FAIR-skinned actress, Folashade Omoniyi-Adewale, famously addressed as Lepa Shandy, who relocated to the United Kingdom for quite a while has returned to Nigeria to continue doing what she knows how to do best.
ENCOMIUM Weekly had an exclusive interview with the beautiful actress cum film maker on Friday, July 24, 2015, when we cornered her at Ojodu, Ikeja, Lagos, where she opened up like never before on many issues, including her marital life, career and much more…
You have not been around for quite a while, what has been happening to your career since you returned to Nigeria?
It’s true I have been away for like a year and also off social scene for quite a while.
Is it just one year or three years?
It’s not three years because I came to Nigeria sometime last year. I even did some jobs before I left Nigeria last year.
But that wasn’t that well pronounced because since you started child bearing, you have not been featuring as much as you used to?
Let’s be sincere with each other, it’s not only me. It’s the same thing with almost all my peers. As there are seasons in life so there are seasons in the industry as well. When we came in, we pushed some people out of the way. So, when others came in, we also had to give them chance. We should just keep thanking God that we’re still there, being recognized in and outside the country. That’s the most important thing. When I came around last year, I still did few jobs before I went back to the UK. I give glory to God that I am still being recognized even outside the industry. For instance, a girl met me here today and said to me, ‘Are you that Lepa Shandy? Are you this fine? Oh my God!’ I said, ‘What do you mean?’ And we just hugged each other and exchanged contact. She was so happy and excited meeting me one-on-one. So, it’s like that all over the place. I just thank God Lepa has become a household identity within and outside the industry. God Himself has turned me to a brand. Since I came out with that identity in the industry, it has gone far and wide. Anybody that’s not fat is called Lepa everywhere now. Even some parents call their slim children Lepa. Lepa is not only a brand but a popular slogan that has gone beyond the shores of Nigeria. So, I need to be very grateful to God for making me relevant till date.
What has been happening to your career since you came back?
My career is fine. Even when I wasn’t around, over there I have been active in some things though maybe off the screen. Even when the political campaign was on in Nigeria here, I wasn’t here but I was also part of those that campaigned for some of the politicians.
That means you’re also contacted for the campaign job despite not being in Nigeria?
Yes, of course. Even both the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) contacted me and my colleagues as well. But eventually, I campaigned for the victorious party, which is of course, APC. That means I have been very active. If some powerful people in the society can call me and say they still need me around, so I must be thankful to God. And when I came this time around, I did a couple of jobs and I am still planning to do another big one soon.
We learnt you have been around for about two months now, why have you been lying low?
Yes, I came in around May but I didn’t want people to know I was back. I thought I could hide a bit but unfortunately, I couldn’t. I got some invites to social functions which I tried not to attend just to get accustomed to the weather here and people around before I start attending events.
How would you describe your experience in the UK this time around?
There is no place like home. Everybody knows abroad is dry at the moment. But the comfort and convenience there wouldn’t want you to come back home. But like we people that make our money here in Nigeria, what can we do now? In the UK, I don’t really work. I am just like a full time housewife there. I only did some part time work there and I made some money. At least, I still run my account very well. And since I came back to Nigeria, I have been trying to settle down, thinking of what to do. I still have my production on hold. I am yet to release any job. Nothing has changed in the industry. I thought things would have changed before returning to Nigeria but they are still the same, even worse than I left them. Before I left, I wanted to sell my movie to a marketer, but the amount offered was nothing to write home about, so disgusting. So, I couldn’t do anything. I had to run back to the UK thinking things would have been better by the time I come back but quite unfortunate, the situation of things in the industry has not improved. Instead, it’s getting worse by the day. But I want to believe with the new government, things are going to improve.
With the benefit of hindsight, what do you think is the major problem of the industry?
Piracy has always been our major problem and we have been saying this very long ago, but it seems there is no hope concerning curbing it. And as it’s rightly said, charity begins at home. For us to fight piracy and succeed, we also need to tidy our home first. For instance, take a look at what’s happening in the Yoruba sector of the industry, we have many associations. People are not ready to work together under one umbrella. I was an advocate of one Nollywood. Now, we’re still thinking of how Actors Guild of Nigeria (AGN), ANTP and NANTAP will come together as one and present ourselves as one association before the government. If we work together, the better but now you can see how many associations we have in the Yoruba and English sectors. The more we’re being segregated, the worse the situation of the industry is going to be. Until we come together under one body, there can’t be any way forward. We should all speak with one voice. But if some of us are fighting piracy there are some among us busy collecting bribe, how can we now fight piracy and succeed?
How would you describe your career since you became a mother?
Yes, a lot of people will think my career is dwindling. That’s natural, but personally I think I am going higher. It’s all about what you believe. When you achieve some things, you realize that every other thing follows. Yes, I excelled in my career before I got married. There were some problems in-between, I overcame them. And I am very happy now. Left to me, happiness should matter first. Even if you’re doing well in your career or you’re doing well at home or you’re not doing well in either of the two, once you’re happy, I think that’s the most important thing. So, the fact that I am very happy, I think I am very okay with my home and career.
But no matter how, that might have taken a toll on your career?
Yes, I won’t deny that. There are some things that happened which you as a friend knows as well. But even mere looking at me now, you will know I am a very happy person, and I have succeeded. Just expect something bigger from me now by God’s grace. Jobs are coming in now.
How happy are you now that you’re a mother of two lovely children after you have stayed without a child for some years?
Naturally, I have decided not to talk about my home because there is always honour in whatever you have and you don’t make it public. So, I wouldn’t want to go into that area.
But it’s public knowledge already, so talking about it can only be additional.
Yes, you’re right that everybody knows about it but not until I say it myself. But according to your question, from the bottom of my heart I will say I am extremely joyous and I give glory to God. I say thank you to God and to my fans out there because they have also been praying for me. And God has answered their prayer. To be honest, I will say I am very happy, physically you can also notice that in me. And not only that, I am also happy, spiritually, emotionally and psychologically. It’s a thing of joy and I will forever be grateful to God for that.
What was the step you took to have ushered in that change in your life?
How would I know? It’s not by my power or might but the grace of God. It has been God who has been with me all through. It’s not as if I know how to do it. It’s not as if somebody advised me on how to go about it. Fine, some people might advise you but it depends on whether you will follow their advice. But I just left everything in the Hands of God, and it really worked. That’s why I keep thanking Him.
Just like few of your colleagues, are you also wife number two or three to your husband?
I don’t know what you’re talking about. Whether I am number one, two, three, four, five or even 10, all I know is that I am happily married, period.
Going by what you have gone through in the process of looking on to God for the fruit of the womb, would you share part of the experience with your fans out there?
I really don’t think about it. Just like I said, it’s just by the special grace of God, not that I am better than any other person. One of the reasons I don’t bother thinking about it is that if you move from a bad situation to the worse one, that’s when you will be crying up and down. But if God has smiled on you and gave you no reason to think about the bad past, you will not even remember to think of anything again rather than giving thanks to God all the time.
For instance, when you become rich, you will keep wondering how you survived the situation when you had nothing. You will not even be able to recall the experience just because God has put smiles on your face. That’s one of my interesting stories. God has really smiled at me and moved me from grace to higher grace. I thank Him for that.
Can you tell the exact age you had your first child and how painful was it then being your first experience?
I don’t want to comment further on anything like that. It appears you’re stressing me too much, and you can’t force me to talk on it if I don’t want to. Anyway, a lot of people have been asking me this question, you’re not the first and I am sure you won’t be the last person to ask me a similar question. But I think people should just take their time, keep their fingers crossed on details about whatever they’re eager to know about me. A movie is coming out that will encompass everything about Lepa Shandy. I am sure they will all want to watch the movie. But for now, I have decided to keep everything under wrap. They should just watch out, everything will be answered in the movie, very interesting story of my life.
Now, you have been blessed with both male and female children, how many more do you still want to give your husband?
(Laughs) As God wants it. But as for me, I am still looking on to God for a set of twins, triplets, quadruplet and more (laughs). That means I want to have many children.
Before God blessed you with lovely kids, have you ever had the experience of people discussing your situation ill-fatedly at your back?
You should expect that, are we not Yoruba? Even, other tribes do that also. Some would say it but not to your face but someone else will tell you. Even those I call my friends. But that doesn’t mean I won’t make friends with them again. They are still my friends. It’s nobody’s business whatever happens in another person’s life. I think things will be better off if people learn to mind their business. When you see your fellow human being in a particular problem or situation, you don’t need to laugh at the person but pray for him or her because what’s happening to the person may not be his or her handiwork.
Now that you’re back to Nigeria, do you still intend to go back to the UK?
Of course, yes. Are you not my friend? I think you should know me better than every other person. Let me say UK will eventually be my home. After all, my husband is there. I have got no choice. Although, I am a Nigerian, I will still go back to the UK, even if it’s just for holiday.
What next do you want your fans to be expecting from you?
Something big. A lot of my fans have accosted me on the road, asking me what happened that they have not been seeing me. But I told them everything is about the situation of the country. I keep telling them they should just be expecting something big from me. My best is yet to come, I will definitely make them happy.
Can you tell us the decision you regretted taking?
I have outgrown that. I don’t regret anything about the past. Whatever you have done is your destiny. So, it belongs to the past. There may be some mistakes you make and you will still move on whereas if other people make some mistakes, they can’t come out of them forever. So, I don’t dwell on the past. I have made some mistakes but I don’t regret any.
Lest we forget, you’re once in a relationship which couldn’t work and that’s what led to the second one, do you still communicate with your ex-husband?
I will point out two things here. First, anything that we call past, let it remain in the past. Secondly, anything ex also belongs to the past. So, let it be where it belongs. I don’t talk about the past. The past is gone forever. In fact, it’s dead and buried. Please, let the past rest in peace.
– TADE ASIFAT