By Ekerete Udoh
She is one of the pioneers of Nollywood, and has featured in hundreds of movies, always playing the role of a motivator-in-chief and crusader for moral values. In the early days of the industry, her face was ubiquitous – almost every movie director desired to have her as part of his cast and she became a darling of millions of Nollywood lovers.
At the height of her popularity, when she could easily have been the most consequential Nollywood actress, cupid struck, and she gave up her flourishing acting career for love, relocating to Switzerland to join a man she had fortuitously met while answering a phone call at her friend’s home. Many were stunned, but that’s what love does for people.
A few years after joining her husband in Europe, and feeling home sick, and the challenges of transitioning into a meaningful assignment in a foreign country where English is not the first language becoming daunting and desiring a job “she had a passion for” she returned to Nigeria, and to her first love – acting.
Since her return to Nigeria, actress Jennifer Eliogu has shunned acting, instead choosing to produce and direct. Last month, she was one of the top Nollywood actresses and actors who was honored at an award ceremony in North Carolina, and during a trip to New York to sign a marketing deal with Executive Image for the distribution of her new movie “From Within” Jennifer and I sat down for what turned out to be a mind-blowing reflection on Nollywood and what needs to be done to steer the industry back on the family-friendly track it was once known for.
Asked why she decided to become a director instead of continuing as an actress, she muttered, “I couldn’t return to acting under the prevailing circumstance. The industry I met when I came back was not the same industry I knew before I went to Switzerland. We had an industry where scripts had redeeming moral perspectives, where the craft was taken very seriously, and you had to impress the directors that you could hold your own among the best.
“We had story lines that were family friendly, where nudity or sexually explicit scenes and language were not tolerated.But alas! – the industry I met when I came back was one where young starlets are given roles, based on glamour, on beauty and where the main motivation is not to add value, but to use their celebrity to advance other interests. Most of these starlets lack talents but would parade their looks at auditions while wearing very skimpy dresses that leave nothing to the imagination.’
When you dress in such a provocative manner, you are essentially tempting the director – you are advertising your sexual attributes over your talents and you are exposing yourself to other things.”
Eliogu who recently veered into music said “ she decided to produce and direct her movie, one that families could sit at the dinner table and watch.
Jennifer Eliogu is one of the growing numbers of Nollywood stars who are engaged in inter-continental marriages. “As I told you – my husband is based in Switzerland, and after some years there, we reached the painful but practical decision that I should move back to Nigeria to continue my career in acting. I do not have problems with an inter-continental marriage, but in my own case, I did not want to be a full time house wife.
“My husband is very comfortable with my decision, and it has not affected our marriage in any way. Yes, as with most marriages, we have had our fair share of challenges, but overall, my husband is the best man I could ever aspire to have and seven years after we got married, the flame of passion remains the same.”
On the rumour that her marriage has crashed, she looked bewildered and replied,“It is not true. We are still married, but I have already told you we have challenges and we are working around those challenges.”
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