With millions people viewing her exceptional acting skills on Nigeria’s leading soap opera –Superstory, Olayinka Ademo’s (widely known as Nnena) popularity is increasing than anyone ever thought. Her powerful presence filled the screen in Nnena, which is one of the bestsellers of Wale Adenuga Productions. Nnenna speaks to Isaac Oladipupo about her journey so far in the acting business.
You look so pretty I was praying you should still be single when we meet! What’s the secret?
(Laughs) It’s just God, I think God simply decided to make me this way for a purpose. I don’t have any secret, just the normal daily routine. I have my bath in the morning, cream and moisturize myself. That’s all I do, nothing spectacular.
Was that one of your buying power to stardom?
Maybe, maybe not. Because some of my fans usually say, “Oh, you’re so beautiful. I love your hair, I love the way you interpret your roles” and all that. So, it could have added to the wide acceptance that I enjoy.
Tell me about how you realized your gifting in acting and how you got yourself into dominating Nigeria’s TV screens via Superstory.
I actually started up as a model, I’ve done a good number of modeling jobs. So, there was this day I went for an audition for a Dudu Osun job and Wale Adenuga Production was the outfit handling the audition. So there I met my boss and he was like “Wow, you look nice! Do you act?” I said “No, but I don’t mind trying because it is something I’ve always wanted to do and I think I have a good flair for it.” So he was like “Fine, you come for an audition at our office, when we have room we’ll get back to you”. So one or two occasions, I got minor roles like one or two scenes in Papa Ajasco, you know. Then I knew I was beginning to do what I really wanted to do. And for Nnenna, I’ve been working for like two years and have only appeared in two episodes in Papa Ajasco when I got a call to come pick up my script. And they were like you have to be here today because you’re my lead character. And I was like “Lead character? Are you serious?”. So when I picked up my script, it turned out to be Nnenna, and that was it.
I understand the former actors were sacked for disobeying the contract agreement. What does your own contract agreement look like, does it mean you can’t feature in other movies?
I actually don’t know anything about the occurrence. But as for me, I can pick up any movie as long as the script is good for me and I’m satisfied with the conditions. The only restriction is the brand Nnenna because the idea belongs to Wale Adenuga Productions. Nnenna was just a normal name we decided to use but we later found out that people really love Nnenna and that’s why we’ve decided to build a strong brand around it. So, I can’t act the Nnenna character outside Wale Adenuga Productions, but I could act in any other movie so far I’m not acting as Nnenna.
Aside acting, what other things do you do at Wale Adenuga Productions?
We are trying to package and build Nnenna as a brand. So right now we have a show coming up on Valentine’s day called Valentine Day With Nnenna And Friends. We actually have about five shows lined up for this year; we have Valentine edition, we have Easter edition, Children’s day edition, Independence Day edition, we also have End of the year show to close up the year.
Did you ever attend any acting school before now?
Not at all. I’ve never been to any acting school up till now, although I intend doing that sometimes later. My skills are God-given, it’s a natural thing, I just find myself doing it.
Really, so tell me how you developed your acting skills.
Sometimes when I’m alone, I look myself in front of a mirror and I just begin to do crazy things, I just imagine things and I begin to act. And my mum actually said I’ve been like that for a long time, since I was young. She said I always want to do something, I couldn’t just sit down, I just want to do something. And whenever I start doing funny things in front of a mirror, she’s always like “What’s wrong with this child!” And I’m still like that. In fact, I did something recently in my room and my dad was so scared. He was sleeping in my room and my younger sister was him. He heard me scream suddenly and he came running. He was like “What’s wrong with you”, and my sister said “That’s Aunty Yinka for you now”. I now sighed and told him I was only catching fun.
Has acting been worth your while?
It really has been fun, it’s been beautiful. The acceptance is great, people really accepted me and show me lots of love everywhere I go. Financially, I’ll say yes. But I’m still trying to make more money.
I also understand you just launched a new ride…
Common, Isaac! Well, it’s just needed at the moment.
What is your greatest source of inspiration?
Well, children are my greatest source of inspiration. I’m in love with them, I get inspired when around them. And when I see them happy, I’m happy and motivated. I want to go extra mile to make them happy. I just love kids and they also love me. In fact, the best way to appease my anger is to bring a child close to me. If I’m angry with you and I see a child at that moment, I’ll start smiling. It has happened to me so many times.
Who are your role models in Nigeria’s movie industry?
Well, I have a number of them. Genevieve Nnaji is one of them, Stella Damasus and Joke Silva to mention just a few.
You’re into modeling, acting and you still go to school, how have you been able to manage your time?
I’m not on location all the time, and modeling is not all the time. So when I’m not on location, I do modeling. And at school, I just do the best I can. In fact, I’ve been so lucky that anytime I’m on set, my school is either on strike or we’re not on session.
Some of the brands you’ve modeled for include…
I’ve modeled for Visafone, No More Cream, Dudu Osun, Petals Hair Relaxer etc
What does success mean to you?
Success is something everybody wants. For me, being successful is actually not about how much money you have, I think it’s actually more of how many lives you are able to touch. It’s about looking back and being happy about the number of lives you’ve affected. Like me, for instance, I really want to touch the lives of so many children.
What do you want to do after school?
I’ll still be acting and I’ll have more time to do something with children. I want to start something called Nnenna Children Foundation where we will be taking care of children, touching the lives of the less privileged and motherless children.
Some people say you’re really talented while others say you’re just lucky to have gone this far at this age. What’s your opinion about this?
Well, I’d say both opinions are actually right; talented and lucky. So many girls are talented but don’t have the opportunity to showcase their talents. So if some say I’m talented, thank you, if they say I’m lucky, thank God.
People say stardom naturally comes with pride. How do you manage yours?
Well I do not believe in that. It’s actually natural for people to talk; even when you’re not proud some will say you’re proud. On the other hand, when you’re famous you have to learn to be very careful because it takes a lot of discipline to maintain it. For me, I tell God all the time, when I pray I say, “God I know I’m not there yet, I’m just moving close to my destination, but this little I have already, help me so it doesn’t get into my head.” And you know ladies especially, when you do something that normally doesn’t mean anything, they’ll say “It’s because she’s a star”(General laughter!).
Your smiles can almost make a man commit, and you love to wear it always?
I just love smiling. I don’t know, I just love it, that’s the way I’ve been since childhood.
What’s your definition of love?
That word is a very very big word, it’s not something you say just like that. To me, love is sacrifice. And it doesn’t have to be between a guy and a girl, it could be my sister, it could be my mother, it could be a friend. Love is just an act of sacrifice to anybody.
Humanly speaking, what do you see yourself doing in five years?
I should be married by then, I should have stepped high in my career, I should have been able to do that NGO thing for kids.
Tell me about your family…
We’re six altogether. My father, my mother, three younger ones; two boys, two girls, I’m the first. My father is a business person and my mum runs a store. As for my immediate family, I’m happily married with a set of twins.