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Monday, June 9, 2014

Me, Shina Peters and Clarence: Star actress, Clarion Chukwura finally opens up!

In this exclusive chat obtained by SHOWBIZPLUSng, veteran actress and accomplished entertainer, Clarion Chukwuka opened up on her soured relationship with Sir Shina Peters, the estranged father of her equally famous son, Clarence. Anambra State-born Chukwura also gave reasons, she forgave Peters after what he did to her during and after her pregnancy, what ignited her media war with AGN president, Ibinabo Fiberesima among other riveting issues. 
How do you respond to insinuations that your constant criticisms of AGN is borne out of personal ambitions?
My answer to whoever is saying that is to tell me what I stand to gain from the Actors Guild of Nigeria (AGN). Is it a business? They should tell me if the AGN Presidency is a government parastatal or a political appointment. Is it now a venture where the leader gets the highest dividend from periodic returns? I want them to tell me what extra will AGN Presidency add to my brand value.

 What extra value does your recent award as Best Actress at AMAA add to the Clarion Chukwura brand?
Indeed, it has added something to me. This is a dream conceived by a hardworking woman and a gift from Nollywood to Africa and the Diaspora. I am aware that care has been taken over time to put together a qualified team of jury. It is not just a Nigerian thing but the whole of Africa coming together especially this year which is the 10th anniversary of AMAA. It has evolved into an institution. I simply saying that being awarded as the Best Actress in Africa based on the works that came from all over black Africa, it is a good thing. I look at it from the perspective of the work that I put into Apaye and I can say that everything that I sought to achieve with my portrayal in that movie has been achieved. For me, it gives me a level of fulfillment for my input into Apaye.

Would it then be right to say that your award didn't catch you by surprise?
It did. When I was asked on the red carpet before the award about my expectations, I said. 'I don't know. If I win, I would be gratified and if I don't, I would congratulate whoever wins.' I know that I did a good job but you could never tell what the jurors were looking for. But in terms of characterization and interpretation, I think that I portrayed Apaye for who she was, at least 80 percent of her. You can never tell. I didn't go there being 100 percent sure that I would win.

What was it like watching yourself play Apaye?
At the premiere, I couldn't wait till the end of the movie. So, I didn't see much. I actually watched it for the first time when it came out on DVD in the privacy of my room. With Apaye, something happened that has never occurred before. It was quite different from any other. I rarely watch my movies because I get the feeling of 'who the hell is this person?' But because of the critical reviews of the movie, I decided to get it. Also my son, Clarence Peters who rarely watches Nollywood movies bought it and had something nice to say about it. I watched it and at the end of the movie, I was weeping like a baby. I wept for that woman. I forgot that it was me playing the role. That was like a week before AMAA awards. I was able to feel the emotional impact that everyone felt.

Looking back, have you encountered your biggest challenge yet and how did you cope?

My life has been fraught with challenges; I lost my father at age 11 and one week old. Going to high school was a challenge. Supporting my younger ones as an undergraduate was a challenge. My life has been one long journey of challenges. Having a kid at age 18 for a popular musician who doesn't want to have anything to do with it, people automatically label you a slut. Saying that this is my child and telling myself that he will succeed and the truth will come out took a lot of guts. I told myself that I am not a slut after all, I am a forward looking person. The fact that I had my child in a society when millions of my age aborted their pregnancies regularly was an obstacle. Determining that acting is what I want to do not law in spite of the fact that it wasn't paying was a challenge. My contemporaries were heading to the United States for greener pastures; family members felt that being an actress meant that I was a useless person, all these were challenges. It took determination not to care. It wasn't that I didn't care because I cared and cried a lot but my determination did not waver. I was in a mess in the late 80s and early 90s. The industry was transiting from soap opera era to home video era, those were challenges. It has been a journey of ups and down.

Did it ever get to a point when you considered committing suicide?

Yes it did get to that point. My family held me back. I have been lucky because my mother raised us as a close-knit family. I am the only girl among five children. Even when marriages came, we still kept that bond. That discipline of looking out for one another kept me going. They would take away the papers, negative press haunted me. Also my children, Clarence and Bryan were there for me always. I understand why star actresses take to alcohol and drugs because the pressure is so much. If you want to always remain relevant, the pressure might push you into things that you shouldn't do. I was lucky that I had a good family. Everybody needs somebody.

Have you made peace with Sir Shina Peters?

We don't have any issue. Of course, we have made peace long ago. We are friends. (Shows reporter a picture they both took on her iPhone).

How easy was it to forgive him? Or was it a walk in the park?

I have talked about the God factor in my life; He is all of me. I will go again to using a Yoruba adage. It says Olorun gbe ja e, o l'on binu (God is avenging you yet you are angry). God has vindicated me. Why would I have had forgiveness issues? It wasn't my war, it was God's war. I honestly never had any anger issues with Shina Peters even through the years when things were the way they were, we still saw often. It is because he is a star, that is why it became such a big issue. In my charity cause, I have encountered so many women who have faced the same situation as mine.

 The other side of my question is the relationship between Clarence Peters and his father, Sir Shina Peters. The world was made to believe that their relationship was very cold and frosty...

(Cuts in) That is a very big lie. I don't know why people like to peddle falsehood. I don't know why. How on God's earth would Clarence have a frosty relationship and be at loggerheads with his father? That is his father we are talking about. Clarence is a very respectful young man, he was brought up to be respectful. He was raised well. How can he ever look his father in the face and be rude? I don't know what they mean by that.

Is there any chance that you would give marriage another shot? There is nothing about me that it is of my own power. Left to me, I am done. Yeah.
In few months time, you will turn 50 years, yet you still look very young and active. What is the secret?

I don’t think there is any secret to how I look. Such ladies like Halle Berry and other American actresses look much younger than their ages. They are the ones inspiring me. It is all about taking care of yourself, being conscious of what you eat and the kind of makeup you use on your face. Living healthy is one of the principles of staying young and glowing.

I am not really a makeup person, aside the VVIP events I often go for, I don’t ordinarily use make-ups. But I know some ladies who can’t come out of their bedrooms without a makeup on.

If you are filled inside with hatred, anger, jealousy, all the time, it would make you look older. Being youthful and good looking come from the inside. Then, if you don’t justify what you are taking in, that will also affect how you look and the speed of your ageing.

You are approaching 50 and still playing sexy roles, how do you cope playing such roles with the younger ones?

The latest movie I did where I played such role was Hustlers with Mercy Johnson. The roles I get depend on how you look. As you can see, I don’t look like your normal 50-years old women. Demy Moore, Halle Berry, Jenny Foster and co, don’t look their ages and they act some crazy sexy roles too. Although, we live in a society where people expect you to drop some certain things because of your age. But I look beyond what the society expects of me.

You started a clothing line, sometime ago what happened to it?

Well, Bimbo my publicist as at that time suggested that we had lots of media hype to boost the business. It’s a clothing line business, still booming. We make clothes and supply to different countries. We also have different people handling the business for us in different places. We didn’t really make money here in Nigeria, so we took it off shores.

Your names, Clarion Nneka Folashade Oluwatoyin Chukwura sound confusing, how did you come about such combinations?

I was born a Catholic, my baptismal name is Clara, confirmed as Emmanuella, and my native Igbo name is Nneka. Paternally, I hail from Onitsha inland town, Anambra State, but my mother hails from Ondo State and Abeokuta. I was born in Lagos, at LUTH Idi-Araba. I grew up in Lagos also.

Looking back now, what were the fondest memories of your growing up days?

I have fun while growing up. Youthfulness is always fun to be in and experienced. I became a star when I was 18. I moved into the celebrities circles early in life. Before I was 21, I had already met lots of the people I used to admire from afar and look up to.

It’s more like fame took over your youth, any regrets?

No! Not at all. I lived a very happy life, so I don’t have any reason to regret anything that happened to me. In life there will be ups and down. Nothing happens straight, but sometimes bended. Life goes like the ocean waves.

Fame for me, has been a way of life, I don’t know how life without fame would have been. I grew up to be a star. I don’t know any adulthood as ordinary person.

However, it has deprived me of a whole lot of things. It has made people judge me for who I am not. People associate with me for who I am and not what I am. It has also deprived me of genuine people around me.

You once mentioned that you don’t live a flamboyant lifestyle that is why you are still living in a rented apartment. How does fame without wealth work together?

No, it won’t cost me much to build a home on one of the lands I acquired. But what gives me joy is acquiring landed properties. I know other actresses and celebrities use their own wealth to acquire exotic cars and other flashy things, because that is what gives them joy. Mine is different.

I prefer touching lives of the less privileged in a very special way. Putting uniforms on the back of children whose mother can’t afford to send to school. Buy books for them and also pay teachers to tutor them. All these are more important to me than acquiring flashy things.

I have educated my son Clarence all through his life and to film schools in South Africa, and his younger brother Bryan will soon be going to same school. I have done this as an actor. I did all these because that’s my priority.

How many children do you really have?

Biologically, I have two sons, Clarence and Bryan. But I am a mother of so many. So, lots of people see me as their mother.

Most of the roles you play are either wicked roles or evil woman’s role, how close are you to those vices in real life?

I expect you come to me and know me aside the movies, you can’t define me. Knowing the real Clarion Chukwura is a very difficult assignment and I won’t let people know me from afar unless they come to me and discover my personality and draw their own conclusions.

As someone with an Igbo background, can you act very well in an Igbo speaking movie?

The last movie I did with Queen Nwokoye and others; Mothers Secret, was a 70 percent Igbo speaking movie. I spoke more of Igbo and less of English. I can also do total 100 percent Igbo speaking movie, but it depends on the fees. Because for me, English is my first language. I have to learn some proverbs in Igbo. I can do all that if the offer is good and acceptable by me.

The quality and standard of our movies are really not encouraging, what do you think should be done about it?

The standard of movies dropped because of the people in charge of the Guild. The structure that guides the rules and regulations of the movies are substandard and it tells on the outcome of the movies. The kind of people that are presiding over the Actors Guild is reflecting on the poor state of our movies. You can’t expect magic or expect a lion to give birth to a goat. What you are is what you reflect.

You always compare yourself with some foreign celebrities; do you intend trying marriage again at your age, because those ones do that also?

They live in a society that doesn’t judge them based on their romantic involvements, they are not criticized based on their past love lives but appreciated based on their arts, crafts and skills. Their contributions to the growth of the society are what people look at, not their private lives. That is not same for us here in African setting.

Are you saying, you won’t try marriage again or love affairs?

I will not tell you about my love life. That is none of your business. I am not saying I am not into any relationship or doing some stuff that make me happy. My happiness is my happiness; I try as much as I can to make myself happy without been answerable to anyone or explaining myself to anyone. I don’t tell the world how I run my private life; it is for my consumption alone.

You have been in the industry for over three decades, what is your staying power?

I am someone who believes deeply in God. I also depend heavily on God’s strength. So, I will say that my strength comes from God and my family, especially my children.

What do you see, when you look at your famous son; Clarence?

I had him when I was 18 years old. I intend to be right here to see his grandchildren. It feels wonderful seeing him succeed so much in life. I don’t expect anything less; a child that is a product of two talented acts in music and movies.

When people ask me about Clarence, I talked about the importance of being focused, planning and creative. Clarence is not an overnight sensation. He started playing drums when he was four. He acted his first movie when he was nine. He was on Family Circle when he was 12. So, he has really paid his dues by being focused and determined.

How true is the report that you almost aborted him?

Whoever wrote that did it out of mischief and wickedness. Because I was an undergraduate, I had every opportunity to abort him, if I had wanted to.

When I got pregnant for Clarence, for me, it was my father coming back to me. There was no single thought of abortion. Till today, that’s why I call him daddy, even my mother calls him daddy too.

I had a family and they all stood by me throughout my pregnancy days.

So how did you manage to cope as a teenage undergraduate and a nursing mother?

Like I said I have a family. My mum was always there for me. Clarence practically grew up with my mum. She was the one that took care of him, while I continued with my studies.

How do you relate with him now?

Clarence had a very good upbringing. I respect my mother a lot, so Clarence is no exception. He is very successful now, yet he gives me due respect as the mother. A child’s good or bad behaviour traces back to the upbringing and the background of where he grew up.

What is the grouse between you the currsent AGN President, Ibinabo Fiberesima?

Ibinabo used the platform of AGN to source for her own personal benefits. I have problems with the part President Goodluck Jonathan is playing in the film industry. Especially in the crisis of AGN. The court injunction preventing Ibinabo from parading herself as the AGN president was forwarded to the President by the conference of AGN States’ chapter chairmen.

The last judgment that convicted Ibinabo for the killing of Dr. Giwa and sentencing her to five years imprisonment was also sent across to the presidency. Ibinabo didn’t serve her term; she didn’t allow justice take its course. She should go back to prison and complete her term before fighting for positions.

She was never qualified to run as the president or contest for any other public post.

However, to the shock of everyone, president Goodluck recognized her as the president of AGN during her visit to the Presidential Villa.

Does that mean the President does not recognize or obey the rule of law in the country? Or are some people above the law?

For this action, the AGN seeks for an explanation from President Goodluck Jonathan. He should explain to AGN , the reasons he took such a decision regardless of their letters to him.

I intend to make AGN a commerce driven industry and not the disgrace of begging from one Government house to another. That is why people see us more as beggars than serious people.

Are you saying you will do better as the AGN President?

I joined the AGN in 2002. I was part of the process that brought in Zack Orji as the president of the guild and thereafter Ejike Asiegbu. When it was time for Ejike to leave, the whole thing degenerated. A caretaker committee was formed with KOK as the chairman and I as the vice Chairman. These are my identity cards (shows us), so I have the right to contest for election in AGN.

I even have a membership certificate which was signed by Segun Arinze who was the national president and Ifeanyi Dike as the BOT chairperson, then.

I went to pay N5000 into the guild’s account as my dues for this year. Ibinabo is claiming that I am not a registered member of AGN, let her provide any proof showing that I just got registered.

Before any other election, the first step is the dissolution of the BOT. When the time for election comes, there are several credible people who are prepared to run for the post. I will give my support to any credible candidate who wants the viability of every chapter. I will pass my plans and ideas to that person. It is not about me wanting to be president. I will gladly work and support the new person in an advisory role.

Lots of other actors have been calling and begging me to come and salvage the industry because they have been subjected to lots of maltreatments. Sex for roles, inadequate management of funds, extortion and what have you. If they insist they want me there and vote me in, I will do my best and transform AGN to what it should be.


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