Damilola Ann Alabi trained as a lawyer. However, she’s decided to carve a niche for herself in acting. In this interview with YES INTERNATIONAL! Magazine, she opened up on a lot of things. Both intimate and non-intimate…
How was growing up like?
Life was nice. I am the sixth child of seven children. I and our last born were born after my parents had become a bit lenient. Although my dad was really strict, my mum was very lenient. It was a nice childhood.
How did the journey begin?
Wow! You mean the acting journey? (Yes) I started in 2008 in a movie by Afolabi Makinde. They came to shoot in my office. Then, it was a law firm, and I spoke to the producer. I said I have always been interested in acting, can you give me an opportunity? I was waiting. They now said they needed someone to play the role of a doctor and so I played it. It was just one scene. It made me know that this is exactly what I wanted to do and the lead cast of that production that day were Clem Ohameze and Steph Nora Okere. They were very, very warm and welcoming. They gave me advice and yes, that was how the journey began.
Do your parents support your acting career?
When I started acting, I couldn’t tell anybody and even my parents because I didn’t know what they were going to say. I was working in a law firm. But I think after my third film, I told my mum and she was like hey, is it a hobby? I said no, that I wanted to start doing it and she said ok. But my dad, I couldn’t tell him because he’s very strict. He will say no, I must become a lawyer. But I think when he saw me on TV, that’s when he found out and he asked me: I saw you on TV and I said yes and explained. But he’s fine with it now. So, it’s been ok.
You are a Law graduate, why delve into acting?
I guess it is true that the Law people do not like me. All I did was a drama course in college. That was after I studied my Law, but because I knew then that I really wanted to act, I really wanted to go into entertainment, I decided to take that course to help me improve my skills and the talent I have. But I have always loved acting. The Law I studied; I was young and it was my parents. You know when parents want you to be a doctor, a lawyer or an accountant. So, when I became fully mature and aware of my talent, I knew that acting was what I wanted to do.
How would you describe the journey since that 2008?
Thanks to God, it’s been good. It started very slow because like I said, I was based in UK and they were not doing a lot of films there. The next one was 2009. So, it’s been good and I thank God.
What were your goals when you started your career?
I wanted to get to the very top, to be the best I can be. I know we have the likes of Genevieve, Omotola. But I want to definitely get to that level and maybe even beyond that. Hollywood; go the whole way and win awards, touch people’s lives. I want people to look at me and see that things are possible. I want to be a role model, a mentor to people coming up and trying to do the same thing I am doing.
There are caucuses in Yoruba movies. Do you belong to any?
I don’t belong to any caucus.
How would you compare Nollywood and Hollywood?
Well, there is not much difference. What we do here is very similar to what we have there and the transition is not so difficult. When I come to Nigeria, I blend well, when I’m in UK, I blend well.
Which do you prefer between acting and Law?
It’s definitely acting, because I used to work in a law firm and I gave that up to concentrate on my acting and producing career. So, I think it’s definitely entertainment.
Are you still considering setting up your own law firm?
I don’t know what God has in stock for me. But right now, not really; maybe in future. Maybe I might consider it, but for now, it’s acting.
Which movies have you acted in?
The first one in 2008 was Rescue Me and I did a Yoruba one, Kolatemi and a soap opera directed by Fidelis Duker, Eldorado and then I produced my own film, The Rubicon. It came out this year, January. I did the premiere in the UK and several other movies like that.
Which one was the most challenging?
The most challenging ones, I would say, have been the Yoruba ones. I speak Yoruba very well whenever I’m on set. But the director or whoever would say your Yoruba is not good enough, so they have to take their time and bring it out. But I think I am getting the Yoruba. I did a Yoruba film in June this year. I produced it, Lakurubutu and I had Odunlade Kolade in it and some other actors and on that particular job, it wasn’t a problem. My Yoruba, they commended me. So, I think I am getting there. I’m getting better.
What determines the kind of scripts you pick?
Most of the time you get your script before you act and if you see something there that you don’t like, you can talk to the director. It depends on what kind of director you’re working with. Some of them can reason with you. But some directors will say you have to do it; you either take the role or you don’t and you know because a lot of people are not well paid for this job, they need to do a lot, so they just say I will do it like that.
When was your most embarrassing moment?
Ah, I can’t remember any.
What about that special day?
I think it was the first time I acted. It was pretty special for me because it was my first time. I was very nervous, but the people on that set were very encouraging and they made me (rescued me). Clem Ohameze was there and he’s a very funny person and he was just cracking jokes and making everybody feel comfortable. That was very special for me.
Young actresses do complain about sexual harassment. What is your story?
Like I always say, sexual harassment is in almost every industry; not only in Nigeria. But all over the world. Even Hollywood. I am sure you have actresses who have similar stories to tell. But here in Nigeria, it’s definitely there. You have producers saying you have to exchange this for a role and you just have to be determined and focused. Know where you are going and stick to what you are doing rather than falling for every producer that says come, we will make you a star and at the end of the day you lose out. They don’t make you a star and you’ve slept with them. So, it is not a good thing.
Have you been a victim before?
Yes, I have, but luckily just once and I said no.
Did that make you to lose the role?
Obviously, I did. I mean, the person called me again: are you sure and I said no, thank you very much, I will be fine. Don’t worry, you can keep your role.
So, how have you been getting roles to play?
I think it is just God’s grace and God’s favour. To be honest, you just meet the right people who say okay, they want to be professional about what they are doing. Like the first producer I ever worked with, he is now my mentor, Afolabi Makinde. He is an elderly person and he saw the drive and my determination and he went out and really helped me since 2008 till now and other directors that I have worked with: Chuks Mordi, Sunkanmi Oduwole, who never said oh, come and do this for us to give you a role. So, there are good people out there who will never tell you what you don’t want to do, just to put you in a film.
How have you been coping?
Like I said, you meet the right people and they help you (Laughs). Maybe if I was in a caucus now, I would have done 50 films. Have been invited. I mean, I know people in that caucus who always say come and meet a lot of people in those caucuses and I just decided to stand alone.
Have you been a victim of lesbianism before?
No; have never been a victim and have never heard of this issue in Nollywood. Have never heard of lesbianism or homosexuality in Nollywood before. Really and luckily, have not been approached yet. I have decided that no matter how long the journey takes, if I know what I am doing, I don’t have to sleep with somebody or be in a caucus to make it. There are people who haven’t done all these things and they are up there. So, I know that I will get there no matter how long it takes.
How far can you go in a movie role?
As an actress, I should be able to act any role.
Like how much would you charge for such roles?
To be honest, I don’t know, because I don’t think I can be paid to act a nude role. I don’t think any amount of money will make me act a nude role.
What if the script is good and the price is tempting?
That’s a dilemma. Maybe when I get there, if that ever happens, I’ll let you know what my decision is.
How prepared are you for scandals?
I know it’s part and parcel of it. If I chose this career, I know certainly they are gonna be part of it. So, by God’s grace, as long as nobody lies about me, I should be fine. I am a private person. Apart from what I do, I am actually really private. I am not gonna go out there and do things that will make people say it.
How do you cope with your admirers?
Even at this stage, I have had a few guys come to meet me and they want to be familiar because they’ve seen me on TV. It is just up to me to be friendly and put them at arm’s length. There’s a way to deal with every situation.
Are you married?
I am settled by the grace of God.
How would you interpret a sex role in a movie?
It’s a role and I will interpret it, do the best I can and make it believable. That’s the best way to do it.
What is your unique selling point?
I don’t know, but some people say maybe I’m busty. Maybe that’s my selling point. I don’t know. People also tell me that I have a sexy eye. Yes! I have been told that.
Do you wear revealing clothes because you are busty?
Oh yes! If the occasion calls for it, yes. But in a classy way; not a trashy way.
Tell us your beauty regimen…
Yes, when I wake up, like everybody, I shower. But I like to use cleansers on my face at night, take off my makeup. That is very crucial so that my face can remain smooth and clear.
When did you have your first kiss?
My first kiss? I can’t remember my first kiss because it’s been a long time. But I think I was 18.
When did you have your first sex?
I am still a virgin (Laughs). Few years ago, with the person I am settled with. But he wasn’t the one that gave me the first kiss because that was in secondary school.
Are you saying you were a virgin until you got married at 26?
Your husband can attest to that?
So, what happened to the guy that gave you your first kiss?
When we graduated, everybody went their separate ways. It was during our cultural night. I think there was a game and that’s all I could remember.
How would you describe your first sex experience?
Well, it was good and at 26 years old when I got married in 2011; but I have no kids yet.
NB: First published October 2014