By Tadeniawo Collins
Pretty, suave and driven are among the few words that can describe popular Yoruba actress and filmmaker, Lizzy Anjorin. Lizzy has been quite exceptional since she made her way to the Yoruba section of Nollywood but like many of her peers, her steady rise to fame and fortune has not been without a few controversial instances.
In this exclusive chat with NET, Lizzy sets the record straight about a couple of reports about her in the recent past and also talks about her role as a physically handicapped person in Kofo the 1st Lady among other issues.
You made a recent declaration that you never converted to Islam. Why do you think the rumours came up in the first place?
I guess it was because I travelled to Hajj; people never knew I was a practicing Muslim before then. I’m a very private person and most people don’t know anything about me. I live a very low-key life and I don’t blab or brag, so a lot of people that think they know don’t actually have a clue where I’m coming from or even where I’m heading. I have a picture from 17 to 20 years ago that proves that I’ve always been a Muslim, and even a more recent one taken about 6 years ago.
I love Islam. I love the way we worship God, because you can easily worship your God under your roof without anybody laying hands on your head, and it’s not compulsory for you to gather somewhere early in the morning to worship. You can always do that in the comfort of your house. And as a Muslim, you can easily pay your tithe anywhere and not compulsorily to your pastor or imam. I love Christians though and I don’t have anything against them or their faith. I don’t judge people and I don’t judge any religion either.
So can you marry a Christian?
Why not? Of course, I can. As long as he doesn’t have any issues with me and my religion, I don’t think I can have any problems about his faith. Whether you’re a Muslim or a Christian, we’re all serving one God. The problem with most people in these parts of the world is that we always love to speak for God and nobody can take God’s place. His ways are far from ours and we can never comprehend him.
I have nothing against any religion, and I can marry from any tribe too. It doesn’t matter if he’s Ibo, Hausa, Fulani, Chinese, White, Black or whatever. As long as he’s a good man and my heart feels right about him, I can marry anybody.
According to reports, you once said you can never marry a poor man. How true is that in light of what you just said now?
I have never said any such thing at any point in time ever! If you actually go through the transcript of the reported interview, you will discover that I actually never said anything like that. What I did say was that being poor has nothing to do with what’s in your bank account, and it also doesn’t determine a person’s worth. For instance, there are a lot of rich people who are not smart or intelligent, aren’t there? What I said was that wisdom does not necessarily translate into riches or wealth.
So you were quoted out of context?
Yes, I was quoted out of context completely, and I guess that was just in a bid to craft an attractive headline for their stuff, which is something that shouldn’t be. But really; a man who is jobless and is living off women, isn’t such a man very poor?
I really don’t know why a lot of people choose to write all manner of rubbish about me. A lot of actors and entertainers have cliques and groups they roll with, but I’ve never had one. I can roll with anybody regardless of their social or economic status. I move with people who seemingly don’t have anything in their bank accounts presently, but their age, maturity and wisdom is a lot more beneficial to me. Life is all about learning. My good friends are people that are way older than I am.
What do you miss most about your mum, and how do you think she would have impacted your life if she were alive now that you’re more successful and affluent?
She was a wonderful mum who made me realize that every action in life has its consequences. She taught me so much in her life, and her teachings, perspective and doctrines have helped keep me firm and steady even after her death. My mum taught me that your family aren’t only the people related to you but everyone you meet and can impact or impacts you in life. This has always been my philosophy in dealing with people around me. She’s made me realise that everyone in life can be helpful one way or the other if you just engage and don’t look down on them.
She was also a very tough mother; I wouldn’t have been able to stand on my own now if she hadn’t been the way she was. Her teachings and the grace of Allah have kept me upright so far.
You are rumoured to live way above your income presently. How true is this?
Well, that has to be the assertion of people who don’t know, because those close to me know that I work like a broke girl. What I fear most in my life is poverty. It scares me even more than death. So, I work like my life depends on it. Even when I’m on location, you can hardly see me lounging. I run my business alongside anything I’m doing, because all the profit that accrues from the business is always re-invested into my film projects. This is why my films are always unique and of better quality in every way.
Nobody really cares about how I live, but there are a few journalists who know me and can attest to the way I live. I run a fashion line and I actually deliver my goods to clients across Lagos personally, even overnight. I’m into so many things; I can do business as long as it’s legit and can fetch me money no matter how small it may seem. It doesn’t necessarily have to be something people classify as posh. I can do anything. I can wash clothes, cars; I can do anything that brings in money legitimately because I’m a very hard worker. I invest quality time in building my business rather than going for parties around because that will actually cost you money and not add any financial value to you eventually. I think like an entrepreneur always; the money most people spend on parties can actually build houses in some parts of town. People close to me call me ‘Iya Alaje’ because I don’t spend lavishly. I only buy what I need and at the right time.
A lot of people who say things about me don’t know anything about me actually. When I was living in Ogba, a lot of my colleagues were living on the Island or in G.R.A in Ikeja, but I don’t ever compare myself with anyone. When it was my time to move to Lekki, I did. People don’t seem to see you when you’re struggling. I used to take my goods – clothes and wine – to the Island from Ogba, and sometimes I would be driving back in the early hours of the day. Or is it when I have to drive as far as Cotonou sometimes to get some goods? Nobody cares about you when you’re struggling, but people will always say all manner of things when you’re doing well.
So, would you say that you’re rich enough to afford the kind of life you live right now?
I’m not an artiste that goes from one location to the other; you hardly see me in posters because I pay a lot of attention to my business. That’s why my movies are always impactful when they do come out. I’m a pacesetter. I don’t ever copy people. They may criticise me initially, but people end up coming back to copy me eventually. I was one of the first Yoruba actors to start a fashion line. I opened my shop at Abule Egba and was criticized a lot because they said the area was local. People called me ‘classless’ and all manner of names. A colleague even called it a kiosk, yet it was a business that cost millions of Naira to set up. I didn’t care about what they were saying, and later on the business moved to Ogba. The same colleagues criticising me then have all rushed to open fashion lines too now, but everything about me remains unique. Some of them sit back in their shops, but I deliver my goods to my customers. When it’s time for my business, I leave my pride at home. If it’s a red carpet event, then I may turn on my superstar mode again. If you form superstar with your customers, you’ll lose them all eventually. I’m still growing and I trust almighty Allah to continue to sustain me.
I believe you can only classify yourself as a successful woman if three criteria are met: when you work for a life, you have a good family, and all your children become successful too. Achieving stardom is not success to me, but a challenge. That’s why, in spite of all I’ve achieved, I still work hard like I’m just a labourer. How many young people these days can swallow their pride, ignore all the jibs and insults from people, and fully pursue their businesses diligently like this. I don’t drink or smoke and the only way I enjoy my life is by selling my goods and growing my business.
Your film, Kofo the 1st Lady is quite remarkable. How was it for you, entering into that role? What were the challenges you faced, and did you understudy anyone with such disability before starting that project?
Honestly, I have never seen or been with any physically challenged person before in my life. The only people with disabilities I see are the blind, deaf and others we all see around. I’ve never had an encounter with any retarded person of that nature before.
The thing about me is; I’m a very playful person. I was having fun with my daughter like we normally do, and I told her she could change her dance moves if she ever enters a dance competition. I started mimicking a retarded person and everybody loved it. My manager then suggested that I write something in that line because it was very funny. I thought about how to put it together and realised that people with such children don’t allow them out in public, so I decided to build up on that. Now, I always consult with some of my colleagues that I respect whenever I want to start a project. When I reached to some of them on this film, they turned me down and refused to get involved because they claimed it was the story of someone and I could get sued or even arrested for shooting a film with that story line. I told them that wasn’t the case and decided to proceed with the project because I’m a goal-getter.
Eventually when it came out, a lot of them came back to apologise to me for turning me down initially. And, before you know it, a lot of people started copying my concept. That was the same thing that happened when Funke Akindele shot Jenifa. What most people don’t know though is that, when someone does something originally and you copy it, the credit still goes back to the person somehow.
I also used this project to reach out to people who have such children to please stop locking them inside. And, to the general public and the government too to please show them love and support as it’s done in the western world. If we don’t take care of our physically challenged ones, it will become a problem for the society eventually. This people may be handicapped but they are actually very brilliant and they hardly get involved in crime, which is why we ought to take care of them as a society. This is part of what we do in my foundation presently.
What’s the name of your foundation?
The Lizzy Anjorin Foundation, and we basically operate under the radar because I don’t believe in publicity for such works. I believe that whatever good I can do via this medium is between me and God and he will reward me in his own way.
You were quoted in a recent interview as saying that everyone is not meant to marry or have kids. What exactly do you mean by this?
What I said was that it’s not everyone that comes to this world that will get married, and one cannot rush into marriage because everyone around is getting married. Everything in life is about destiny; once it’s your time, you will surely shine.
It’s also been reported that you once said your biggest assets are your eyes and boobs. Is that true?
That is another completely false report; just the same way they reported that I said I can’t marry a poor man. Come on, even if I can’t marry a poor man, would I say that in public? There are just some things you don’t ever reveal. This is why I don’t like granting interviews and some journalists; you don’t need to destroy a person’s career or image because you want to build yours. Casting sensational headlines with things you know will be detrimental to another person’s career or image is not right. But I thank God though; everything they’ve written and said about me cannot bring me down because it’s only God that can destroy me or bring me down. If God is behind you, nobody can bring you down.
A senior colleague called me recently to ask for my name on a social media platform, which I gave to him. I never knew his son was a blogger, and the next day, I saw some negative things about me that he wrote. Can you imagine that? I’ve learnt not to let these things bother me anymore though, because they are not God.
What are your plans for Valentine? Are you spending it with anyone special over there in America?
Yes, I’m spending it with a very special person who is very dear to me and is quite priceless. The love of my life and the best thing in my life right now. My everything and my companion; Oluwarotimi Anjorin. She’s my daughter and my Valentine (laughs).
Is there any news regarding marriage? Is anything coming up soon?
There will be some news on that very soon, Insha Allah.
What projects are you working on presently, and what are your plans for 2015?
I am working on 6 projects presently. I have 6 films I’m shooting at the moment, and they should be coming to the cinemas soon, Insha Allah.
Are you releasing all 6 this year?
Well, if God says yes, then I will. I can’t speak for God because he’s the only one who knows the future.
As a Yoruba filmmaker, are you planning to be part of the new film distribution network that is being implemented in Nollywood presently, especially with your forthcoming projects?
Well, I can’t say much about that for now because it’s still a new initiative and I want to see how it goes at the long run. If I do my personal calculations and it works well with me, I may decide to be a part of it and buy into it. If I see that it will help and improve my career, of course, I will buy into it.
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