‘I would rather go hungry than compromise my standard’
Popular actress, Adeola Khadijah Ayoade, knew that acting was the only thing she wanted to do from childhood and has remained very true to her calling. Having appeared in over 100 movies in the last few years, the graduate of Theatre Arts from the University of Ibadan has become one of the most talked about actresses in the Yoruba movie industry. In this interview with SEGUN ADEBAYO, the actress, who also runs a fashion outfit speaks on her career and how she intends to remain relevant.
From the look of things, you have become the toast of many movie producers in the Yoruba speaking movies. How would you describe the feeling at this time?
I don’t even see myself as the toast of many producers actually. I don’t think I am a toast yet. I am just grateful to God for the grace. I love my job and I work hard to make sure I give my best anytime I have a job to do. I don’t want to say my talent is getting me the jobs because there are many talented people in the industry who don’t get the opportunity I have. So, for me, I think it is the grace of God, hard work and consistency.
What prepared you for this journey?
It was just passion. I have realised that when you love what you do, you will enjoy it. Sometimes you enjoy what you do but you don’t love and some other time, you love what you do but you don’t enjoy it. I guess I just love what I do and I am enjoying every bit of it. This is what I have always wanted. As a child, I was always stuck on TV watching cartoons, movies and all. In fact, I grew up watching a lot of Indian movies and love movies. I realised after seeing the movie, I always ended up taking on the character of the people I saw in the movie I see. As a child, it was something I enjoyed doing and I was that child that loved to see everything. You know that as a child, people tend to ask you what you want to become when you grow up, but I don’t tell them anything because I never wanted to be a lawyer, doctor or teacher or any other profession but acting. I don’t want to be a lawyer or a nurse. I love to mimic people a lot and it was part of me for a long time. So, when it was time to go to the university, I told my dad I wanted to study Theatre Arts. He actually wanted psychology or one other course. He also wanted University Of Ibadan (UI) but I wanted University of Lagos (UNILAG) .
Why did you want UNILAG?
I grew up in Ibadan and it is not a place where you have movie makers like in Lagos State unlike now. I knew that if I had argued with my dad on the choice of school, he would have said no to my choice of Theatre Arts.
Which movie was the big break for you and how did you get the job?
People started noticing me in movies when I appeared in Bogunbe Paul’s movie, Ojo Kan na (Same Day). That was my first feature and I played the lead role.
How much were you paid?
I was not paid for the movie. I was very young then. On the first day of the film, I was late and I had to call my mum, who drove me to the set because I was late. My mum had to lie to the director that she was the one who delayed me. I thought I had lost the opportunity. The second movie was Iya Ibadan, produced by Toyin Abraham. I met Bogunbe while I was in UI because he used to come to watch plays in my school and I think he noticed what I could do back then and we became close.
Are you still close?
Yes. We have a professional relationship. He’s my boss and I respect him a lot.
So, you never dated him?
That never happened. It was and still about the professional relationship. I came into the industry through him. It is a brother and sister relationship. He directed my first and last movie. I have worked on the same set with him.
How do you rate yourself in the industry today and what does it mean to you to be an actress that people love to see?
The feeling is great. I am just a normal person. I am like the girl next door. Sometimes, I forget that I am an actor because I play a lot. It only occurs to me that I am an actor when people start saying they see me in movies. Most times, I get carried away being my normal self. I am still the normal person and I am so indifferent about myself.
The competition is rife in the industry. Actresses try as much as they can to raise their game and outshine one another. This must come with a lot of pressure. How do you cope with this attention you are getting?
The truth is that I don’t see anybody as competition. I have realised that if you are trying to be in a competition with anyone, you get lost because you will try to do thing the way the other person is doing it and you end up looking like a fool. I have learnt to be contented with what I have. I know for sure that if you rush the process, two things are bound to happen. You will end up being known but not relevant. You might be there for few years and people will forget you. I just want to be remembered for being a great actor even when I am no more.
For somebody who has a good command of the English language, it is surprising that you don’t appear in English speaking movies. Does this not bother you?
To me, I think it is tribalism and the impression about Yoruba speaking movie producers and actors, many people see us as lousy people and we don’t know what we want. The producers tend to dissociate themselves, not because you are not good but they think you are cheap because they see on too much Yoruba movies. I also think they have good brands; they feel a lot of us don’t have a good command of English. For me, I like to explore because I love to play any character. These English actors are just normal people like us but they are well packaged. Most of their movies are always going to the cinemas. Many people will say they can’t pay to watch a Yoruba movie at the cinema, but I keep telling people that some of these English movies you pay to watch don’t even have good story lines. These people shoot on high quality, the picture is solid and the sound is nice. So, there is the impression that Yoruba speaking movie makers are lazy.
There is a tradition that is very common in the industry. They say you have to date a senior colleague to stay relevant in the industry as an up and coming actor actress. I know some of your colleagues who confirmed this to me. Did this ever happen to you at any time?
I never dated any senior colleague to have the little fame I have now. We are human beings and anything can happen but if you want to date anybody, whether a senior colleague or whoever in the industry, don’t always think I am doing this because I expect something to come out of it.
Are you trying to say you are not doing it because it does not work for you?
I don’t think it is never going to work for me.
Why do you think so? Are there not good men in the industry anymore?
There are very good men. But if I am going to date anybody, it is not going to be because of what I am going to get from the person or the advantage of our closeness. If you are dating me now, the expectations will be extremely high and we might not be able to deal with them. At the end of the day, I might be disappointed because the so called senior colleague might not be dating only you. He would have friends, sisters, colleagues that he would want to recommend you to. Another sad reality is that, they might be dating you, but if you don’t give them what they want in terms of job delivery, they will not use you. If people don’t appreciate you or if they don’t love your face, they won’t call you for jobs. I have never dated and I am not ready to date any male senior colleague.
So there is nobody that catches your attention?
There is nobody I am eyeing. The truth is that dating somebody will get me distracted.
How can dating someone distract you; are you a jealous woman?
I am a very jealous person. I can’t stand to see my guy on set with another girl; it will not end up well. So, I prefer to keep my jealousy to myself. I am not dating any senior colleague.
Despite what some of your colleagues call poor fee syndrome, none of you wants to leave the industry. What could still be keeping you there if the money does not add up?
How do you quit what makes you happy? Building a brand is a gradual process and as you must have heard, Rome was not built in a day. There are times when you get frustrated and you want to pack your bags and just walk away. There had been days when I didn’t even have N200 but I had to shoot and work all day. When you are trying to build your brand, don’t compromise your standard. I don’t go below my standard, no matter what. It is better to stay hungry a million and one times than to take that job that would ridicule your brand; that will make you cheap. We all know that there is no money in the job, but we all have our other jobs that we use its proceeds to augment whatever we get from acting. I am a designer, I sell clothes, I host events and I write business ideas.
How soon do you hope to settle down or you want to be one of Nollywood’s babymamas?
I want to settle down with my man and be married. I want to be his babymama not any other person’s babymama. I want to get married to one man, love him and have kids. I don’t want any drama.
Are you sure you can handle that?
Yes, by the grace of God.
Could that person be an actor?
I can settle down with anybody. As long as the person understands me and we are on the same page. You have to like what I do. If you know can’t bend towards what your man wants, there is no point going into that relationship.
What if wants you to stop acting?
He needs to understand what makes me happy. You have to know what I like and what I don’t like. I can’t stop acting because my man wants me to. We have to sit down and talk about it. I can only stop picking up certain roles if you don’t like them. I might even give you a chance to pick my roles for me, but I can’t stop what I like.
As a beautiful woman, has it been hard finding true love?
I don’t want to talk about that. There is true love but just let’s skip the question.
How do you manage to keep your body in shape?
I am a tall woman, so adding weight might make me look horrible. When I am not on set, I don’t wear make-up. The only thing I can’t go out with is my lip gloss. The first thing people look at as an actor is your face. You just have to make sure your face looks good. I spend a fortune acquiring cologne. I just like to smell good. I think I have a weakness for colognes.