I’ll give marriage another chance again if…. —Juliet Ibrahim
If you have ever met actress and entrepreneur, Juliet Ibrahim, you would know that she is always full of life and hope. Despite the challenges she faced while growing up, the mother of one has conquered her fears and has become one of the most sought after in the movie industry. In this interview with SEGUN ADEBAYO, Ibrahim, who is now an author, speaks on her career, life and new interests.
You have been somehow quiet. Many people are wondering what could have made you keep a low profile for a long time. Are you tired of the public space?
It does seem like I’ve been ‘quiet’ for a while, right? Well I took a bit of time away from the public space to write my memoir entitled, “A Toast to Life,” which was unveiled on Sunday, August 4. Now that the book is finally out, my fans can expect to see me return fully into the public space.
The book is a personal narrative of my triumph over the adversity I faced at different stages in my life and my journey to true self-love. By telling my story through this medium, it is my intention to remind readers that despite the many challenges experienced, there truly is always light at the end of the tunnel.
What has been keeping you busy outside the entertainment scene?
Writing my book kept me very busy. I have a whole new respect for authors, because, let me tell you, the time, efforts and dedication it takes to put an entire body of work together is no joke. The process of writing and releasing the book took me two years. So you can see that I had my hands very full with this project.
The industry has been growing with new acts spring up every day and the competition seems to be on the rise daily. What is your game plan to stay afloat?
I really do not see new acts as competition. In fact, I believe there is enough room for all of us in this industry. As a matter of fact, I am always on the lookout for talented up-and-coming actors because afterall, they are the future. I am always excited when I come across new faces in the industry and I do my best to help give them a platform whenever I come across opportunities for them to showcase their talent.
As much as you don’t see it as a competition, how do you see the expansion and growth of the industry?
I think the expansion and growth in the industry is really wonderful and I’m happy to be around to witness it, especially regarding the growth of women’s roles and participation in the industry.
It used to be that it was difficult for women to play formidable roles in the African movie industry. But now, things have changed. It is no longer as difficult as it once was. There are so many great, talented women that are even outshining the men in the African movie industry today. When you talk about top actors, you will find the names of actresses on the lips of many. When it comes to directing and producing, it is also the same thing.
But still talking about your memoir, why did you decide to write a it?
A life-threatening accident I had a few years ago that almost took my life prompted me to think deeply about my legacy. If I had died, what would people remember about me? I knew I had unique experiences that I wanted the world to know about and learn from. So it was at that turning point that I decided to write my memoir.
Writing a book is one thing, revealing some untold stories about yourself is another thing. What convinced you this is a nice idea?
All my life, people have told stories about me and most have been untrue. So many rumours have been spread about me – so many, that most of the time, it was pretty exhausting trying to challenge all the rumour mongers. I came to the realisation over the years that if I did not tell my story by myself, other people would and nobody would ever get the chance to know the truth – to know the real me. This was one of the reasons I decided to write the memoir.
What has it cost you to weave the words together and how did you manage to draw such strength to let it all out?
It was very therapeutic for me. I honestly didn’t even realise how strong I was until I put together all my experiences in this memoir. I’ve had experiences that would probably break an average person. But I survived. My gratitude to God is the reason today, I can give ‘A Toast to Life.’
Are you truly convinced that this would impact the society?
Definitely. I wrote this book to inspire the world, to remind every human being that no matter how many obstacles one faces, it is possible to bounce back and live your best life. No condition is permanent. After the rain comes sunshine. God would never make you go through more than you can bear. When we stay strong, we realise that all things are indeed working for our good. So this book is a reminder of these facts.
The book, as you said, contains some of the past experiences of life that shaped your growing up and all. How did you make up your mind on this and was it difficult?
It was a healing process for me to share those experiences, and just let go. I wouldn’t say it was difficult per se. I would say it was more difficult for my family, friends and loved ones to read the book because some of the experiences I shared, they never knew I went through such tumultous times. And for the experiences they had been aware of previously, they suddenly realised the level of pain I went through. It made them see me in a whole new light because I’m the kind of person that would always have a smile on my face no matter what. So everyone assumed I was always happy. They never realised what was happening to me behind closed doors.
From that small girl who went through those distasteful and harrowing moments at a young age, how did you conquer your fears?
My faith in God and love and support from my family and friends helped me conquer those fears. I have also had the thought and belief that I was put on earth for a greater purpose that I’m yet to fulfill, which keeps me going. When you are surrounded by so much genuine and pure love, fear has no place in your life. That is what I realised.
Would you say you went through some of those things because you are a beautiful young lady or what do you really think was responsible for it?
It’s just life. Life happens. Life is no respecter of beauty, social status, or creed. At the end of the day, we are all human beings living on this earth and just trying to find our way. It is inevitable that during the course of living, obstacles will come. Even Jesus Christ faced obstacles and overcame them. That’s just life. No one is immune to challenges.
Talking about life, marriage and home, you have had your fair share of them all. Is marriage a terrain you would like to explore again?
I have a beautiful and happy home. I am a mother of one and my child is my world. My mom and my siblings are always there for me. I even have friends that have become more like family. I am happy and at peace and I feel at home with all my loved ones. But if love finds me in a relationship that is meant to lead to marriage, I’m certain I’ll give it a chance only if that relationship is going to be 100 per cent worth it and add value to my life.
How hard has it been finding the right man that would love you without being worried about how successful you have been over the years?
I believe in God’s time. I put God first in every area of my life. I also don’t go searching for love. So I believe that the one God has destined for me will find me at the right time.
How long did it take you to come to heal and have you truly been able to forget about the past?
I think it would be a shame if we had the ability to forget the past. If you forget your past, then how can you learn from your mistakes? I am grateful for my past, every single bit of it, because it has shaped me into the woman I am today.
What do you make out of Bisola Dakolo and Biodun Fatoyinbo’s saga?
Bisola spoke her truth. I am speaking my own truth in my memoir. I think it is a good thing that women are finding the strength to speak confidently about issues that were previously seen as ‘taboo’ in our culture.
For somebody who has experienced a lot, according to your book, how did you handle it and what did it truly cost you to keep quiet till now?
You’ll have to read my book to find out more about this! My memoir gives very specific details about the experience, how I overcame it and so much more. On this question about keeping quiet, it took me 33 years to speak up about mine, hence it can take anyone any amount of time to speak up about their experiences. There’s no specific time set on a calendar as to when one should gather courage and speak up. Some people never ever get to speak up and carry these deep secrets to their graves, but speaking up, I want to encourage many others to speak up and share their stories. The world is talking and paying attention now.
Have you truly forgiven the man who did this to you?
There were different instances and yes, I have left everything to God to take care of. God has healed me and I have left my past in the past.
Looking back at your life now, what can you say has helped you to get this far?
My mom is my greatest influence. In general, my faith in God and the support of my family and loved ones – these are all factors that have shaped my life and career positively.
How far have you gone with the Juliet Ibrahim Foundation; is it touching the right places?
The Juliet Ibrahim Foundation (JIF) was launched in December 2011. My love and compassion for people and my aunt who was ill at the time led me to set up the NGO and to start an awareness campaign about cancer of the kidney and other kidney-related diseases. JIF is aimed at helping Nigerians, Ghanaians and other West African citizens know their status and prevent kidney diseases from getting to the incurable stage. JIF is poised to help save lives and put smiles on the faces of the less fortunate suffering from kidney cancer and other kidney-related illnesses but cannot afford the medical expenses. The foundation is also an advocate for the fight against Ebola; a cause I am so passionate about and even has an audio and video awareness song on the virus. JIF has also impacted lives in other ways in the society through fundraising and adding its voice to various health hazards.
What’s next after this book?
A lot of exciting new projects. I recently announced my new beauty pageant called MISS INTERNATIONAL AFRICA PAGEANT which is a platform to groom young ladies to become a force to reckon with in society. My eyelashes and cosmetics brand, SHADES BY JULIET IBRAHIM, has now expanded and selling all over the world available in beauty stores and online. I also have new movies coming up as well. You’ll just have to wait and see.