Sharon Okpamen is an actress, producer, singer and entreprenuer. In this interview with YETUNDE OLADEINDE she takes you into her world, her first movie, life as a filmmaker and some of her new projects.
What new projects are you working on at the moment or what should movie fans be expecting from you?
I have a lot of projects I’m working on now. I’m currently writing the script for a proposed movie, we’re yet to shoot because of the pandemic, but I have some movies that are coming up very soon. One of them is titled Night hustlers, so my fans should be expecting it very soon.
As a filmmaker, how have you been coping with the impact of COVID-19?
COVID-19 hit us hard. Since the lockdown, things have not been easy. Shooting of movies was stopped, due to the social distancing law intiated by the Federal government. There’s no place to sell movies, just foodstuffs and investors aren’t coming in, finances are also locked down. Cost of living is on the high side, it’s a pathetic situation. Still, we thank God that things are getting better and we hope that COVID19 goes for good.
Why filmmaking? What inspired you to choose a career as an actress?
It’s been a dream of mine. I’ve been passionate about acting and singing while growing up. Music was my first priority, but it wasn’t successful beacause I couldn’t get a mentor at that time, before I left for Europe. I was too young to meet people like 2Face to mentor me and I didn’t have anyone to help me. There was also the african mentality that education is best, but I didn’t give up. I followed my dreams. As I grew older, I found out I was an aquarius as I was born in the month of February, that it is part of my life star to be an entertainer. Today, I’m in the movie industry and I just released my first single as a musician.
What new ways do you think filmmakers can survive the eceonomic impact of the pandemic on theatre and box office?
The way filmmakers are surviving is through YouTube, by selling Edo movies to media organisations like Iroko Tv, Ibaka Tv, Africa Magic. It has been very difficult, because you can tell that Edo movies are not on any of these platforms except YouTube. So, the only way filmmakers are surviving is through YouTube and subscribers are on the increase as people are at home, because of the COVID19 pandemic.
Tell us a bit about your family background and we would like to know if anyone in your family has been involved in filmmaking?
Nothing really special about my family background. My father died when I was two years old. So I don’t know if he was a filmmaker or a musician. My mum left me, when I was five or six years old with my aunt to travel abroad. So, I grew up with my aunt. My father’s younger brother is a popular musician and he’s one of the people who encouraged me to pursue my dreams, so in my family he’s the only musician we have.
Everybody has a first time, can you recall your first ever movie role? How did you get the role and how easy was the first experience?
My first movie role ever was the role of a maiden in a movie titled Touch Not My Crown in 2010. The role was given to me by the popular actor John Okafor (Mr Ibu). He brought me into the industry and helped me get the role in the movie. It was easy for me, because Mr Ibu was very popular at the time and anytime he needed something, every producer and director would want to do it for him. So, I was lucky to be in the movie and I got the role easily.
Which moment would you describe as the turning point in your career? Can you tell us about your break-through movie?
There was a movie I did titled Eshikito, an Edo movie. The movie Eshikito gave me a break-through in theEdo movie industry. I did the movie in 2016 and the movie was a huge success. It was turning point.
What does it mean to be a female in a male dominated industry? How do you cope competing with men?
I didn’t face any challenge because I wasn’t based in Nigeria, I was based in Europe. So coming to Nigeria to compete with men or those in the movie industry was a bit challenging, but I wasn’t molested by directors or actors in order to get roles in movies, because I had my own money to spend.
Tell us about your most challenging movie to date?
My most challenging movie till date would be Ovieze, an epic Benin movie. I was to play a girl possessed by the water spirit. It was a challenging role, it wasn’t easy and because of the zeal to do something different from what I have been doing, I was able to conquer that character. So that was my most challenging movie.
What about your most embarrassing moment on set?
My most embarrassing moment was my first time on screen. Mr Ibu had spoken to a director to give me a role and the director asked me if I could act and I said I could confidently. The director asked them to give a character and when we got to the set, it took me a lot of time to get into character and I felt so ashamed after boasting that I could act. I became nervous and shy. I was playing the role with Mr Ibu and he did his best to calm me down and encourage me.
Facing the camera is really difficult. So, that’s why when I see upcoming actors who have never faced the camera before, I try to put them through, because I remember my first time and I know it’s not easy.
A lot of upcoming actresses have had their fair share of sexual harrassement and sex for roles in the industry, what’s your own experience?
I didn’t have any experience of sexual harrassment as an upcoming actor. As I said before, I was brought into the movie industry by John Okafor (Mr Ibu). He was a friend of my cousin; she was the one that introduced him to me. I told him of my desire to be an actress and he promised to help me when I was ready. So coming into the industry through Mr Ibu was an easy transition for me and I thank him for introducing me to some producers and directors whom I was able to work with. So, I didn’t have any sexual harrassment, because coming from Europe, I was always with my money to work with directors and producers.
With your international exposure, are there things you think Nigeria should do to protect the girl child from sexual abuse?
I think the government should create equality, support compulsory education for the girl-child, because they are the weaker vessel and can be easily intimidated, but if they are educated, they will have an advantage. If the girl-child is empowered financially, they will be able to achieve their dreams without being molested by any man. Not only in the movie industry, but in all spheres of life.
Would you date or marry an actor like you?
Marrying an actor isn’t an issue for me. So, yes, I can marry my fellow actor, because I believe marrying an actor will help me pursue my career further. I believe he will understand the movie business more than a non actor, because if I get married I would want to continue acting and music, so I would want a man who will stand by me through it all. I don’t want a man that would tell me to leave acting for music or both. So, I think marrying an actor will be a plus for me, it would be the perfect marriage.
Do you have a celebrity crush? Who would that be?
My celebrity crush is Tiwa Savage.
For the benefit of your male admirers, are you single and open for a relationship?
Yes, I’m single and open for a relationship.
What qualities do you look out for in your man?
I like a responsible man, a man who is well do to. A hardworking and intelligent man. I’m not keen on facial looks or physique. All I look out for in a man is how responsible he is and hardworking. It’s very important. A man who can help me achieve my dreams and encourage me. An intellectual man that can help me build my career.
What do you hate most in a man? Something that turns you off?
What I hate most is a man who has nothing to offer, a man who is not intelligent. I hate lazy men. A man who sits around, waiting for a woman to cater for him. It really turns me off
Aside filmmaking, what else do you do and how to you combine these with your busy schedules?
Asides filmmaking, I have other businesses. I own a beauty salon and I have an online business. I invest in so many businesses as an entreprenuer. I don’t think it’s a problem for me combining my businesses with my acting, because I’m the owner of my businesses. Its not a difficult task for me.
What motivate or drives you? Something like your personal motto or goals.
What motivates me is mentoring people. I want to be a role model to young girls. I’m driven by the impression that because it’s a man’s world, so you are bound to open your legs for any man. Self-discipline is the key to any successful celebrity life. Whatever you do in your formative years will show when you have achieved fame. My motto is, if you can’t be good, be careful.
How do you relax and where is your favourite holiday spot?
I don’t have a particular place I go to relax. Sometimes, when I feel stressed in Nigeria and I’ve overworked myself, I travel to Europe to spend a month or two to relax. I can either go to Germany, Belgium, Switzerland or Spain,but because of the pandemic, we’ve been locked down for a couple of months. So, I don’t have anywhere I go for vacation. I like travelling round the world.
Tell us more about your music career and who would you like to feature in your music?
I was thirteen years old, when I started writing songs for my music. I love music. I write more of R and B songs. My influencers in music were Celine Dion, Toni Braxton, Whitney Houston etc. I tried to use their lyrics to tailor my own songs, but growing up abroad and forgetting so many things, I put my music on the shelf. Last year, I did a single in Edo language, but I think I’m ready to pour out all I have concerning music. I would like to feature Tiwa Savage, because she is my woman crush.
What message would you like to drop for your fans?
First of all, I want to say a very big thank you to all my fans all over the world. I love you so much, don’t lose hope in me. I remain your humble girl Sharon. Keep following me on social media. My instagram handle is Sharon Okpamen, my twitter handle is SharonOkpamen2 and on facebook is Sharon Okpamen. I promise to give you the best of me.