Beautiful actress, Olayinka Olukunga-Ademo, popularly known as Nnenna, is rarely known by her real name. The Lagos State-born actress, who commenced her career in the make-believe industry after a brief romance with modelling, is the anchor of the children show, Nnenna& Friends, a franchise of Wale Adenuga Productions (WAP). The mother of twins, who won the heart of many with her role in Nnenna, A gift of love, TV series, told NEWTON-RAY UKWUOMA, among other things, that she is living her dreams.
Not many people know that your real name isn’t Nnenna.
Yes. My real name is Olayinka Olukunga-Ademo. I am from Lagos State and I am very Nigerian.
But even your curly hair doesn’t look Nigerian.
Yes. I get that a lot. People just say different things about where I came from. Some say I am Spanish, some Indian, some Mexican, you know, different things. Sometimes, I wonder. I am completely Nigerian, from Lagos State.
Where did you get your looks from?
My paternal grandmother. I was told I look exactly like her. She died before I was born. She was Nigerian, but of a mixed blood. Her own mother wasn’t Nigerian, but her father was. So, the gene was from my grandma.
Would you say your look opens doors for you?
No. I think God opens the doors. It is just the grace of God. One thing I do is that I take things the way they come. I know God is taking me places. And I know I am not there yet. I am just letting Him lead me. I am not in a hurry. I believe, if it is yours it will come, and it will stay with you. That is basically the theory I have lived by over the years. It has really helped me.
How did you acquire the famous Nnenna stage name?
I got Nnenna from a Super Story series called,“Nnenna, A gift of love,” a Wale Adenuga Productions. After the series, everybody fell in love with the character. People began to call me Nnenna, especially children. That was how the name stuck.That was also how we started Nnenna& Friends. My name is Nnenna and children are my friends.
Nnenna& Friends has become quite a brand. Tell us about it.
Yes. It is possibly a household name. Children, parents have somehow heard about Nnenna& Friends. If you haven’t heard of the live shows, you must have heard about the magazine or the Nnanne& Friends educational tour that we do around the world.
For kids that want to participate in any of your events, how should they go about it?
For the live show, it is open to everybody. We have had two shows this year at the National Theatre, Iganmu, Lagos: one on Children’s Day, (27th May) and the other on Independence Day(1st October).The Brain Power Game is open to children in Lagos State. We work with schools only. This programme sees children compete with one another in subjects like English Language, Mathematics and General Studies. It is open to primary and secondary schools in Lagos. Best three students are given award prizes. Participation is free. And for the educational tour around the world, parents of interested kids could give us call to enrol their children. Once we have planned the trip, the adverts will be on all our programmes. Interested parents could just give us a call. Then we can give them the necessary information about the event.
How many years have you been in the industry?
About eight years now.
How did Wale Adenuga find you?
First, I started as a model. I had done some jobs for companies like Petals, Relaxer, Dudu Osun, Visafone among others. I was really active then. But sometimes, I would go for movie auditions. In one of the auditions for the Papa Ajasco series,I was given a scene. That was my first movie experience. You know, for someone who is passionate about acting, there are no small roles. There are only small actors. That one scene was a big boost for me. It was from there I was featured in an episode in Super Story where I play an Indian lady. After that, I got the Nnenna role.
What did you study?
I studied Marketing at the Lagos State University.
As a kid growing up, what were your fantasies?
As a child I always wished I was an actress. I wanted to do something that bordered around acting. I also wanted to do things with children. But the form it was going to take, I had no idea. My mum told me that as a child I would stand in front of the mirror, gesticulating, acting and miming things I watched on TV. I remember my mum would be like, “Kini omodeyi n se yi . Lo ka we!” [What is this child doing? Go and read your books!] She would beat me some times. At that time, my parents didn’t understand me, or why anyone would want to act. Now, I am happy that I am living my dream. This is what I want to do. I want to work with children. I want to be around children. And I am doing it. I am having fun.
People say you are restricted to Wale Adenuga productions, or why did you not take up other movie projects?
[Smiles] My work here doesn’t prevent me from acting. And I am not restricted from taking up other movie roles. The challenge is when people see me, they see Nnenna& Friends. People think I am a child. I have had situations where when people see me they will be like, “Nnenna, are you this big? You are big o! The small girl of that time is now a big girl o!” And I am like, “I wasn’t that small at the time I started”. People think I am a small girl. When they see me, they see a child. I don’t mind anyway.
How old were you when you started modelling?
I was about eighteen at that time.
If a script was given to you now, would you take it?
Yes. Why not! If it is a fantastic one, why not?
What is your views about Nollywood?
I think Nollywood is different from what it used to be. We are growing. We have fantastic producers. People are doing well. Lots of good movies. Technically speaking, we use good cameras now. The stories are more realistic. We can relate to them.
You are a mother of twins. How is life being a mother?
It has been amazing. It is an experience I would not want to trade for anything in this world. I am thankful to God for giving me the opportunity to become a mother. It has been an amazing journey. Though it has its ups and downs, the smiles in the faces of my children make every effort worthwhile.
Did you expect to have twins?
My mother is an identical twin. I didn’t imagine I would have twins anyway. When it happened, I couldn’t be any more grateful.
Were you ever afraid of marriage?
Sincerely, No. I was ready for it. I had learnt a lot from elderly people. I love to listen to people’s experiences. And I have great mentors, women, who have inspired, who have always been there for me. One of them is Linda Etukudo. She is an amazing woman. She has always told me that marriage is not a bed of roses, but that one can make oneself happy in marriage. She told me that as a woman, you have the power to build your home how ever you want it. That was one thing I held on to way before I got married. I would say it is working for me. It is not that it is always romantic all the time. A man will always be a man. And a woman will always be a woman. Friction will happen. But how you want it to be is dependent on you, the woman. The man has a role to play. He has to be a man, mature and caring, putting his home first all time. But as women, most of the work depend on us. Even the bible says admonishes that. I tell God all the time to give me the grace to build my home. And that has been one thing that has been helping me as well.
When did you get married?
Two years ago. Two years, two kids. It has been amazing.
What were the qualities you looked out for in men as a young woman?
I just wanted a good man. I just wanted God to choose for me. Like I said, I have always had people who talk to me, who give me counsel. So, I wasn’t looking for any spectacular quality or that he had to be this or that. I just wanted a good man. And I got it.
Can you share with us your love story with your husband, OluwarotimiAdemo?
I met him when I was serving at Ojodu-Berger, Lagos. And we were basically friends. From friendship we graduated into dating. And he proposed and we got married in December 2014.