We are going to say the truth here – Mercy Aigbe-Gentry is one of the most beautiful actresses in the Yoruba movie sector. Also, she is among the best dressed. From Edo State, but now married to a Yoruba guy, Lanre Gentry, the Creative Arts graduate of the University of Lagos opened up to YES INTERNATIONAL! Magazine’s JULIET IKEOKWU. Excerpts…
What is Mercy working on now?
I’ve been expanding. I am now into cosmetics. I have a cosmetics line called Madima; also a hair line called Madima Hair and I am also into fashion. I have a boutique where we sell other labels. We also have our own label called Madima Label. I have a movie going to the cinemas soon titled Victims, directed by Lancelot (Imasuen).
What’s the response to your products like?
Yeah! It has been awesome. I am feeling so blessed. Because people use my products and I’ve not had complaints. It’s very encouraging.
So, what can you say about the industry currently?
Currently, we are dealing with a huge challenge called piracy. It’s terrible. Hopefully, by God’s grace, this administration will come to our rescue by making laws and making sure that the laws are being enforced. That’s what I believe will curb piracy. But for now, it’s not been easy. I am talking as a producer. You are also an investor. You want to put your money where you are sure that you will get your money back. But in the case where you are not sure that you will get your money back, you always want to cut corners which kills creativity. So, it a huge challenge, but hopefully, it will get better.
What makes a good producer?
A good producer must be good with scripts, your casting has to be tight. You have to make sure that whoever you cast will be able to interpret whatever role you ask him to.
Do you have a personal piracy experience?
Yes! Almost all my jobs have been pirated and it’s happening to everybody right now and we are just begging the government to come to our rescue. I believe that once laws are made and enforced, whoever is pirating another person’s job knows that he will go for it (jail), then it will help to reduce it to the barest minimum.
So, what has been your greatest challenge, either as an actress or a producer?
Acting, I will say, is getting recognition. Getting to where I am today was a big challenge and at the moment, maintaining it is also a huge challenge. People expect so much from you. You are not allowed to do something, you are expected to do or act in a certain manner. You are always under public scrutiny. If you are not careful, you may get it all wrong. Dealing with all these is a challenge.
When is the part 2 of Osas coming out?
The second part of Osas; it’s because of all these piracy issues, that’s why I’ve not released the second part of it. Hopefully, like I said earlier, things will get better and it will be released. But for now, Victims will be going to the cinemas soon.
So, who did you feature in Victims?
We have A-listers like Olu Jacobs, Juliet Ibrahim; we have Funsho Adeolu, Jude Orhorha, Saidi and Fathia Balogun.
How do you take care of your male admirers without getting into trouble as a married actress?
If you are my fan and you admire what I do and pay compliments with regards to that, fine. But crossing the line, I always try to tell them off in a very polite way.
What’s the craziest thing a male fan has ever done to you?
Okay! That will be the day I was travelling at the airport, someone removed his shirt and asked me to sign on his bare chest. I was like oh my God! It was really embarrassing.
Where did it happen?
In Nigeria. He was insisting and the crowd was gathering and I had to do it.
You are not Yoruba, but you seem to do more of Yoruba movies. Is it deliberate?
No! It’s not. I didn’t set out to be doing more of the Yoruba movies. I would say probably it is faith. I actually started with English, then I crossed over to Yoruba. I just did one Yoruba movie, before I knew it, I started getting scripts from other Yoruba producers and because I was up and coming, I couldn’t turn any script down. I needed it, and before I knew it, I got my fame from it.
Life has been rosy for you. Were you born with a silver spoon?
I am from an average family, very comfortable and I would say that my experience growing up was because my father, as a Benin man, believes in training a child well. So, everything was banned. But it’s okay, because I am gaining from all the values and morals he installed in me as a young child. It moulded me to who I am today.
What was his reaction when you went into acting?
He didn’t like it because he is of the opinion that actresses are promiscuous by nature and as an actress, you cannot get married; the marriage will not last. You know the society has this impression about us and he was of that school of thought. But later, he gave me his blessing and the rest like they say is history and here I am today.
Did you experience the sex-for-role problem as an upcoming actress?
Personally, I didn’t experience that, so I can’t say. But at the same time, I wouldn’t let it pass because I’ve heard several stories about that sex-for-role, sex-for-money, etc. It’s everywhere; in banking, oil and gas. When you have male and female together, it’s there. But it’s not like I am supporting it actually. But I am saying as a young actress, if you believe in yourself, you know you have what it takes, if you are determined and focused, you don’t have to do it. Because there are so many people that have done it and didn’t get any role. It’s not a guarantee that you will get a role.
How do you relax?
I travel when I want to unwind. Because if I am in Nigeria and it’s money matter and you call me, I will run (down).
Where do you enjoy travelling to outside Nigeria?
My favourite spot, I will say, is Bahamas. I went there with my family last year.
Divorce seems pronounced in your industry, what can you say about it?
Divorce is everywhere, not just in the entertainment industry. If you look at it, the last five years, it’s higher than it used to be. I don’t know what to say about the case.
Would you say that your female colleagues try enough to keep their marriages?
Yes! I’m sure that when you set out to get married, you want to be together forever. I am sure that if you know that it will be short-lived, you wouldn’t want to do it. I don’t see any actor or actress getting married with the intention of getting divorced. But I would say the press people don’t help at all. Because a celebrity’s marriage is always out there, whatever you do or you don’t, they write. And they forget the family system in Nigeria works. You have in-laws who may not understand, even if your husband does.