Bolatito Sowunmi: From ‘Miss Pepeye’ to Moviedom
All eyes around the entrance into the National Institute of Sports at the National Stadium, Surulere, Lagos turned when she sauntered in.
Her beauty and intimidating height (over six feet) were irresistible as the Ogun State-born actress and model, Bolatito Sowunmi entered the hall on the first floor of the imposing NIS building where a pre-shoot briefing meeting for one of the three productions by participants of the Legend of Nollywood workshop for People With Disabilities was on-going.
“Omo! See height. See beauty!” A security man at the gate told a colleague who later identified the elegant tall beauty as ‘Miss Pepeye’ of the popular comedy series by Wale Adenuga Productions – Papa Ajasco and Company. “That character name has stuck with me. Everywhere I go, it’s Miss Pepeye. I used to play Miss Pepeye until I decided to move on to take up other roles,’’ the talented actress who holds a diploma in Law and a degree in Theatre Arts, both from the Lagos State University (LASU) responding to a question on why the gateman referred to her as Miss Popeye.
Blessed with a silky skin and girlish looks that make her appear ‘in her twenties’ when indeed she is in her thirties, Bolatito has always wanted to be in front of the camera.
The skin care specialist, lifestyle consultant, and entrepreneur, revealed that she developed an unquenchable passion for acting whilst growing up and in early school. She stated that even when she took the decision to study law at the diploma level, she still had her mind locked to acting, a reason she later studied theatre arts. “It has always been part of me…to act and model and to care about how people look. I presently help people look younger than their age. I was told that even whilst growing up, I derived pleasure in making people look good,’’ she enthused.
Raised in Lagos by her mum, as her father died when she was quite young, Bolatito first major screen run was playing the extrovert Miss Pepeye in the popular television comedy series Papa Ajasco and Company. Bola as the actress is simply called, revealed that she had gone to Wale Adenuga Productions in response to an audition notice for actors for their various drama programmes. “But after the audition, I got a callback and was asked to try the role of Miss Pepeye. I did and the crew was impressed and they cast me for the role.’’
Bola is not the first actress to live the role of the somewhat slimy character. The series is over four decades old and so a couple of actresses have breathed life into the character. “So it meant that I had to put in my best and bring my own game to the role and as months and years passed, I became so comfortable and could play the character without looking at the script. The role became a part of me so much so that people could not separate Bolatito from the character of Miss Pepeye. Some of them even think that like Pepeye, I am troublesome and can do anything for money in real life. But that is not true. We are two worlds apart. Miss Pepeye is an extrovert and I am a chronic introvert.”
An actress who has featured in some movies and series on African Magic including Tinsel, Forbidden and African Queen starring Segun Arinze, Tina Mba, and Bola Ninolowo, Bola admitted that her role as Miss Pepeye brought her to limelight and made her a constant visitor to many homes as long as she featured in the series. “It brought me out as an actress and I gained tremendously working with the cast and crew. It is one experience I will never forget in a hurry,’’ she said.
An actress whose career ambition is to become well known and accomplished in the profession, Bola explained that having spent over a decade playing Miss Pepeye, she took the painful decision to hang her costumes as Miss Pepeye so she could launch deeply into moviedom.
“I played that particular role for over a decade and I really had a great time playing the role. But I felt that it was time to take on various roles that would challenge more than the challenge I was getting playing Miss Pepeye. It was a role that I have become used to so I needed to move on to other things. So I resigned honourably and got the blessings of the Chairman of WAP and I moved on and so far, it has been good and we are pushing on and things are looking good. We will get there by God’s grace.”
Asked how it has been since she launched headlong into moviedom, Bola, who revealed that her forte aside acting is in marketing and sales, replied that it has been good so far but she still yearns for more acting and modeling opportunities. “It has been good so far. At least now people know that I am available for work and some of the works I have done so far have been literarily speaking for me. So It is one step at a time,’’ she said.
Described by close friends as hardworking, focused and diligent, Bola who revealed that she is a great fan of a couple of Nollywood veterans including Olu and Joke Jacobs says she will choose acting over other professions if she is given another chance at life. “I love acting. Apart from the things I do at the sides, I don’t see myself doing any other thing than acting. It gives me great joy whenever I run into fans that tell me that what we do make them laugh and make them relaxed. I mean, some of them say that they get out of depression after seeing me watching the series and the other movies I have done. That means that my work is making positive impact on lives and being appreciated. It means a lot to me and always makes me glad. So I will choose acting over and over again.”