My kids are my fashion police –Ireti Osayemi

How did a graduate of Economics become an actress?

There are times in life you find yourself falling in love with something else entirely other than what you studied in school. I am a very creative person, not only in arts but also when it comes to making people look beautiful. I love creativity. I fell in love with acting right from when I was a child. I remember when I was growing up, I used to go for beauty pageants and I enjoyed being in the limelight.

When did you decide to become an actress?


I had always loved the arts and I talked about it a lot at home. My elder brother was into stage play productions and one day he told me that he could take me to where I could meet all the stars I watched on the television. He took me to Weenies Hotel at Bankole Folawiyo, Surulere, Lagos, and I met a lot of celebrities; I was so star struck I felt I was dreaming. I was so happy because acting is something I always loved and I was so fortunate to be among the stars. I began to wish I could become one of them, lo and behold I was very fortunate to be at the right place at the right time.

I met with Emeka Duru, the movie producer, and he told me that he was shooting a movie about campus life and I fit the profile that he wanted. He did not even give me time to think because he assumed I was an actress and his assumption was based on the fact that a lot of people that came to the place were actually actors. The person I was talking to advised me to do it because he believed it was an opportunity for me. I was fortunate enough to get a speaking role even though girls in the industry were present there. We were three on set and I got the best role. That was my first job.

How would you describe your first day on the movie set?

At first, I was jittery which is normal but because I was so excited, I did the part very well and nobody believed that was my first time in front of a camera.

You started out in the English speaking sector of the industry but later crossed over to the Yoruba speaking sector, why?

One evening, I was sitting in a studio called Movie Land right behind Weenies Hotel after rehearsals and Laide Bakare came in to get some equipment for a job she was working on and when she saw me, she asked if I would like to be in her new movie. I asked her what it was about and she said that it was a Yoruba movie. Before then, I had done two Yoruba movies but they were not produced by Yoruba producers. They were both produced by producer from the English speaking part of the industry. All I did in those movies was just to speak a bit of Yoruba in them. Laide Bakare’s movie launched me into the Yoruba movie industry.

How was the reception from other actresses when you ventured into the Yoruba movie scene?

At first when I got to location, they kept saying, ‘awon omo oloyinbo yi’ meaning these English speaking people. I was not too fluent, so I kept on fumbling with the way I spoke the Yoruba language. But I noticed that whenever I made a mistake, people were always eager to correct me politely and encourage me. They all helped me out.

But till date, your Yoruba is not fluent…

I started speaking Yoruba in 1992, so for me to be featured in Yoruba movies, I think I deserve an applause. I did not live in Nigeria as a kid; we got back from Liberia in 1991. I started speaking Yoruba the next year.

What prompted you to learn how to speak Yoruba?

When I got back to Nigeria, we lived in Mushin and there is no way you would live in Mushin that you would not learn how to speak Yoruba. You could speak English at home but when you get to the streets of Mushin, you need to speak Yoruba. When we were in Liberia, my mother tried to teach us Yoruba but it was not easy because there was no one to speak it with but once we got home, she seized the opportunity to teach us our native language.

If you were not an actress, what other career option would you have explored?

Till date, my mother still wonders why I am not into fashion because I have a flare for it. I do anything that has to do with fashion easily and effortlessly. Often time people ask me who my make-up artiste is and I just smile because most times I apply my make-up myself. I make my daughter’s hair and I do nails as well. Maybe I would have been in the beauty industry.

What is stopping you from pursuing your passion in fashion?

Something is in the pipeline.

For someone who went to pageants as a kid, why didn’t you venture into becoming a beauty queen?

My mother is a typical Yoruba woman who frowned on the kind of exposure kids got from such pageants. She would ask why I would want to be half naked in front of strangers. She was not too keen about it and as a teenager, I looked up to my parents. When you love something very much and you are not being supported, then you have the tendency of looking away.

But you could have become a model when you left your parents’ house…

I actually modelled at a particular point in time in my career but acting has a way of sweeping you off your feet and also taking so much of your time. A modelling agency could need you but you would be miles away on a movie location.

Don’t you miss the glamour that comes with modelling?

Of course I miss it; I love the shoot, the cameras and lights. I miss when the director is telling me what to do.

You seem to always apply light make-up, is it intentional?

I think we all have a particular way we apply make-up because we believe it suits our faces. I am not a loud person and I don’t really like it when I wear loud make-up. I don’t feel comfortable with that. I run away from anything that I don’t feel comfortable in.

What are some of those fashion tips you adhere to in this hot weather?

I make sure that I keep my face oil free because of sweating in this weather and it could cause my skin to break out. To avoid skin break out, you need to wash your face regularly.

Also, I watch the kind of hairdo I make. I would not want to make a hairstyle that I would be scratching in public, that could be embarrassing and irritating too. I make styles that allow for a free flow of air in my hair. I also do short hairstyles, I make sure I don’t have hair at the back of my neck or on my shoulder.

You hardly wear short skirts, why?

It is because of my background. My mother would never allow you to expose your body. I don’t feel comfortable in them. I would not like a situation whereby I would be sitting down but I would need to pull my skirt down at intervals. I would not want to go through that stress because I would not be comfortable in my own skin. I would rather put on something that I know I am okay in.

But some people believe that when it comes to dresses, the ‘shorter the better.’

I don’t agree with such school of thought. If you are sexy, you would look lovely regardless of what you are wearing.

Has motherhood changed your fashion sense in any way?

No, I don’t believe so. Maybe if I used to put on short things, I would have changed by now because my children are a bit mouthy and if you put on something short, they would ask me the reason behind my choice of attire. The moment you can’t defend what you are doing, then it becomes a problem.

So your children are your fashion police?

Yes they are. My daughter would say, ‘mummy why is your trousers this long?’ and if you tell her it is fashionable to wear something long, tomorrow she would want to wear something long as well. If I decide to put on bum shorts and I don’t want my daughter to put on bum shorts, how do I tell her not to do so?

What is your fashion weakness?

I love shoes, especially shoes with high heels. I feel more comfortable putting on shoes with high heels. When I was younger, my mother would say, ‘the higher your heels, the higher your confidence.’ She used to believe that when you put on shoes with high heels, it gives you some confidence and you can walk with your head high up.

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