By Kemi Ashefon (Punch Newspaper)
Funke Akindele. Her name surely rings a bell. Not one given to much airs around her, she triggers off the interview by saying, “I am too down-to-earth, unassuming and I remind myself that no matter the glitz and glamour, I am still Funke Akindele.”
So, what’s new about her? Nothing, except for the fact that she is just back from New York, United States of America, where she went to have her movie, The return of Jenifa, premiered.
“I was scared before the premiere kicked off,” she recalls. Why? “I was wondering if what I had would match the expectations of the people coming to see the movie. I ran to the back of the hall and was almost shivering when it started but when I saw people laughing, with eyes glued to the screen, I knew my fears were over.”
You would not help but laugh at some of her jokes as the interview progresses. But the Ikorodu born graduate of law, who chose to be an actress instead, would not laugh at certain experiences she has gone through in her few years on stage.
“These are painful and unforgettable incidents which could have thrown me off balance,” she laments. According to Funke, who is the second in a family of four children, the media, which has celebrated her over the years, also contributed to some of her hurts.
“I was shocked to read an article that I was arrested at Heathrow for a drug related offence! Me? Drugs! Never! I was in my room in Lagos and had never travelled to London. Even whenever I did, my route was not Heathrow. I called my publicist, called everyone I knew and started telling them I was not arrested. It was not a funny experience at all,” she recalls.
She got different doses of such write-ups — alleged dates with different men and lots more. “There were moments I stayed in my room and cried. When you are in show business and you have reached a certain pedestal, you lose confidence of opening up to people on your challenges. If you do, you are the gist on every lips and journalists feast on it. So, I end up telling my hurts to God and nobody.”
That brings you to her world of being tagged a celebrity. Her story of fame would not tire you as she says: “It robs you of privacy — everyone wants to know what is happening to you, your dates, they want to have you at their parties, they want you to smile 24-7 even if you are in foul moods, they want you to be perfect and everyone believes you are not just human!
“I was at the airport sometime back and a woman came to say hello. Of course, I greeted her politely. Again, she came and I did same thing. Again, she came and I was still my smiling self. This went on like 20 times and she brought many people to see me! When it was time to board the plane, I was on a queue and suddenly had a slap on my back! It was the woman and she said, ‘Abebelube’ (Yoruba word for a more-than-smart person) and laughed. Was I hurt? I just grinned and said ‘thank you ma.’ The normal Funke Akindele would have reacted but I just reminded myself of the status. But I am human! I remember having fever, went to the clinic, was asked to run a test and as my doctor attended to me, another doctor passed by and said in everyone’s hearing that, ‘Funke Akindele came for a pregnancy test!’ Though he was joking, what if those people picked it up and the rumour spread? Even if I came for a pregnancy test, am I not entitled to my privacy? It is not too enviable a world.”
Born of parents she describes as ‘very strict’, her growing up years would not have been better. She reminisces: “I was always getting into trouble and my mother, a gynaecologist, was very strict. I was more of a tomboy and never saw myself as a girl. My father, an educationist, would not suffer fools gladly. I was like any other girl next door. It was fun and I would have remained in the comfort of my home instead of the public eye.”
It’s obvious Funke makes all efforts to retain her celebrity status by looking glamorous. “I am not finding it funny,” she says chuckling. “Naturally, I am a jeans-on-t-shirt person but now I cannot do that always. If I just wanted to make my hair, not far from my home, I have to dress up! There was a day I went to make my hair in jeans and ballet shoes and when I entered, all eyes were on me and some said I was too ordinary-looking! Even if you are not comfortable in killer heels, you wear them on red carpet! Now, I have a stylist who is in charge of what I wear, how I wear and where I wear them to. She flew with me to New York and helped with my look. Not an easy lifestyle and I see it as vain.”
My fashion fetish? I can die for good shoes. I love Vivienne Westwood a lot and Christian Louboutin. I wear any good shoes and not really out for designer labels.”
Asked how much she has spent on clothes or any fashion accessories and she answers, “I buy what I like and can’t really say that I have spent any amount on any accessories. I have clothiers who give great discounts and I also buy things anytime I am abroad.”
She confesses to be ‘doing something’ on her figure. “Even when I am trim, my tummy isn’t. I am suffering from occupational hazards because I eat late while on location and that makes your tummy bigger. Now, I have stopped eating after 7pm.”
Don’t think she is very single and shopping for a mate, as reported in some local magazines. “I have a man in my life,” she reveals. Though not emphatic on any wedding bells soon, Funke, who also writes her scripts, produces and directs her films, says: “I was surprised at that write-up because when the reporter came to me and said that my fans wanted to know when I would be married; I said, he should tell my fans to keep praying for me to get the best.”
With the Lagos premiere of The Return of Jenifa coming up, she urges youths to embrace creativity. “Anything can happen in the hands of a creative youth and that is what I always emphasise in my films. You need not sell body to get anywhere in life, make use of your potential,” she says.