I don’t see myself as a star – Liz Benson
Recklessly-pretty, immensely-popular and magnanimously-loved could be how best to succinctly capture ageless actress and mother of three (two girls and one boy), Liz Benson. Thrice, our editor, AZUH ARINZE, tried to pin the Sylvania State College-trained actress down, thrice the girlish-looking woman who is now in her 50s dashed those chances.
The Etinan, Akwa Ibom State born delectable actress was not too lucky the fourth time. For not only did our trap catch her, it did at the least expected place–inside a luxury bus heading from Onitsha, Anambra to Lagos (Liz and I were at the commercial nerve centre for Gabriel ‘Amaco’ Moses’ wedding). But before then, we had chatted somewhere for about 30 minutes.
The ‘venue and bus chitchat’, if you will permit that coinage, are simply unputdownable. And that is because Liz spoke on ‘all’ those things that have been bothering her fans for sometime now.
Azuh, na wah o! You see, I’ve been travelling a lot these days. Abeg forgive me.
I don forgive you. Abi wetin you wan make I talk?
Na you sabi. Anything wey you like make you talk.
Can we get down to the real business?
Okay. Let me begin by complimenting your beauty. What could the secret be?
(Smiles) The secret is just being natural. Knowing what is good for you, knowing your kind of skin and what is good for it; not going for excess. Africans, I’ve always said, have the best skin. They are gifted with good skin. I don’t go to the extreme to look okay and I’m not too particular about anything.
So, why then do you wear dreadlocks?
Maybe because I think it’s good for me and saves me a lot of time, unlike going to the salon.
As a beautiful woman, you must have a lot of men flocking around you. Mind telling us how you have been keeping them at bay?
Thank you for the compliment. I think I’ve been doing that just like you. I guess everybody admires and appreciates what one is doing. So, every now and then, one gets that or this compliment. But everything usually ends there.
Don’t you want to remarry. I mean, keeping them at bay or just allowing everything to end there, like you said, don’t you think it might militate the ‘other’ thing from happening?
No! One, marriage is a very serious thing. And you don’t just dabble into it. I’ve been there before and I know what it takes. It is only God that knows when and where and how it will happen.
But are you contemplating remarrying?
Yes, I’m involved in a relationship right now. And if marriage comes out of it, fine. If not, fine as well. Marriage is much more than rushing to the altar.
For how long have you been in this affair?
The relationship has been going for 2 years now.
And who is the lucky man. Mind telling us more about him?
(Shakes her head as if contemplating whether to or not) Okay! He’s a very private person and not used to being in the spotlight. He’s been nice to me and we have this understanding between us. He is kind, very understanding. We are still nurturing the relationship, but if marriage comes out of it fine and if not, still fine.
What about his name?
Sorry, I don’t want to disclose that right now.
What do you fancy in a man?
It’s difficult to find a sincere man these days. I don’t just get carried away or attracted to those things that glitter in a man. I like men who are sincere, men who don’t fake.
Sorry to digress. What attracted you to your late husband, Samuel Gabriel Etim?
(Countenance changes) Everything about him did.
And what do you miss most about him?
The love he had for me. I don’t want to talk about how he passed on. But I miss his unending love for me and our kids. In short, I doubt if men of today still give such unending love to their women.
Are you talking from experience?
Na you sabi!
How do you feel reading negative stories about yourself?
My brother, I don’t know how I feel o! The first shocker I got from them was that I was dating a 26 year-old (Abbey). It was the first time I was being hit by the press so I felt really bad. But for Christ’s sake, the guy was in his thirties and not twenties, like they reported. You see, it’s people’s kind remarks that have kept me going. Now, when I read such stories about me, I just laugh.
And with all those negative reports, how does Liz see herself now?
Same as before. I used to see myself as a loner, a conservative, but I’ve since changed. Right now, I think I’m that actress who expects people to accept her just like she has accepted them too. I’m plain, nice and will tell you whenever you offend me.
Even as a star?
I don’t see myself as a star. In fact, I’m not a star. You know why? Because the stars are up there (pointing up the sky). I’m just a popular face (general laughter).
And how have you been coping with life as a popular face?
It has not been easy. It makes one a prisoner. And because you are a popular face, everybody expects too much from you. Your fans don’t get to understand that you too experience bad days at times just like them. But because they are the reason you are here, you can’t help but reciprocate their smiles, even when you are not in the mood.
How does Liz see acting?
I see acting as a situation where you assume or portray a character and make people to believe it is you. Acting is like a mirror to the society.
And your involvement. When did it start?
Professionally, 1988. I started first as a stage person and I’ve always been a stage person. I started on stage before going to television. Lola Fani-Kayode’s Mind Bending got me attracted. My first job was a commercial for TIB and I guess a lot of people liked it because I really put my best into it. I later got to work with Lola, but frankly speaking, it wasn’t easy working with her. Lola brought out the best in me. I have always believed in Lola’s style of directing and all what not.
What about your assessment of the industry now?
There is a boom right now, but be that as it may, it is not devoid of problems. Like it was with other countries, they too once had their own problems, but later got over them. We too will get over ours, someday. It’s just a matter of time. We’ve got a lot of problems quite alright, but once everything is put into place, they will all be a thing of the past.
Your face seems to be all over the place. Why?
That’s true, but it is the marketers and my fans who are calling for that. Again, when you are under pressure from all quarters, at times you just bow to these pressures. Another is trying to be cordial to everybody and not displease some people.
So far, which of your works do you think is your worst and maybe the best too?
I can’t really say. Every role comes with its own challenges and every one again is as important as the other. No role is too small for an actor. What matters is doing it differently, even if it is the same house girl role.
What advice do you have for upcoming actors?
(Laughs) They have to stay focused for as long as they have decided that this is what they really want to do.
Is there anything that Liz is scared of?
I dread flying locally (tells the interviewee about one nasty experience she once had).
What about your typical day. What is it usually like?
As a family person, I work, get up early, say my prayer, do my aerobic exercise, gulp a cup of tea and get dressed for the day.
And finally, what message do you have for your teeming fans?
(Clears throat) Tell them that I love them and that my prayer for them is that the Almighty God will continually bless them.
NB: This interview had earlier been published
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