I’d not have forgiven myself if I didn’t have my baby in the US —Actress Aishat Lawal
Many may not know that Nollywood actress, Aishat Lawal is a lawyer, who studied Law at the Lead City University, Ibadan and also a businesswoman. The award-winning actress, who was on maternity break for up to two years, is returning with a new movie entitled ‘Apala’. In this interview by FEMI OGUNTAYO, she talks about her new movie, her career and also shares some of her career experiences. Excerpts:
For about two years you were off the screen, how would you describe last year and what have you been up to this year?
Last year was one of the most successful years for me because God came through for me in so many ways. The major highlight for me last year was giving birth to my daughter and this year, I have resumed work fully. I have been up and doing from one location to another, I had been on break for the past two years. I just got back fully and I must say, I am so much enjoying it.
Talking about your new accomplishment, having your daughter, how do you feel being a mother?
I was praying for it and my prayer was just answered. It was not as if I just got pregnant, I have been looking for it and have been praying for it. It is something I have been hoping for; it has been on my request list for over 10 years. So, it is a gift from God and I am grateful.
How was growing up for you?
It was good, it was fun. I came from a family of three and I am the middle child. My mum was a teacher, she retired as a principal and my dad was an estate agent. I grew up in Ibadan, Kaduna and Lagos.
You are a lawyer, do you still practice?
I used to before I started full time acting. But after I started acting, I couldn’t any longer, because it is even against the ethics of the law profession. You cannot be a public person and still be practicing law, it is against the ethics.
How did your parents feel when you left law and ventured into full time acting?
My mum didn’t like it, my dad would have loved it but he was late. So, I had to assure my mum that this won’t in anyway affect my studies and it won’t affect anything about my person. Afterwards, I went for my second degree just to prove a point to my mum that the fact that I am into acting does not mean I won’t pursue my academic career too.
At what point did you realise acting was the way for you?
I didn’t realise it was the way, I only switched career. I joined the movie industry fully in 2008 and I told myself that I was going into acting because, then, I was in my final year and the school said we should go for one vocational course or the other, so I went for it. Before I went into acting, I met with Taiwo Ibikunle when he came to my school with Yemi Akintokun and the likes. They came with a script and they did a stage performance then (Moremi), they did audition for us and I came out as the lead character. So, it was a big deal to me and he (Taiwo Ibikunle) told me, you know you could actually make this your meal ticket and I just smiled it away. That was before I went to join J15 and that was how it all started.
You are also into interior decoration, which would you say pays the bills?
Yes, I got interior decoration from my mum. I have a shop in Ibadan and I cannot say majorly, this is what pays my bills, but my major source of income is acting and producing.
Your latest movie, ‘Apala’ is a different type of movie entirely from your previous movies, what is the inspiration for this?
When I came into the industry, a lot of people looked at me and they were like, this one is a ‘butty’, like, she is a lawyer, she is this and that, she does not have much to offer and to give us. So, majorly Apala was about trying to prove myself that this girl is not only or majorly for ‘butty’ roles or lettered characters. For instance, when they need a lawyer, they need a detective, a medical doctor in a movie, you know, that is what they call me for. So, if I was not careful, they were going to stereotype me in that particular figure, so I started branching in and out of different areas. That was why I did Eregun, I did Shadow, Okrika, Simbi Alamala, after which I went for a break. Before going on break, I did Jalaruru, I was a deity in the movie, and then I did Aiyepegba. So, coming back I told myself I was going to come back with something good, something indigenous, not something contemporary, so that was the inspiration behind ‘Apala’.
You have the likes of Saheed Osupa, Haruna Isola and others on it, what story does Apala tell?
It simply tells the story of the ups and downs of an aspiring musician, an indigenous musician, who is not lettered but has a very big dream. It also talks about how some musicians try to push their career in the spiritual realm. A lot of things went down in the movie.
Looking at the role you played in the movie ‘Apala’, do you have any musical background or did you grow up listening to the ‘Apala’ genre of music?
No, I just felt like, if my fans or the audience out there see Aishat Lawal singing Apala, they are going to be surprised and would like to see the movie. If I come out and I start singing, let us say Hip Pop, or I start singing gospel music, I am not really going to catch their attention. But Apala is so indigenous, in fact, when I gave Saheed Osupa the script, he had to change the date of the shoot, because he said it is a challenging role for him. You know, you cannot see Apala in Fuji and he cannot change his Fuji lyrics to Apala, it will make him look lazy. So we had to get a studio engineer, a songwriter, shooting with live band, full crowd, it was so stressful and so demanding.
Let us go soft now. Would you quit acting for a million naira per month office job?
You can make one million Naira a month in acting. No I wouldn’t, because you are being paid for what you love, that is acting. But an office job that will pay me one million Naira monthly will stress the life out of me. Not like acting is not stressful too, but there is a saying that, when you derive pleasure in what you do, then you will never work a day.
Talking about your husband, when did you meet him and how did you meet?
I don’t talk about him sorry. I don’t talk about him at all.
Okay. So, last year there were rumours about you dating married men and accusations like that. When you heard about these, how did you feel?
It didn’t make me feel anyway, because it is normal when they don’t know a lot of things about you, they bring such things up because they know you are going to react to it, coming out with the things you don’t want to talk about. So, it didn’t even get to me. Because when they say I am dating a married man, okay uhm, thank you. Some will say, he has 10 wives, okay bring them out. So, I am not bothered about it.
So, would you regard that as your most embarrassing moment, or when was your most embarrassing moment?
No. My most embarrassing moment was when I was trying to be known as an actress, while I was not this known. I boarded a bus on the highway from Oyo, I was going to Ibadan and I wore a face cap. So, the guys in the bus were discussing beside me. I could hear them, they said, is this not the girl we see in the movies? And one of them replied, never, it cannot be her, she cannot be boarding buses on the highway like us and this one looks more beautiful than the girls we see in the movies, that one has long teeth. Oh that day, I was very embarrassed, because then, I didn’t even have a car.
And when was your most exciting moment?
The day I had my daughter, I was so excited.
While carrying the pregnancy, during and after giving birth to your daughter, what was the experience like?
When I was pregnant, the first three months were somehow, I kept asking my mother in-law if that was how it is like to be pregnant, because my mother in-law had twins twice. Then after the third month, the fourth month, I got better and I had a lot of walk, I was doing great, even my husband kept complementing me that I was finer when I was pregnant. It was a very good time, good memories all through.
Why did you have to travel to the US to have your baby? Was it because you had some complications in having the baby?
I didn’t have any complication; I just wanted to have my baby in the United States, because I felt it was an opportunity. I have a passport, I have a valid visa, I have a right to do that and I had the money to pay, so I just felt like, I have to make use of the opportunity. For example, if my mum had told me she had the opportunity to give birth to me in America and she didn’t make use of the opportunity, I would have stopped talking to her for 10 years. I just want the best for my daughter.
What are the most challenging moments in your career that made you want to give it all up?
A lot! In 2010 I almost lost it, I was always trekking to locations, there was no money, I was very broke, so I was tired and was depressed. But my boss, Femi Adebayo kept saying, you will get there; when you get there it will look like a dream. My family members were all talking, that why will I drop my certificate for acting and I will still not make money for it?
Would you say the hustle has started paying now?
(Chuckles), who knows? Well, we are trying little by little, we will get there, and God will help us.