By Bolatito Adebayo
Nollywood diva and entrepreneur, Mercy Aigbe-Gentry is a household name. The popular Yoruba actress spoke glowingly of her mum and how her beatings and advice shaped her to become the woman she is now.
What’s your mum’s name?
My mother’s name is Abisola Grace Owodunni
Your mum is Yoruba right?
No, she is Benin.
What does she do?
She is a businesswoman. She has a supermarket actually and sells lots of things.
What position are you in the family?
I am the second child and second girl. We have four girls and one boy.
What’s the best advice your mum gave you that you cherish?
That would be that I should believe in myself, that once I believe in myself, it would be easy for others to believe in me. So, I believe in myself, in my dream, I’ll never quit and I’ll stay focused.
What was your relationship with your mum like as a teenager?
Growing up with my mum wasn’t easy. I keep telling people that my mum and dad are disciplinarians. My dad is a very strict and typical Benin man; they are always very strict when it comes to disciplining their children. So, also is my mum, just like my dad. She is a no nonsense woman, a typical Benin woman who is a firebrand. What they want is what they want. So, there was no room for me to play pranks when I was growing up, because if I did and I got caught, my mum beat the hell out of me. She didn’t believe in sparing the rod when it comes to disciplining her children.
How often did she beat you?
She beat me a lot, because I was very stubborn. I always wanted to have my way with everything and my mum did not find that funny.
Can you share one experience that really strikes you, now that you are an adult?
In this particular instance, she did not really beat me because I was in the university. I made some money and I bought myself a television in school. During holidays, I went home with my TV and when she saw it, she was surprised and she didn’t take it easy with me at all. She was so furious with me because she wanted to know how I was able to afford a television. I told her I bought it and all hell went loose, as she wanted to know where I got the money? “I sent you to school and you went to join other groups,” she said. You know that thing actually struck me. She actually trained us in such a way that you should be contented with whatever you have and not live a lifestyle that you cannot afford. I also guess she was afraid for me, because she had heard a lot of stories about university girls going into prostitution. However, I didn’t see television as a big deal but I understood what she was trying to teach me. So, I had to keep it with a friend and when school resumed, I took it back. You see, while I was in school, I had a little business I was doing by the side. I was selling underwear and some other things. I was making money from this business and at some point; I bought myself a small car. During the holidays, I decided I wanted to take it home; I had to lie to my mum that I won Miss Amine pageant (laughs). I told her that I won a beauty contest and they gave me a car because I didn’t want the TV scene to repeat itself. My mother likes to teach her children morals and values and I have been very lucky she raised me.
What did she tell you about boys?
(Screams) You know our parents then, they will put that fear in you that if a boy touches you, you will get pregnant. But my mother was different in a way that she taught us sex education at the right time. She made me understand that I am a woman and taught me how to take care of myself. She actually went into details about kissing etc. In as much as she was strict, she was also very warm, she is my friend and she related with us like her friends. She actually made me understand what my relationship with a boy should be at that time. She did not lie to me. “You have to be focused on your studies, you have to be somebody in life even before you start thinking about boys, you have to get to a certain level with your education”, she advised.
What is her favourite food?
Amala, gbegiri and ewedu.
What makes her happy?
Her children make her happy. She loves checking up on us all, and she visits too. Most especially, she loves us to visit her grandchildren. All that makes her happy.
Are you more beautiful than your mum?
Unfortunately no, because my mum is so beautiful and even my grandma is very pretty too. She is over hundred years and if you see her also, you will know that she is beautiful. We are all pretty in our family.
As a grandmother, has she softened now?
Yes of course and the funniest part of it now is that she spoils her grandchildren. She gives them everything and lets them have their way and I was like but mummy, you were not like this with us and all she is focused on now is her grandchildren.