• Friday, July 19, 2024
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BusinessDay

Stephanie Linus,

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 Leaving the house this Tuesday morning to meet my guest for this week was with mixed feelings. Reason? News had it that there was going to be a heavy-down pour and people should ensure the safety of their lives and properties. The weather didn’t make it any easy but I kept my fingers crossed , hoping I would get to my destination before the down-pour started. Traffic was already building up and it was easy to tell that commuters were trying to beat the rain, I guess luck was on my side, because though the weather threatened and panic was high, I managed to get to my destination amidst the obvious intimidation of an impending downpour as seen by the gathering and thickness of the clouds.

While I sat waiting for her, I couldn’t help but admire the beautifully positioned leather seats and chandelier that drooped gorgeously from the ceiling, drapes that matched the settee, a soothing ambience…everything just looked well put-together.

Four minutes felt like forever as I was caught in the moment , admiring the home, but my thoughts were ‘interrupted’ when my guest came to welcome me. It seemed like we had known each other forever, her demeanour was affable. It was obvious she wasn’t going to let the interview progress until I had something, so after a few minutes of gesticulating while running through her ‘menu’, we agreed on a home-made blend of colada which she went on to prepare herself and served me, and yes, it was very refreshing!…seeing her on the screens is one thing, meeting with her is another. Welcome to the world of Stephanie Linus (Nee Okereke)

Stephanie is an A-List Nollywood Actress and her tenacity, wit, intelligence, grace and natural talent have earned her a reputation as Africa’s foremost actress, especially in Nollywood, now reputed to being, the second largest film industry in the world.

In 2002, she became a household name in Nigeria, for her sterling performance in the movie Emotional Crack, which earned eight awards and was screened in 2004 at the African Film Festival in New York.

A winner of several awards, having starred in over 100 films so far, her film, which she produced and directed titled ‘Through the Glass’ premiered in October 2008 at the Pacific Design Center in Hollywood, California and won the Recognition Award from the California Legislature and the city of Carson. It opened in theaters across Nigeria in 2009 and was the country’s first film to gross over N10 million in its first week.

“Growing up was fun and my parents did their best to bring us up well.” She tells me when I ask about her parental tutelage that she remembers and she continued “we had times when things were difficult in the family, but my parents and we the children went through it and we came out strong. I never saw impossibilities, I always saw opportunities. Even while at school, I got involved in debates and would defend my points to the end” she tells me.

How then did she find herself in the film industry, I asked? She smirked like she could tell that the question was coming and she responded “I always knew from the beginning that showbiz is something I would want to be involved with. While waiting for my results to come out, so I could enter the university, there was an audition at Anambra Broadcasting Service then, I went, I auditioned and got the role, but the show was cancelled. In 1997, I met Teco Benson and I auditioned for a role that was not too prominent, what in this part of the world we call a ‘waka pass role’ but trust me, I felt really cool with it. They say I did well and the next film I featured in was titled ‘Waterloo’, I was a sub-lead, the rest they say is history, indeed God has been good to me and His mercies and love has been my shield”.

Determined to expand her horizons and create more opportunities for women in Nollywood and the Africa’s film industry, Stephanie took a break in 2008 to study film at the New York Film Academy at Universal Studios, Los Angeles. When she returned, she did the film ‘Through the glass’ and having featured in several movies, she is back on set again to shoot another film titled ‘Dry’ and it is about VVF.

Vesicovaginal fistula (VVF) is an abnormal fistulous tract extending between the bladder and the vagina that allows the continuous involuntary discharge of urine into the vaginal vault. There are holes resulting from a breakdown between the vaginal wall and the bladder or rectum, usually caused by days of a baby struggling to fit through the birth canal.

Speaking on her first encounter with someone with VVF, Stephanie admits that “it is really a sad situation, you feel sorry for their condition; they don’t feel comfortable because of the smell and discomfort of carrying around the urinary bag. I have been working on this project since I was in the university and I travelled to various parts of the North and South- South, to get more information about the ailment. It is my way of using my platform to help shape the society. When you put it in picture, the picture is painted in your mind and the thought of doing something about it comes to you naturally, hence the need for the film. During my research, I was told of a woman who had VVF since 1976 and just got treated three years ago at Ebonyi State; another woman I learnt about had it since the Nigerian civil war and just got treated a few years ago.

“As at that time, she would go to the hospital and they would send her away because they did not know what it was. She carried it for many years before help came to her. To think that VVF is curable is comforting, to know that it will take just 30 minutes to carry out the surgery is encouraging, but to know that people are ignorant that it has a cure, that young girls are forced to marry at young ages, which opens them up for VVF, that the fee which though not so expensive, is not available for sufferers, is indeed disheartening, hence the need for the film. It has been challenging but my determination to bring to fore, the challenges of sufferers has been my drive.”

In “Dry,” Stephanie tells the story of two young girls trying to survive in a world of rejection and hopelessness brought on by their condition. The film will raise funds to pay for VVF surgery and rehabilitation, and after its premiere, a mobile movie theatre will take it to African villages and towns, particularly those where VVF patients reside.

Stephanie was recently awarded the country’s fourth highest award, MFR by the president of Nigeria and is happily married to Linus Idahosa