–Olori Wendy, actress/Nigerian US Army officer
Wendy Olugbodi a.k.a Olori Wendy wears many crowns. She is a model, red carpet host, journalist, actress, moviemaker and also officer of the American Army.
In this chat, Olori Wendy opens up on growing up, challenges in Nollywood and life in the American Army. She also talks about her latest movie, Show Master, which is trending on YouTube.
Tell us about growing up. Were you born with a silver spoon in the mouth?
Growing up was bitter-sweet. It was like a wave experience; some high years, some low years. I don’t like remembering my yesteryears, so I kind of shutdown that part. But there were some highlights that transformed me into who I am today. Because of the things I saw during my low years, and being an empathic person, it motivated me to have an NGO that provides succour to young girls, pregnant women and nursing mothers, with food and feminine products.
How did you come into journalism and later entertainment?
Growing up, I was an inquisitive child and loved reading and writing. I won several awards in secondary school. Years later, I contributed as a reporter to Guardian on Sunday’s Life magazine. I would interview entertainers and write articles for the newspaper without compensation. However, it built my knowledge and versatility. Later, I worked with Superscreen TV and became a producer within a year, as I learned fast from my mentor, the late Nicholas Anukanti. We produced different shows for the television station, and Superscreen rose to prominence with millions of viewers. After I left Superscreen TV, I started blogging and worked with some radio stations. I also worked as PR/publicist for different personalities and hospitality businesses.
Who were your influences growing up?
Everybody, including me, loved Michael Jackson. I actually named one of my dogs Jackson and the other 2face. However, I grew up listening to artistes like Lionel Richie, Toni Braxton and Celine Dion who influenced me. As for movies, I like Shan George, Liz Benson, Regina Askia, Eucharia Anunobi and Clarion Chukwura whom most people say I look like, and could pass for my mother. Many people have emphasized that we (Clarion and I) have identical full lips and that curiosity led me to interviewing her on my blog years ago. I also liked Susan Patrick almost to a stalking level, as I used to write letters to her during my secondary school days. Her stepdaughter, Nnena Ojoi was my school daughter and her younger sister was my secondary school classmate, and we were both on the same football team too. For modeling, as a teenager, I was intrigued by Naomi Campbell and went on a diet just to achieve her type of shape. Unfortunately, I was averagely tall, so I ended up doing more of commercial modeling than runway. Modela was my modeling coach and agent then.
As a film maker, which movies have you produced?
I have acted and produced some movies in Nigeria, United States and South Africa. My first effort was in Tajudeen Adepetu’s TV show in the early 2000s. I, however, lost zeal for acting because the director of the television series made a pass at me, you know the sex-for-role thing. The mistake I made was not reporting to Uncle Tajudeen. I was traumatised and decided if that was going to keep me in the movie game, then I would let go. So, I focused on music. Music and journalism were a safer haven for me. I did not have to deal with randy producers like in the movies. In fact, most of the movie directors I met along the way were thoroughly disappointing. I would call them dream-killers, because in order to avoid being sexually harassed, I only went on sets where I knew the producers or crew members well. With hindsight, I could have been the Genevieve of today, but randy Nigerian movie directors ruined that dream. I was discouraged and I avoided movie sets and auditions to avoid sexual harassment. Years later, film maker and actress, Queen Ebigieson, introduced me to acting in Yoruba movies and gave me my first role. Though, earlier, I had been in Alaran’s theatre group before he passed away, but it wasn’t modern enough for me, so I opted out. However, Princess Elizabeth, daughter of the king of Igbara-Oke, Ondo State encouraged me to be a Yoruba movie producer after meeting her at Queen Ebigieson’s film set. She explained that I would not have to deal with sexual harassment as a producer. But not withstanding, she advised me to watch out for sharks masking as movie marketers. That was why I worked with a female marketer, Yetqueen Film Production on Awokoku, the first Yoruba movie I produced. I don’t keep records, so I have lost count of my productions. But some of them include Awokoku, Asan Lori Asan and now Show Master, which is currently showing on Libra TV on YouTube.
What is Show Master all about?
Show Master is a story of revenge and betrayal that highlights the quest for vengeance and the intricacies of living a double life. Show Master features top Nollywood actors like Kunle Afod, Regina Chukwu, Princess Onanuga, Peju Ogunmola, Abigail John, Tamilore Ojo, Yetunde Wunmi and other stars. Fast rising musicians, Gbenga Adewunmi and Dipo Olugbodi are also featured in the movie as Guzlaw and Dipo respectively. Shot in Lagos, Show Master was directed by Shonde Afolabi and edited by Dayo Alawode. It is subtitled in English and needs no parental guidance for viewing. It is a movie with lessons appropriate for all ages.
How are Nollywood films doing in America?
Thanks to YouTube and Netflix, Nollywood is recognised in America and Asia. I have met many people from diverse backgrounds who asked after Nigerian actors and comedians like Odunlade Adekola, Emmanuella, Sola Sobowale and many others. I believe they enjoy our movies. They also enjoy our slangs and Pidgin English. I have a Mexican friend who calls me ‘Ikebe Super’. I wonder if he understands the meaning (laughter).
You are into entertainment and also in the US Army. How do you create time for all this and still take care of your family?
People ask me that question a lot. The United States of America is an organised society where you can function and multi-task, so you can imagine how it would be in the Army. However, the US Army is not like the Nigerian Army. We have a life and can do whatever we like as long as we don’t get involved in any criminal activities. I manage my time and keep to schedule. Basically, I make the best use of the time to live the best of both worlds.
How would you compare Nollywood and Hollywood?
One really should not compare the two. I think they are both at the pace they operate according to how their societies function. One must think of profit when it comes to movie business. People try to compare Nollywood movies to Hollywood’s without thinking of whether they can make the same profit if they invest the way Hollywood executive producers do. You can’t expect one to invest $30 million on a movie if one does not have enough audience and other avenues of making profit from that movie. However, we have good stories and our productions these days are above average. If you want to know the difference, check the end credits of Hollywood and Nollywood movies, you will see that the difference is clear.
You are beautiful, upwardly mobile and ambitious. Tell us about your love life?
I do not like sharing details about my personal life. However, I am in a perfect place when it comes to love. These days, it is hard to be beautiful, upwardly mobile and ambitious and still have a perfect relationship that caters to you emotionally, physically and mentally. But I’m glad to have it all.
Could you describe your ideal man?
My ideal man is the person I have. I remember years ago, people assumed I would end up marrying an old man because of my level of intelligence and maturity. I actually never liked dating male within my age group. It was not common at that time to find someone within my age group who was upwardly mobile and mentally mature for the kind of person I was. I started working at 16, and when I started dating years later, I could not cope with dating men who were still dependent on their parents or that acted like teenagers. In fact, once a man looks too young or boyish, I totally ignore their passes. I could not stand men that sagged their trousers, had no comportment, didn’t have a sense of direction, or had a formal appearance and demure. So, when I met a man who had all the attributes I was looking for, everything fell in place.
What are your dreams?
My dream is to see Glory Creations Corporation shine. It is my latest baby, a non-profit organization that focuses on providing succour, entertainment, fashion and creating income-generating pathways for poor and marginalized groups. My dream is to travel round the world, enjoying the pleasure of bringing succour to others. Being a multi-talented person, I provide entertainment through music, photography and motion pictures, and I hope I am able to cater to others who need the knowledge or the pleasure at little or no cost. I love happiness, and in the years that I have lived, I have experienced lots of pain, suffering, rejection, dejection and sadness; but I have also experienced joy, ecstasy, splendour and happiness; and that happiness is what I hope to share.