back to the movies after 10 years?
Even after I left, I did not let go. There was always something inside me drawing me back to acting. When I saw people that I started with then become household names, I will be like ‘look o, look at my mates o, see where they are now. If only I had stayed, only God knows where I would be by now.’ When I came back to Nigeria, the opportunity came and I took it. It was not that the opportunity just came like that, I went all out to look for it. I went to people who were there when I was there. I went to Lancelot Imasuen and he was excited I was back. I also went to Emem Isong. From there we started working together.
So all the years you were away, where did you go?
I finished school, got married, and that was it.
You mean you were not doing any work for 10 years?
I was a homemaker. That is a full time job.
So what has changed in Nollywood?
When I left, the Nigerian movie industry was nowhere on the map. Today, I travel to all sorts of countries and everyone recognises you. I mean they watch our films around the world. I mean we are winning awards across the world. We are going forward.
You won the best actress at the Harlem International Film Festival last year in the USA, what was your first reaction when you heard the news?
You know I did not even know the film was even entered for the festival. I was very surprised. I did not know anyone from the awards. I was coming from Russia with my kids where we attended a karaoke competition. I was on my way to New York to get a visa to Canada when I was called that I won the award. I thank God for the recognition. I have also won many other awards.
You have seen the kind of scandals the press reports. Did that scare you a bit when coming back to the industry?
Not at all. I am aware of all these scandals, but one needs to do something wrong before a scandal can start. I do not believe the media can go out of their way to write or report something I have not done. So on my part I try to be open. I know I have done nothing wrong and I am not planning to do anything wrong.
Now that you are married with children, does acting have it’s own effect on your marital life?
No not at all. I try to be around my family as much as I can. When I am around, I let my children know that I am around; I let my husband know that I am around. I believe in spending quality time with my family. I am not different from a regular woman who works, or a woman who works in a bank who leaves home six in the morning and comes back 10 at night. There is no difference. We are all mothers who try to make a living.
But you travel all around to get on various sets.
Yes, I travel, but like I said, I spend quality time anytime I am around. I am doing what I have to do. I have to be a mum, I have to be a wife, I have to be an actress.
There are lots of failed marriages in the movie industry, and yours remain strong. Do you have success tips for married actresses?
My number one formula is that in the marriage we are three, and not two. God is the third person in the marriage. Number two, we communicate with each other a lot. If you don’t communicate and you keep hiding issues, one day it will escalate. When it escalates, it will be just one little thing that will trigger the problem. Sometimes we agree to disagree. We both respect each other’s views.
Do you pick movies?
Yes I do. I look out for the script. It has to be very good; it has to catch my fancy. I look at the production as well. The movie has to be something that is taking my career forward. It has to have depth.
What are you working on now?
It is called Brother’s Keeper. It has Majid Michel and Barbara Soky, Beverly Naya and others. We are still shooting so I cannot say much about it.
Who is Omoni Oboli outside all the glitz and glamour?
I am just a home girl. I am pretty much like the girl next door. I have a big heart. To be honest, my personality outside is the same as my personality inside. I don’t put on any airs or whatever, I am just who I am. I don’t even have the energy to try to be anything else.
Would you call yourself a very fashionable person?
It depends on what you mean by fashionable. I wear what I am comfortable in; I wear what makes me happy. Someone might think it’s not fashionable but if I’m comfortable, if it makes me happy and if I look good in my eyes, then it’s fine.