At 25 years of age, she has already acted in at least 50 movies. She has travelled wide and she commands a wide-range of fans. A bundle of beauty and brain, she exudes confidence and conviviality with a smack of straightforwardness. Passionate and methodical as an actress, she allows nothing to distract her attention. A goal-setter and a thoughtful goal-getter, she has learnt the secret of success and stardom. As she claimed, she does not need a man to be a successful woman. Independent and prolific, Nora Okonkwo is perhaps the biggest young female Nollywood star. Her movies speak for her. Same does her integrity, which she holds dearly. In spite of her fame and achievement, she still holds a second job as a business developer. Nora, an International Relations graduate and indigene of Okwu-Apkela village, in Iyioma town in Orlu Local Government area of Imo State, speaks with Oge Ezeliora about her life in Jos, her strict father, her pains and gains in the movie industry and what she thinks about men and her teeming fans
- I Respect Genevieve and I Like Mercy Johnson
- Losing $1,500-Wristwatch on Movie Location Was Terrible Experience for Me
Tell us about yourself?
My name is Nora Okonkwo from Imo state – Okwu-Apkela village, in Iyioma town of Orlu Local Government Area, precisely.
What does it take to be a talented actress?
It takes a lot of passion for the job. You know a lot of times younger people would say, ‘No be passion I go chop; na money I want.’ But the truth is what the Bible says, ‘Seek ye first the kingdom of God and all its righteousness and every other thing would be added to you.’ If you seek first the passion of the job, success will follow because the passion will keep you going. The passion will make you do better things and the money will follow. The job also afforded me the opportunity of meeting important personalities at that time that influenced my life in different ways. Acting has given me the kind of image that has really guided me from that point to date.
Can you tell us precisely why you chose acting?
I chose acting because I believe I am good. I love entertainment. I love showbiz and I think I have talent in terms of drama. I have tried to do couple of things in life as a career but at one point I felt bored. I also regret at the end. But since I started acting, reverse has been the case. I always feel fulfilled whenever I come back from location. I believe acting is something I do with joy and I am happy at the end of every production. Anytime I watch myself on the screen, I just smile and pray that God should uplift me to be a great actress. I love acting so much and I happy I went for it.
So far how many movies have you done and which of the movies do you hold so dearly?
For now, I have lost count of the movies I have acted in. You know as you are acting, more films are waiting for you. Another issue is that I don’t check the names or write it down somewhere. Remembering all the movies I have acted to date is a bit difficult for me. But frankly speaking, I have acted in over 50 movies and I am still acting. Well, the ones that I hold most dear are: ‘Bank Romance’ and ‘Enough’. I really enjoyed every part of these two movies. It was wonderful; a lot happened with these movies. I can never forget my roles. I gave my best and to date I have never acted any challenging role like I did in those movies.
How old are you?
I am 25 years old.
Will you marry an actor?
There is nothing wrong in marrying a Nollywood actor. If God says Nollywood actor will be my husband, who am I to say no? In marriage, all that matters is love and affection.
Can you act nude for a good fee?
I am highly reserved. I cannot go nude; no matter the amount of money I am offered.
Can you kiss in a movie?
Yes, I can. I am doing my job as an actress.
Looking back, has acting done you good or bad?
Let me say both. Acting has brought me more favour than negative things. Although everything has its own ups and down, I believe I have been uplifted because I am a Nollywood star. What I cherish most in acting is the experience. Every day, you met people from different places. Both the high and mighty will respect you because you are a known face. People appreciate us at all times. Acting will expose you to a lot of good things and places. It also helps you to be patient because acting entails a lot of patience. But the bad aspect of it is that you don’t have your privacy. You may not be able to do some of the things you used to do before. It also exposes you to tolerance. Like some people you may not be able to tolerate as an ordinary person but because you are a star, you will tolerate them. It also exposes you to critics and gossips.
But were they the movies that brought you to limelight?
The movie that brought me to limelight was ‘Enough.’ It was filled with suspense; very interesting and it was a challenging story. I actually fulfilled my aspiration of becoming a good actress. When I started acting at the initial stage, I told myself that my aim was to get to the pinnacle and doing it as a professional which I’m doing very well today. But the first attempt was a glimpse into the reality that yes, I could do that. So it’s quite memorable.
Most of the movies you act are of international standards. Did you study Theatre Arts?
I studied International Relations with a Bsc honours from Imo State University. I wish to go further in my education up to the master’s level by the special grace of God.
How did you feel the first time you faced the camera?
How did I feel? I had to discover a lot the first time I faced the camera. But luckily for me I was on location with famous actors and actresses. So after my first and second attempts, I seemed to be stuttering. So my producer called me aside and gave me some pep talk and encouraged me that I was very good and all I needed was to put more effort and I was happy. I concentrated on what I was doing and since then, I have never looked back and that is why I am where I am today.
What has been the secret behind your success?
It is the God almighty. I must be sincere to you: from one job to another comes success after success. I look forward to the next success. So it is like conquering at every step.
What challenges do you face as a beautiful actress?
The challenge is that the conditions of service as well as our work are not comparable with what is obtainable abroad. The way we work here is like a 24-hour service. It was when I went abroad some time ago that I discovered that in working in this industry, you have a time limit. You have a time to resume and a time to close – eight hours a day. But here, we work more than eight hours a day. We are not complaining but we wish it would be better. We also have the challenge of fees. Of course, we want to be paid more.
Aside acting, what else do you do?
I work with a furniture company called, Cache, which specialises in interior decoration. The company is based in Italy. It has a branch in Nigeria; at Ikoyi, Lagos to be precise. We are into furniture, interior decorations, contracts and I am a business developer. When we have contracts here in Nigeria, we will contact our company in Italy for production and they supply as ordered by our customers. I have my schedule; I can work two times in two weeks and this helps me to attend to other things.
How do you juggle the two jobs?
My second job’s schedule is flexible. It is not too tasking. I can work from anywhere. Like I said, when we have contracts I go to the office and focus on the job and anytime I am called on for my acting job, I also focus on that. I go to work once in a week and that has really helped me to focus more on my acting career.
Can you tell us about your childhood?
Growing up was fun. I was born in Jos, Plateau State. I attended my primary school in Jos and continued in Imo state. Later, we relocated to my hometown. My mother was a teacher while my father is a businessman. I am the second child of my parents. We are four girls and two boys. My father was strict, always monitoring our movements in and outside the house. We spent most of our time indoors. I loved watching movies. But I would not say that it is the reason I wanted to act. I just felt that being able to represent a character that is not I would be exciting to do and to convince those who are watching that I’m actually the person.
How did you convince your parents that you wanted to be an actress?
I was already an adult when I started acting. I was a graduate and I was working. So convincing my parents at that stage was easy. Although my mother did not agree initially, I was able to convince her. My parents always tell me: I don’t want you to act nude. I don’t want you to expose your body and other things.
Who do you admire in Nollywood?
I respect Genevieve Nnaji. I also like Mercy Johnson for her wonderful roles.
How do you relate with friends and family members since you became an actress?
We have good relationships. They like my movies and I am grateful for that. I don’t intimidate anybody because I am a star.
You are beautiful with great body shape. Are you single and searching?
I am single. But I am not searching. All I know is that when the right person comes, everybody will know.
How do you deal with male admirers or male fans?
I am a woman of destiny. I don’t get easily carried away by men. I know what I want. And my job comes first. Men will always admire you as long as you are a beautiful woman. Anyone that approaches me, I will tell him straightaway that my job comes first. Before any further communication, I always make it clear that I am not into men.
Have you ever been sexually harassed by any producer?
Some might say this job exposes one to sexual harassment. But I don’t believe in that because it is a personal thing. For you to be harassed you must first accept the person’s invitation. No producer will rape you if you don’t come too close. I always advise young girls to focus on the job and put sentiments or financial gains aside. Of a truth, anybody can be harassed you if you are ‘loose.’ You have to make up your mind that this is what I want to do. If you feel you want to sleep with a director or producer for a role, then it is your decision and you are not being forced.
Is there any painful experience you will like to share?
I have one sad story I will never forget. One day, I was on a movie location. I noticed that my wristwatch had been stolen. I was so sad that I refused to talk to anybody. In fact, it took me time to recover from the loss. I don’t know who to ask. It was a sad experience but after some time I let go.
How much did wristwatch cost?
I bought the wristwatch for $1,500. I confronted the person I gave the watch to hold on to for me while I was on set, but the person stated that he kept it in my bag. I could not get the police involved because I didn’t want to stain my identity. I don’t want people to see me as being troublesome. I let it go and bought another wristwatch. So I became more careful with my things on locations.
Are you saying there is no security on movie locations?
There is security but when it happens when you are shooting a movie who will you hold responsible? You cannot hold responsible the producer for what he knows nothing about. You cannot even accuse a particular person when the location is crowded.
Will you say Nollywood is evolving?
Nollywood is growing. It is different now compared to when we started. We are trying our best to ensure that we don’t lose the essence for which Nollywood became what it is today. We are trying our best to remain on that path. There will always be different shades at any film industry. Even in the US, all films are not like the ones we get to watch all the time. The films that are made here in Asaba are mostly the kind of films that relate directly to those who watch them and whether you like it or not, there are some people who love and would die for our local movies. People love them. They are making money and those who come to operate within that realm are happy with it. Over the years, tragedy has remained a consist