“Yvonne Nelson, I like your medicine…”
We love the way her name rhymes, we love watching her act on our screens, we love to hear the interesting tales about her life and career. It won’t be too far fetched to say that Ghanaian actress Yvonne Nelson is one of the most talked about celebrities in Nigeria.
Born in Accra, Ghana she participated in the Miss Ghana beauty pageant at the age of 19 which opened the doors to her acting career. The graduate of Human Resource Management from the Central University College, Ghana is also a movie producer and has starred in various movies including ‘Single & Married’, ‘Heart Of Men’ and ‘House Of Gold’.
Last year, her relationship with Nigerian music star Iyanya brewed a lot of media attention when it ended. Since then, both parties have refused to talk about it until when she gave BellaNaija an exclusive during her last visit to Lagos. At her hotel room at Raddison Blu, Victoria Island, Yvonne was a warm host as she opened up on her past relationship, her life, career and more.
You have become a regular face on the Nigerian social scene lately and we are happy to see you again. What brings you to Lagos this time around?
I came for two things – Mai Atafo’s Bridal show and Zaron. I was recently appointed the Face of Zaron Hair & Makeup. I did a photo shoot and a short commercial so very soon Nigerians are going to see more of me in Zaron.
How was your experience at the Bridal Show? What did it feel like to be dressed up as a bride?
It felt so real. We were wearing wedding gowns! I had a really great time and I had two grooms, Chris Attoh and Banky W.
Judging by the frequency of your visits, you must have developed a fondness for Nigeria by now.
I love Nigeria. Sometimes when I’m here, I don’t even want to go back home. Nigerians are very warm and straightforward. They see you, and if they like you, they approach you and take pictures and that is really cool. My Nigerian name is Damilola, I just love how it sounds.
There must be more to you apart from acting and modeling. What else takes up your time professionally?
There was a stage in my career, in 2010 when I was having some challenges. Some people were really on my case in Ghana so I decided to open a shop. People love my fashion sense and every time I dress, I usually get good compliments so I decided to make some money out of it. Anything you see in my shop is something that I can wear, that is why I named it YN’s closet and it’s doing really well.
There were rumours during that period that you were actually banned from acting in Ghana. Is this true?
I don’t think anyone in this universe can ban anyone. If you have a talent and you act, can someone stop you from acting? They can’t!
So what really happened then?
People kiss ass in my industry in Ghana, I don’t know about here. Sometimes, when they are not happy, they can’t say they’re not. I’m a producer now and I know that if the crew or actors need some basic things like food, I need to provide. If that is not done, you need to voice out but when you do, they say you’re being arrogant. That is what happened with me, I had to voice out my feelings and the next minute, the producer said he was going to tell some committee or association and they are going to ban me. But there was no ban because I don’t have an official letter to that effect.
You’ve bounced back since then and now you’re into movie production. Tell me about the movies you’ve produced so far.
I produced the first one in 2011 called ‘The Price’. I had a lot of challenges when I was producing that movie because when it got to the editing bench, part of it got stolen. They were actually trying to sabotage me so we had to reshoot. I didn’t want that to hold me back so I produced my second movie called ‘Single & Married’ and it became the biggest movie in Ghana. Then I produced a third one ‘House Of Gold’ which has a very interesting cast and story line. I actually just released ‘The Price’ this year. We’re working on the fourth one.
You featured some Nigerian music stars in ‘House Of Gold’. How was their performance?
Ice Prince and Omawumi were amazing. Omawumi especially was really great. I’d be doing the premiere of House of Gold in Lagos soon so Nigerians would have a chance to see it.
Your role in the movie ‘Heart Of Men’ caused quite a stir in Ghana especially with the movie poster which was quite provocative. There is also a reputation in Ghana for producing soft porn movies. What are your thoughts on this?
I’m not the script writer neither am I the director but I was comfortable with the script that is why I acted in it. Nobody was nude in the movie, it’s just that people were not used to a poster like that. On a general note, I can’t defend all the producers or directors in Ghana but I know for a fact that it got to a point that producers were taking advantage of that sex thing and it wasn’t good. They said “people want to see naked people, people want to see skin” so they were just overdoing it. I’m happy that I’ve been very selective with all my roles. I haven’t done any nude role and I don’t intend to.
What kind of upbringing did you have back home in Ghana?
I was raised by my Mum, a single parent and she did an amazing job. She is still doing an amazing job. It was very hard for me to leave the house because I’m the last born and she is my best friend, I tell her everything. Even when I have a heart break, she is the first person I talk to. I grew up like any average Ghanaian child.
How did you find your way into the movie industry?
Acting started for me when I was in Level 100 but before that, I did Miss Ghana when I was 19. I never went for any auditions. I was discovered by this same guy who had issues with me in 2010. He saw me somewhere where I went to get lunch and he approached me, telling me they were doing some casting for a movie. He convinced me to come to the movie set, they gave me a costume and a script to read from and that is how it started.
Sometime last year, you were quite emotional on Twitter when you supposedly broke up with a Nigerian music star. That incident has been shrouded with lots of cover-ups. Could you tell me what really happened?
I think it’s time my fans get to know the whole truth so I’m going to let it all out. I dated one person here, he’s in the industry. There were too many lies in the relationship. I found out a whole lot of things and I just felt like he took advantage of me.
Why did you go on Twitter to express your emotions?
I’m human, I’m not like a robot or anything. I just wanted the whole world to know what I was going through and I just wanted them to know that I was done with the relationship.
Did you actually break up with him on Twitter?
I didn’t break up on Twitter. I just tweeted how I was feeling that very moment.
I had an interview with Iyanya shortly after that Twitter rant and his words were “She didn’t mention my name so I don’t know anything about it. I’ve never told anyone that I was dating anybody.” Aren’t we talking about the same person here?
He would say that because he was wrong. His team is also trying to protect his fan base and I don’t blame him for denying anything. It’s him and his career, that’s OK.
How long did the two of you date and how would you describe the relationship?
We dated for 7 to 8 months. We had something and I thought it was special, like he was a wonderful guy but it was all lies. He had other girls and other things he was doing. Aside the actress that was in the picture, there were a lot more. That is how bad it is. We were in a relationship and he lied throughout and he was able to do all those things because I wasn’t living in Nigeria. But aside from the distance, I feel if you’re a genuine person and you’re loyal, you would still not do that.
Is this actress you’re talking about actually Tonto Dikeh?
I feel it’s disrespectful to start mentioning other people’s names. I am talking about Iyanya because we had a thing, I don’t want to bring in a third person. There were a lot of names that people know. There was a girl from South Africa, I’m not going to mention names but she was part of Big Brother Africa last year.
Most people only got to know that you and Iyanya were dating after you broke up. Were you deliberately being secretive about it?
I also don’t believe in putting my relationships in the faces of people. We both had our careers and were trying to protect our fan base and that’s cool. But if you go through my Instagram page, you’d see a couple of pictures of us together. I wasn’t shy about anything but he could not say he’s dating Yvonne Nelson because he had different people he was seeing so it was very hard for him to bring it out.
What did the experience teach you?
There are some things that you don’t get to learn in school; people can’t advice you, you won’t even listen. You just have to experience it to learn. I have no regrets that I went through it, it would have happened anyway. We are all human beings. We fall in love once in a while but if it doesn’t work out, that’s OK.
Have you moved on since then?
I have! It happened last year but I’ve moved on. I’ve been working hard, been producing movies. I still listen to his music, I love his album. I love the Track 1 with MI and I love, ‘I Got It’. He is a very talented guy, I always have goose bumps on my body when he sings.
Aside from the music, what else was the attraction?
You can’t really explain when you love somebody. It’s everything. It was just something that I felt and I can’t explain. It was love, I really really loved him and he knows that.
How do you feel about him now and what message would you like to pass on to him if you had the chance?
Iyanya is such an amazing person but I just feel he needs to be more honest and be a man of his words. It’s not good if he takes advantage of women. My Mum always says any man who takes advantage of women won’t end up well. It’s Karma, it’s going to come back to you. He should treat women fairly and he should be an honest person. It’s been a while though, I haven’t seen him. He is doing amazing things in his career and I wish him luck.
Since then, there have been other reports and speculations of you in new relationships, the latest one being Dammy Krane. How true is this?
Honestly, I don’t know where these stories come from. If I take a picture with somebody or I do a Keek with the person, the next minute I’m dating the person. Come on, it’s not fair! I am very single, as a matter of fact, I have trust issues. I don’t trust men easily and I am not psychologically ready for any relationship now. The last one was so bad that I just want to chill.
You shared a cover on Complete Fashion magazine shortly after the break up where both of you spoke about love. Was this just a coincidence?
I did my shoot in Ghana and that was before I met Iyanya but my cover didn’t come out until the whole controversy thing. If you look at the pictures, I was a little bigger than this, slightly chubby.
That’s exactly what my next question is about. You’ve lost so much weight recently. Did you deliberately lose the weight?
Yeah I did. It’s because I wanted to do a bit of modeling as well. I had phone calls from London, I was in Pride Magazine in London, I was shooting with skinny models so I had to drop the weight. And also, I started living a very healthy life, I cut down a lot of things and I gym every day. It’s partly for my health and partly for other things I wanted to do. Also, I played the role of a model in House Of Gold so I had to lose some weight.
By African standards, you weren’t even considered fat.
Yes, but surprisingly I was a Size 10 – 12. My hip was 42 before but now it’s 39. It was just something I had to do for the movie role and photo shoot. I’m not sick.
You are one African celebrity who has been photographed so many times in a bikini. Why do you seem to love wearing bikinis?
Like I always say, I’m not a night person. I don’t party, I don’t club, I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, I’m very boring. The only place I get to hang out is at the beach. I love going to the beach with good friends, people who make me laugh. I have over 50 bikinis and every time I go to the beach, I wear one and take a picture and when I put it on Instagram, the bloggers take it. I’m just living my life. I hang out at the beach a lot, that’s what makes me happy.
I’m inspired by your Glaucoma Foundation. Tell me more about it.
My grand mum inspired me to start the Yvonne Nelson Glaucoma Foundation and I did in 2010. She had Glaucoma and she ended up getting blind and she died. We were very ignorant at that time, we just associated it with old age. I started the foundation to create awareness about Glaucoma in Ghana. Ghana and Nigeria seem to have the second highest rates of Glaucoma in the whole world. The bad thing about this disease is that it’s a silent blinding disease. It is usually hereditary so if your parents or relatives have Glaucoma, there is a possibility that you might have it. It has to do with high pressure on the optic nerve of the eye so if the pressure is not controlled, some fluid enters it and it could make you go blind. If you are reading this, please go and check your eyes, check your pressure.
Tell me something about you that most people don’t know.
I am so down to earth and simple. I’m very happy Keek is there so people can see the real me, my natural side. In my videos, I dance and goof around with my friends. If I’m not shooting a movie or traveling, I’m always at home. But I love shopping, that makes me happy.
You seem to be a big fan of Louis Vuitton. I can see at least two LV bags around you (a suitcase and a laptop bag).
I am but I changed recently. I’m into Gucci and Chanel now. And I love my Louboutins.
Are you a big fan of designer labels?
With dresses, I can wear anything. But I believe your bags and your shoes should stand out.
What influences your style?
Nothing, really. I don’t follow trends. I just go to a shop, I see something I like and I buy it. I think you should know your body structure, and just know what works for you and stick to it.
It was great chatting with Yvonne and from BellaNaija, we wish her the very best!
Single & Married Trailer
House Of Gold Trailer