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Doris Simeon: Still the first among equals

By Shaibu Husseini
30 July 2016   |   2:21 am
Popular cross over actress, Doris Simeon, was in London for a photo shoot for a ready-to-wear African print when fans took to the social media to congratulate her as she clocked ...
Doris Simeon

Doris Simeon

Popular cross over actress, Doris Simeon, was in London for a photo shoot for a ready-to-wear African print when fans took to the social media to congratulate her as she clocked a year during the week.

The encomium that greeted the commemoration of her birthday was loud and only very loved actresses and those who are categorised as dependable get such kind of accolades.

And for many who have followed her shimmering career on screen, Doris is indeed a darling of the movie crowd and one of the few actresses in Nollywood who has successfully straddled both the Yoruba and English genre of the vibrant industry.

Clearly, one of the few actress in the Yoruba language divide of Nollywood that has maintained very high standards and whose drive and determination to make it to the very top is clear, the pretty and amiable actress, who is currently in the United States (US) for the shoot of her new flick, Beautiful Bastard, has been having a good run in moviedom since she joined the turf nearly two decades ago.

Blessed with a complexion and beauty that is not only stunning, but could also make her a most sought after model, if the recipient of the Africa Movie Academy Awards (AMAA) crest for Best Actress in a language movie decides to engage the runway, critics have always held that her wholehearted application to work, as exemplified by her performance in critically acclaimed movies, like Purple Petals, Onitemi, Blood Sisters, and Omo Jaiye Jaiye, is what has set the beautiful, friendly, jovial, focused and adorable actress apart from equals and also kept her in contention for a very long time.

Mentored by the late dependable actor and director, Yomi Ogunmola, Doris’s initial career interest was to be a newscaster, as she was always fascinated by the way they ‘spoke so fluently and with so much confidence.’

But as years passed, she developed another passion- that of make believe- and luckily, the movie industry was witnessing a boom then.

A friend hinted of an audition exercise for a cameo role in the situational comedy by Wale Adenuga Productions (WAP), Papa Ajasco.

She attended, got a role and that marked the beginning of the journey into the movie industry for the old girl of Maryland Comprehensive Secondary School, Lagos and alumnus of the Pencil Film and Television Institute (PEFTI).

Inspired to venture into acting by the acting chops exhibited by the likes of Joke Silva, Liz Benson and Onyeka Onwenu, the 2010 ZAFAA Best Actress in an indigenous movie was born in Lagos and raised in Ojota area of Lagos by parents, who did all they could to make her growing up memorable.

“Growing up for me wasn’t a walk in the park, but I am grateful to God for the kind of childhood I had,” she said.

Proprietress of Davris Beauty Centre and star of Oluju Ede, Omo Pupa, Ago Kan Oru, Iseju Maran, Ako Pepeiye and Eleda Teju, Doris described her winning the AMAA awards in 2008 as her most memorable moment as an actress.

She also rated Onitemi, the movie that earned her the AMAA crest, and a few others, like Modupe Temi and Omo Iya Mi, as some of her most challenging movie run yet.

She said: “I will still point to Onitemi, because it was my first time wearing the hat of a producer and then Modupe Temi, because it was just a two-cast movie.

Then Omo Iya Mi was extremely challenging, because I just had my baby and I was still breastfeeding him.

“I was producing and also acting as twins. For a minute, I thought I was going to lose my mind.”

An actress who doubles as a producer and an entrepreneur, Doris explained that she decided to add production to her career plate because she wanted to make an impact in the industry.

“Often times, as an actor, there is not much you can do to influence the movie you are doing, because the director has a certain picture in his head he wants to achieve and the producer is also doing what he can, to the best of his ability, to make a good film.

“They might not necessarily be doing the right thing, but as far as they are concerned, you are just there to act and you can’t change their opinions about certain issues.

“But I had to produce my own movies, like Onitemi and Omo Iya Mi, among others to contribute my quota to the development of the Nigerian motion picture industry.

“I just wanted to prove to those who have been lashing the Yoruba filmmakers that Yoruba films are not sub-standard as they have been suggesting. I think that they are completely wrong.

“We have films here that can compete favourably with films produced by our English producers. Look at Onitemi, for instance. It got two nominations at a previous edition of the AMA Awards and won one.

“So, it is just to contribute my quota.”

Speaking on the gains and pains of her involvement in Nollywood, Doris, who said she is attracted to honest people, but dislikes “busy bodies who just come around you and act like your friends and at the end of the day they stab you in the back,” bemoaned the lack of privacy.

“You are under constant scrutiny by the public and the press. That is just it. You can’t put on a flip-flops and walk down the road to buy roasted corn without the press lamenting that you have gone bankrupt.

“I have had situations where I would be late for an appointment and I would just feel like parking my car because of traffic and going on an okada, but kai! I can’t try that because it will be in the news soon that Doris is suffering now.

“ But I have developed thick skin now.”

A recipient of a number of industry awards, including the 2015 City People award for the Most Creative and Dynamic Actress, Doris would not want to be dragged into any discussion about her ‘failed’ marriage to the notable movie director and father of her son, Daniel Adenimokan.

She simply posted: “I bless God for my life. At least, I am in a relationship with my God, my son and my career.

“Abeg, next question,” when asked to comment on how it has been for her so far.

But asked her career ambition, Doris, whose favourite meal is Ogbono and Semovita, replied: “Just want to be a good ambassador for Nollywood.

“I want the generation of filmmakers coming after me to use my works as reference points when they are working.

“I have a strong passion for this job and I believe that I haven’t even scratched the surface yet.

“As for regrets, I don’t have any, whether in my career or in life. I love my profession and I could continue to be in it.

“I may try my hands on other ventures, like I am doing now, especially my business and charity commitments, but motion picture practice is my first love.”