Stella Damasus became a famous Nollywood star at a young age. She was already in the entertainment industry at the tender age of 14. Only few people knew that she ran a band with her late husband, Jaiye Aboderin at just 18. At 42, Stella remains one of the popular actresses to have come out of Nollywood. Married to a film director and producer, Daniel Ademinokan, Stella spoke to GBENGA BADA on her career growth, her new found love, her children and expectations for 2020.
Stella Damasus is a woman of many parts, how would you describe the personality, actress, singer, mother, wife, and philanthropist?
I would say that I’m a very straightforward, focused, and goal-oriented woman. I am God-fearing, I love my family, and I love to work.
However, and most importantly, I’m a woman who lives life to the full and makes sure that I’m doing everything that I know I can do and that I’ve always wanted to do. I’m an explorer, especially when it comes to talents and gifts.
I’m a very straightforward person. You know exactly how I’m feeling and when I’m feeling it. Even though I’m a celebrity, I am a very private person when it comes to my personal life and my family.
I love to encourage, help and support people especially women and young girls. All in all, I’m a very easy-going person who loves to live life, while being intensely focus driven and determined to be the best that I can be.
Let’s kick off with music and show hosting, how did you come by these two?
I started singing as a kid in primary school, secondary school, and even when I got into university. I didn’t start professionally in a band until I met my late husband, Jay when I was 18.
Before then, I was a studio singer doing jingles for commercials, soundtracks for movies, and TV series. But singing professionally on stage as a musician started with my late husband in a place called Jazzville in Yaba, Lagos, Nigeria.
We decided to create a band together, it started growing, and even when he passed, I continued performing with the band until I had to move on and focus on my acting career. I did release a couple of singles here and there.
When I moved to the USA with my husband Daniel Ademinokan, who is Filmmaker and Music Producer, he produced an album for me called The Alternative, which is available on every online platform, including YouTube. I released the album in 2016, and I have shot about three music videos for some songs on the album, and they are available on Youtube.
In regards to show hosting, I started when I was in secondary school, and then when I was in university, I would get invited to host events. I enjoyed hosting, and that’s what lead me to host my tv show “Changing Lives” that aired in the UK and Ghana.
I’ve done a lot of other TV shows here and there, in different countries and I’ve even hosted several live shows, and I love it. I hosted the Nigerian Fashion Show for some years, I’ve hosted several comedy events and also hosted events for the Nigerian Brewery Limited.
At some point in my life, hosting shows then paid me even more than any other job I was doing. It was fun and exciting. A lot of the things that I am doing now, I started ages ago, even before people knew who I was.
Your forte remains acting because you became famous for movie roles, which would you say has been the most memorable role you ever played in the last three decades?
Before now, I would say the movie WIDOW. I know a lot of people like Games Women Play because of one particular scene. But for me, as the actor, I would say WIDOW because that challenged the life out of me.
I always tell people that when I made that film, I wasn’t a widow at the time. My late husband was still alive, and would even come to pick me up from set somedays.
Making a film like that and being exposed to someone’s life story because it is a real-life story; opened my eyes to what was going on with widowhood practices and widow abuse to this day.
It really affected me in ways I couldn’t imagine, and the whole experience was crazy, but it was if I was being prepared for something I never knew would happen to me.
Later on, when my husband passed, it hit me that what happened in the movie WIDOW is what people were expecting to happen to me. It dawned on me that this is the ordeal of the average African widow.
Making that film was so challenging, especially when we filmed the emotional scenes. It was so difficult for me to break out of the character sometimes, so much so that even when the Director says CUT, I would still be so overwhelmed and breakdown even more.
It would also affect the crew members sometimes. Some of the scenes were so deep and heavy, and it made us wonder how people could put other human beings through such torture all under the guise of WIDOWHOOD PRACTICES.
However, after years have passed, another memorable role that I would never forget is from our movie BETWEEN, where I play the character Chelsea Hollis, and it has just been released on Youtube.
I did things in there that I have never done in any other film, the character was different for me, and I absolutely loved it. So I would say my most memorable roles are from the movies WIDOW and BETWEEN.
What are the things you consider when accepting a movie role?
The first thing I consider is the script. I honestly do not care if I have a lead role, supporting role of even making a cameo.
The story just has to be very interesting and thought-provoking. Over almost three decades of being an actor, I have always said to myself that I want to be known for being involved in movies that would impact people’s lives and make a difference.
Not just stories for storytelling’s sake but strong movies that have powerful messages, that’s what I look out for. I also look out for whoever is directing. I like to know because different directors have different modes of operation. Some directors make it easy for you, and unfortunately, some stifle you.
They want you to be like a robot, tell you exactly how to walk, what to do, and it takes away my work as an actor. Luckily, some directors will give you directions and tell you what they want but still let you perform, and we all know that your performance is what makes you the actor.
A lot of people also like to know their co-actors, but I am never apprehensive about that because I can work with anybody regardless.
What’s your take on Nollywood – when you relocated and now?
The industry has grown in terms of our storytelling, technicality, and reach. We are now more global than we used to be when I left Nigeria. The world is paying more attention to us, and it’s not just because of the quantity but because of the quality.
The new crop of filmmakers in Nollywood are very knowledgeable; they pay attention to detail and are very serious about their work. For them, this is it. It’s no longer ‘we enjoy what we do, let’s just do it.’ For them, it’s like, “This is my life.
This is what I want to do, and this is who I want to be.” They are playing with a lot of new technology and working with different cameras. They are experimenting with special effects and doing so many things that. It makes me so proud of all the work that has been put into the industry.
We have more stars now that are reaching the world faster and better than we did a long time ago. I’m really excited about what’s happening now, and I’m happy about the direction that it’s going. We are improving a great deal in terms of our films.
However, my only issue is with the structure of the industry itself, which I think has a lot more work to do, but overall it has tremendously improved.
Tell me about your recent projects as well as why you seem to be working more with your husband than other directors/producers.
I will start with Between, which is a movie that was produced by Index Two Studio, which is Daniel and I’s production company. It’s a fantastic movie that has just been released on YouTube for everyone to see for FREE. I love that movie; it means so much to me.
We did it with heart, love, joy, and everything we had. Our goal was to tell a beautiful story, and I believe we did. I have embarked on a lot of other projects, like my Media, Consulting, and Publishing company called ADIVA Networks.
We just launched here in the USA; we’re putting things in place, but thankfully we already have clients who are coming to patronize us, and that’s amazing.
I write for two blogs, my blog, and Teakisi. I also host two podcasts, and I’ll be publishing two projects as well this year. I’m so excited for you all to see what we have created.
I have done a couple of other films as well; one is called GONE, we shot it in Nigeria, it was produced by Blue Pictures and directed by Daniel.
I did another movie for Kayode Peters called Excuse My African, and I did another film called Zikora, directed by John Njamah and produced by Chiemela Nwagboso for Iroko TV.
About working with my husband, I absolutely love it. He’s a great Director/Producer, and he understands what it means to work with actors because he studied it. He’s been in Film School for so many years.
He’s attended film school in Spain, Florida, New York, and even started teaching filmmaking and producing in a film school in New York. He’s done this for over two decades, he’s been working super hard to understand not just about being a director, but being a leader.
I like working with people who give you a chance to perform, and that’s exactly what Daniel does. He guides you and is very patient. He’s one person that doesn’t make work seem like work. You go to work with him, and you feel like you’re just having a typical day at home. It’s stress-free.
I’ve never seen someone who handles stress the way he does; it’s just so calm. However, that doesn’t mean that I don’t work with other people.
Like I said before, I did a film recently that was directed by John Njamah. I’ve worked with Lancelot Oduwa Imasuen when he shot in Atlanta, and I also worked with Robert Peters on Affairs of the heart.
I guess people have the impression that I work more with my husband because they see me doing films that he directed and fortunately for me, I’m an actor, married to a director.
When he has movie projects and sees a role that he feels needs somebody with depth and experience to portray the character, and I’m right there next to him, do you expect him to bypass me and go somewhere else (haha).
That’s the beauty of what we do and me even for me as well as a producer when I have an idea, and I want someone to direct it, he’s right there next to me. Or when I want to make music, he’s right there. He’s my first go to because we complement each other.
He has his areas of strength, and I have mine. When he needs an actor, or he needs somebody to co-produce or manage a project, I’m right there for him. So it’s not like I don’t work with other people, but working with my spouse has been a blessing to me.
How do you cope managing the homefront as well as maintaining professionalism while working with your husband?
Like I said, the best thing that happened to me is being able to work with my spouse. We met as professionals, we became friends, we complemented each other, we worked well together, so we unconsciously built the right foundation for working together as a couple.
When we are on set, everyone’s role is clear cut and defined. I know who the boss and director is, so we don’t ever mix our roles at all. We have mutual professional respect for each other. When we leave work and go home, we know our roles at home and we support each other.
My husband supports me a great deal. When it comes to raising kids, taking care of the home, or even food, he’s there for me. When he sees that I’m tired, he jumps in. When I’m not tired, I do what I have to do, but he’s always there.
Even in the middle of work, he’s there to support me at home, and outside of the home. When I’m doing a project, and he’s not a part it, he calls me or comes around just to make sure I’m fine. If I need any help or advice, I always call or text him for his opinion.
So managing and maintaining my home and work has been much easier than a lot of people think because I don’t just have a spouse; I have a partner, and when I say partner, I mean in everything. In marriage, work, friendship, love, parenting, in every single thing, so I would say I’m blessed in every way. I am truly blessed.
Different individuals have different views about your husband, Daniel Ademinokan. Kindly share intimate details of the man you fell in love with and married?
That’s an interesting question. I don’t think anyone has ever asked me that before, so I’m grateful for it. A lot of people don’t know Daniel.
They see him from afar or at events, but they don’t know that he is the goofiest man alive. My husband is so goofy, and would do the craziest stuff. If only people can see him at home, they will fall in love with him instantly.
My husband is so fun, he’s the life of the party, but most importantly he’s my best friend. I can discuss anything with him, and when I say anything, I mean anything. It can be hair, makeup, and even woman wahala. No matter what it is, he’s there to listen, laugh, and talk about.
He would say to “Look, babe, please o, you are my best friend, and I am your best friend. Don’t carry your gist and go outside. Anything you want me to learn, I’ll learn it. Anything you want me to know, even if you want me to do your hair, I’ll do it.”
That’s the kind of man that he is at home. He is an involved husband. He wants to be there to support you, never ever to control but to support. He is a hands-on dad, when it comes to homework, goes to every school event, even when I can’t make it. He gets there and sometimes is the only dad. He is so hands-on when it comes to parenting and taking care of the home.
Then when it comes to the professional aspect, he is so dedicated. He makes work feel like it’s not work, and that’s one of the things I’m still trying to learn from him. No matter how difficult a situation is, no matter what stress or challenges come, he stands as a buffer for everyone who is around him.
He has a way of seeing life as positive. He believes that no matter what it is, we will get through it, and there will be a solution even if it doesn’t seem that way. He is such a sweet and kind-hearted person, and I’m not saying it just because he’s my husband or because I want the world to think I have the best husband, no.
The fact that I’m still who I am and I’m still where I am today is because I have a man who listens to God. Whenever I’m down, I have a man who holds me up, and he loves God so much that my faith in God and my relationship with God became deeper when I married him.
He’s not the typical guy who is so egotistical that he can not apologize if he feels that you are hurt. Even when I’m wrong, if he sees that I’m hurting, he reminds me that he loves me and that we will be just fine. He’s my best friend, my lover, your brother, and father all rolled up into one.
A lot of people think it’s not possible, but I don’t know how God created this man, but with him, it’s more than possible because he is all of that and more.
If I don’t stop here, I’ll keep going on, and this particular question would take up an entire page (haha).