With No Pun Intended, Eniola Badmus (AKA Gbogbo Bigz Girls) Says: “Despite My Size, Men Run After Me”
Nollywood actress, Eniola Badmus, popularly called “Gbogbo Bigz girl”, has grown to become a household name among movie lovers. The Theatre Arts graduate from the University of Ibadan, in this interview with Adunola Oladapo, speaks on issues bordering on her career and how her size has been an issue in the movie industry. Excerpts:
Can you tell us how your journey into the movie industry started?
I can’t really say, but let me say that my childhood prepared me for acting. I started acting from my childhood days. I became very serious with it since my secondary school days, I used to be in the school drama group, called Fellow, so basically I started from there. As I grew up, I discovered I was falling more and more in love with the profession so I decided to take it further by studying it, so I studied Theatre Arts at the University of Ibadan. I also have another degree in Economics from the Lagos State University (LASU).
Was it the flair and the fact that you acted in secondary school that made you put in for Theatre Arts in the university?
Well no, not exactly. I will say it was a second choice, because I’d wanted to study Law in the university, but I could not meet up with cut-off mark, so my second choice was Theatre Arts. Besides, I used to be a vocal person right from my childhood days, so I think it was a great advantage for me in that area.
Ordinarily, I would have studied Law because that was what my dad and family wanted me to study, but I guessed fate played out and I missed the cut-off point for Law, so I settled for my second choice.
So, it’s your parents’ desire that you become a lawyer?
Oh yes! I know and believe that till date, my dad would have loved to see me become a lawyer, even my siblings, because I am from a family of technocrats. Most of my siblings are professionals like lawyers, doctors, engineers etc. So, they don’t like my choice of career.
So, when you decided to take up acting fully, what was your parents’ reaction?
Actually, when I started acting, my father was against it, including my mother and everyone at home. In fact, when I started fully, I didn’t tell them at home oh. I dare not. My dad loves me but he is a great disciplinarian and I feared him. So, I couldn’t tell them at home knowing they were all against that profession.
Why the objection to acting? Did your family see it as a job for dropouts?
The fact is that I am from a polygamous home, my parents live separately but see every other day. My father would not condone his child not going to school and studying a good course, because he believes that after graduating from school, you have to work with your certificate as a technocrat, maybe as an engineer, lawyer, doctor.
I wouldn’t know if they see acting as a career for drop-outs, but I know they detest the profession and not for their daughter and siblings. But I really don’t care what they feel about it or me, acting is my passion, my love and it’s a life I have chosen which nobody can stop me from doing.
So, when you decided to take up acting, did you and your dad quarrel?
Well, I won’t say we quarrelled, but something like that happened; it was due to my mother who has a soft spot for me, because I was the last born of my mum. So, if my dad is on my neck in doing something he wants me to do, my mum was always like, don’t force her to do what she is not willing to.
She really doesn’t like me to be an actress though, but for peace to reign, she pleaded with my dad and it was a big issue between them. I was doing it secretly, at times I will be on location; they would think I was the in school, back then. It was really tough between me and my dad in particular, but it’s my life and I chose my path.
So, you started acting professionally when you were in the university?
Yes, that was when I was in the University of Ibadan. I met a lot of guys, like Wale Ade and the rest of them. So, back then, I started featuring in some movies, series but not to the knowledge of my parents and siblings.
The first time your father saw you in a movie, what was his reaction?
It was bad and funny and I can’t forget that day. My dad’s friends and probably my siblings told my dad they saw me in films but my dad would say no, it can’t be Eniola and that I was in the school. Occasionally, he would call me and ask if it was true and I would say, oh, it was practicals that we did in school since I was studying Theatre Arts, and that I didn’t know our lecturers would put on movie stand for the public to watch. But katakata burst the day my mum saw me herself.
Does that mean your father doesn’t watch home movies?
He does, but he doesn’t know that I was into acting, because it is not something we talked about. He was not aware of my intention of becoming an actress and he never expected it. At a time, when they saw me and they told him, he was like, maybe the person they saw looked like me, but can’t be me.
It got to a point that he called me, and told me that people do tell him, that they do see me on television, and I was like there was no place to hide or lie anymore. I had to bring up a lie, which would back me up, and I told him that it was a project in school, which we should conduct and I had to participate in, maybe they decided to air it.
I can’t forget that memory in my life. It was a bad day. My mum does not stay with my father, but she comes almost every day. There was a day my mum came to the house and said she wanted my father to watch a particular Yoruba movie. The movie was entitled: 100 years and it was shot in the year 2002. It was from that movie that they started calling me OWE LE BANTU. My role in the movie was that of a hooligan and we were caught up in trouble and someone came to rescue us, but it was through a diabolical way. We were turned into a creature and then disappeared.
It was then that I knew my parents were not enlightened because of the rancour it generated. My mum was like ‘this is too spiritual, so diabolical, too fetish. Why will you guys turn into something diabolically?’ I said no, it was just an effect, it was not real. My father didn’t believe me. They were both like ‘I have started visiting herbalists and spiritualists,’ they were just fuming and didn’t hear me out at all.
Since then, when going back to school, my dad would warn me that it was school he sent me and not to act . But that didn’t stop me, rather the love and determination for acting became stronger and I continued going for auditions and kept acting.
So, was it that day they knew you to be acting professionally?
No, I still lied about it to cover up.
Was there a point that your parents threatened to disown you if you continued acting?
No, but my parents were conscious of what I was doing in school. My dad used to say that I had everything in this world, what else do I want. They love me, so there were no threats but they just didn’t like my choice of profession at all.
How do they feel now, especially now that they know and that you are a star?
I don’t see myself as a star, except maybe when I act in Hollywood which is what Iam seriously aiming at. Also, my family doesn’t see me as a star, I don’t get any special treatment from them. In fact, they see me as nothing and just like one of them. This is my first time of telling a journalist this. Whenever I am at home, they don’t treat me as a star. They don’t make me feel great or good that I’m promoting the family’s name, I‘m just like a nobody to them.
Including your dad?
I don’t know if he now likes what I am doing or not because he doesn’t show it. In fact, he does not even talk about my job at all, but I am sure he is proud of me, I just believe that within me. My siblings don’t treat me like a star, or someone who is carrying the family name high. They all relate with me as brothers and sisters, if they want to do anything, like family meeting, etc, they do it even without me. I’m just as normal as any human being can be with them. We are all equal.
With what you said, does that mean your dad does not watch your movies?
Of course he does watch my movies, because any movie I do, if I lay my hands on them, I pile them up and take them to him, and he will say thank you.
Just thank you?
Yes, he does not commend me. He has never commended or commented on any of my works, whether I did well or not.
Does that make you feel sad in a way?
No, not in anyway, I like what I do, so if he’s not proud of me, good for him. I know he is proud, but he has not said so. If I tell him that I will be travelling out of the country, he will just say when you get there, call us. I have been trained to be an independent person right from time, so I don’t really care what anybody feels.
But you feel proud when you get cheers from your fans?
It is normal, when I get the attention from my fans, I am always happy, but from my family, I don’t get it, but I’m used to it already.
So, you started acting professionally in what year?
Since 1999, I started quite early. I think that is the reason my father and mother were against it. When I think about it, I see it from that angle because I would not want my children to start that early too. Yes, I had my education at an early age; in primary school, I had double promotion about three times. Apart from school; we had a lesson teacher who taught us then. It was all about you reading your books back then.
Who introduced you to acting?
Nobody. The interest was there, so I had my ears to the ground.
Tell us about your first experience on set?
I was just there; I was doing what I was asked to do. I was neither shy nor scared. I was just determined and that was it.
How was acting with those already in the industry, were you camera shy?
What really happened was that I would just be looking at them, you know, observing everything around me. There was a movie I did with Joke Silva, she was like a goddess