Repentant “bad girl” actress Uche Iwuji made headlines few years ago when her celebrated whirlwind romance with Super Eagles and Everton rock solid defender, Joseph Yobo was blown open by the media.
The hush-hush affair which many thought would lead both love birds to the altar eventually crashed with the once “hottest item” quietly going their separate ways to lick the wounds of their short-lived romance.
In this no-holds-barred interview with AZUH AMATUS, pretty and zany Uche who breezed into Nollywood in 2000 on the set of “Tears in Heaven”, opened up for the first time why she and red lips Yobo parted ways.
“Yobo is the quiet type and wanted a quiet affair, but the whole thing became a public affair because I’m in showbiz…We are still best of pals…He was generous while the whole thing lasted,” divulged the “Way To The Top” actress who is full of appreciations to Zeb Ejiro for discovering and believing in her.
This daughter of a Lawyer from Imo State who is also a Sociology undergraduate of University of Lagos made it known in this interview that she is single, available and searching for; “A handsome and very rich guy.”
She added, “I love generous guys a lot.”
The star of soon-to-be-released “Dream Again” and other hit movies also bared her mind on other sundry issues within and outside Nollywood.
Enjoy the interaction!
Q: Hi Uche, very unlike you. You have been so, so quiet in the last couple of months. Any special reason for your lying low?
A: (Smiles) There are no reasons at all. Deep down I just felt I should pipe low and do my things my own way. Besides, there is too much stress in Nollywood, the industry really changed since they banned some actors last year.
Q: Have you taken part in some productions this year?
A: I’ve not featured in any movie this year. Though, the script are coming only that I don’t like the roles that have been coming my way in these movies. They were the type of roles I don’t like playing anymore. It is not as if they were obscene roles, only that I’m no longer comfortable playing such roles.
Q: Okay! How was your recent trip to Ghana and what business took you there?
A: (Chuckles) I traveled to have fun in Ghana and also relaxed.
Q: With your boyfriend or fiancée?
A: No! I did not go with anybody. I went alone and spent three weeks all to myself. It was fun, nice and lovely. It was an experience I like relishing, quite memorable. I never knew I was that popular in Ghana. The reception they gave me was-overwhelming. In fact, they made me feel at home.
Q: Talking about the ban on your colleagues, do you see it as an opportunity for you to further move up as a rising actress?
A: No! I don’t think so. In as much as I want to get to the top of my career as an actress. I don’t want to achieve that through the misfortunes of my colleagues. I’m of the view that with hard work and dedication I will surely get there. My only regret is that the kind of roles I want for my self is not forth-coming these days. Sincerely speaking, I’m different about the ban. Since the jobs are not coming frequently, I’m making do with my studies in school at the Sociology department of Unilag, still in my second year. I must also confess that it has not been easy shuttling between school and locations once in while
Q: For how long have you been in Nollywood as an actress?
A: This is my fifth year. I came in 2000. “Tear in Heaven,” was my first movie by Zeb Ejiro. Funny enough, I did not come in through anybody. I woke up one morning, got dressed and walked into Zeb’s office and told him I can act. I was auditioned the next day and the rest is now history.
Q: Then, what was your parent’s reaction?
A: No, they did not react negatively. I’ve been acting right from my childhood days. I also sang during that period.
Q: As an up and coming actress, who is also young and pretty, did producers and directors harass you sexually then?
A: (Laughs heartily). Every new actress encounters such but it is left for you to decide what you want for yourself. Yes, it did happen to me then. I was sexually harassed.
Q: Can you mention some of their names?
A: (Laughs longer). The fact was that they did not come to me directly; most of them sent their personal assistants to me. But thank God I was able to overcome the whole thing.
Q: But there was this rumours then also that you dated Zeb Ejiro?
A: How would I date my godfather? I didn’t and will never date Zeb Ejiro. He is like a father to me. In fact, he is my daddy. It was just a mere rumour. Zeb is not what a lot of people think he is. He is a very principled man to the core.
Q: The two soap operas you had featured in: Candlelight and Sweet and Sour were from Zeb’s stable. Was it a coincidence or…?
A: No! One thing about Zeb is that if he finds you good for a job, he gives you the role on merit. So, my roles in these soaps were not coincidental, but one got on merit. Very soon, I will be going on location to work with Wale Adenuga based on merit.
Q: As a fast rising actress, what are the challenges and how has it been for you in Nollywood?
A: Very interesting and fun. I’m happy being in showbiz ness. As a child then, I was always dreaming of being a star, especially an international beauty queen. I was the second runners-up some couple of years ago at the Miss Lagos State Beauty Pageant. But I jettisoned the idea when I started adding weight. Nollywood is where I have chosen to be right now. And I’m enjoying all the fun, glitz and glamour that come with it.
Q: Dream Again, one of your most recent movies will soon be out. Tell us about your role in the movie?
A: Dream again, is an interesting movie from the stable of Maranatha Pictures. I had fun while shooting on locations with top actors like Sam Loco Efe, Alex Usifo and the rest of them. I played a bitchy bad girl role in the movie. I dumped my fiancée for another guy in the movie when he had an accident. Unknown to many, it is also a religious movie. I heard it would soon be out.
Q: In real life situation, can you abandon your fiancée in his time of trouble?
A: God forbid, I can’t do that. My role in that movie was make believe… When the movie comes out, it is going to serve as a lesson for many homes. Life on that set was wonderful, we all had fun.
Q: Were you well paid in the movie?
A: Yes, I was well paid, but I won’t divulge the amount.
Q: Was any event memorable on the set of Dream Again for you?
A: Nothing much. The only memorable thing on the set was that the movie gave me the opportunity to work with Sam Loco Efe, for the first time in my life as an actress. And it was great working with him on location.
Q: There is this general belief that you are very wild and daring. Are you?
A: Maybe in the past I used to be very wild and daring. But now, I have really changed. Then I clubbed a lot and was always seen at parties. I have had enough fun, so I’m now keeping to myself. I’m also repacking because I now know what I want for myself.
Q: How did your parents feel then that you were doing all these?
A: Funny enough, they never knew I was doing all these. I was always on locations, so they thought I was just facing my acting career.
Q: What are the occupations of your parents?
A: Dad is a Lawyer while mum is a businesswoman. They are both here in Lagos. And we are just four in the house: two boys, two girls. I’m the first child. We are from Mbano, in Imo State.
Q: How old are you?
A: I was born on August 26, 1981, here in Lagos. Randle Hospital to be precise.
Q: And how was your growing up years?
A: It was lovely. My parents spoilt and pampered me silly. I was the baby of the house while growing up. I was a spoilt girl.
Q: Are you still a spoilt girl?
A: Not much again just a bit spoilt (General laughter).
Q: I’m I right to say that you probably met and eventually dated Super Eagles and Everton defender, Joseph Yobo in one of your clubbing spree?
A: No! We didn’t meet in a club. We started first as friends. We never knew we would get that close while the friendship lasted.
Q: For how many years did the whirlwind romance last?
A: Hmmh! Let me say two years
Q: So why did it crash?
A: First, Joseph is the quiet type while I’m always in the limelight because of my life as an actress and for this singular reason he felt the affair could not work very well. We eventually went our separate ways.
Q: Did you feel bad when the affair crashed?
A: Not really. Besides, I was not that comfortable dating someone abroad. It was just hanging in the air then…
Q: I also heard there were plans for the two of you to get married before the crash?
A: (Laughs). There was nothing like that o! He did not even propose to me. We just had fun while the whole thing lasted.
Q: What did you miss most about Joseph and the affair?
A: (Thinks). Nothing much. It was just a normal affair.
Q: Okay! But what did you enjoy most about the romance while it lasted?
A: (changes sitting position). He was just a lovely and loving person.
Q: If he comes back again, would you still date him?
A: Yes, but the Joseph I know won’t come back. It’s not possible. I’m also no longer interested in the affair.
Q: Do you regret dating Yobo?
A: I don’t think so. We both had fun while the whole thing lasted.
Q: Are you feeling bad about the whole thing?
A: No! I’m not feeling bad at all. I was and still very proud dating Yobo lots of my colleagues did theirs in hiding. I like doing my things open, I don’t believe in hide and seek love.
Q: Presently, are you into any affair?
A: No! I’m not. I’m still single and searching for the right guy.
Q: Is marriage also on your mind?
A: (Giggles). Marriage is not on my mind sha!
Q: How come a beautiful girl like you is still single and searching? Are men scared of you or the ideal man has not come your way?
A: I think I have not seen my ideal man. My ideal man must be loving and ready to take me for whom I am.
Q: (Cuts in) So, Joseph Yobo did not take you for who you are?
A: Hmmh! He did not really like the idea of dating a public figure; also he did not want a public romance.
Q: So, let us go back to your ideal man?
A: Like I said, he should be loving and generous. I love generous people a lot (Laughs) in fact; my ideal man must be very rich and handsome.
Q: In the next couple of years, where do you hope to be?
A: Sincerely speaking, I would love to be in my husband’s house with our lovely kids. I actually don’t know when I will get married, but if the right man comes, we will hit-it off. I won’t have more than four kids.
Q: Talking about movies, like how many you featured in?
A: I think about twenty-eight of them. But my roles in Way To The Top, Passion and Pain, My Dream, Emotional Tears, Aristos and soon to be released Dream Again, really challenged me. Even Beautiful Faces and Separate Lives were also challenging.
Q: As a rising actress, who among the Nigerian A-list actress do you respect and admire so much?
A: I respect and admire Genevieve Nnaji; she is my mentor. We are also good pals.
Q: You must be a millionaire, having starred in over twenty-eight movies?
A: No! But you know how it is in Nollywood, you start making more money when you are already there as an A-List. Right now, I earn what they decide is okay for me, and not what I want them to pay me. And you know that aside schooling and acting I don’t do other things.
Q: Aside your crashed affair with Yobo, have you had similar experience with men in the past?
A: Not really.
Q: Have you ever fallen in love before?
A: Sincerely speaking, I’ve never fallen in love; I only get infatuated with guys. I don’t see myself loving… maybe; it can develop into love later o!
Q: So, what you had with Yobo was just infatuation and not love?
A: I liked him, but can vouch if I loved him then.
Q: A lot of people see you as a wild girl. Kindly describe yourself for me?
A: I’m a sexy, intelligent, wild and daring actress who likes catching fun and being my normal self without pretences. I’m also a nice and friendly person who makes friends and appreciates those that love me. I’m also God fearing, especially now that I’m getting more mature. It was after I finished acting in Separate Lives that I started seeing the maturity in me as an actress.
Q: As a self-confessed wild and daring actress can you act nude or half nude in a movie?
A: I don’t think so. Remember we are Africans. I can’t do nasty things in movies.
Q: Compare the Nollywood of today with that of year 2000, when you started?
A: It has really grown, in fact, very, very fast. When I came I then lots of people were still skeptical, but today people are coming in without any fear whatsoever. Nollywood has gotten there and very soon a lot of people will find it very difficult joining us.
Q: What major obstacles did you encounter then that you came in newly?
A: A lot! Especially facing the top stars on locations then. Then moving from one location to another. I was scared stiff the first time I worked with Omotola on set.
Q: Let me take you back again on Yobo. They alleged that the tattoo on your breast was specially done for him while the whirlwind romance lasted. Is it true?
A: (Laughs) Agreed the tattoo is about two hearts in love, but I did not do it for Yobo. I did the tattoo at about the time I met Yobo, but not for him sincerely speaking. It has the symbol of two hearts that are surrounded by love (shows a bit of it to us). I did it for the fun of it and funny enough, he liked it so well.
Q: Any plans of erasing the tattoo now that your affair with Yobo had collapsed?
A: No! The tattoo has come to stay.
Q: Were you a fan of Nollywood prior to your coming in?
A: No! Then I used to see them as fake people, especially with their make-ups and stunts effects. But right now, we have grown and really improved. To God be the glory. As far as I’m concerned, we are the best when it comes to romantic and epic movies. But a lot still needs to be done about our action-movies.
Q: Do you have plans of being a movie producer later?
A: No! No!! I don’t see myself going into movies production. I’m just okay being an actress.
Q: Do you sometimes regret your wild past life?
A: Yeah! Once in a while, most times you can but thank God for giving you the opportunity for experiencing such life at a very young age. It has really given me a better understanding of what this world really looks like. I must confess that I’m happy passing through these phases in my youthful life. And now, I’m out of it. I still regret some of my past deeds, but life goes on.
Q: So, no more clubbing and partying for you?
A: I can do that with my pals once in a while on a minimal level.
Q: What would you say is the biggest lesson you have learnt about life?
A: It is good for a young girl to be a bit reserved and also learn how to keep to herself always.
Q: A parting word for your ex, Yobo?
A: I miss him a lot despite everything. He knows we are still best of pals… and to the men; they should stop being scared of me. Dating Yobo, should not make them to be scared of me.
First published, April 2005