For big, bold and audacious Ify Okeke, ‘birthdays are for the living’
You won’t miss her in a crowd of Nollywood players and entertainers, as her plus size, which she flaunts with pride, gives her away easily.
An actress, aspiring singer and philanthropist, Ifeoma Rachael Okeke-Ozzoude may not be a face on every movie poster in Nollywood, but the beautiful actress is undoubtedly one of the beloved actresses of the Nigerian movie industry.
Colleagues and fans of the actress of many credits showed how they admired Ify, as Ifeoma is simply called, when they flooded her timeline to celebrate her on the occasion of her birthday. Overwhelmed by the outpouring of love, the hardworking and caring Anambra State-born entertainer and trained nurse, who has put in close to two decades as an entertainer, took to her Facebook page to thank all those who showed her love on her birthday.
Ify wrote: “It was an overwhelming birthday celebration for me, especially my party with the orphans, homeless and aged ones at So Said Homes. It was emotional and I am glad I did.
“I also tried doing the unimaginable by promising to respond to everybody who wished me well on my birthday, but truly, it was an unimaginable act. I couldn’t even go half a pole, not to talk of a mile. The calls and messages were too emotional and overwhelming on Face book, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, WhatsApp, Voice notes, direct calls, and people went out of their ways to get my old pictures, as my new pictures didn’t come out till evening of my day, but I saw my picture everywhere on people’s display picture across platforms.
“Plus gifts, upon gifts, alerts upon alerts by people who supported my going to the homes to celebrate.” She added: “At some point, I asked myself if I truly deserved the outpouring of love shown to me by the calibre of people that left their busy schedule just to wish me week. I had to pinch myself, then look straight into the mirror, as I looked at all pictures to be sure it was me. “It confirmed to me that I am truly a child of unmerited grace and favour of God. If not so, how can I explain this magnitude of love? What have I done right to deserve this show of love even till today? “I just want to say thank you all, there is no me without you guys and I feel so humbled. I am honoured and with you, I can brag to high heavens.”
Amiable, friendly and easy-going, it was not being an actress that was Ify’s childhood passion. The Founder of Purple Campaign, a project she established to create awareness against violence, was passionate about “caring for people,” a reason she later trained and qualified as a nurse.
She explained: “That has always been my passion, I never saw myself acting. At a time, I thought I would be a musician, because I was a choir member from age 10. But nursing took a better part of me and then acting, which has become my first love.”
Daughter of a father from Ogidi in Idemili North Council of Anambra State and a mother from Ekpoma in Edo State, Ify was born in Surulere, Lagos and had her early education between Lagos and Ogidi. On completion of her early education, she returned to Lagos, where she caught the acting bug. She explained how it happened: “I was in the Catholic Church drama group and a member of the Legion of Mary. We held our meeting somewhere in Anjorin, where the office of the popular actor, Nkem Owoh, was located. Nkem saw the potential in me and kept asking me to take up acting.
“So, on a Good Friday in 1998, he gave me my first movie role, which was a one-scene role in Yogo Pampam, and the rest, as they say, is history. But in terms of numbers, I have done over 70 films, including cameo roles or what we also call wakapass roles. “But I find my role in films like Mr. Ibu, Not Man Enough, Twisted, Surprises, Mental Case, Prostitute, Vuga, Above death, Oduduwa, Political Control, Indecent Girls, Love Temple, and most recently, a job that just gave me an award in London, Murder in Law, and a few television soaps, such as Treasures, Crossed Road and so on as my most memorable.”
Of all her movie credits, Ify picked Mental Case as the movie that challenged her most, “because I was a mad woman and a wicked step mum. It was something I didn’t believe I could do then. The other one is Prostitutes, because after the job, a woman attacked me in my choir in the church, saying as a choir member, I shouldn’t be seen doing such. My Reverend Father had to make her understand that it’s a job I had to do to preach to society about the ills of prostitution.”
Asked if being on the plus side has added or taken anything away from her being a regular player in Nollywood, the actress whose role models include Joke Silvia, Clarion Chukwura, Eucharia Anunobi, Vivian Metchie and a few others, responded “it does, especially when most of what those on the plus size are cast to do is to play comic roles or a mum and so on.
‘But I love my built and my voice. I know I have a small voice and a big frame, but I love me, if I can put it that way.” Still single, but hoping that “wedding bell would ring out loud when God say it is time,” Ify, in response to a question on whether she has any regret being an entertainer, declared in the negative, saying she has never contemplated quitting entertainment. “If I chose this over all the courses I have read and still reading, then there is no regret. I have no regrets. And as for my advice for young girls, it will for them to be patient, because what will be will be. They shouldn’t cave in to any pressure to cut corners at all.”
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