We have all had a fair share of life’s blows on us all. Somehow, we find solace keeping it in the deepest recesses of our heart and sulking all the way about it whenever such thoughts come across our mind. Such is not the case of the beautiful actress Juliana Olayode who is super bold to tell her story in order to inspire young people. She shared her experiences with Genevieve Magazine’s Jeffrey Oparah, talking about her surprise journey into acting, her experience filming Jenifa’s diary and the bulk of criticisms she has received as an ambassador for sexual purity. Enjoy it…
Womanhood is one of the most amazing gifts, do you share that sentiment?
The gift of womanhood is totally amazing, it’s indeed a gift to the world. I cannot imagine a world without women and I’m sure you cannot either. It’s amazing how God blessed the world with women, first of all he created a man and he felt that it is not good for this man to be alone and then a woman came in; and then through a woman, we have a large number of people in the world today. So, the gift of womanhood is totally amazing. A world without a woman is an empty world.
In line with the theme of the international women’s day, which particular area do you think women should “press for progress” most?
I cannot say that women should press for progress in a particular area most because every woman has her strength so I cannot say we should face this direction. But I can say that if a woman finds her strength and says “oh, I want to go into politics, chase after it; if you want to go into business, chase after it whatever it is a woman thinks she’s capable of doing; and you know if a woman has the ability to do a lot of things, she’ll do it successfully. So if you know your strength, go for it and I think women should support women in politics as well because I believe that women will do a great job.
Do you agree that being a public figure (an actor) leaves you vulnerable especially as a woman? How do you straighten the curve?
Of course it does. You know, all of a sudden a lot of people feel like they have a right to talk about you; they have a right to say what they want to say in the name of voicing their own opinion, perhaps they feel like you’re a superhuman the moment you become a celebrity; I think most people just forget that you’re just like them, they forget it’s your work that puts you out there but for actors, actresses and entertainers generally, their work is such that they have to be out there. People just expect that you’re superhuman, you don’t make mistakes,” you’re my role model why did you do this”; like I did not beg you to choose me as a role model. I have my flaws, there are times when I’m down, there are times when I’m happy I mean I’m as human as you are. People say all sorts on social media and I think it’s really bad. If they put themselves in certain people’s shoes, I think they’ll talk less and be sensitive in what they write about.
Take us through your journey into acting.
I started acting immediately after high school, I didn’t even know I was ever going to be an actress I thought I would sing because that was what I loved to do even though I was in the drama club when I was in secondary school but it wasn’t something that I thought I’d major in. So after school, I got an audition notice from my friend. Actually I was on my way to choir rehearsals that evening, she was like “there’s an audition somewhere today, would you come”? So I didn’t want to go but of course she persuaded me and I found myself in the place; there were a lot of people there; people dressed as though they came for a beauty pageant (laughs). I was just there with my scarf and my slippers; I thought to myself that it was an audition anyway. When it was my turn to audition, I got the script and all of a sudden my eyes failed me, I couldn’t see again because I was so nervous. Although, the judges were nice enough to give me time to go through the script, so I went through the script and did it a second time, it wasn’t so good and they gave me an opportunity to do it again which I did and they said “ok we’ll get back to you. About a month after, I got a call that I had got the role and I was like “are you serious “! So that was how I started acting professionally. It was me, myself and my diary; that was the title of the series.
Jenifa was your revelation especially in this industry, what was it like being on set with Funke Akindele?
Amazing! Aunty Funke is an amazing woman, she’s hardworking, she’s beautiful, she’s strong, she’s versatile, I mean she can do almost everything on set, she can be the hairstylist, she can be the makeup artist, she can be the costumer, you know anything just to make the production move fast. So, it was really amazing working with Aunty Funke; I didn’t believe I would be on set working with her as a friend. So, for the first season, especially the first episode, I was really nervous; I kept missing my lines you know working alongside this person I’ve always admired; so it wasn’t so easy for me to get into character in the first and second scene in the first season, but then she helped me and the director talked to me like “just forget she’s a celebrity and just imagine that she’s your friend because she’s doing her job and you need to do yours; so that was it. It was a really amazing experience.
How old are you?
Was there ever a time in your career that you were criticized unjustly for a decision that you took?
Yes there was. When I wrote my book, some people for reasons best known to them had their own review about the book (laughs), you know there was this hit on social media that “ah! she lied that she’s a virgin blah blah”, it was tough on social media then; but I knew that nothing was forever especially gists like that, it will definitely come to pass just that during the period when it’s still hot on social media, you just have to learn to take it in. It was so difficult, I had to answer so many questions as to why I lied about being a virgin because I’m an advocate for sexual purity and I’ve always be an advocate for sexual purity even before I started acting on Jenifa’s diary. Some people said that I was trying to live up to the life of the character I played in Jenifa’s diary because Toyosi in Jenifa’s diary is a virgin; it wasn’t even about the fact that I believe in sexual purity, it’s a cause I’ve been advocating for a very long time. The big break came and I started having several followers on Instagram. So the first time I posted something about virginity day; because it’s a day when we celebrate virgins and a day when we tell people that you can remain a virgin; that virginity is not an old school thing and it’s not a taboo to stay sexually pure. It’s just a day when different people come on board to share their real life experiences, perhaps how they were abused and chose to stay pure; how they’ve been keeping themselves regardless of what the society says about virginity. So it’s just something we do every second Saturday of the month of June. So I decided to say something about it and then everybody was like why is she talking about it, there’s a lot going on in the world, people are dying, people are suffering why is it virginity you’re talking about? I was like every man has a cause they believe in; this is what I believe in and what I’m advocating. I felt because I’m an advocate for purity, a lot of people took it that I am a virgin; and I know that I made a mistake twice or three times when I did not expect somebody to ask that question and then somebody just asks are you a virgin? And there and then it was a Live interview and I was like “oh yeah”, I didn’t think about it, I just said it and you know you can’t take back your words. At some point, I didn’t want to go for interviews again because I know that if I go for interviews, they’ll always ask me why I talk about sexual purity and somehow they want to know if I’m a virgin or not and it wasn’t a story I wanted to share at the time; so the book came out and I told the truth that “I’m not a virgin” but just an advocate for sexual purity. As a Christian, I believe it’s the right thing to do.
What is the weirdest thing a fan has done to you?
Call me ugly. I was somewhere in Ibadan and I think a lot of people don’t know that I’m Yoruba. So there were a lot of people who wanted to take selfies and you know how some people just expect that you don’t get tired; so I was taking a lot of pictures with people and I couldn’t smile again. And a girl came and was like can I get a picture and I told her to wait so I can put myself together. The other girl now told her in Yoruba that “ko tie fine wo bo se ri (she’s not even beautiful, look at how she looks). She didn’t know that I understood what they said; and then she came again and still took the picture and then when she looked at me, she said e woju e bose to bi (look at how big her eyeballs are) (laughs) . It’s so funny!
50 million Naira or Wisdom?
Body odour or mouth odour?
(Laughing out loud) I don’t even know which one to pick. Body odour is terrible, mouth odour is worse because you can’t even talk to people. Maybe body odour (laughs).
Breast job, Butt job
Where will you be on a typical Friday night?
Church vigils (laughs) if I’m not working and there’s a programme in church, perhaps I’ll be there. If there’s nothing, I’ll be in the house relaxing.
The day you’ll never forget?
(Laughs) oh my goodness. The day I’ll never forget was the day I was disvirgined. If you want to know the full details, you can get my book. There was no blood. And so I was so confused as to how I didn’t see blood so I was wondering if I was a virgin or not. So the trauma and all; I didn’t know who to tell about it, it was very horrible. Bad enough that I was disvirgined and I didn’t see blood because I’ve seen in the movies that when somebody is being disvirgined, you see blood and people talked about seeing blood, how come mine was different. So I didn’t recover from it until I was at a conference organized for women and then a woman started talking about how some virgins don’t see blood and that was how the healing process started for me.
Thank you Juliana for turning up
Thank you for having me.