Tall and smashing actress, Funmi Bank-Anthony blows hot on the allegation of promiscuity in Nollywood, as she opines that it is at the discretion of any actor to decide whatever he or she wishes to use to attain stardom, stating bluntly that “it is nobody’s business”.
The philanthropist and granddaughter of the late Sir Mobolaji Bank-Anthony was, however, quick to disclose her staying power in the make-believe industry. Enjoy it.
At what point of your life did you choose acting?
It all started when I was in secondary school. I thought I was going to be the social prefect because I was very social but education screened me out. I am not saying I was not intelligent but I was more of an outspoken, outgoing and introvert kind of person. I used to do a lot of acting and dancing that I even represented my school in competitions. That was how it started in 2002. I went into English movies. I actually accompanied a friend to a Zeb Ejiro location. I was auditioned and got a role. Later, I went into beauty pageant alongside Agbani Darego. But I had exams in school so I opted out. The industry was not as tense as this. My family also wanted me to get serious with my studies. I was schooling at the then Ogun State University (OSU) so it was not easy shuttling Lagos and Ogun. You know, if something is inbuilt, no matter how long you drop it, you will always come back to it. After school, I dropped the English movies affair and came into Yoruba. I started working with a friend. We agreed that she did the acting while I produced, but then, the marketer later advised that I start acting. Then, I acted alongside Dele Odule, Funso Adeolu, and that was it.
Having started acting as a child, how was the journey from obscurity to stardom for you?
There is no broad way to success. You will always pay your way to stardom, be it financially, spiritually, materially…
Does that include bodily?
Actually, it all depends on what you choose to use. If you think you want to use your body to get what you want, that’s your choice. If it is your finances, it is a personal decision. That’s why I said success has a broad way. Don’t misquote me o. I just don’t discourage people over whatever they want to use to attain stardom.
In your case, what did you use to attain stardom?
For me, I think I used my finances and connection. I used more of my brain too. I am not a saint but I have not used my body. That does not mean I would have. I am a married and grown woman. Age 40 is just knocking on my door and maturity has set in. For me, it is more of hard work. I am also a politician who works and earns money to produce my own movies. I try to produce at least one movie every month. That is what some people know me for. It is also about being able to deliver your roles. I think that is what is paving the way for me.
Would you admit that you rode on the name of your late grandfather, Bank-Anthony to achieve some level of success in the industry?
I don’t think so. Yes, the name is household but I don’t think it has had any impact on my life and career. I can’t go to any bank and withdraw money with that name. He has done his bit when he was alive. He had his name and I am trying to make mine too. I am not even half way where I want to be, even though it is a name people can easily associate themselves with.
What movies brought you into the limelight?
Ayo, I don’t want to define this as success yet and I don’t think I have shot that movie that is more memorable for me. Maybe we can talk about the accumulation of the movies, but not one in particular. I don’t think I am there yet. The most challenging can be ‘Juba’, a movie where I had to cut my hair. I used to have a very long hair. I had to tint my hair and took the role of a bus conductor. That was a bit challenging for me but not still it.
What’s your view on the norm of promiscuity and sex-for-roles in Nollywood?
I knew this would come up. I am married and I know all that but it is not just in our industry. The bankers, politicians and the rest too can be promiscuous. Even you people are guilty too and you can’t deny it. Whatever everybody chooses to do with his or her life is his personal business, so long as you don’t bring it to my table. I don’t act judgmental, especially if you are above 18. If you want to be an actress and you think sleeping with everybody will get you there, that’s your business. I know a lot of actresses that worked so hard to be where they are today.
Do you sometimes reveal cleavages?
I am not just very comfortable with exposing my body. I am very sincere. If you go to my Instagram page, at least 99 percent of them (photos) don’t reveal any cleavage. I love tattoos but I don’t have one on my body. I appreciate it on people but I am not exposed to that extent. I have kids and that gives me some restrictions. Even before I got married, I wasn’t comfortable with all that. If you tell me to be your brand ambassador and I have to go naked; I won’t do it.
Even for a million dollar?
I won’t go naked for a billion dollar. I won’t.
How did you meet your husband?
I don’t like talking about that and I don’t talk about my family too. But it is only you I will tell o. He is such an amazing, supportive and very great man. I actually went for a meeting and he was standing by and looking at me. I was making a fool of myself and he didn’t even know I was an actress. I was laughing loud and having so much fun. Next day, I had a political appointment, and we still met there. He then asked for my number and that was it.
So, at what point did the friendship lead to marriage?
Nothing led to the other. We just started living together, got married and had kids. We didn’t even court or date. All the quarrels and fights have been in our marriage. We moved in together just two months after we met.
What role is your husband playing in your career and philanthropic gestures?
My husband has been there. He pays my bills. Sometimes, he checks to be sure that stardom hasn’t gone into my head. He sometimes tells me not to go out and I obey. I still want him to feel he is the head of the family. For philanthropy, he sometimes gets bothered when he comes home and sees that the bag of rice he just bought has gone. I think it is a blessing to him. He has never lacked.
How did philanthropy begin for you?
It started with my grandfather, Sam Mobolaji Bank-Anthony. When he died, he wrote in his will that all his belongings be donated to the less privileged, even including the spoons. He had about 48 houses in Lagos and he declared that all be given to the motherless (children) and that is so huge for me, because I see it that he left us to suffer. If he had left the houses in Lagos for us, I would be a multi-billionaire today, even as a grandchild. He was one of the richest men in Nigeria and he didn’t leave anything for us. That was deep for me. I see it that the things you boast of today can be taken away from you within the twinkling of an eye. It then dawned on me that I could lose the things I have. So, philanthropy came out of the fear of losing the things I have. So, I would rather give it out than lose them when I am gone, though some people take you for granted when they know you are excessively nice.
What would you have been, if you were not an actress?
I would have been a pastor and I think I will still be one someday, maybe a prophetess. I like genuine men of God. I think I will still be one.
Is there any project you are currently working on?
I am currently working on hosting 1,000 deaf and dumb people and 1,000 blind people in the month of October, in Lagos. I am also planning to shoot my next movie. Then, I am planning to stage one of the biggest talent hunt shows in Nigeria. It is called ‘Street Credibility’. All that will cost money, opportunities and ideas. I think I will get there.