Sandra Eze My Dream is to Become Another Christiane Amanpour

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SUPER SATURDAY

Driven by passion, actress and television talk show host, Sandra Eze, is living the dream of being a media personality, writes Ferdinand Ekechukwu

  • I came as a young girl from Eastern Nigeria in search of a better life in Lagos
  • The Nigerian Entertainment Industry has been Good to Me
  • The Thought that a Woman Needs a Man to Validate her Existence in this Part of the World is Sad

Sundays I spend mostly in church…” Sandra Eze intoned as she explains her routine. “It’s the only day in a whole week I’m free to worship God.” For her, worshipping in church has a different feel and liberty to it. Yet it is not all sanctimonious to the Nollywood actress and on-air personality, but a self-belief that life is spiritual. Therefore, that one needs God consciously or unconsciously. Self-acclaimed church girl and proudly so, her schedule for the week that follows appeared locked as she puts it: “I’m filming in Oregun all through next week but I’m free the upper one.”

That would be two weeks from then, aside the choice of a meeting point that was yet unresolved.

However, it would be an honour for her to chat while on set Season 2 of ‘Shelter Nest’, a television series currently airing on Africa Magic. She would also be fair to acknowledge that not much has been written about her. So it comes with a mixed feeling of some sort whenever she reads about herself. “I laugh and giggle and frown. But still feel like I’m a stranger reading about myself. I guess I have to adjust faster and embrace the fact that reading about me comes with the job.”

Sandra may not be one of the most sought after actresses or presenters in the industry; she sure is a work in progress, building up herself with the right materials and opportunities and with that, could overcome the bumps along her career path. For a somewhat new comer, staying true to her callings has been her strength. She strongly sticks to her own morals and professional standards and has given her roles the best interpretation she could.

Professionally, one would disagree with her. There are usually conflicting views on set that almost dent her image when she walked out of the studio during live recording of a very popular television programme. Recalling that incident she said, “Your view is a great show, and will always be. I love the ladies, we will always be friends. But I have moved on. I got over it because that’s how life happens, you move on to achieve more.”

When she works, she doesn’t exactly see it as a competition. She sees it as something she would like other people to see and appreciate her for. On the sidelines, she models and sings as well. On how she juggles her main features acting and presenting by way of making time out for herself, she said “The thing about my job is that there are times I don’t shoot every day. There are times you have your down moments, when you don’t really have a job doing.” She takes time out to hang out and see movies on such free days. “Most times being a presenter on TV doesn’t take the whole day. So I just do my stuff, do other projects and then come back to do some research. Either way, I still find time for myself,” she noted.

Growing up for the actress was ideal. She had friends and a lovely family. Somewhere along the line, she had to move to Enugu to live with an uncle and partly in Onitsha, from where she went to school and then relocated to Lagos. “Growing up in Enugu, my uncle was a CNN addict and occasionally, he would watch Oprah Winfrey Show. I used to watch CNN with him a lot and I listened to the radio too,” she narrated. “Gradually, I realised I wanted to do this, I wanted to be Christiane Amanpour.” That sort of influenced her career choice.

Currently the host of Nigeria’s longest running talk show rebranded ‘The Inside Out Show’, Sanzye as she’s fondly called, before acting, has been a presenter. “But I do watch movies. I love watching the Oscars and everything related to movies and I always imagined I could do this. I like pretending to be somebody I’m not. Growing up, I would act like my mum and my teacher. So on one of those days, I came to visit Lagos, my friend dragged me to my first audition. I was really scared at first but I just went to try it because I had nothing to lose. I went for the audition and I got the role. That was back in 2010.”

As an actress and television presenter, it has been six years in the entertainment industry with an impressive resume of works including ‘Tinsel’ and ‘Knocking on Heaven’s Door’, her debut. She has been filmed more in TV series than movies. Her seeming success is fraught with the challenge to get people to see her talent. But it’s only natural for her for if it were that easy, success stories wouldn’t be so awesome and a fairytale.

The entertainment industry, Sandra claimed, has been good to her. “I mean, it takes a lot of work and consistency to survive. You just have to keep going especially when you got into the industry not knowing anyone; just a young girl coming from Eastern Nigeria to find a better life in Lagos.

“It was really tough. I could attend like 50 auditions and get called for about five. So, it was difficult but eventually, you grow in the business and the more movies you feature in, the more contacts you get the better your stay and the better characters you get.” A simple lady from a family of five, she studied English Language and Literature at Nnamdi Azikiwe University. Noteworthy, her qualification in the Arts discipline had prepared her for what she’s now doing, although passionately driven in her chosen career, when she got admission into UNIZIK, she had immediately applied to work part time with the campus radio station and was picked and that effort marked the beginning of her career.

Her biggest challenge as an actress is interpreting a character, giving a character the right interpretation it needs because she believes there are a million and one ways to interpret a character. In her opinion, “Most people would say it is getting a role or scaling through auditions that matter most, but the fact is that you have to interpret a character well enough and then live the part of the character for you to scale through an audition.”

Vivacious, insightful and fun to watch, Sandra relates being on TV to being an actress thus: “For one, the biggest similarity is that we are always in front of the camera. Aside from that, they are two different things because acting is trying to fit into another character while being on TV is about you voicing out your opinion. It is about you being there, not as anybody else, but as representation of who you are. So it is like one is about pretending while the other one is real.”

Unlike many of her peers, she holds contrary view regarding sexual harassment being a challenge in the industry. She had opined that “I don’t really call that a challenge. Of course, this does not apply only to the entertainment industry. Even in corporate offices, if you walk into an office to get a contract, you may face similar experience. Sadly enough, this has been going on for a long while in the production world. The thing is that you need to know your standard. If I set a standard for myself that I wouldn’t compromise, then it is not a challenge to me.” She doesn’t count it as a challenge and would rather not consider that either.

Young; in her 20s and getting it right, it’s not surprising that she begrudges societal prejudice on successful single ladies. “It’s really sad. The thought that a woman needs a man to validate her existence, it’s sad. I’m not against relationships and a happy marriage. It’s cool, I love it, and I want one. But while that is yet to happen, my achievements should be worth something. I shouldn’t be scared to achieve more because I could intimidate men. It is a very, very wrong perception that single ladies in entertainment sleep around or that they are not responsible. It’s really myopic. There are a lot of young ladies out there who are successful with beauty and brains and serving God diligently while slaying. Sometimes you just want to hit the society on the head and scream ‘receive sense!’”