‘God has been so merciful to me,’ says Iya Rainbow @ 70, PLUS: I have not had sex for 30 years


VETERAN actress, Idowu Philips, popularly known as Iya Rainbow has paid her dues in the make-believe world especially in the Yoruba movie sector of Nollywood. The ageless ebony woman is now 70, and she is rolling out the drums to celebrate in October 2012. ENCOMIUM Weekly had an interview with her on life at 70, the state of Nollywood and sundry issues.


Congratulations ma.

Thank you.

How does it feel clocking 70?

Thanks God, the Bible says we should number our days so that we can incline our heart to wisdom. It really feels great.

You don’t look 70, what is the secret?

That is beyond my comprehension, God knows the best. At times, when I remember my colleagues back then when I was a nurse, I thank God for His mercies. I am one of the people God has shown great mercies.

Would you consider yourself lucky to have attained this age?

It is God’s mercies, His infinite mercies. I didn’t enjoy my marriage, may be for 15 years because my husband died in 1984. I have been the only person carrying the burden alone. My mother also tried for me, I left my children with her. I have seen a lot, I can remember the days that I will only go back home with N50. I will trek all the way to Ebute Ero to buy pepper that has been exposed to flies. After eating that, we will start looking up to God for what to eat the next day. I stood in the bus one day to beg, but after realizing that some people could recognize me, I sat down. The next day, I went to one of my in-laws, Mama Oluwa, I went to her in tears and told her my plight. She took over some responsibilities. The woman is dead now. I pray that God will keep her children. I retired in 1986 as a nurse, that same year our house got burnt. Though a lot of people stood by men when I took over my husband’s drama group. So, I have seen a lot, God just decided to be merciful to me, it has really been God.

Can you tell us the greatest lesson life has taught you?

I have learnt a lot. I can remember one of Obey’s songs, Oun to ju ri laye enu ko gbodo so. But my own mouth will talk. I learnt a lot from my in-laws, artists and life generally. I have learnt to be patient, I have learnt to trust God intimately for everything. I can remember that I locked myself in the house for three days crying. I have a lot to say, I will say it on my birthday.

What can’t you do again as a result of your age?

(Thinks) It is one of the things I have not been doing before. For the past 30 years, I have not had sex, I can’t do it again till I die. There are some roles I cannot take again, such as jumping a high fence like I did in a movie sometime back.

Are there roles you can no longer accept at your age?

Yes, wearing costumes that expose private parts of the body, drawing tattoo on the chest or any part of the body. I can’t tint my hair again, I am not criticizing those doing it, it is their time, it is what the world wants that they are giving them. But I want them to move close to God, they shouldn’t take that for granted. They should always remember that it is God that gave them the fame.

Which role have you played that you can never forget?

Aje n’iya mi (My mother is a witch). The woman sent her son to the farm with the hope that the son will bring home foodstuff. Then, she went to the farm turned to a snake and bite her son. The boy was groaning in pain when Lalude came to his rescue, he extracted the poison and took the boy home. On getting home, the man saw the boy’s mother, he told the boy that his mother is a witch. I can never forget that role, they wanted to kill the boy that acted the role, Dejo Tunfulu. I thank God they didn’t succeed. There is another movie, Asiri nla (Top secret), I didn’t have a child for Bello in the movie, but my younger sister had one for him, they had to keep the secret until it got to a time they couldn’t anymore. When the child became impotent and they had to perform a ritual before the boy regained potency.

There is another movie entitled Madanwo, by Segun Rasco. He is outside the country now. In the movie, Segun was pursuing me with a cutlass, I jumped a fence (points to a fence) as high as that, people couldn’t believe their eyes. The producer was shocked. Segun grabbed me immediately asking if I was okay, I was even taken to the hospital as well. Those are the movies I can never forget.

When will you retire from acting?

No, that will not happen unless death beckons. Even when I am using a walking stick, I know they will still use me as either a mother or grandmother. I am not retiring from acting, no matter my age.

What legacy would you like to leave for the up and coming ones?

I can tolerate anything, I see and hear a lot of things but pretend as if I didn’t see or hear anything. Sometime back, Ogogo called me that they were giving me a role to play. I was on another location in Osun State when they called me but I didn’t tell them that. Odunfa stood by me, the likes of Yinka, Ogogo, Abbey Lanre have been very supportive. When I got to their location, some guys were shouting at me that I was lying, it was Ogogo that cautioned them. I want people to remember me as a humble woman that could tolerate anything.

What do you miss about adolescence and growing up days?

I was in charge in my house, I come from a polygamous family. Before they had me, my father already had 14 boys. So, when I came, everybody treated me like an egg. My father liked me a lot.

Do you still feel the absence of your husband in your life and career?

Yes, of course. I didn’t even enjoy the marriage for more than 15 years because my husband died early. He died in 1984. I have been the only person carrying the burden alone, but the few years we were together, he treated me like an egg, most especially whenever I was pregnant he will take up all domestic chores in the house. He will go to the market, buy things, cook for me and take care of the house. He spoilt me silly, which man will do that again for me. At times, I look at all the broken homes and marriages and wonder what really went wrong. Maybe husbands to those women are not good, maybe they don’t have a good heart. Because of the wonderful experience I had in my few years of marriage, I decided not to remarry. It is better to stay single and look after my children. I also made up my mind never to have sex again. At times, when I remember my husband, it seems as if he died a couple of days back.

My late husband was very talented, educated. He was a graduate and very talented. He played the drums for the rested Village Headmaster, he beats bata very well. You need to see him in action, he could be on his knees and he beating six drums at a time. He played the guitar very well. I really miss him a lot. But I thank God for replacing him with his children.

Do you still have your childhood friends up till now?

I have one. Her name is Mrs. Nike Oluyori, her husband is from Ikare. Her son, Gbemi Oluyori works with us in Yotomi Estate. Late Alade Aromire’s wife is also the woman’s daughter. We met two weeks ago at an anniversary. She is the only childhood friend that I still see up till now.

In your opinion, what is the cause of the moral deterioration of our society?

They are following the trend, there is a proverb that says, “If you can’t beat them, join them.” They want to “belong” they are imitating others, they believe they are competing, that is why some go astray.

What advise do you have for the younger generation?

Do I need to advise them? They have seen me and how I relate to people, I don’t call any artists by name, anybody that wants to be respected will first of all respect others. Good people have enemies, not to talk of the wicked. Don’t have anybody in mind, have a free mind to everybody, forgive everybody, don’t flair up at the slightest provocation.

Has your son, Femi Philips dumped acting, we learnt he has relocated abroad?

He is into directing abroad. He has even won an award, there are some scripts waiting for him. He also acts there.


This story was first published in Encomium Weekly edition of Tuesday, July 10, 2012

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