A former member of Rivers State House of Assembly, Monday Eleanya, has been murdered in Port Harcourt.
For actress, mother and wife, Juliet Ibrahim, acting was never on the front burner. Her dream had always been to sing and to model. Today, however, she is one of Gollywood’s most popular faces following her break through after she played the lead role alongside aspiring Majid Michel back in 2005 in Crime To Christ.
In this interview with TONY EGHAGAE ERHARIEFE, the mother of a baby boy, entrepreneur, and Best Actress in a Leading Role award winner, opened up on growing up, how she met her husband and her turbulent childhood. She also spoke about how she is giving back through her NGO, Juliet Ibrahim Foundation.
At what age did you realize that you wanted to be an actress?
It all began when I was a little girl. I aspired to be a musician and a model. Acting wasn’t really my dream from the beginning; I stumbled on it in 2004 when I was 18.
What was it like acting alongside Majid Michel in your debut movie, Crime to Christ in 2005?
Acting alongside Majid was fun because he is a fun person and knows his onions when it comes to acting. I co-starred with Majid Michel when he was just starting out and wasn’t well known too. So it was just a case of me getting a shot at what I had always dreamt of doing which is acting. It was a wonderful experience.
You are one of Ghana’s hottest actresses but you have Lebanese and Liberian parentage. How did you break into Gollywood? And how come you’re a Ghanaian citizen?
The question of my heritage has been raised over and over again. It’s in the open and has never been kept a secret. My father is Lebanese and my mother is half Liberian and half Ghanaian. So that makes me as much Ghanaian as I want to be. As for how I broke into the Ghanaian movie industry, it was by chance. I stumbled on acting in 2004 after I had just won a beauty pageant and was crowned Miss Ghana Institute of Languages (Queen of Languages). I went to try out my luck at an audition for one of Ghana’s biggest film production companies and I never knew that was going to be the turning point in my life. I didn’t just land a role, I got the lead role and was given a script to feature in Crime to Christ, where I played the role of the girlfriend of a notorious armed robber. The rest as they say is history.
Tell us about your experience as a model and how you were discovered?
I started my modeling career as a runway and editorial model modeling for the big designer brands in Ghana like Royal Dennis, B Exotic, Joyce Ababio, Karim Isaka, Art Michael, Dark and Lovely, Woodin and GTP Fabric. I have also featured in countless commercials notably Wrangler Jeans and Veltins Beer.
Your rise in Gollywood and your recognition in Nollywood is strong. What is the secret of your success?
I would attribute that to God, hard work, consistence, diligence and persistence. Even the Bible backs it up in Proverbs 22 verse 29: ‘Seest thou a man diligent in his business? He shall stand before kings; he shall not stand before mean men.’ Every job has its challenges, the way you’re able to overcome the obstacles you encounter in the course of your work is what keeps you on top.
Did you ever experience sexual harassment as a green horn in Gollywood?
Thank God I never did.
Were your parents supportive?
Of course! Right from the beginning I had always nursed the ambition of becoming a musician and model at a young age and my parents encouraged me and never discouraged me at anytime. I grew up watching so many celebrities in Hollywood and dreaming of being like them someday and my parents fueled my dreams by buying me every new album of any musician back in the day just to keep me updated. I was a huge Celine Dion fan and when we were asked to write an essay on what we would like to be when we grew up in the 7th grade, I wrote that I wanted to be an international model and musician. I didn’t have acting in my plans, although I had acted a few times in senior high school. I’ve always been the shy type so I preferred singing at talent shows whilst hiding behind sunglasses.
We understand that you’re married and have a baby. How do you juggle motherhood, acting and taking care of your husband?
I have a close knit family and we help each other out. My mum is there and so are my sisters. When I’m not around I know my son is in good hands. However, I make time to be with him as much as possible. Just like myself, my husband is also in a busy profession, perhaps busier than myself but we always manage our time well so we can have quality time together. Marriage is a beautiful thing and motherhood is awesome; these two are not things you would want to miss out on.
How did you meet your husband?
I met my husband on a plane, he is a pilot. We exchanged numbers and started talking but he was living in the USA then so it was a long distance relationship. We became very good friends over time. It became more serious when he moved back to Ghana a few years back. We fell in love and decided we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together.
Tell us about growing up?
My childhood was very eventful because we grew up in war torn countries so my family and I were always relocating. I grew up in Liberia, Lebanon and Ivory Coast before we finally moved back to Ghana. There were happy moments when I was in school but most of my childhood moments are not quite exciting and worthy of recounting.
How many kids are you in the family?
We are four; I’m the eldest. I have a younger sister, Sonia, then there’s my brother, Nabil and my youngest sister, Nadia.
Aside acting, what else do you do?
I run a production company called Jewelz Production and a modeling/talent agency called Dolfins the Juliet Ibrahim Foundation, a Non Governmental Organization which focuses on creating awareness about cancer of the kidney and other kidney related issues. I also run a beauty parlor, Envoque and a boutique, House of Glamour in Ghana. I also sing and I have a single, Celebrate, featuring Ghana Dancehall star, Jupita.
If there is one thing Gollywood is very good at doing, its soft porn movies. What’s your opinion on this?
Well, as far as I’m concerned, you won’t see me acting a porn movie, not even for all the money or fame in the world. Like I said in one interview, those kind of movies are not movies from reputable producers; they are done by some new and money conscious producers, that’s why they are not tastefully done.
What project are you working on right now?
My foundation is about kidney cancer but we get requests from people with other types of ailment soliciting for help all the time. The one we are presently working on is the case of a 3-year-old girl, Moyinoluwa Olasoji who has cancer of the eye. She is from Ile Ife, Osun State, and she needs N5 million for a surgery in India. I’m also premiering the first movie I eveproduced, Number 1 Fan, in Ghana this month.
How do you relax?
I love to go on vacation, pamper myself at the spa, reading and listening to music.
You’re multi-lingual; you speak Spanish, French and English. How come?
I was raised in different countries, so as a child, it was very easy for me to pick up those languages and learn fast.
What’s been the craziest thing a male fan did to you?
Crazy? (Laughs) Well I never stick around that long for any fan to act crazy around me. I haven’t come across stubborn stalkers yet. I had a stalker years back and I had to involve the police till he stopped.
You’re such a beautiful woman. Now that you’re married and have a baby, how are you handling male attention?
I don’t need to handle male attention; my wedding ring does most of the talking. I’m married so that’s enough to keep everyone at arm’s length. I’m civil with all my fans; I love them all and appreciate them irrespective of their gender.
What’s been your saddest moment?
I had a tumultuous childhood. I have experienced wars in different countries and watched my family lose everything we own on different occasions because we had to run for our lives. I can’t start recounting all the sad moments I have experienced.
What’s been your most challenging experience as an actor and how did you overcome?
The most challenging experience as an actor is the fact that you have to keep doing what you do best to stay in the game and remain a role model to the fans who look up to you.
Could you share your happiest moment with us?
My happiest moment was when I had my son, Jayden.
What’s your advice for youngsters who want to walk in your footsteps?
Believe in yourself, stay focused, never let anyone talk you out of your dreams and most importantly, put God first in all you do.
Who are your role models in acting?
My role models consist of all the great actors we have in Ghana, Nigeria and beyond. The American movie stars I regard as my role models include Catherine Zeta Jones, Vivica Fox, Tyler Perry, Celine Dion and Beyonce
What are your dreams?
For my foundation to reach out and help lots of people. To see my business empire grow and also, to be featured in Forbes Magazine as one of the most influential women in Africa.