+ No man bought me Range Rover
TAYO Sobola, a.k.a Sotayo, is one actress whose career is on the rise. The former model, an Ogun State indigene studied Public Administration at Olabisi Onabanjo University and also has a Diploma in Law from Lagos State University. She, however, says her journey was not all roses and bloom.
In this interview with ENCOMIUM Weekly’s Associate Editor, UCHE OLEHI, she reveals how frustration almost drove her out of Nollywood, her plans for 2015, as well as her desire to be a good mother.
Today, you are majorly known as an actress, but you were once a TV presenter, anchor, model and vixen.
How did your love for television begin?
Wow! If you say the first time I saw myself on TV, it will be at parties where I made requests for my parents. On a more serious note, I really can’t remember.
I really cannot say because when I was in secondary school, I was so carried away by the desire to become a lawyer. But at a point, I started getting involved with the school debating and dramatic society. Then, when I got into Lagos State University, I met Emeka Okoro, the actor. He was the one that registered me with the Actors Guild of Nigeria. From that point I had my first job -Jackie Philips -that had actors like Sunny Mac Don and Ibinabo Fiberisima. I will say that was my debut, but before then, I was into modelling and I did majorly calendar jobs for companies at a time. I was singing as well.
That means you started acting before you took up your job as a presenter?
You are right; I did a couple of acting jobs before I joined First Class Entertainment to present ‘Showtime Africa’.
You are now a producer and actress. What will you say is the biggest challenge you had to overcome before getting to where you are in your career?
Without a doubt the experience of missing lectures when I was in Lagos State University to sit under the trees at the National Theatre from morning till night waiting for roles that will never come is one experience that was not so pleasant at all.
It’s just January and you said you have done three jobs already, what are you doing differently now that producers are practically chasing you with scripts?
I don’t think it has to do with doing anything differently. Rather, I will say for everything, there is an appointed time and my time has come. Because I remember how myself, Mercy Johnson, Ruth Kadiri, and a couple of others waited for roles and nobody will even look at us. But look at them today, Mercy is way up there. Ruth Kadiri has just broken through. So, I will say when the right time comes, nothing can stop you.
You act in both English and Yoruba movies frequently and produce in both languages as well. Why not stick to one language like most practitioners in the industry do?
I will tell you how I ended up in both Yoruba and English movies. After my Diploma programme in Law, I got frustrated with acting because nobody was giving me the chance. Then I stopped and went back to school to study Public Administration and when I was through, I was approached by Yoruba movie producer Yinka Sam Aina through Femi Ogedengbe to come play the lead in the Yoruba movie, Ewu l’oko longe. I was reluctant because my Yoruba was not that fluent. Even my mother was against it, saying that Yoruba movies are too fetish. But after a while, I decided to do it and when the movie came out, everyone involved was like, ‘you did well’ and the roles started coming. Later, I began producing my own movies. Then somewhere along the line, some English movie producers and directors started calling me to ask why I delved into Yoruba and I told them it’s because they are not giving me roles. So they invited me to come around and we began doing English films. So, now, I am in between.
Then, the comedy skits I did with Bovi also helped because I did about four comedy skits with him. That made some people I had not seen in a while start calling me to offer me roles.
Lack of roles made you quit acting temporarily. Will you say the roles were not coming your way because producers wanted to sleep with you or the pay wasn’t good or lack of respect for your talent?
I will say lack of respect for my talent and so many other things I can’t mention.
When you look at aspiring actresses, is there any challenge they have that reminds you of your own ordeals?
A lot o, but this is not the place to discuss these things. Every day I come to location I see young actresses facing the same challenges I faced and the only thing I can give them is one simple advice…
And which is?
Do not sleep your way through, because when you sleep your way up you will slip down in no time.
Did you experience that in your time?
Let’s say I saw a lot of people do it. That is why I am never tired of talking about it. Do not sleep your way through. Just believe in yourself and know that at the end of the day, you will surely be what God says you will be.
You sound very religious, are you the kind that pays a lot of attention to religion?
I will say yes, even though I call myself a ‘Chrislam’ because my mother is a Muslim and my father a Christian, Catholic to be precise. So I pay attention to religion.
It is 2015 and you have started the year on a very busy note. Can you share with us what you have been up to and other plans you have for the year?
Yes, it has really been very busy. This is my third job. I did two for Afeez Owoh, actress Mide Martins’ husband. Now I’m on the set for Big Man and I am presently doing pre-production for my own movie and this time it is a full length English movie.
Can you tell us more about it?
The movie is going straight to cinema and it is a full length English movie. It is not mixed in anyway. I will be working with Yvonne Jegede, Alex Ekubor and Kenneth Okolie.
Who is the director?
I have two people in my mind but I have not decided who will handle the movie so I cannot give you a name.
You celebrated your birthday on the November 28 but the buzz was all about your 2015 Range Rover…
Ah that car! Yes, I have a 2015 Range Rover and I love it.
Has acting been that profitable for you?
Yes and no because it has its ups and down…
Your only known source of income is acting, will you say acting brought the money for the car?
I do a lot of other things, that is why I said yes and no. I have other businesses. I travel out of the country a lot and I buy things and bring for people to sell for me because I can’t be working and selling. Nobody will even pay me if I sell by myself. I do contracts and I consult for people and get artiste for shows. That is how I make most of the money.
But a lot of people hold the opinion that acting is just a cover for most of you actresses because your luxury lives are funded by rich men you sleep with?
I can only speak for myself. If people think it is that easy, they can go and try it. I know I work hard for myself and I can account for every penny I am spending. I have been working since 2003/2004 even though I am not yet known out there. And I know a lot of people will say is it not just acting, how much is she being paid?
All these things don’t mean a thing to me because I know I work hard for my money.
What is your most prized possession?
My Range Rover (laughs)… but seriously there’s something else I won’t mention. It is more expensive than my car but after it comes my Range Rover.
What is the one thing you cannot restrain yourself from doing?
My phones… I am addicted to my phones. I cannot stop pressing my phone for one minute and I enjoy it.
Tell us one thing you can’t be caught wearing?
I doubt if there is anything I can’t wear. I wear just about anything because I know how to always make it work for me.
Can you please share with us your favourite fashion accessory?
Wow, I love wrist watches. Even if I have a million wristwatches, I will still buy more.
Doing a cinema movie is capital-intensive. Are you getting help in terms of funds?
Not at all. The entire responsibility rests on my shoulder and I do not hope to ask for help from anybody.
You are pretty much excited and confident that this movie will do well, tell us more about it.
It is a small cast movie and the title is The Occupant, but I cannot share the story because Nigeria is a funny place.
Do you have plans of investing in other aspects of showbiz?
I have plans of starting a television production company that will create content for local and international television stations and that project will kick-off towards the end of this year or early next year.
I am sure a lot of young talents come up to you asking for help. What plans do you have for them?
Yes, I get that a lot and what I do is to call them when I have my own movies. But it is not every month I shoot. So, what I do is try and help the ones I can.
What memory do you have of your childhood that you cannot forget?
I can never forget the fact that my mother never allowed us mingle and play with friends. I can’t forget how I will stand on the balcony wishing they would allow me go downstairs and play.
Will you say your mother robbed you of your childhood?
Sadly yes, but it is all good. Who knows, if she did not handle me with iron hands, I would have been one useless girl somewhere.
Have you forgiven her?
Totally, because she supports everything I do.
When last did you cry?
Hmmm… that was on my birthday, when I came to thank everyone that came and I remembered someone that I wished was in that party but was not there. I started crying.
Who is the person?
Sorry, I can’t say …
You hardly talk about your father, tell us about him?
There is nothing to be said about him because he is late.
Are you into any relationship and how soon are we expecting to hear the wedding bells?
I am into a relationship but I will like to keep his identity private. Some journalists have written that I am dating different people and that I am married to Mr. this and that. They should go on. In fact, I like it that way.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
I should be a loving and great mother. Becoming a great mom gives me so much joy.
How many children do you plan to have?
Two or three will be just fine.