For over a decade and more, star actress, StephNora Okere has sizzled and sparkled in over fifty Nollywood movies. Pretty Steph from Ngor-Okpala in Imo State in this chat with AZUH AMATUS, opened up for the first time on why she agreed to marry a Yoruba man. “I married Lanre because he has a very healthy and sweet heart. Not even his look or background got we attracted to him in the first place, but his good heart. He is ever ready to understand and listen.”
Steph who got married two years ago to Lanre Falana, is a Dramatic Arts graduate of Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) Ile-Ife.
Enjoy the interaction with the “RUNS” actress who grew up here in Lagos and grabbed her first Nollywood role in 1995 on the set of “Cross Road.”
Hi Steph, you looking prettier, is marriage the secret?
(Laughs). Yes and thank you.
In recent times, your face no longer appears much in movies. Any special reason(s) for that?
There was lots of experimentation last year, new artistes also came up. The truth is that I did lots of jobs last year, but they are yet to release them into the market. The ban embarked upon by movie marketers in the last quarter of last year also affected most of the jobs that I did, they only rushed to release some movies which had the ban artistes thereby leaving ours in the coolers in order to meet up with their time frame. So, I’ve been busy working only that my jobs have not been gracing shelves the way it used to do before courtesy of the marketers who release them at their own discretions. Many will come out this 2005.
As a crossover artiste, which have you featured in more between English and Yoruba movies?
English movies of course. I did only two Yoruba movies, Oyin Nio and Aye Jobele last year.
Two years ago, you got married to a Yoruba man, Lanre, how has it been so far?
(Smiles). It’s been tremendous. In fact, it’s been like a new life .I feel like, why didn’t it happen long time ago because there is so much bliss in marrying Lanre. My husband and I are very young at heart .It’s been fun marrying him despite the fact that he is always traveling. Marriage has also made me more relaxed and I now take things easier. Everything now that I’m married is wonderful.
You are an Igbo girl from Imo state, what attracted you to a Yoruba man?
(Chuckles). I’m a typical Nigerian who grew up here in Lagos. Nigerian men from virtually all the tribes have wooed me for marriage, but it is basically a thing of choice and the mind .I settled down with a Yoruba man because I found the qualities I want in my dream man in him .I’m crazy about him and he is everything I want in a man .He is loving, caring, fun to be with, hardworking, creative and above all, God fearing. These qualities tripped me in him. We’re comfortable and compatible.
What are the Lessons being married has taught you?
Marriage has taught me that life is not really a bed of roses, because spinsters fantasize a lot about marriage. As a matter of fact, I started fantasizing about marriage when I was twelve. I have now come to realize that marriage is about perseverance. And my advice to spinsters is that they should not marry because they are in love, but because they are ready to settle down. And once you make up your mind to settle down you have to live with it. Marriage has taught me to be patient about things and be relaxed about life.
Are there things you don’t like about being married?
(Laughs). No, only that you are now being restricted from some things you used to do in the past. (Like what?) Nothing much, from the beginning, I’ve never been the clubbing or out-going type.
What do you miss most now that you are married, unlike then that you were single?
(Laughs heartily) if I want to be naughty, I would say that then I enjoyed the toasting (lies) from guys. I always lead them on till they get tired. But now, I tell them to keep off that I’m married. Then we call it the “girly stuff.”
Aside the qualities you reeled out about your husband, what other things attracted you to him?
Above everything, his good heart finally swept me off my feet. Not even his look, educational or even family background .If you have everything in this world without a good heart, then you have nothing. He has a very healthy and sweet heart. He is ever giving, ever ready to understand. He does not demand whenever he is giving. He does not begrudge people. Without sounding immodest, he is also a handsome guy, well read and well spoken.
Can you still remember the exact words he used in wooing you into a relationship before finally marrying you?
We met in ‘97. That very day he gave me a ride and when I was alighting he also gave me his card. As time goes on, we started seeing more of each other. He later left for London and we did not see till three years later when he came back. Then that he was still in Nigeria, whenever he sees me, he was always saying to me “Are you going my way, hop in and let me drop you”. That was the slogan I knew him with then. From friendship, we started dating and eventually got married.
Since you got married to Lanre, what has been the loveliest word he has told you?
(smiles) He has told me so much. But I will give you one. Most times, he takes me unawares and echoes I love you baby in my ear. It really trips me. He also does that to me on phones.
How and when did your path with acting cross?
I came into Nollywood in ‘93, during my final year in Obafemi Awolowo University as a dramatic Arts student. But I came in professionally in “94, on the set of “Cross Road”, which eventually came out in ‘95. But “Deadly Affair” by Opa Williams, was my first movie that hit box offices.
Your going into the university to study dramatic arts, was it by accident or on your own volition?
It was on my own volition that I went to read dramatic arts. I started nursing the ambition from my childhood days. If not drama, I couldn’t have done anything else.
Which of your movies actually made you a household name?
It was “Blood of The Orphan” that really brought me to limelight. That was in ’99. Also, my role in rested television soap, “Beyond Our Dreams”, brought me to peoples’ consciousness. “Blood of The Orphan”, really challenged me because I played an asthmatic patient and I have not come across any in real life till date.
Has StephNora featured in over a hundred movies?
No! No!! It’s above fifty, but not up to a hundred.
If you are not into acting today, what else would you have been doing?
I’m a writer also. I majored In writing at Ife. I’m also a fashion designer; I’m planning to open an office. I would have done a lot if I were not acting today. I’m a very creative person.
What are your plans, projects and aspirations for 2005?
My biggest plan is to get an NGO registered alongside a corporate office. I’m not going to say much on it, till I’m fully set. I don’t want to comment on it now. I also want to boost my career this year. My aim is to make impact outside our shores and continue to touch peoples’ lives positively. In-fact, I want to achieve a lot this year.
What are the things being a star actress has denied you of?
A lot. Most times, being a star denies you of being your natural self. Often times, I would want to eat Boli, but can’t go out and buy it because of what people will say. (General Laughter) People also have wrong impressions about us. They always want us to maintain a particular status as stars. Aside that, it’s been wonderful.
As a celebrated crossover actress, what separates you from your colleagues?
What makes me distinct from my colleagues is that I’m dynamic and a total artiste. I’m a rounded actress. That is my edge over my colleagues. I’ve done Igbo, Yoruba and English movies very well. So, I will try Hausa and French movies soon.
They said you are among the many controversial actresses that Nollywood has produced. How true is that?
There is hardly a star actress that does not have the controversy tag. What do you think? I’m not, only that I’ve been misrepresented in so many ways. But with time, people will get the right impression about me.
If given the opportunity, what would you like to do for humanity?
If given the opportunity, I would love to do a lot for children and the aged people in our society. The future of this generation of children should not be allowed to waste. I would like to empower them if I have the wherewithal. I will kick-off some laudable projects for them soon with my NGO.
When you finally quit the stage, what kind of legacies do you want to leave behind?
I want to be remembered as that Nigerian actress who spoke the truth, stood by it and always urged people to live by the truth. I also want to be remembered for the impact I made in peoples’ mind through my movies.
As a former national vice president of Actors Guild of Nigeria, what do you see as the biggest problem facing Nollywood?
Our biggest problem is the high breed of unprofessionals in all the departments that made up Nollywood. People are just chasing only money. For us to reach the Promised Land, we must discard mediocres and embrace professionalism and stick by it.
You’ve said so much about your husband, Lanre, let us end this interview with a last line from you to him?
(Smiles). What do you want me to say? I’ve fallen in love again.
First published, February, 2005.