Jaiye Oluwakemi Kuti is not a new name to many people in the Nigerian film industry, known as Nollywood. She started her career officially in 2002 with a comedy soap opera, ‘Laff Patterns’ and featured in ‘Everyday People’, ‘One Love’, ‘Face To Face’, ‘Spiders’, among others. In this chat, she revealed some of her best kept secrets and family life.
You left a paid employment to become an actress, why?
I started acting even before I left my paid job but it was always part time. I started with ‘Laff patterns’ and ‘Everyday people’. So, when I left my paid employment it was very easy for me because I started it as a career. Coming into the movie industry was a familiar terrain, because I knew I had the talent of acting. So I started gradually and to God be the glory I began growing in the industry; from soap operas to home videos. At a time, I was the Assistant Coordinator for the Actors Guilds of Nigeria (AGN) in Ogun State and later joined Association of Nigeria Theatre Arts Practitioners (ANTP). I started with Oga Bello and then Jide Kosoko. I started studying under so many people. After studying under them, I came out with my own film ‘EewonLafin-Itan Kokoroede’. Shortly after, it was taken to Italy. It was a big one and I was happy for that. I have done another one which is ‘Eni Agbelebu’ among others.
How has the journey been so far?
The journey has been full of ups and downs. I would not say it has been so smooth, but gradually, if you are ready to grow in it, you have to learn it gradually which is what I did and still doing. But the journey so far has been wonderful; at least I have a good story to tell and I thank God.
What can you say about Nigeria movies?
Nigeria movies are growing fast. Apart from piracy that we all are faced with that is affecting us terribly, I can say we are growing fast. You see that these days, our people are producing good movies; gone are the days when people produced rubbish films and would force it on the people. Then, even cinemas would not take it. Now, most practitioners are sitting down to think of good stories that can be distributed anywhere in the world. We are growing fast and we are doing better than what it used to be.
Do actresses still have to sleep around to get movie roles or make it in the industry?
Well, let me just put it at 50-50. From my own experience in the industry, I have never been asked out by any producer, director or even co-artiste. Though, co-artistes may just admire us. I have never been told specifically that because of this role, I have to go out with someone and I don’t remember if anyone has reported it to me, even though I know that once in a while, thongs like that do happen. But you see, as you lay your bed, so you lie on it. When you are focused and you know what you want to do in the industry, nobody will try to sleep with you. If you are good, they will beg to use you. I know a lot of actresses that if they come for an audition, you would not just let them go because they are good. You really have to ask yourself hard questions? Some people feel that there is much money in the industry and because they feel they are beautiful, they want to be there.
It doesn’t work like that, you might be beautiful or good at acting and if you want to be there by force, then you have invited trouble. The producer will want to sleep because they know that at the end of the day, you are still useless. Some of these people create problems for themselves. What you cannot do, you say you want to do by force. So one has to be focused and face what wants to do. You have to start gradually, Rome was not built in a day and that is the system in the industry. As you grow with it, people will get to know and like you. Before you know it, your phone number will be flying about and you get called for roles.
Have you ever regretted being an actress?
Every day I am happy being an actress. In fact, do you know every day, I thank God that I am in this industry because I couldn’t have done anything better. This industry has taken me to Paris, Italy, London etc
Have you ever been embarrassed by any role played in a movie?
I can’t really say it was an embarrassment; I can only say that was when I knew that I was becoming popular. I went to market to buy something and the market women were shouting on me “E de na owo landlord fun wa, se bi landlord ti fun yin lowo now” (Spend landlord’s money for us now, at least landlord has given you money). So, people relate to you by what they see. They were referring to a role I played in a film as a landlord’s wife. A lot of people get carried away with what they see, they don’t see it as acting and they interpret it as the real thing. There was a time I played a wicked role and I went to Idumota, Lagos to buy jewelries and the next thing I heard was, “Eni Agbelebu, e ma kanwa magbelebu o” (Please don’t crucify us o) and when I wanted to start talking, one woman said, “I know you will be wicked, you are just acting as if you are nice”. Because they believed that a nice person could not be so wicked, they felt that wickedness was a part of me.
So much has been said and written about you and Pasuma of late, is there anything between you both apart from the business of entertainment?
Pasuma is not my lover and we are both in entertainment world. Though he featured in my movie once but that does not mean we are dating, or does that mean any male artiste that I feature in my movies I date them? That means I should have dated a lot of actors then. Even my upcoming movies, he never featured but he would oblige to just play during the premier in London and that is it. When I heard people saying that I am dating Pasuma, I just laughed it off. I can never date Pasuma. I am a married woman, moreover, he has the same story success as mine; he was a kind of person who struggled to attained the success and fame he is now enjoying. So for those saying Jaiye Kuti is dating Pasuma, the relationship between us is only on entertainment and business levels.
What do you think gets you attracted to the opposite sex?
I have the physique of an African woman and when you have this, believe me, it is the hottest in the world. We call it ‘figure 8’. When a woman has a pretty face and you have got everything in right places; the front, back and above all, friendly, that makes you a hot and irresistible figure for the opposite sex. I think I have got all these.
Why did you decide to shoot two movies back to back?
I felt one movie was not enough for me. It also happened that I have two beautiful projects that will sell and I know doing two movies at the same time will help me manage funds effectively. In a way, I will be able to know how much I spent separately.
What else do you do?
I am also the CEO of Jaylex productions, we are into film productions, music and entertainment in general. Jaylex production is basically to expose people that are talented and want to make a career or give their life a meaning in acting and entertainment world in general. So, it is all about creating jobs for creative minds. I attended Ikorodu Grammar School, Federal Polytechnic, Ilaro, Ogun State where I studied Secretarial Administration, after which I furthered to the University of Lagos to study English. I also studied Computer Science alongside. After that, I started working in a company as the personal assistant to the Managing Director and chairman of the company.