Osas Ighodaro: As women, we usually put others’ interest, well-being before ours’
OSAS IGHODARO is an actor, advocate and humanitarian. Recently unveiled as brand ambassador for medical app, Tremendoc, the celebrity superstar spoke to GuardianWoman on her journey towards advocacy, the world of acting and what being a celebrity has cost her
Tell us, what led you into this journey of advocacy?
I had the opportunity to meet with the Nairbox team some time ago and I spoke to them about my yearly fundraiser where we raise funds for my NGO, the Joyful Joy Foundation. My sister passed away from malaria in 2006 and every year, we hold a fundraiser called Laughfest and it would hold in December at Terrakulture and we will be fielding celebrities, performances, comedy and a celebrity date bid where the audience bids on a celebrity for a chance to go out on a date with a particular celebrity and the funds raised go towards the foundation. Our goal throughout the year is to at least go to a community in Nigeria, give back, hold a malaria outreach, hold free tests for the community, give out free mosquito bed nets and so on. This year alone, we have gone to five different states in the country and we are happy we’ve been able to do that. Our purpose of partnering with Nairabox this year was to be able to reach more people, get more people on board, get the word out about the activities of the foundation and that was when I was told about Tremendoc and how they are trying to promote healthy living for every Nigerian at home and even abroad.
How long has the foundation been in existence now?
My sister passed away in 2006 but we started the foundation in her honour in 2012 in the USA and in 2013 in Nigeria and, since then, we have visited hundreds of communities, doing malaria outreaches free of charge. Each year, it gets better and better in terms of the number of people we are able to service and now that we are linked up with Tremendoc, I believe it is going to be even bigger and touch even more lives.
Do you think your star power is going to make a significant difference?
I absolutely think so. Within the public space, a lot of people know me as an actor but they also know me as an advocate for change and better living for everyday Nigerians. With my foundation, they know and see that I do what I preach which is giving back, one community at a time. Now that I have partnered with Tremendoc, more people would realise that I am very serious about getting important medical help to our communities. Unfortunately, we are not where I believe we should be in the medical sense but I’ll say we take it one day at a time and this is definitely a step in the right direction.
How will this app help the average Nigerian that may not even be tech savvy?
This medical app is an easy-to-use one that gets users access to a licensed medical doctor. For instance, it’s 2:00a.m and there’s an emergency but you’re unable to get to a doctor immediately, once you’re registered, you’re able to talk to a doctor and get the right advice for whatever the situation is.
Nigerians can be quite careless about their health, how will this change and improve this orientation?
The phones we all use are very powerful. We are able to do so much with our phones that a lot of us don’t realise. We use our phones for almost everything, why not to get medical help? There are so many ways we can better ourselves and this is one of the ways. I have used the app myself a few weeks ago when I wasn’t feeling well and couldn’t go to the doctor. I spoke to an amazing doctor who told me I needed to rest. I have to point out that this is not the same thing as self-diagnosis because you have someone that is trained and licensed to diagnose illnesses correctly and prescribe medication. I would never advocate for self-medication because a lot of people have died from it and I want to inform our society that it is okay to ask for help and ask questions from the right sources and we can do all that with this app.
How will this help women because women suffer medical prejudice and financial inequality more, would this help in improving medical access for them?
Once a woman has a device she can use to reach out to a licensed medical practitioner, this greatly improves her chances by more than 50 percent. So absolutely, it would help bridge this gap because we know a healthy woman is very important. Women in general wear many hats and usually think of ourselves last, we usually think of others first and put their wellbeing before ours.
You wear many hats yourself, as an actor, mother and advocate amongst other roles, how do you make them all work?
I have learnt that I have to be able to balance it all; it’s all about balance. You can’t do everything at the same time, but we can be multi-faceted and do many things because I believe God has given us that strength to be able to do the things we do. However, we need to find the balance and sometimes, the strength to say no to certain things and situations or to do some things later.
What has kept you going despite all the challenges you have faced so far?
Faith in God and just living and knowing that I am not doing all this on my own. I’m doing all I do by God’s grace and he has been kind and merciful to me.
How do you keep fit with your busy schedule?
I try to rest, workout, eat healthy and I have learnt to drink more water instead of juice which I really love. I drink a lot of water now and I am seeing the difference in my physique and energy levels. It is the simple things really, rest, working out, drinking water. If you cannot run, find time and take a walk but make sure you are taking care of yourself as much as possible.
As an actor that has featured in several movies, what would make you reject a script?
If it doesn’t call to me, if my spirit is not there and I feel it is not pushing my creativity in the right direction, I would have to politely turn it down. It’s just like with any job, you would know where you are not comfortable. If a job is right, you would definitely know.
Is it true that actors that studied Theatre Arts are better performers than those that just ‘fell’ into the industry?
I had the opportunity to learn acting, I actually went to school for it and have a Master’s in Theatre Arts and I believe this assertion is absolutely true. If you want to test yourself as an actor or hone your skills as an actor, you have to hit the stage. It is instant gratification, there are no cuts, it is raw performance and you would definitely see the ones who are prepared and those who aren’t. I am in theatre, film, television and I love it all, the opportunity to be able to act is my passion.
Which do you prefer, stage or film/TV?
I just got off an Ebony Life film and I still get butterflies in my stomach when performing. If you don’t feel nervous or get butterflies or get excited doing what you love, I don’t think it is worth it. For me, whenever I’m on stage and hear “action”, I get butterflies in my stomach. The excitement and the passion and wanting to put your best foot forward in this craft never leaves you. I usually tend to showcase a part of me that I don’t usually showcase and people encouraged me, telling me I did amazingly well and if you don’t have these feelings of passion and wanting to be the best of who you can be, what is the point?
Do you have any dream role(s)?
To play Nefertiti is my dream role.
What would you say to women that want to get into this industry?
Train, know the business, learn, ask questions, research and be passionate about acting. There are pros and cons to being an actor, or a celebrity but if you are doing this just for fame and not passion, you’re in the wrong business. You must keep pushing because it is your passion.
What has being a celebrity cost you?
(laughing) I wouldn’t consider myself a celebrity; I’m a performer, an actor and we know it has its ups and downs. You all have seen it with recent happenings but you take it with a grain of slat and push forward. With each project I do, I want to promote change, inspiration in people’s spirits and if I’m able to do that then I’m doing the right thing.
If you were to write a book about yourself what would you title it and why?
Never Give Up. So many obstacles have tried to stop me from doing what I do but because of my belief in God and my passion, I’ve never given up. I don’t want to cry but I’m grateful to be where I am today and accomplish all that I have. I’m looking forward to the future of my career because I never gave up.
What project do you have in the works specifically to help women?
I have a film coming out soon and it’s about pregnancy, surrogacy, adopting and things like that. We don’t really talk about it and when we do, it’s with shame. This film will showcase the different ways to have a child asides actually carrying the child, either by adoption or by surrogacy. A lot of women are going through things and there is nowhere they can talk about these things but through the arts, we want to share these experiences and start the conversation.
If you can advise the younger Osas, what would you say?
I’d tell her to never give up.
What does your typical day look like?
When I wake up, I pray, shower and get my daughter ready for school. Then I go on set or do some brand ambassador work, give back to the community. Sometimes, I have a red carpet event or premieres before I go back to sleep.
What is your fashion style and what does your beauty regimen consist of?
My skin is popping right now because I take a lot of rest and drink a lot of water. I’ve stopped taking things to heart and eliminated stress. Stress is horrible and can alter the way you look so I have started taking things easy and being more grateful. I’m taking each day as it comes, exercising more, keep my spirit happy and embrace positivity. This has really helped me a lot.
What is your final word to young women looking up to you?
Thank you if you look up to me and I’ll tell you to keep pushing, never give up, believe in whom you believe in and the sky is the starting point.