Wini Lazarus could be described as a rare breed. A few years ago, the pretty actress cum producer jettisoned the glamour and razzmatazz of Nollywood and became a farmer.
It’s incredible but true. But to Lazarus, farming is life. Her big farm in Edo State is a testimony to her ‘Back to the Land’ philosophy.
“I believe that agriculture is one of the ways out of the current economic recession. As many that are willing to farm, the government must also be willing to empower them in whatever capacity,” she says.
In this interview, Lazarus talks about her passion for farming and acting. Enjoy.
How will you describe yourself?
I am an actress, a producer and a farmer.
What aspect of farming do you specialise in?
I specialise in poultry and piggery. My farm is in Edo State.
So, what’s a farmer doing in acting?
I went into acting for the passion. As a child, each time l talk, I make people laugh. Likewise farming. I had a farm when I was very young. I planted crops. Then it was fun planting and harvesting crops. I also love entertainment; that is why I’m into it. Whatever will put smiles on the faces of the people, whatever that will make families happy, also makes me happy
How long have you been in the movie industry?
Seven years now.
How will you describe the journey so far?
The first three years were very difficult. I kept going for auditions without any possibility of getting a role, but I did not give up. I kept on trying, believing in God all the way, that with God all things are possible. However, I came into limelight in a movie, Fight for Passion. Right now, I’ve acted in over 20 movies playing lead and sub-lead roles. I became a producer a year ago. The first movie I produced was Black Cat Angels, and the second was Ziggi Ziggi.
What is your impression of the industry?
It’s a nice place where you meet brilliant and intelligent people, some with great potentials; it’s an industry with great and bright future. Above all, it’s a place where things happen, lots of entertainment and fun. The industry has also made tremendous progress, in both the quality of films we produce – as can be seen in most of our movies – and gaining acceptance. Before now, you could find people who didn’t watch Nollywood movies. But right now, people take keen interest any time Nigerian movies are shown, either on Africa Magic or the Internet. In those days, people didn’t use to acknowledge actresses whenever they saw them. When you tell people you are an actress, they look at you as a never-do-well, a drop out. Some will even tell you that they don’t watch Nigerian films. Right now, the story is different.
How do you combine both careers?
I have people working for me. When I’m not on location, I’m on the farm. Combining both careers for me is very easy. Chief Audu Ogbeh is a farmer, and at the same time, the Minister of Agriculture. Chief Olusegun Obasanjo was a farmer and President of Nigeria. Farming does not prevent anyone from being who they want to be; It is an added advantage to a career. I encourage more people to go into farming. Most of my friends call me ‘Willy Winning Wini’ because they know I’m a winner. Nigerians are willing and will win the battle over the current economic recession If only the federal and state governments are willing to create jobs and empower Nigerians. They should embrace my ‘Back to the Land’ project. I’m also calling on all the First Ladies to do so as well.
Let’s have a peep into your background. Who is Wini Lazarus?
I come from Cross River State. I’m second child from the family of seven. I lost my father a few months ago. I grew up without my folks. Growing up was very hectic, very tough, because my guardian brought me up. Those who grew up without their parents will understand what I mean by being tough. I didn’t have much love. It was a life characterised by hardship and struggles. Then I thought it was a life of hell. Looking back right now, I’m very grateful to God because those periods had made me who I am today. Not only has it paved way for my chosen path and career, the challenges have also made me a strong woman. As a result of this, I’m working very hard to ensure that children facing similar challenges have a life of their own. All these are some of the birthday packages I’m offering, as I added another year a few days ago.
Most actresses complain of sexual harassment. Have you experienced such along the line?
If you know your worth and what you are doing, nobody will force you to do what you don’t want to do. No producer or director will force you. It is God that took me this far. I never knew I would come this far. At the initial stage when the going was tough, I kept on going, believing the sun will smile on me no matter the picture that life presented to me then, though I never knew I will make it. God smiled on my work. Going back memory lane, sometimes after audition, the producer would acknowledge the fact that I’m good; they told me I’ve got skills but I always ended up without a script.
Five years from now, where do you think you would be?
My dream is to make it big and bright. Angelina Jolie did not only made it big, her potentials are also acknowledge all over the world. I want to be known and celebrated, not just for my acting skills, but also for my humanitarian services to humanity. That is why I want this government to partner with me on my ‘Back to the Land’ project. We can no longer suffer in the midst of plenty.
As an actress and producer, what do you see as the major pitfalls in the industry?
Funding and lack of equipment to work are some of the greatest hindrances in the industry. Nigerian film industry can be as viable as Hollywood commercially if only the government can do the needful. In Hollywood, film productions are sponsored by governments, corporate organisations, private sector and individuals, but the reverse is the case in Nigeria. Producers have to make do with personal funding, which most times is limited; even where the government shows interest, it goes to a very few, those at the top.
If you have the opportunity of meeting President Muhammadu Buhari today, what will you tell him?
Meeting him will be an added advantage, both for my farm project and the movie industry. I will ask the president to support my farm project, since it will empower people and bring succour to families across the land. I will also tell him to make Nollywood at par with other film industries in developed countries by funding it and providing the necessary equipment.