ALTHOUGH her fans may still refer to her simply as Monalisa Chinda, while all documents, as they say remain valid, the actress, show host and philanthropist has changed status.
From last Saturday, the River State-born actress, whose marriage with the show biz entrepreneur, Dejo Richards, hit the rock a few years after it was consummated, ceases to be described as the single mother of one.
With Richards now also married, Monalisa too decided that it was time to move on, and move on she did, as the delectable actress, at a traditional wedding ceremony in Port Harcourt, Rivers State capital, agreed to spend the rest of her life with her long-time family friend and businessman, Victor Tonye Coker.
What was planned to just be a quiet ceremony ‘between families’ became a huge carnival, as friends, colleagues and fans of the notable actress turned out in their numbers to witness the performance of the traditional marriage rites between Tonye and Monalisa.
“I have always known my hubby as far back as when I was 14, but from a far distance,” she said, when she found time to explain how it all began between her and the handsome Tonye.
“He is a cousin to my childhood friend and so we had more like a brother and sister relationship,” she quipped, adding: “However, it never crossed my mind that we will end up as husband and wife. In fact, back then, I used to call him ‘Uncle Ola.’
“That was how he is popularly called, even though he has no ties whatsoever with the Yoruba people.
But they called me ‘Uncle Ola’ and we all joined in calling him ‘Uncle Ola’ too.
“I am sure it because he was born in Lagos.”
So, this was not ‘love at first sight,’ as a blogger speculated? “No! There was nothing like love at first sight,” she snapped.
“I have always known him and it was ‘Uncle Ola’ at that time! But it was when we went for the introduction that the ‘Uncle Ola’ ended. It was then that reality hit me and it dawned me that I am in and in for good.”
But at what point did she develop the idea to settle down with him? She cuts in: “The whole idea of seeing him as the man I would be spending the rest my life with started on December 28, last year and interestingly, that was the day of my introduction.
“It might interest you to know that Tonye knew what he wanted from day one, but I only realised that he wanted more than just friendship on the day of the introduction. He has just been my friend all these while.”
With Tonye based in Port Harcourt, will that mean that Monalisa would shift base too?
“No, I will not,” she said. “He is based in Port Harcourt, but his business is in Lagos. So, he got a good reason to relocate, since he has his wife and business in Lagos. Plus, my business is here also. So, all join,” she enthused.
Blessed with a complexion that gives her out easily as a cross-breed, the first of six siblings born to an Ikwere father and an Igbo mother described how she feels presently as “awesome,” adding: “I can’t describe the feeling till tomorrow. I feel complete now as a woman and I am happy that I have moved on.”
A theatre artiste by training and a good-looking woman by every standard, Lisa, as Monalisa is simply called by close friends, achieved runaway success when even as an undergraduate, she featured in the successful urban telling, Pregnant Virgin.
She returned to the turf weeks later to feature in another groundbreaking movie, Above the Law.
Much later, her convincing acting run earned her a place among the stars. That was when she featured in the commercially successful movie, Games Men Play.
It was on the back of that star-studded movie that Lisa rode to emerge a face in every movie at a time in Nollywood.
At the last count, she has featured in over 120 movies, with a lot more still at various stages of production.
A dependable actress, who brings a unique touch to any role she plays and who always has a girlish joy for new ideas and new ways of doing things, Lisa, in response to a question on her staying power, said she realised quite early into her career that to strengthen her capacity to compete and survive in the murky world of acting, where you are up today, down tomorrow, one had to be humble and lean not on his or her own understanding.
A disarmingly humble personality, who surely knows her onions and who looks sure to be counted as a cut above the rest, even on the world stage, Lisa picked her roles in Total Control, a movie by O.J productions, and in Heaven’s Gate, the crowd puller from the stable of Zulu production, as her most memorable screen offering yet.
She explains: “Heaven’s Gate has helped me to be well grounded in Christ. It affected me positively.
“Then, there is Total Control, which made some people even think that I am that bitchy in real life. But I am not bitchy at all.
I may have a formidable and intimidating appearance, but am not bitchy.
“Those who really know me would attest that I don’t like to make people uncomfortable.”
What is on the card for Lisa, who named the day she put to bed as her most memorable moment in life?
“I have a couple of jobs lined up and, of course, my television show,” she said, adding: “But right now, I have to build my new home and concentrate on my family and give it as much time as I can and really spend more time with my family.
“I will work, definitely, but family will come first and first.”
About her career ambition, she replied: “Well, I have a programme, You and I with Monalisa, running on television now. I want it to grow big and in the process, I want to own my own television production outfit.
“I want to also continue to do charity work and I might own a charity home and a spar.
“So, it is going to be beauty, Jesus, family and career. But I will still read Law someday.”