Bhaira McWizu made inroads into the Nigerian movie industry when she won the third edition of the Nigerian Breweries - sponsored Amstel Malta Box Office (AMBO) competition.
Also an hotelier and Real Estate dealer, this actress talks with OVWE MEDEME on a wide range of issues, including her rumoured pregnancy, the state of the nation among other things
WHAT was 2011 like?
2011 was a cocktail of so many things, the victories, the triumphs, and then there was the down part where I had some people who were close to me who fell ill and it was just chaotic because it looked like I was going to lose everything. I realised then that life is more than material things; it is more than career. When you have a family, the bond there is strong.
Looking back, between the good and bad times, which outweighed the other in 2011?
I would speak from a gratitude point of view. I think the good outweighed the other, but thinking about the bad part, it was so depressing. It had to do with life. Someone close to me was ill with cancer and I spent time in the hospital caring for this person. Everything stopped for me. Even when I was shooting, I couldn't think. I just wanted to go back and take care of her but God was good. God came through for us.
Nigeria appears to have started this year on a wrong footing. With all the setbacks, how do you see the year turning out?
The year has to be fantastic. There is no other way. If care is not taken, it will take something really bad to happen for Nigeria to become better, and I am hoping that will not be the case. From the way things are going, it is really getting to that crescendo where things will really get worse than it already is. But I am praying and hoping that someone, especially someone from the leadership part of Nigeria, can do something and save this country especially from Boko Haram. It started like a joke, and before we knew it, it had escalated. Nigeria needs to take things serious.
People are dying. It is not just about the statistics; these are human beings we are talking about. It is just terrible.
Personally, what are your plans for the year?
I am working on myself. It is a new year and I intend not to rush into anything whatsoever. Of course it is more about films and the arts; wherever the good wind leads me.
Why the choice of the arts, especially knowing that it places you on the spotlight?
The part about placing me on the spotlight; I have no hand in. If they don't talk about me, I guess it will make my job a lot easier. Then again, it comes with the territory. There is nothing I can do about that. What I do enjoy is getting a good script, doing my thing and knowing that it will change someone's life or that it will entertain and make someone happy. Like real estate, I didn't want a job that is nine-to-five. I had it and it was depressing, but when I started acting, I found out that I was free. I felt like I was in the zone, so I knew that it had to be that. Every other thing will come together.
Would you say that participating in AMBO has anything to do with your success rating in the industry?
I don't know how I can rack my brains around that. AMBO gave it to me. That is the 'koko' of the matter. I probably would not be where I am today without AMBO. Whether I would be at a higher or a lower level, I do not know, but one thing is sure, I was determined to act. I was determined to make something of my life and my talent. I really can't answer the question, but I can say that AMBO helped me. I think they did a good job of strengthening my career.
Of recent, rumours have been making the rounds that you are married and heavy with child. How true is this?
They have always asked me whether I am married or pregnant. Obviously I am not pregnant. As for whether I am married or not, I can't talk about that. I prefer not to talk about it.
Is there a particular reason you are being secretive?
I am not being secretive about my relationship status. It has nothing to do with secrecy. It is just a part of my life that is entirely mine. The point is, there are rumours and there are some truths to the rumours but I am not just going to talk about it.
What if young chaps see you around and start making passes at you?
Body language is everything. If you are not getting any green light, you will know what to do. Then, you will know whether I am single or I am not
Career-wise, would you say you are there?
God forbid that I would be there at this point. I don't pray to see that time any time soon. I like to go through all the rigours. I like to improve. I like to be appreciated. I like to dream of bigger things and do better things. I am not in a hurry. That is the truth of the matter.
For the benefit of those who perceive acting as being all about glamour, would you care to share the downside?
I can't speak on a general level but one of the dark sides is that I operate in a career where everybody talks about you. As an actress, you lose your privacy. Because it is our job to entertain people, there are some things that people just want to know more about us, and we can't stop them. Aside that, you can also get to the point where you allow the fame to get into your head. Everybody wants a piece of you and then you forget the real things about life which include family, love, helping other people and all that. I think that is one of it.
In your view, what would you say is the present state of this industry?
There was a time when everyone was complaining about everything and then the movies stopped for a while which was very good. All of a sudden, small groups of people started doing things and getting it right, knowing the ropes and doing things properly. It is a young industry and we cannot expect too much. We are getting to that point where we can say yes, Nollywood has arrived, even though we are not fully there yet. We are doing good stuff. Today people go to the cinemas to watch home videos. I find that impressive.
Are you working on any project at the moment?
One of the movies I starred in will premiere in February, this Valentine. It is called C7, which means the 7th Commandment, 'Thou Shall Not Commit Adultery'. It is a fantastic movie. I got to play Hajara, a very silly and playful woman who is pitched alongside Stephanie Okereke. Things happened, someone gets shot, the police come in and stuff like that.
What would you say the art has taken from you?
This job is not easy as people may think. I am not talking about the fact that it is really really competitive. I am talking about the fact that if you are a serious artiste and you like your job, you like to be punctual, you like to do stuff that people admire, it is not easy. It can get really tedious and really painful. Compared to a nine-to-five job, sometimes, you just want to opt for the other. You have to work at odd hours and you still have to look good.
How profitable is the job?
It is very profitable on so many levels. I am being recognized, I get paid well and I can afford the things that I want. Life can be better though.
Recently, the country was thrown into turmoil by the removal of fuel subsidy. What is your take on the issue?
Subsidy removal is practical. It is good for our country, but then again, there are so many things that are good for this country. Most important of them is the removal of bad leadership. If we are to make a list of the things that we need to do for this country, subsidy removal should be at the end. When we have removed the extravagance in government, then we can start talking. I don't understand why they really need such huge figures to run the government. One person's loot can take care of everything. And then we buy the expensive fuel, we spend it on bad roads, traffic and all that. There is so much layer of corruption that even if the government wants to do something good for this country, no one is buying it anymore. It doesn't make sense. We feel ripped off. That is my opinion.
Are you considering contesting for a political position anytime soon?
That is even worse than a nine-to-five job. It is too restrictive but I am considering something close to that. Something that has to do with nation building is what interests me.
Who is Bhaira?
Bhaira is one person who likes to take things easy. Life is simple. I stay close to my friends. I take my job seriously, I like to love, and I like the good things of life.
As an actress, how did you end up in the Hospitality and Real Estate businesses?
It is almost the same thing as the art in the sense that you don't need an office to perform in those fields. They are lucrative jobs. My mum was into Real Estate and whenever I am free, I like to give her a helping hand and of course learn and increase my creative abilities. It started out as being a charitable thing, trying to give back to her for all the things she has done for me. But it got to a point where I realised that there is money to be made from the trade.
Are you very attached to your mum?
Who isn't? Of course I am attached to a healthy level. There is a point where you know you need to stand on your own, do things for yourself and think with your own head. On that, I am attached to my mother. My father is late so my mother is very important to me.
Is the demise of your father responsible for the attachment you have to your mum?
She has always been there through the good and the bad times. When I was at the AMBO house, she went voting for me. She really loves unconditionally.
What do you do whenever you are overwhelmed by the stress of your career?
I try to read as much as possible. I take time for myself where I just stay alone and commune with God and ask for direction. There were times when I have really lost it.
How do you unwind?
I play a lot; I listen to music and watch movies, although watching movies is work for me. I dance a lot to Latin American music and I spend time with my family.
What is your attraction to Salsa?
It is a sensual dance step, although it has some of its roots in Africa. You have to be open to dance Salsa, you have to be flexible and as an actress, my body is my soul, I need to allow energy flow freely. I have always been a dancer. I love dancing.