Surprisingly and unknown to many, Lady Diane Oputa, the America born better half of Charly Boy and mother of three of his eight children, has been living in Nigeria since 1979 – when she escorted Charly home after his sojourn in America. “I was madly in love with Charles and agreed to follow him home to Nigeria after his studies. I came then, spent some months and went back”, says the South Carolina born multi-talented artiste.
Still speaking further, Di, who is also a trained hair stylist and cosmetologist also hinted that she started singing with a group in America when she was very young: “I started singing and acting from a very tender age. I started with a group then. I love the arts a lot,” she stated.
On how her path with that of Charly Boy crossed, she further divulged. “We met in a hair salon where I was working then. He was always coming in a Limousine to do his hair. Though, we got married in 1984, here in Nigeria. But I forced him to propose to me…”
In this no-holds-barred interview with AZUH AMATUS, Lady Di, who is also an actress cum TV Presenter bared her mind to us about her forth-coming debut album. “No title yet. It is a ten tracker that will take Nigerian music to another level. I’m working with some of the best hands in the music industry”.
Very reserved and romantic Di, also intimated us about the things she likes and hates about her weird hubby, Charly Boy.
Enjoy the interaction!
I remember seeing you once in a Nigeria movie, after that you went underground. Have you quit acting finally or you just took a break?
Well, I actually wanted to do some acting when I first came into Nigeria. I tried doing some movies but later found out it was very difficult for me to penetrate Nollywood then. Maybe, because of my husband, people were scared of giving me jobs (Laughs). Maybe, they were afraid. But I’m still hoping that in the nearest future I will be called to act again in Nollywood movies. I also think my not being able to speak Igbo, Yoruba and Hausa fluently is also affecting my acting career. So, those producers out there should hear me now. I’m available for you (General Laughter). During these intervals, I also had my talk show on air, which was a segment on the Charly Boy Show. I was handling “This Is Not The News”, as miss ITK. It was a lot of fun and I enjoyed that role. Right now, I’m working on two other shows that would hopefully be on air by September. One of them will be called TAAKAIA. It means, Teaching Africans Arts and Krafts. It is going to be a kind of self-empowerment programme where I will be able to enlighten a few people what they could do with African arts and krafts. And also use it to earn income for themselves.
What is happening to your much-postponed album? Or is it out?
As of now, it has not been released. But we are in the final stages and hope that it will be released before the end of July and beginning of August. It has taken a little while because we had to make some changes and add a few songs. We added two more tracks and now have ten tracks in the album.
We would like to know more about your kind of music?
It is a mixture. We have Highlife blended with Soul and Makossa. There is a lot, but I won’t tell you everything right now till it comes out. (Laughs). And I worked with several people. OJB Jeezreel,Dr. Alban and Cobham. They all jointly produced me.
Your sojourn into music, how and when did it start?
Wow! I’ve been performing for a while. I started performing in the U.S. that was before meeting CB; I was about 17 years then. I started performing with a band and as a matter of fact, I’ve included in my album one of my songs then. Though, I’ve been performing with my husband and several artistes for many years, but this is going to be my first solo and debut album.
But what informed your love for music?
Wow! I guess music itself is an art and I’ve always loved the arts. Actually, I did lots of acting when I was in the U.S. as a child, especially stage plays. And I have always wanted to sing just that the opportunities were not available then. Now that it is available, I want to make sure that I make use of it. Come out with this album and hopefully, it will be accepted. But despite all these, I’ve been performing on regular basis at shows.
When did you come to Nigeria first?
I came first in 1979.
It is not easy being Charly Boy’s wife, especially with his eccentricisms and weird life styles. How have you been coping?
I cope with it day by day. It is with God’s grace and blessings in a relationship that keeps us together. We talk a lot, we communicate, he doesn’t leave me behind in things that he is doing. We also agree to disagree. I cope and handle my household and offices very well. But it is not easy. Most times, people walk up to me and ask how do I manage?
When was your marriage with CB solemnized?
And what is the secret (s) that has kept the marriage going?
Like I keep saying to people, there is no secret, it is just God’s grace.
Are you fulfilled marrying Charly Boy and living with him in Nigeria?
Yeah, for sure. I’m happy in my marriage. We are always happy as a couple with lovely kids. Like it is expected in every marriage once in a while, we do have our ups and downs. The grass is not always green. We don’t let things interfere with our marriage foundation. This is the rock that holds everything together.
Is Charly Boy romantic?
(Laughs). Is he romantic? He used to be romantic, but now that he is getting “younger”, it is fading. But I as his wife knows how to make him romantic and the perfect time to do that. As an Aquarian, we are very romantic people, we need lots of affection but a Gemini like him, and they are moody people. What he isn’t and does not have in romance, I give back. We are the patient ones in a relationship.
As his wife of over 20years, how would you describe Charly Boy?
Whaoh! Those who have come closer to him have found out that he is truly opposite of what people think of him. He listens a lot and gives back to people a lot. He is caring, stern and a no-nonsense kind of person. He likes hardworking people around him. He also does not like people who keep asking for favour and don’t have any reasonable thing to offer. He instills hard work and discipline in people. A loving father who spends time with his children and family. And of course, he is a loving husband. If he wasn’t, it will be very difficult for me to cope.
Do you speak a bit of any of the Nigerian languages, especially the major ones?
(Laughs.) I can speak a little bit of Igbo if I’m in the village, I know how to greet. I know the titles. But my Yoruba staff are trying to teach me Yoruba.
Which of our local delicacies do you know how to prepare very well?
A lot. You should know that the way to a man’s heart is food. My husband likes all kind of foods and that has helped me in knowing how to prepare variety of dishes. He likes Edika-Ikong and Afang soups a lot and I prepare them for him very, very well. I also like local vegetable foods a lot. I like pounded yam a lot but it made me put a lot of weight, so I had to quit. I also love pepper soup.
Tell us more about yourself and family background
I’m Lady Diana Oputa (Nee Rogers). I’m an American from South Carolina. I was born in a small house there. I’m not gonna tell you me age. I was born into a Baptist Family. My parents and only sister are still alive in the U.S. I lived in New York for many years. I’m a cosmetologist and studied fashion designing. The name Lady Di, came about because while in school, I was the only girl in my class. I’m also a mother with three kids. I studied at Chamberlain College in Boston and that was the area where I met my husband.
How did your path with that of Charly Boy cross?
That should be about 77/78. But I knew him for years before coming to Nigeria. He met me while I was working in a hair salon. Then I used to specialize in hair braiding. He was always coming in a Limousine to do his hair. And people were always making comments about him in the salon. Then, he was adorning a pull back and relaxed hairstyle. He called one day and told my boss, he would like to speak with me. On the phone, he said he was inviting me to a function. He eventually drove late to my place and took me to the supposed function. I later discovered there was no function that it was only a trick he used in taking me out. And it worked. We started going out until he invited me to Nigeria. But I had earlier met his parents in Boston before coming to Nigeria; his parents actually invited me to Nigeria. I came in and stayed for about eight months before going back. I was an explorer and really fell in love with him. Then, I don’t think he was actually in love with me. I felt he was just having fun. At a point, when I did not call or write my parents while in Nigeria, they started to look for me through American embassy here in Lagos…
When Charly Boy eventually told you he would like to marry you. Did you take him serious?
He didn’t even tell me, he wanted to marry me. I made him to propose to me.
(Cuts in) How did you do that?
Because, at that point, we were already living together but not legally married, we had our first son, which he was content with. I think, it was because he was already married twice and does not want to jump into marriage again. Remember, his first wife was an American and the second a Nigerian. I came from a family that is close Knit; my parents are still together, even his own parents. So, it was like, hey, if you don’t want to do this, let me know…
But what actually got you attracted to CB?
He was and is still a sweet person. He was very romantic then. He did and is still doing so much for me. We visit places and talk a lot. He has an attractive spirit. Very interesting person, my parents accepted him right from the onset. My parents also knew that I wanted to be around him and they could really do nothing about that. And since we got married, I have been enjoying the marriage despite the ups and down. I really don’t even think about going back to America. I only go on visits. I traveled last, last year.
What other things do you do?
Aside being a wife, mother and a musician, I run NewWave Productions, especially the financial aspect of it. And it is not easy combining this with my music and role of a housewife.
Have you ever thought of quitting this marriage, especially in times of crises?
Emmh! (Thinks). I will be lying if I say that I’ve never thought of packing up and going back home. I’m a reserved person, you may not understand it but … I like my privacy and my husband is just the opposite. He likes people; he likes being seen and being heard as a showbiz person. I like that too, but not that level. There is a time to be seen as far as I’m concerned. That is my way and I can’t change it. Sometimes, he tells me that I don’t know the Nigerian way, you have to be this, and you have to be that… Maybe, it is because of the way I am that we are even able to be as close as we are. If I was more like this or that, then maybe, a lot of things that we see each day, maybe, the relationship won’t work.
What are the things you hate and like most about Charly Boy?
Like I said, my husband is a Gemini he is very moody. I dislike that a lot and he knows. He also tends to switch-off. If he is in that mood, he does not talk. I don’t also like that. If he is unhappy, I’m also unhappy. That is just the way I am and that is the way he is. I always tell him to let me know what is bothering him. The issue of PMAN and other things happening around him are making him very stressful. It takes a big toll on the relationship, the family and also takes so much out of him. But I’m always there for him. We are also suffering some of the things that he is also feeling. But his generosity trips me a lot. Sometimes, he even gives too much. And he feels giving is part of his calling. He likes helping people a lot. Then, his love for the down trodden is unequalled.
There is a general belief that our female musicians are not doing enough. In what ways do you think they can be empowered to enhance their productivity?
I think that what Onyeka Onwenu has started and is trying to do is good. I’m not yet a member. I think it is a good forum where female musicians can come together and discuss problems, issues and ways for them to empower themselves. And also become as strong as their male counterparts. We also need the proper songs and music to be in the market to also enhance what we are doing. We have a lot of talents who are female musicians. We are unique. People like Yinka Davies, who is my favourite, are very good and talented. I like her songs, style and spirit. It is a good forum, but management is another area we should look into. We don’t have managers here. It is not our work; we need people to do our work for us while we are busy out there. We need money to look good, to record and even to promote our works. We can’t even receive royalties from our music. By God’s grace, things are going to change. So many things are hindering our progress.
Are you a member of Charly Boy’s new religion. Hare-Krishna?
(Laughs) Does Charly Boy has a church? Did he tell you that? Sorry, no comment. I’m a Christian. I’m a Catholic.
How did you feel when Charly Boy first started his weird life styles?
I never felt or saw Charly as a weird person in anyway. It was weird and uncommon for Nigerians but not for the western world. Remember that CB was in America for so many years. He was looking and aiming for something that will set him apart from other people, which, he can use as a stepping-stone. All those things were gimmicks and antics he used to achieve his aims. I was comfortable living with him and watching him do all that. He was just painting a picture.
Tell us more about your children?
I have three children and several step children. They are Adaeze, Dominic and Alex. Their age range is 20, 18 and 12. They are in the universities in America. Only Dominic is here. They are two girls, one boy. My kids have told us they wouldn’t want to go into music… We’ve told them, do as you wish but be focused. The family is intact. And the home front is solid.
How do you feel when you read negative things about CB in the media?
Well, it depends on what I read. But people will always think what they want to think or say. Right now, you are doing an interview; it is only God that knows what your headline would be. The public believes what they want to believe. The truth is that I feel bothered when I see or read some of those things I don’t like it. No! But I’m very sure of the family and myself.
Three kids down the road and you are still looking young, pretty and fit. What is the secret?
My life is in the gym; I’m always there burning fat. I eat less and exercise a lot and also watch what I eat. Everything else, God has given me.
First published, June 2005.