Foluke Daramola is a familiar face in the Nigerian movie industry. She also gained prominence recently for the roles she is playing in celebrating veterans in the entertainment space in Nigeria, through her foundation – PARA Africa. The Ekiti State-born actress, in this interview by FEMI OGUNTAYO, sheds more light on her passion for celebrating and taking care of veterans in the industry, among other issues. Excerpts:
What’s new with your brand ‘Foluke Daramola’?
What is new with my brand is that I work more on my NGO, especially with my veteran actors that I am taking care of. I have been acting more and I also added another feather to my cap recently, which is my restaurant and bar. Very soon, I am coming out with a new TV series which I called ‘Ogba Mecho’, which is about a female mechanic in a female mechanic workshop and all that happens in the mechanic workshop.
What prompted you to start a series like that?
What prompted me is that I met a young female mechanic who was very good at what she was doing. That was very different and then I wanted people to see it from a perspective that you don’t have to be a male to be able to excel in what you are doing. A lot of people also have this mentality that only illiterates are mechanics, it shouldn’t be. We have some people that read mechanical engineering, and they would just repair people’s cars and all that, even though theirs may be different from the normal roadside mechanics, but it is definitely better. That was what I thought about that. So, for me, I like ingenuity in whatever I am doing. I don’t like to go the same way everyone is going. I like to put a difference into whatever I am doing.
How soon should we be expecting this series on the screens?
It is at the editing stage right now and by the last quarter of this year, it would be on air.
There was a time you were no more prominent in Nigerian movies; was there a time you went on a break?
For me, it wasn’t really a break; I just traveled out of the country to have a two-year course. So in-between it, it was in and out for me.
Tell us about your interest in taking care of the Nollywood veterans.
I will like to put it straight, that it is not all of them that are hungry and do not have money. Some of them have very rich and wealthy kids and relatives that take care of them. What I have passion to do is to be able to keep them relevant. How do I mean? I recently had a birthday party for Abija. After I had a birthday party for him, they started using him for skits, series, and all that, people remembered him. Now, that is my own goal. Also, all these older people, the moment you don’t call them for movies any longer, they could fall into depression. Even we the younger generation, the moment you feel you are not relevant anymore or not being called to movie sets, automatically, you feel less of yourself, which can cause depression as well. A lot of the older generation actors are not social media compliant like us that are younger, but these are the people that gave us the platforms that we are harnessing now.
So, my passion is to celebrate these people and bring them back so that people can actually see that they are still bubbling and enjoying themselves.
There was a time I visited Uncle Kola Oyewo in his home in Ife. I told him “Daddy, I know you are not hungry.” He has about four cars parked in his compound. But the fact that I went to see him and we chatted, that made him feel special and celebrated. That is what my foundation stands for. For instance, we are planning to celebrate a music legend, I won’t mention his name yet so that someone else won’t go and use my concept before me. But I just want to go and celebrate him because I have watched him and I am always excited seeing him and he is not hungry, it is just my own way of celebrating him. I don’t believe it is only when they die that you now start celebrating them. Look at when Alabi Yellow died, he was celebrated on Channels TV. When he was alive I don’t think I ever saw him featured on Channels TV. I just believe we need to bring these older actors back into the picture so that they know they have not been forgotten.
Have you been getting support from fellow actors in the industry or even people outside the industry on this project?
Some of my colleagues in the industry have supported me in one way or the other. Some of them in the Diaspora have sent stuffs to me and I distributed them among the veterans. I don’t have any external funding majorly, just that when I had an event; the Lagos State government supported it. It is not about the money though; it is just about the passion I have for this movement, if not for the passion, maybe I would have been tired by now.
As a successful mother, how were you able to manage the klieglights with catering for your family, especially your children?
At some point in my life, I had to dedicate my life to bringing my children up; there was a time I was not doing more than one movie per month because I was taking care of my children. But now, my children, I can say, have reached maturity stage in their lives when I can relax. For example, my children are in the US, but I can tell you they speak more Yoruba than you can ever imagine. It is because of the effort I had put in training them. I have imbibed the right value and culture in them that even with a blink of my eye; they know what I am talking about. Also, one needs to walk the talk. For instance, if I don’t want my children to draw a tattoo or pierce their nipples, I won’t even do that myself. So they won’t have a reference.
It has been a long time coming for you; do you consider yourself to be there yet?
I am just a little bit above 40 years, so I am not even close to there yet. I still have a lot of plans in front of me. I have plans to be in Hollywood and also to shoot pictures that I have in my brain. I am still striving towards perfection.
We know you are from Ekiti State, what are your close ties to your state of origin?
Let me put this straight. The governor and First Lady of Ekiti State are not people-oriented. What do I mean by that? When I started my foundation, through which I celebrate veterans, I went to the first lady, I attended two of her events, I spoke with her about it. She was so non-committal and I was like, why? Why do we always do this? That was why Barack and Michele Obama would always share a very cordial relationship with their citizens and the people around them. I remember when Mimiko was governor of Ondo State, he was opened-armed, I am from Ekiti but it is so sad that at the end of the day, it is an enclosed situation that we have in Ekiti. What kind of relationship would the governor and his wife say they have with celebrities and humanitarian projects? And when these celebrities die, they would be the first to start celebrating them. I learnt President Buhari mourned Sound Sultan, what happened to the likes of Larry Williams? He is still alive. Before Aworo died, what was the impact that was made? I share a relationship with Erelu Bisi Fayemi, I went to her and nothing came out of it. That is why I look at it like when you are in a position to do; you are supposed to impact lives because that is what we will be remembered for.
Are you saying this because she didn’t support your project?
Among other things, let me tell you this, this is not my project. What I am doing should have been taken up from just my foundation to be a national thing. If it was something that had to do with me directly, it is another thing entirely. Nigeria is well recognised globally because of our entertainment industry, these older people who have sacrificed to make this possible should be celebrated.
On a lighter note, what are the best moments in your career?
That would be when I had my first movie and I was paid N1.5 million in 1998 or thereabouts. It was a lot of money then. My mum insisted that I didn’t get a car then, because I was still in school. Also, when I had the opportunity to have a handshake with the wife of the president and I was also given an award.
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