Ibinabo Fiberesima: My Only Man Now is God… If You Have Him, Trust Me, You Wouldn’t Settle for Less

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Ibinabo Fiberesima

Actress, model and events manager, Ibinabo Fiberesima is no stranger in the creative and hospitality world. Starting out as a model, Ibinabo transitioned to acting which steered her to a sterling career path that paved way for her other ventures. In this exclusive interview with Ferdinand Ekechukwu, the ex-president Actors Guild of Nigeria (AGN) bares her heart on the state of the industry, recounts her journey as she enthusiastically makes “active” return to the screen. Excerpt

You played the lead role Mary Slessor. How interesting was it? What does the movie remind you of?

First of all, when I learned of the unexpected privilege of playing such iconic figure, I literally couldn’t describe the feelings that coursed through me. I was a melange of emotions: happiness, pride, duty and of course palpable fear. Would I carry the role well? I mean this was a woman whose life still resonates through the ages. I thought of several actors that played legends in elite movies I had watched and the enormous work that had to go into depicting such historical figures that resulted in Oscars for many. For example, Jamie Foxx playing Ray Charles, Daniel Day Lewis playing Abraham Lincoln, Forest Whitaker playing Idi-Amin Dada and even the awesome Cate Blanchett that played Queen Elizabeth of England amongst others, all larger than life method actors per excellence. Recently, there was the wonderful performance by Eyinna Nwigwe as Ibrahim Babangida in Badamasi: Portrait of a General. I was worried if my performance would fly, especially given the fact that Mary Slessor was a Scot. But then, Mary Slessor is a woman of virtue that I had always admired and read up on and a can-do attitude was one of her key attributes. That did it for me. So, I prayed about it and with the support of my family and friends I took the opportunity.

Playing the role eventually ended up being more interesting than challenging. Of course, I had already prepped myself for the challenging part of it all. I tell my close friends that I eventually didn’t act the part. No. The spirit of Mary Slessor herself took over. I say this because a lot of miracles literally did take place on location. Sick children got healed and sometimes very knotty issues were resolved inexplicably. On my part, there were many times when all I heard was ACTION and CUT but could not really recall the in-betweens. The movie Passion of Mary Slessor reminded me of a lot of things. It reminded me of humanity and courage. It reminded me of the need to step up for what you believe in, no matter the cost. It reminded me that the quest for the uplifting of humanity must take pre-eminence over base desires.

Passion of Mary Slessor appears a charity project of some sort, what is it all about?

Ha! It is not a charity project o! The film is produced by EtiJay Concept, new comers to the industry and while they are using their resources to tell a story of an iconic heroine they love, they are also in it to make money. Movie making remains a business, though it depends on what you would want your return on investment to be. I know the producers want money shaa. The movie to the best of my knowledge is funded privately and I think they deserve kudos. We need more investors in this industry and I think it is commendable when they do get involved. People criticize Nollywood, and rightly so, but I think it is also good for them to come in and help contribute to its growth, so kudos to EtiJay Concept and Dr. Joseph N. James.

The movie was reported to mark your return to the screen, how so is this?

Correction, the movie is marking my ‘active’ return to the screen. In a way, the Passion of Mary Slessor has ignited new ideas which I am currently working on. So I’m asking Nigerians and the world to hold their breath because in a few months you’ll probably see and appreciate firsthand what Passion of Mary Slessor revived in Ibinabo Fiberesima.

Why did you take a break from acting?

Like I said, I never really took a break from acting. I took a break from ‘active acting’, because over the years I have taken on some roles. But then I decided to dedicate my time to a pet project of mine. These days, I am an environmental advocate with an organization set in propagating sustainable practices aimed at preserving the earth and reducing acts of degradation to its ecosystem. I also decided to breathe more energy into my annual pageant also themed towards the environment, the Miss Earth Nigeria Beauty Pageant which has featured since 2002, turning beautiful, intelligent young girls to accomplished women. I scored a major point late last year with one of my newest franchises, the Miss Eco-Tourism World and I’m proud to say that Nigeria won its maiden edition. I also got involved in politics, engaged in some charity work and I’m at the forefront for the revivification of the Ijaw race. And yes I published a book too titled, Inner Springs: The Hope Series Volume 1. You should read it; it is basically my life in parts at a glance. So you can see it’s been quite busy for me.

Did you in any way miss being in front of the camera?

I’m always in front of the camera. Whether delivering speeches at events I’ve been invited to, or on stage for my Miss Earth Nigeria programmes, I’ve always been in front of the camera. It’s not a reality that will ever fade. I once joked that even when I undertook a delicate surgery last year, I was being filmed on the surgeon’s table for a documentary given the severity of the disease Pulmonary Arteriovenous Malformation, PAVM.

Tell us a bit of your journey into acting and what attracted you?

My journey into acting is a well told story. I first started out in the creative and hospitality industry where I started out as a model and ended that path with an enviable glut of modelling awards. I was the 1st runner up, Miss Nigeria, 1991 and 2nd runner up at the Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria (MBGN) beauty pageants. I was named Miss Wonderland in 1992. Then I made my debut in the budding Nollywood industry with the action thriller MOST WANTED to commence a career in acting. That first movie led me down a sterling career and I am most grateful. I guess I was attracted to the industry because it presented an opportunity to make a change in people’s lives. Actors are change merchants and we work to sway the public perception, fight societal ills and teach through the interpretation of our roles. I’ve always craved altruistic ideals so when same presented itself through the screen I took it.

Growing up did you have the flair for acting, singing or dancing? What fond childhood memory do you hold?

Oh yes I’ve always had a flair for acting. I loved singing and dancing and I still do. I always look for an opportunity to dance and I have friends that perhaps suspect same. Every meeting no matter how serious is a reason to turn on a little music. I used to sing with my grandmother back when I was a young child. She told me stories too and taught me the Yoruba language. That is my fondest childhood memory, those childhood moments spent with grandma.

Which one of your movies easily comes to your mind and why?

One of the most recent comes to mind because it was fantastically done. ’76 a fiction based on some loose historical facts. It was directed by Izu Ojukwu and starred my darling sister Rita Dominic, Ramsey Nouah and Chidi Mokeme.

It was an intense thriller whose cinematography was top notch. We live in times when details are spurned by film practitioners but ’76 was precise, well framed and a watcher’s delight. I am proud to be part of that movie.

In general, what do you think is lacking in Nollywood and how would you love to see it addressed?

I think we are beginning to digress in Nollywood. There is an arrogance sweeping across the clime and if it is not addressed it will see to an irredeemable rot. There is this unsustainable idea I’ve been arguing about on our industry platforms which borders on flooding a picture with a deluge of A-List celebrities interpreting weak stories with gaping plot holes. I am happy it is beginning to get the disdain it deserves, but will our producers take the hint is a question that remains to be seen. How long do you think you can hoodwink people into seeing awful films at the cinema or on any paid platform simply because you have the resources or the connect to do so? That I love Denzel Washington does not mean I will tolerate sitting down in a cinema to watch two hours of any nonsense he decides to get himself involved in.

This is where producers take the Nigerian audience for granted. Instagram followership is fast deciding who takes lead roles irrespective of talent or whether they even fit the role. There are many successfully skit merchants, comedians that can’t properly interpret a script or even understand the professionalism of the industry. The real talent are sacrificed for these ones. Funny enough we try to sweep under the rug the fact that platforms, even the Nigerian cinema always demand for ‘known faces’ or your story no matter how good, is discarded for those with a line of ‘popular actors’.

It’s a ludicrous cycle. We now have new age popular actors that frustrate production crew, arrive on set whenever they please, throw tantrums and delay productions. These are the faces platforms and cinema wants at all costs. Come on, let’s have a bare it all in the industry where the platforms and the cinema will allow producers and even crew talk and trust me, 85% of your current darling artistes will never grace the set of any production again. I am disappointed. Nollywood is meant to have grown from how we started all those years. On the face of it, it looks like our early days are even much better than the contemporary even in the face of improved knowledge and technology.

What’s a typical day like for Ibinabo?

I wake up in the morning, pray and read my bible. I source the news and then I prepare a schedule for the day fitting in any other unresolved issues. I’m presently studying right now too

What are your low and high moments in life?

My high moments were the birth of my beautiful children and my low moment… well everyone knows that. It still haunts me till date. I don’t like talking about it anymore.

Your birthday comes up on Thursday. What’s the plan? Any gig?

Oh, I’m going to spend the day in commune with God. I intend to put him first on my birthday. Without him I wouldn’t even have made it to 50. By His grace I survived a major surgery last year. He delivered me from PAVM even when the odds were stacked against me. He saw me through. To Him I give all the glory. I will commit to charity too. I have some selected beneficiaries.

Looking at your Instagram posts and pictures, you pretty much rock at your age. What’s the secret?

Na God! Nothing else…

You seem to be favoured by men that one can hardly talk about you without that part of your life… who’s the man in your life now?

My only man now is God. If you have Him, trust me, you won’t settle for less.