Lilian Amah-Aluko is a Nollywood actress who has carved out a niche for herself in the movie industry. She has featured in many Nigerian big movies such asOut of Bound, The Head of State, Tinsel, Valley Between, Four Fathers and Doctors’ Quarters, amongst others. She spoke with Ada Nwanagum on her journey to fame. Excerpt.
Ma’am, could you tell us a little about yourself?
My name is Lillian Amah-Aluko, fourth child of Chinyelugo P.S. Amah and Odibeze Elizabeth Ezidi Amah of Ojoto in Anambra State. I attended Federal Government College, Warri for ordinary and advanced level school certificatesafter which I proceeded to the University of Lagos, Akoka where I graduated with both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English (Literature). I later got an international professional certificate in Film and Television Production from the University of California, Los Angeles. In 2004, I married AdeseyeOlukayode Aluko from Ilesha, Osun State. After an interesting and rewarding career that saw me moving from ADC Airlines to DHL, FedEx and finally Fidelity Bank PLC, I moved into entertainment. I’m a writer, an actress, a producer and the chief operating officer of Zmirage Multimedia Ltd, Nigeria’s foremost technical events company. I was two term Vice President of the Association of Movie Producers of Nigeria and a Director of Audiovisual Rights Society (AVRS). I am an Ambassador for Niola Cancer Care Foundation as well as Co-Founder of Women in Entertainment Advancement Network.
How would you describe your growing up days?
I had a happy childhood. My dad was an officer in the Nigerian Navy who eventually fought on the Biafran side during the civil war. My mum was a teacher. My family ended up in Freetown, Sierra Leone where I attended St. Anthony’s Primary School, Brookfield’s with my siblings. As refugees, we were not rich but had everything we needed for a happy childhood.Looking back, I realize how actions of parents shape the lives of their children. Let me share two examples that, for me, were very significant. At a point, while in Sierra Leone, my mum came to Nigeria for a few days, leaving my dad to look after all five of us. I clearly remember daddy getting us ready for school and using ribbons to dress our hair exactly how my mum usually did it. I remember, too, coming home on holiday while in secondary school and mummy unpacking my bag. She came across a scarf she didn’t buy for me and insisted on knowing where I got it from. When I explained it was a gift from a classmate, she was quite upset. She made me return it and told me never to take items of clothing or any other expensive gifts from other students. My take away from these two examples is that parents have a duty of care to their children. A father should also be a hands-on parent, helping his wife care for their children, thereby bonding with the children. My mum’s action taught me contentment – to like what I was able to afford and never hanker after what others had that I couldn’t afford. Till both my parents passed away, we were a close-knit family who loved each other, always looked out for one another.
What are your childhood dreams, did you ever imagined being who you are today?
I have been extremely blessed. As a child, I dreamt of being an air hostess, an actress and a doctor. I achieved the first two. I also dreamed of meeting my soulmate and thanks to the Almighty, I am living that dream now.
What are your fears and challenges while growing up?
The only fear I had growing up was fear of failure. I now know that failure is not the end of a human being as long as you learn from your failure to do better next time.
How have you managed to overcome these fears and challenges?
My beloved parents were my role models. Their lives were an example for me and I strive daily not to fall below the standard they set for us. They showed me by the life they lived that when one trusts in the Lord, loves his neighbour and does his best to keep the commandments life will be kind to him
What are your experiences as a wife, a mother and a career woman?
My life experiences both personal and professional have been a mixed bag…..good, bad, happy, unhappy but never downright ugly. I thank the Lord for the life I have lived, the experiences I have had and the people I have met. All combined make me the woman I am today.
What would you say is your greatest career or life-threatening challenges you have ever faced and how did you survive it?
The greatest life-threatening challenge I have had was an almost five-month battle with hyperthyroidism. It was bad because it took that long for me to be properly diagnosed. I lost an incredible amount of weight, had no energy and was literally between life and death. From hospital to hospital I was treated for malaria and typhoid over and over until a young house officer by the grace of God identified my ailment and proper treatment commenced.
As a career woman, what would you describe as your greatest achievement(s)?
I believe my greatest achievement is still ahead of me. For now, I am just happy that I’m making a success of my chosen career.
Talking about your career, what informed your decision to take up a career as a movie actress?
Fate and destiny play a part in people’s lives. Growing up in Freetown, my parents took us to watch movies in the cinema in the early 80’s. I watched‘The Sound of Music” for the first time on a large cinema screen in Freetown and fell in love with acting. Years later, back in Nigeria, I watched “Living in Bondage” and decided I wanted to act. I got the chance in 1996 when I auditioned for and got a role as RMD’s wife in his movie “Out of Bounds”. The role of Alero won me two prestigious awards as ‘Best new Actress’ (Reel Awards) and ‘Best upcoming Actress’ (The movie Awards – Thelma) in 1998 and there was no looking back after that.
Of your parents, relatives, who made the greatest impact in your life during your formative years?
Both my parents were my role models. They were both very strict but loving. My dad, Chief P.S. Amah, for those who knew him, was a gentleman. Deliberate in his actions, firm and very disciplined. We as children were in awe of our dad. Till I went off to university, my siblings and I never stayed out of the house later than 6 pm. My dad taught me to love books and spending time in his study reading through his huge book collection was my idea of bliss as a child. When he realized how much I loved books and how avidly I read them, he paid closer attention to what I read, also ensuring I read only the ones appropriate for my age at any point in time. My Mum who was a teacher for a lot of my childhood taught us to read and write at a very early age. She used the cane liberally and we children feared her spanking which you got as often as you misbehaved. My mum also taught us to cook and we took it in turns to cook with mummy. When it was your turn, you prepared the ingredients like boiling the meat, blending the tomato and plucking vegetable. I always got into trouble on my cooking days because I often burned the meat due to lack of concentration. My dad called me a bookworm because I always had a novel with me and I would get lost in the book to the point that the meat I was boiling would dry up. The smell of burning meat would alert me and I would make frantic efforts to disguise my misdemeanor by scraping the burnt meat and washing the pot. My mum always knew and I always got a few strokes of the cane. In spite of their strictness, my parents were kind and loving and my school mates often followed me home on exeat as my loving mother always made them feel welcome in our home.
Who amongst the Igbo career women would you say is role model and source of inspiration?
The late beautiful Dr Dora Akunyili.
It is believed that women in most part of Igboland do not live to their full potentials because the society relegates them to the background. Did you experience this prejudice?
I agree that in the past, there was prejudice which relegated women to the background in Igboland but not anymore. Many Igbo women have broken the glass ceiling and excelled in their careers even in the traditional male roles like politics, engineering and aviation. In my case, my parents brought us up to believe we could achieve anything we wanted. We girls were accorded the same education as the boys. I have two sisters and two brothers and we were all encouraged to be the best we could be. There was never any issue of prejudice.
Have you ever been sexually harassed all through your career pursuit?
No!! I have always reserved for myself the option of walking away. I don’t believe in do or die, so l can’t be held to ransom by anyone.
How best do you think we can curb the excesses of sexual harassment and intimidation against the girl child?
Sexual harassment can be against either sex though women and the girl child are more often at the receiving end. Therefore, parents should train their children well. Both sexes should be taught from child hood that harassment of any kind, be it verbal, physical or sexual is wrong. The boys should be taught to protect the girls who are physically the weaker sex and never to prey on people who are in a disadvantaged position relative to them. The girls should be taught that as ladies, they should use their more delicate intuition to guide men aright. Neither men nor women should allow themselves to be objectified or objectify anyone.
How would you wish to be remembered?
As one who touched lives positively.
Please drop a message or word of advice to the younger generation of women concerning their life, career and relationship.
My advice to young ladies is to ensure they are happy while striving not to hurt others in the process. They should create a healthy work-life balance and ensure they love and take care of their parents. If they are blessed with a family of their own, they should first love, honour and respect their husbands and secondly join hands with him to love and care for their children.