Ayo Adesanya: 50 red roses for star actress of stage and screen
She doesn’t look 50. So when she announced recently that she had turned 50, her social media timeline and indeed, the social media space was agog with congratulatory messages for the beloved star actress and one of the very few in the professional class, Ayo Adesanya. An actress, director and producer, who two decades and half ago, and as an undergraduate, only hoped and longed for an opportunity to share in the thrills, excitement and exhilaration that acting offers, has emerged a top rated actress whose dazzling runs coupled with what is believed to be her ‘undiluted passion’ for the profession have singled her out among her peers and have endeared her to many Nigerian home movie fans.
Indeed, quite a number of the home movie fans heave a sigh of relief each time her name scrolls through a movies credit list. No doubt, the actress who is always first to flash an honest smile has overtime earned the reputation of being one of the ‘few good women’ of the Nigerian movie space. Ayo has also proven over time that she could be relied upon to give a worthy performance and to superintend over a movie production. .
Born to the late Pa Adesanya and to a mother, who is a businesswoman, Ayo, who was born and bred in Ibadan, Oyo State, had her early education at the Baptist Nursery and Primary school in Ibadan and St. Annes, Ibadan. From St. Annes, Ayo proceeded to the University of Ibadan. She had just climbed up to the second part of the programme at the Languages Arts Department of the university when she lost her father.
But it was while in the university that Ayo caught the acting bug. As a student, Ayo spent much of her off lecture period watching presentations and skits performed by students of the Theatre Arts Department. The actress of vast credit recalled how the likes of the actor and later day Konkere music exponent Tunji Sotimirin and the folks behind the popular ‘Lafomania’ comedy club enthralled her with their acts. So as each day passed, she longed for an opportunity to act. But that opportunity didn’t come until sometimes in the late nineties, a few years after she graduated from the University of Ibadan. A chance ticket, which she secured to play a cameo role in that Opa Williams award-winning movie ‘Onome’ provided the break for the Ogun state native.
But as a child, all Ayo wanted for a career was to become a broadcaster, something like a newscaster. Which was why she chose Language Arts as her course of study when the University of Ibadan offered her a place. When she graduated, she sought for a platform for expression. She came close to securing one but fate had another plan altogether for her. A friend had told her of a recruitment exercise at the premises of the African Independent Television (AIT). The next day, she set out to Alagbado, operational base of the AIT. But on getting there, she was told that she had come ‘a day earlier’. There was a notice at the gate, which informed applicants that the job recruitment exercise into the programmes department would hold next day. As the later day, actress who was born under the star sign Leo made to leave, one Ifeanyi Arthur, an actor who had also come for the interview informed her of an acting audition in town. ‘He told me of the audition which he said would hold in Surulere and convinced me to try it out’ Ayo, narrating her walk up into acting.
Next call for Ayo was venue of the audition. But it was a cameo role what industry players liberally call ‘waka pass’ that Ayo was offered on the set of Onome. That didn’t put her off acting, as it would have done to anyone who would have walked in with the ambition to play a lead at first appearance. She just wanted to have a feel of the turf. Little wonder then that she held on to the ‘small role’ and did the best she could of it. Observers say that the sincere manner in which she handled the task earned her more roles in Nollywood.
Indeed, that experience, on the set of the two part flick Onome, was all that ignited what Ayo alluded was the somewhat new and ‘unconditional interest’ she had for acting. It was indeed on the set of Onome and ‘one or two other jobs’ afterwards that Ayo’s obsession with acting began. Today with over 150 movies to her creative credits amongst them ‘Last Party’, ‘Ebu Ika’, ‘Captive’, Out of Bounds’, ‘Most Wanted’, Fire Dancer’ and ‘Dangerous Babe’ starring Regina Askia and a role in the rested television soap ‘Palace’, Ayo has emerged a darling of the silver screen.
Ayo sought and was reposted to Oyo State for the compulsory National Youth Service Corp (NYSC) scheme after the orientation exercise in Imo State. After the NYSC, Ayo journeyed to Lagos in search of a job as a broadcaster. She made some efforts but ironically the first job she landed was as an actress. Back home, there was no resistance to her venturing into acting. Ayo who holds that the manner her parents brought her up particularly her mother has helped her to succeed both in career and life says she received more than the required encouragement from her mum.
After Onome, Ayo got another opportunity to star in yet another Opa William’s commercially successful flicks ‘Dry Leaves’. Again that opportunity and her outing in Richard Mofe Damijo’s ‘Out Of Bounds’ and the Yoruba movie ‘Otelemuye’ which she produced, provided the spark. In no time, Ayo proved her versatility on the screen. And not only did she become a darling of the home movie crowd, she instantly emerged the toast of most of the sectors substantial producers.
But has acting been able to pick up her bills? Ayo says it has but adds that contrary to popular belief it has not translated into fat bank accounts. Also, did Ayo venture into productions because she could no longer make ends meet as an actress? She replied in an earlier interview with a tacit ‘No’ and adds that she had all along wanted to produce movies particularly stories that she likes.
Asked if she has any regrets engaging the acting runway. Ayo who says she will never be caught discussing her private life on the pages of the newspaper, declared that she has no regrets and that she would do ‘some more acting again’ if given another opportunity to live life again. She said: ‘I would definitely choose acting again. The advantages of being a player in the movie industry far outweigh the disadvantage. I mean it has aided me in a lot of things especially outside the country. But there are hassles. I mean one has to think twice before doing the normal things that people do. Most time you are worried about what people are going to say. But I like to live a quite and simple life not really minding what anyone thinks or say about what I do. To that extent I think I have been able to fair well as an actress. So there is much that acting brings your way. That’s why you see today that everyone wants to be an actor. The whole Nigeria wants to act. I have people who stop me and all they want from me is how to give them an opportunity to act. Today it’s no longer a dirty profession. I mean people no longer think that actresses are never do well’’.