On June 24,one of Nigeria’s major actresses, Omotola Jalade Ekeinde, shared the joyous news on her Twitter account that she would be making her US television debut in the hit series “Hit The Floor,” which airs on VH1.
The Nigerian blogsphere and entertainment world was buzzing about what her role would be, what she would wear, what she would say and so on. Omotola starred as Akon’s date at a fundraiser in the show and radiated as she gave her only line, “thank you, girl.”
Immediately after the show aired, comments started pouring in, many of which were of negativity and ignorance. I was surprised to read things like, she had a “wakapass role’ and she devalued herself by doing the role. I would like to first ask this question to the many people that decided to post such comments. What have you done with your life lately?
I can only attest such comments to jealousy and self-inadequacy because there is no reason to belittle someone that is doing something with their life, no matter how small it is, especially in an industry that is very hard to break into.
There is a major difference between Hollywood and Nollywood and to have one of our own branch into a more experienced and creative industry is something to be applauded and not taken lightly. Nollywood is an industry that can produce 1 million movies in one year, while the American film industry may just produce a handful in one year. Why? Because quality and creativity take time. The reason why we even know top names like Mercy Johnson, Genevieve Nnaji and Omotola is because just a few years ago we could see the same ladies in the same hundreds of movies per year playing the same old home wrecker, juju-priestess, and housewife fighting her husband’s mother roles that most Nigerian movies are known for.
Fortunately, the Nigerian film industry has seen a gradual transformation in the last few years and things are getting better. However, getting a role in Nigeria will still continually be simpler than getting a role in the US because there is still so much structure that the industry needs to attain. So when an actress or even a musician of our own has been swimming in a sea of comfort for years and decides to branch out into something more difficult, it is our duty to support him or her and not bring them down with hurtful comments like, they are belittling themselves.
No! They are not belittling themselves! They are setting themselves up for greatness because it takes guts and courage to do the extraordinary. (Extraordinary actions yield extraordinary results)
In a structured industry such as the one in the US, extras work almost as many hours as some of the lead roles and even get paid at times. Many famous actors and actresses started out as extras and as walk-ons on many programs and commercials. The way to build anything in life is to start small and work your way up. People seem to easily forget that because in our country, many are given handouts and actually started from the top as opposed to the bottom (ex, people who are teachers one day and then become filthy rich the next day when they switch over to politics)
Like the pastor at my church always says, may you not be the enemy that someone else is praying should be destroyed. It is contradictory to go to our respective churches or mosques and pray constantly for progress and blessings and for anyone against our success to be destroyed, and yet come online to spew hateful and thoughtless words to others working hard to succeed in their respective industries. Granted, celebrities and entertainers put themselves out there to be critiqued by the people and there are indeed different types of fashion blunders, publicity stunts and actions that need to be questioned by reasonable people, but only when the comments are reasonable themselves and in-line with the situation at hand. And in this case, the situation at hand is one of laudable ambition.
Omotola is an inspiration to the entertainment industry and a good example of how to pursue your dreams. This was her “first” role of such as she tweeted, and she can only go higher because she has taken a leap of faith in a completely new environment.
Whether you are believing God for a good job or a big role in your industry, the best way to start is to actually first get your foot in the door. So the next time your friend tells you she wants to open up a bakery and wants to start by peddling her bicycle around Ketu with her cakes in the basket, (imagine her name is Omotola) don’t tell her she is degrading herself. Tell her that she should go for it. Offer her your help in any way you can and pray that she succeeds, because in doing so, you are sowing a seed for yourself.
Toyin Olaleye is a writer pursuing a Masters degree at the Johns Hopkins University, USA. She’s the unpublished author of “Oh! So You Are From Africa, How Come You Speak English” and is extremely passionate about Nigeria.