Sultry actress, Stella Damasus, speaks on her alleged arrest by officials of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), her pet projects and other issues
Is it true you were harassed and interrogated by NDLEA officials while travelling to Dubai?
When the news first came to me, we were actually on set of a film in Cameroon. When the e-mail came in I was stunned. At first, I was really shocked but in five minutes, I brushed it aside and continued my work because I know that nothing of that nature happened. They stated that it happened on 10 November in Lagos, but the fact is that at that time, I was already in Cameroon because I left Nigeria on 29 October with my film crew and equipment and we didn’t have any issues whatsoever, even with the heavy equipment we were taking to Cameroon. However, after we finished shooting for the day, I realised that the news had spread and people were talking about it while it was everywhere on the internet. It hurts because people were so quick to spread the lie without waiting for a minute to verify it authenticity. That really hurts because I am human.
Did you suspect any foul play, especially when this is coming immediately after the Baba Suwe saga?
The truth is that I just believe that one jobless person somewhere decided to start spreading this silly rumour. Maybe he or she just felt he could make a mess of my reputation not realising that he/she is actually making mockery of the entire Nollywood. We are still investigating the origin of this rumour though, so I expect the culprit to be on his toes now.
Do you think someone out there was trying to tarnish your image?
Frankly speaking, I wouldn’t waste my time on that. Let them keep trying. The only reason why someone would sit down and pick me as target for humiliation is simply because he or she is just a sadist and angry that he/she can never be me. Because of the nature of my job, my colleagues and I are seen out there as easy targets for such people, but we have learnt how to deal with them. The fact still remains that they can never distract me from my work.
While the negative rumour about your harassment by the NDLEA was making the rounds, you were in Cameroon shooting a movie. Could you tell us what the experience was like?
Filming in Cameroon was an awesome experience for me. The movie I went to make is actually my first attempt as a producer and I must say that it was worth every minute. I had the privilege of discovering some talents in Cameroon. The movie is entitled Unspoken and it was written by one of Nigeria’s top directors, Daniel Ademinokan, who also co-produced the movie with me. Mr. Ademinokan and I joined forces to set up a new production company called Index Two Studios and this movie is indeed one of a kind.
What’s your impression about the recent relationship between Nollywood practitioners and the Cameroon film industry?
I feel that a lot more need to be done between both countries. We need to break the language barrier by subtitling some of our movies in French and also by doing French audio dubs because of the Francophone and Anglophone issues. That way, they also will do English dubs and subtitles for their films. The movie industry in Cameroon is functional but still on a very low scale because of the limitations in technical abilities. Daniel and I saw the need to help, so in September, we went to Douala, Cameroon, to train young filmmakers in acting, script writing and directing free of charge. After the training, we made a short film for them, which they really appreciated. If more people do that, they would improve greatly.
You were off the scene for a while but later resurfaced in the movie entitled Two Brides And A Baby, did you take a break to sort out your other engagements?
Yes, I took a break. I had to stabilise my production company, SDA Productions, work on my TV show, Changing Lives and spend time with my children.
What was growing up like in Benin?
I had a very normal and wonderful childhood. I come from a very closely knit Christian family. My parents ensured that I had the best education and for that, I am very grateful to them and God.
What has really changed about the Stella Damasus that first starred in the movie entitled Abused in 1992 and now?
A lot has changed after my first movie, Abused. She is older, wiser, now a mother, more mature, runs her own business and sees life clearly from a different perspective. I have had several experiences that made me to be stronger as a person. As per my craft, I have trained and learnt a lot more. I have totally rebranded myself.
Is your music career on hold?
No, it’s not on hold. I am just taking my time to ensure that when I come out full time with that, people will hear a sound that is mature so that my fans will be proud of me.
Do you still perform with your band?
I have four songs that have already been recorded. You will start hearing some on them on radio any moment from now. I even did a collaboration with Petit Paye, who is one of the biggest artistes in Cameroon. The videos will be on TV screens soon.
At what point in your career did you actually discover you could handle TV presentation?
Before I became very popular as an actress, I was already presenting a segment on the Charly Boy Show and I truly enjoyed it. At that point, I knew I would love to do my own TV show. Well, here I am, fulfilling my dreams.
What’s the focus of your TV show?
Changing lives is an inspirational show designed to strengthen people and give them better alternatives in handling issues they face everyday, using other people’s experiences. So far, I must say that response to this show from viewers all over the world has been overwhelming and I am truly happy that God is using me to affect people positively. On a daily basis, we receive countless e-mails from people on how the show has transformed their lives.
Has the show achieved the objectives set out for it when it started?
The second season of Changing Lives is explosive. The guests we have in the second season are remarkable people with outstanding achievements that will encourage people who feel totally hopeless in life and have lost their sense of purpose. Itâ€™s bigger and better.
As an actress and TV presenter, what does style mean to you?
For me, style should not be defined by a group of people. It should be about the individual. It’s how you choose to express and represent yourself using different tools.
How do you cope being a mother, an actress and TV presenter?
I owe everything to God. It is by his grace that I have been able to cope as a mother, a TV presenter and an actress. He guides me and strengthens me. Honestly, God has been really faithful to me.
Your foundation held auditions for young talents who are interested in becoming thespians last April and 40 candidates were selected for training, how are they coping?
They are doing very well. They will be graduating in less than a month. Some have even been participating in reality shows, in fact, one of them got a role on MNET’s Tinsel. They are also getting ready for the next session that will start in January by God’s grace.