Saturday, 18 January 2014

Sheer Ignorance or Pure Mockery!

I'm sitting over with a friend at her friend's dinner party, almost losing my mind from the playlist of wack music pilferring the air, spoiling my mood and wondering why the hell I'm even here, when I notice a certain man had been staring at me for over 20 minutes... then he finally walks over and I'm thinking this is gonna be good conversation... So he says " You look very familiar... have we met?". I do a quick once over trying to recollect and coming back to the conclusion that we have never met, as I have a fantastic picturesque memory.

So I say "I don't believe we have met sir. I would remember. Anyway My name is Alex" then he says "Alex?" (In shock ofcourse, about my very masculine name) "So what do you do, Alex?" Then I reply "I'm an Actor"... oh yes! Right there comes the familiar snuckle. So I'm thinking it would just be the regular "oh maybe that's where I know you" instead he corrects me "Actress you mean!"

Err...Forgive me but I always introduce myself as an Actor. (Don't look at my Bio...I've decided to compromise. I will write Actress but I will say Actor) For a moment you can see them having a mental battle as to how a beautiful woman like me can get so confused with the English language. Lol. Who cares? Not me! I'm a Female Actor...Where's the gender differentiation in Doctor, Lawyer, Banker, Pastor, Teacher, Driver etc Abeg free me joor. Lol. Then he goes in for the kill. "Where do you act? Nollywood? I've never seen your movies...though I hardly watch Nigerian movies.". Hmm...hold up a second I'm about to hit this man on the head with a cooking pistle. None in sight, so I reply calmly "Yes sir, Nollywood" but in my head I'm thinking... "No Jerk, Bollywood" and I'm about to tie an india sari and do a quick item number with Salman Khan just to prove it. Duh! Lol.

Here's what, I can't count the number of times this has happened to me or the number of other actors its probably happened to. I don't blame him for not recognising me. Afterall I'm just a Small Screen Actor. But then he says "what movies have you acted in. I haven't seen you before? Do you act with Genevive and Omotola?" Err...here's the thing... If I did, he wouldn't even know cos he doesn't watch Nigerian movies, remember? He nudges me on to tell him what movies... So I say, "Snake in a monkey shadow with RMD and Denzel Washington" (hahahah just totally made that up now). And he's impressed. Idiot. Chei!

There's a part of me that's almost rolling on the floor laughing and the other part is just peeved beyond measure. Is this sheer ignorance or plain mockery? Why?

I introduced myself as an Actor not a Movie Star? What's the difference? Quite a bit. Why is that one's public repetoire as an Actor in this country can only be tied to movies? For petesake what about the hundreds of theater/stage Actors and Television Actors we have in the country? Why aren't they getting their dues? We grew up watching stars from "Days of our lives, Santa Babara, Dallas, Sanford n sons, Mirror in the Sun, Village headmaster, New masquerade, Checkmate, Behind the clouds, Palace and all the funny sitcoms" and 90% of the Actors never made it to big screen yet still became stars in their own right and appreciated for their contribution towards entertaining us.

What's this fallacy that only movie stars are considered Actors, hence the new battle for people to step upon each other or throw away their principles just to make it to the big screen like on judgement day, God will only grant us access into heaven based on our CV's. Just like in the medical profession, whether you are a gynaecologist, paedatrician, cardiovascular surgeon, re-constructive surgeon, optrician, or a basic GP, you don't introduce yourself as a Doctor and I question the integrity of that just because I'm not registered at your hospital, you're not wearing a lab coat or you have never treated me before. Like-wise in my profession. There are Movie Actors, Television Actors, Theatre Actors and The Actors who combine them all.

I don't know who's to blame, is it the media that skews these personalities into a larger than life image or the branding gurus or just our basic poor orientation/understanding of the Arts or maybe we just think Television Actors are yet to earn their respect talent wise. Don't people understand the amount of skill, dedication, patience and professionalism that goes into theatre (stage acting) or maintaining a particular character over a long stretch of period on Television.

I am not a big movie star, I am yet to be challenged by any stretch of my deep imagination as an Actor, but I can darn well say as a Talent, I am no pussy and I have cut my teeth well in the Area of Television and even more ready for bigger things now. But with that being said. I can not dis-regard my early beginnings. I can not throw away my three weeks on that reality show...what is called again...Yes! AMBO or my 6 years of playing solid characters in 9 of the best quality soap opera's of modern times in this country. I can't throw away my theatre upbringing, I can't throw away the two not-so-good movies I'm ashamed of, or the 5 that may have been a little above average and didn't hit box office because of whatever reason, not mine (abeg blame producer o) or the 3 other spectacular movies that are yet to be released. Irrespective of whether I become an A list 'Movie' star tomorrow saturating silver screen, people still forget that 70% of the movie stars in Nollywood started their careers from Television.

Why don't we have Award ceremonies celebrating Stage/Television Productions, Crew and Actors like our counterparts in Bollywood the Zee Tv Awards, Gold Rishtey, and its likes or in Hollywood, the SAG awards (Screen Actors Guild) or the Golden Globes that celebrates both Television and movie actors/productions? You mean Tina Mba (Super Story), Taiwo Ajayi Lycett, Carol King (Edge of Paradise), Juliet ibe (Us), Victor Olaotan (Tinsel), Akin Lewis (Spider), John Njamah (Fuji House of Commotion), Jude Orhoha (Fuji House of Commotion), and the many likes of Great Actors who have concentrated on doing Stage and Television will never get appreciated in recent times unless they receive an award from their old boys/old girls association or Ama-mata? Or can anyone claim, that they aren't super Talented Actors because they aren't huge movie stars? I acknowledge the void Africa Magic Viewers Choice Awards (AMVCA) is filling and I give them kudos...or even TAVA, still 3 or 4 categories thrusted is not enough for the ever growing Television Industry. Hmm... Still, we need to realise that there are lots of under ground talented working Actors who give their sweat and blood daily to interprete their roles regardless of the fact that they aren't household names because not every Actor is lucky to be received as a celebrity and being a celebrity sometimes is based on one's social circle and exposure not necessary talent. Even though some are fortunate to tie both very well, some others, mere celebrities without much talent really.

So to have people like Mr-I-know-you-somewhere constantly quiz one about one's career without giving the person a chance to sort of validate oneself, because in that very instant, they may not have matched the image they have of what An Actor should be... is somewhat annoying and bordering on mockery.

We have short films, feature films, Tv-movies, Soap opera's, Sit-coms and Radio Drama's and in my opinion anyone who re-enacts a character on any of these platforms and gets paid for it in money (or kind hahahah) is an Actor. Many a times I have heard a few persons refer to someone as a hungry actor or a 'wanna be'. Please which Actor isn't hungry or a wanna be?...and I don't mean that in a derogatory way. 98% of the time we're on set/location, we are trying to be someone else for your own entertainment and then we have to listen to silly people make derogatory comments like that. Anyway on behalf of the many who sit at the National Theatre everyday in lagos waiting for a breakthrough... or those constantly up and about auditions after auditions and may not be lucky enough to grace the cover of magazines, or have the juicy details of their private lives splattered all over newspapers or even the established few who may never earn endorsement deals...Are not any less an Actor...So how you treat them is the real reflection of the regard or dis-regard you have for our profession, entertainment value and its representatives at large whether celebrated or not. Stop being ignorant or damn you! Wink! Have an Awesome Weekend Lovelies!

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