TV Presenter, Rachel Edjeren, tells ‘Nonye Ben-Nwankwo about career and her lifestyle
How do you feel being a multiple award winner?
The essence of all I do is to put God’s glory on display through my life, giving people hope and making them realise that they can achieve their goals from scratch. The awards inspire me to keep on, so as to succeed more and serve as an encouragement to many. My roots and beginnings were humble so the accolades have a very motivating story behind them. I get inspired when I look back, look at the present and see what I have been able to achieve and the appreciation from the fans plus awards streaming in back to back. I am humbled and so inspired.
You used to be an actress, why have you decided to take a back seat in acting now?
I always say I am first of all an actress before any other thing professionally. The truth is, when I was younger, acting was my passion. After my secondary school education, I chose to study English and Theatre Arts in Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. Many criticised and advised that I study Law. I took a back seat in acting because I took an active seat in television. At the moment though, I am balanced enough to go back to my first love even while maintaining my television status. Just recently, I played a lead role in a movie put together by movie director, Paul Apels in Blue Flames. At the moment, a number of movie producers and directors are talking with me as regards more roles. I intend to produce my first film later this year or next year.
But why didn’t you study Law then?
My passion for acting drove me into insisting on making it my academic professional field. My mum gave me her backing. In my journey through school, I was acting in series and home videos. Then after school, I decided to write a book and put together a television programme. Fortunately, I served with NTA Plus during my National Youth Service Corps. The General Manager then, Mr. Wole Coker, saw the potential in me and my zeal to produce TV programmes, so he placed me under the guidance of the then Manager Programmes, Madam Bola Oyeyemi. She mentored me, sent me out to report on various topics and events. She then asked me to put together a five-minute fashion segment. That was how Trends was conceived.
Can you tell us some of the awards you have won so far?
Just recently, I was honoured by the Papyrus Magazine Screen Actors Award as the Best Up and Coming Presenter of the Year. That was followed by the Nigerian Entertainment and Lifestyle Awards which honoured me with an international award as the ‘Best Emerging Television Presenter in Nigeria.’ Another award followed immediately; Capital Territory Advancement Award and I received the ‘Television Personality of the Year’ award. I also got the Media Excellence award at the African Achievers Awards.
You started acting at a young age, wasn’t it your intention to get to the A-list category?
It was my passion to rise to the A-List status. From when I was 16 years old, I always got lead or sub lead roles not by auditioning but by just being selected. I was a ‘big face’ especially in the North and was constantly on television as the lead character in the soap opera, Webs produced in Kaduna and a Hausa series Rayuwa. I had acted some great roles in Enugu and Asaba along with A-list actors like Jim Iyke, Patience Ozokwor, Nkem Owoh, Nonso Diobi and Maureen Solomon. But television production and presenting took me off the acting scene for a while but I’m coming back.
What’s this story about being haunted in your dreams when you fixed hair extensions last year?
It was an experience I had when I fixed Indian hair. I had a very spooky nightmare, a dream that could best be described as very close to day-time experience. This was not as a result of any misgivings I had about human hair as many analysed it to be. It happened for a reason, for enlightenment. The story grew viral and spread on the net. I was advised not to use human hair extensions entirely and I said I wouldn’t after the nightmare. The story grew wings and flew on the social networks. Ladies and men got curious, worried and critical. All sorts of responses and reactions sprang up. I was quite traumatised after the nightmare because it was very real and significant. I wasn’t perturbed at all by people’s response to it whether positive or negative. All I knew undoubtedly was that the experience had powerful significance. After I had settled down, I visited the net again with another write up, explaining the human hair story better. I wanted to create a balance so as not to constitute a source of confusion.
Didn’t you mind that some people would definitely criticise you and see it from a ‘holier than thou’ perspective?
At that point and even now, I don’t bother what people think as long as God approves. He has always been my guide. He has never made a mistake or failed. My message was not motivated from a ‘holier than thou’ position but from a need to share. I just believed that if He asked me to share, then He had a very important reason for that.
Does it mean you no longer wear weaves because of the dream you had?
I don’t wear Indian hair and even when I wear any other hair, I wear it consciously/prayerfully. I have sympathy for African women. Our natural hair is not easy to maintain even when it is long and sometimes the weather doesn’t help. So weaves are helpful. We should however wear them consciously and not just pick anything and put it on. I love Indians but I just don’t wear hair from there or anywhere anymore.
Your dream made it look as if fixing weaves is bad…
Many have had medical and spiritual experiences with weaves. It is strange because their stories didn’t go viral like mine. The person I bought the weave from looked for me and apologised; then gave me another weave to compensate. This proves that he understood my plight. Wearing weaves is not bad but wearing them carelessly is. We human beings are spirit beings and have natural perception. Sometimes you pick up something and don’t feel good about it; why not drop it, pray or ask questions to find out where it originated from?
Since you are in the eye of the public, how do you cope with unwanted attention especially from guys?
You know I had always had the notion that when one married, all attention of ‘interest’ from the opposite gender ceased. How naive I was. After marriage, I received the big shocker of having more ‘toasters.’ I have however come to a place of balance because initially it was very overwhelming even before I got back into the spotlight. I would wonder how to manage the extreme attention. Now I am in full control.
Doesn’t your husband sort of get jealous because of the kind of job you do?
It is only natural that a human being feels this way at times. This only happened at the beginning of our marriage and when the pressures of multi-tasking required my working long hours. I had pressure from not just my husband but my friends who required my time. I spent quality time serving only as a Christian counsellor at home. I must say I am blessed with a very supportive and understanding husband.
Tell us how you met your husband
I was with someone else before my husband; A British. I thought he would be my husband but I was concerned about leaving Nigeria. This is because I knew I had a destiny to fulfil in Nigeria so I dragged my feet on marrying him. And while praying and asking if the British guy was my husband, the Spirit said no, that he was only a helper. During a Shiloh event in Kaduna, I was praying and heard clearly how I would meet my husband and what he would be wearing.
Since he is not Hausa, didn’t your parents frown at your choice of husband?
Not at all. The decision rested solely on my mum as I had lost my dad when I was 12 years old. My mum loves him as her son. Till date, she’s very impartial when dealing with any matter between him and me. Others criticised the relationship at first because of my position as the only daughter of my mum. But my mother never raised any objection. She is a very diplomatic and sensible woman.
Your husband being an entertainment personality, how do you cope with his female fans who probably chase him around?
It was tough for me at the beginning; suspicious thoughts, checking his phones and all that; all this could make one crazy. It wasn’t as if there was proof of any illicit affair, I was like that at the beginning of our relationship and marriage. The truth is, it took God’s counsel to calm me down. He always told me not to worry. Now I’m free like a bird, not bothered about anything. I have put all in God’s care. I just play my part to the best of my ability.
How was growing up?
The downside during those years was the death of my father when I was 11/12 years old. I however, remember my mum as working tirelessly to train us. Mum was in her 30s but she never remarried. She insisted on putting us through first. I grew up with three wonderful brothers. We were shy and introverts during our very young years but playful. We were also very close to our cousins on both mum’s and dad’s sides.
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