Uche Elendu: Starting Afresh
Words By – Josephine Agbonkhese
Actress, scriptwriter, model, producer and CEO of foremost beauty store, Killer Curves, Uche Elendu is one of Nollywood’s shining stars that require almost no introduction.
The graduate of International Relations has, since the early 2000s when she officially joined the Nigerian movie industry, had her name cast in stone as one of the most skillful and versatile acts in the industry. In this interview, the award-winning actress and mother of two, whose business was one of those heavily looted during last year’s #EndSARS saga, speaks of her career, starting business afresh, her aspirations, and much more.
What is it like starting from scratch following the heavy looting of your business during last year’s #EndSARS protest?
Honestly, starting from scratch is worse than I expected. After what happened, I took it lightly and was happy that there was at least no life claimed. After all, a lot of people lost their lives but what I lost was mere property and monetary valuables. I just took everything in good fate and planned to start all over again this year. But honestly, it’s been very emotional for me; going to my store and seeing the extent of damage that was done, including infrastructural damage that I had to take care of. Going somewhere else was not an option for me because people have known me with that shop aside the fact that it has a lot of exposure. Going to acquire new fittings like air conditioners, TV sets and all, was really painful because the prices of items have really skyrocketed due to the exchange rate. I haven’t got any assistance from the Lagos State government for restarting this even though they had promised to assist.
What’s the most difficult part of re-starting a business at this time?
The most difficult part of restarting a business at this time is the dollar exchange rate. Apart from the electronic appliances that had to be put in place, the goods were also an issue. I actually had just introduced a new line of business and brought in new goods two days before the looting took place. I had just gone into male designer shoes and jewelry. I still had my goods in their cartons. So, it was a huge blow; starting all over again and re-importingthose items is really very challenging.
The pandemic negatively surprised movie practitioners. For the future, what should actors do to prepare for the rainy day?
The pandemic affected everybody; including non-movie practitioners. Employers also laid-off workers as a result. For movie practitioners, I would say everyone should have a niche and probably get inclined with some kind of business. Have a virtual presence too; like how a lot of people were opening YouTube channels so you’re able to have things going on for you at every point in time and be able to meet the demands of your consumers.
What resolution have you taken regarding your career this year?
This year, I’ve made the decision to face my career squarely; give it quality time. I’m going to be producing some movies from some of the scripts I’ve written in the past; I was just waiting for the right time to bring them to picture. I’ve made arrangements for my own equipment. I actually want to also put up my own production house so I can make quality movies.
You’ve excelled as an entertainer and an entrepreneur; which of these lines of work are you most passionate about?
Being an entertainer is something that I love; the same way I am also passionate about being an entrepreneur. I generally love to make an impact in people’s lives. Through my business, I’m able to empowerwomen and help themlook beautiful; and that is one thing I am very proud of.
How did you discover your talent in acting?
I started acting right from my kindergarten days. I acted in church dramas and also, while in secondary school, I was actively involved in stage plays and other performing arts. So, when I got the opportunity to stare in my first movie ‘Fear of the Unknown’ in 2001, the skills came naturally as I read the scripts.
What movie gave you your first break and how long did it take for it to happen?
I started acting, like I said, in 2001 officially. The movie that however gave me my first break was ‘Ada Mbano’, a comedy movie where I played a funny and hilarious character. That happened much later because I took a series of breaks from acting at different points due to education and marriage.
Which of your movies really challenged your creativity?
Every movie I have done has been really challenging in one way or the other because, as we know, it’s not easy to switch roles. Every script I get, I internalise and become the character. At that point, Uche Elendu is no longer the one there because I have to make you watch it to believe the character. There’s this movie I shot recently ‘March 26’. I remember I had to make it as real as possible just like I do to every role I’ve ever taken.
What’s the most interesting part of being an actress?
It’s the fact that everybody wants to be like you because they think you have everything good going for you. You also have a lot of people look up to you and appreciate you.Also, you make money from doing what you love to do.
What are you doing to mentor and support aspiring female movie stars?
There is really nothing much I can do except for setting the pace and living an exemplary life; especially now that there is social media and everybody is looking up to you and learning from your lifestyle. Most people do not realise this but in one way or the other, our lifestyles affect the lifestyles of others—they emulate our lifestyles.
But one would have expected to see more of you in comedy with the popularity brought you by your role in ‘Ada Mbano’…
The truth is that after I did ‘Ada Mbano’, people started stereotyping me on into comedy movies; I started getting a lot of comedy scripts and actually did a couple of other comedy movies. But I didn’t just want to be pushed to that corner of the industry because I’m not a clown. I, therefore, started turning them down at a point since it’s not like I can’t do another kind of movie; I can get into any character—whether horror, romance, high school, action or whatever.
What was growing up like for you?
I’m the eldest and only daughter in a family of four children. I come from a Christian family. My father was a civil servant, my mother was a teacher; you know that kind of background. We were brought up to live right. As the only girl, I didn’t really have a playmate. Every of my move was monitored . I got everynecessary thing I wanted all through my childhood; and I also couldn’t deviate from the upbringing I got from my parents even after I had grown into an adult.
What childhood memories do you cherish the most?
I grew up in an estate that was surrounded by a Lagoon. Everybody in that estate was like a family. We used to have concerts. We would also sit together and be told stories. It was a serene, calm environment. Everybody hadlove for each other and also looked out for each other. I don’t see those kinds of things anymore.
What will ever make you turn down a role?
I will turn down a role if it doesn’t suit me.
What’s your most-priced fashion item?
I don’t want to sound vain but I love to buy expensive designer bags and shoes; I love good things.