You probably do not know Folashade Adenike Kassim; but if you are a Nollywood enthusiast, the name ‘Lepa Shandy’ definitely rings a bell. Her sterling performance in the Yoruba movie, Lepa Shandy’ in 1995 brought her instant fame and fortune. She spoke on her challenges and experience in the industry with Tribune.
How did you come about your stage name?
It’s the title of a movie that was produced in 2002. Not many people know my real name; ‘Lepa Shandy’ has become my second name – and I appreciate it.
Has it been easy answering that name?
It’s not been easy, my brother. I give glory to God. I have done several productions since 2002, but Lepa Shandy still paves way for me. But you know how people are. Do you know how much I have spent today on Area Boys? It has not been easy, but I thank God for keeping me on.
What was that particular scandal that affected you the most?
It was the one that claimed that I snatched my friend’s husband. That was when I was still single. This man I am talking about happened to be my senior colleague; the man that groomed me in the industry. His wife was (and still is) my very good friend. You know that in our society, people get funny ideas, especially when two people of the opposite sex are close. If they see you even chatting with someone, it could be taken that you are dating the person. That is Nigeria for you. This senior colleague and I were very close. He pampered me a lot just like his younger sister. They must have seen us at a location together and, snap! came the news. That paper is no more in the market as we speak. It is not only bad press that can sell your paper. When you publish without facts, people are likely to discover, and before you know it, you are out of business.
Are you saying that these things don’t happen in Nollywood?
Even if they happen, what is their business? It is nobody’s business how an individual runs his or her life. If you see those people talking about actors and actresses, go and search how they live. They are even worse off than actors. It is none of anybody’s business how we live our lives. It is not good for people to take our lives too personal. Abeg, you wan drink Panadol for another person’s headache? I am not saying it doesn’t happen, but my case was a brutal lie. However, we only laughed over it. When I called my friend (the one whose husband they said I snatched) about the news, she asked me to send the reporter’s name and number so that she could speak to him. You can imagine! I am still a good friend of this couple. But because I was just new to it, I cried bitterly when it happened, until I was lectured by another journalist on bad press. Since then, my brother, there is nothing you will write about me that will affect me.
Do journalists write only bad things about you?
No. It’s not only bad things. Newspapers write very encouraging reports about us. But these soft sell tabloids, because people enjoy gossip, want to satisfy their market. All the same, you don’t have to tarnish another person’s image to satisfy your readers. There are other enlightened people who would love to read other aspects of our lives beside the scandals.
But is it not true also that you went to Dublin to meet one Alhaji?
I also read that report, my brother. A friend of mine drew my attention to that report. After I read it, I called my boyfriend (who is now my husband) and asked him if he was an Alhaji. I sent him the online link to the news and he laughed. If I live in the same house as you and there is a report that I am with one Alhaji, who is spoiling me silly with wealth in Dublin, would you believe it? We had a good laugh. That story vindicated me in the eyes of my husband. He can’t believe anything anyone writes about me. This happened when we were courting. It could have destroyed my marriage if I wasn’t with him when it happened. When it happened, I went to Dublin to see him and shortly after I proceeded to Germany. I didn’t even stay for too long. He is not an Alhaji. What would you say about that?
Okay, was it in Dublin you got married?
I don’t want to talk about my marriage. He is not a public person, and he doesn’t like publicity. Leave it at that. But you can see it was not an Alhaji I went to see. I have not discussed this with any journalist. If not that you asked, I wouldn’t have said anything.
You seem to clear all the scandals that surround you. Were you very disciplined before you got married?
So you want me to tell you that I was not decent? If I ask you that question, wetin you go talk? But I was never like that because I came from a very disciplined home. My father happened to be a retired military officer. He was a disciplinarian to the core. He is into politics now. There is no way you will come under that man and not be disciplined. He raised me single-handed because my mum was not there for my sister and me. I am very glad that he is very proud of me because I turned out a good child, not like some wayward undisciplined child.
Tell us about your growing up?
It was tight. We lived from a timetable. There was time for everything, and we did everything religiously. My father made sure of that. There was time to sleep, time to wake, time to eat, to go to school and there was time to come back from school. He would look at the clock whenever we arrived from school. This is the simple truth. That was how my father raised us. There was no way we could go astray. He didn’t give us any breathing space. He monitored our progress till we gained admission into the university.
Did you like his approach as a daughter?
I didn’t. I didn’t even like him so much then. I thought my father was too rigid and did not love us. It was much later in life that I got to understand how helpful his approach was to me. My kind of upbringing has been very helpful to me in this industry and even in my marriage.
I was not around to congratulate you on the successful delivery of your second child.
Yes. I received a lot of congratulatory messages from people, friends and well-wishers. I was very happy that people cared for us. I want to thank them sincerely.
How is married life like?
I don’t want to talk about my marriage. I can only say I am happy.
Your marriage must be very important to you?
It’s more than important to me. I love marriages. I am an advocate of successful marriages. I appreciate my man; I want to keep my home. Leave it like that.
Does this feeling come from your experience in your former marriage?
I don’t have any former marriage. All I can say is that I have a marriage, I love my home and I am happy.
You once said only God could keep a marriage. Is that absolutely true now that you are married?
I don’t think that is totally correct. God keeps a home. Yes, but we also have a role to place in a marriage. There are so many things we don’t know before marriage. For instance, you don’t expect things to remain the same way as your courting period. I got to learn that later. Marriage is another life’s lesson entirely. You have to be tolerant, open, trustworthy and submissive. As a woman, you have to be submissive. All men are the same. An African man wants to be the head of a home. As a lady, no matter your role in the society, you have to give him that role. Respect and appreciate your husband. After God, your husband should be the next. He is your lord.
Are you talking from experience?
Experience is the best teacher. As I am, I can kneel down, crawl to beg my husband when I offend him. I make him understand he is still my lord.
Is this nugget of wisdom coming from the fact that you fear another divorce?
No. I do not pray for any break-up. I am doing it because that is what God wants us to do. This is both in the Bible and the Qur’an. A woman is to respect her husband.
There is a general belief that female celebrities are always arrogant and stubborn in their marriages. Are we experiencing a factual turnaround?
It’s not the fact of being celebrities; I think it is how one was brought up. Most people who allow stardom to affect their character or marriages were not well brought up. If you think about how you were before money and power, you will not allow stardom to get into your head. There are those who came before you, who are no more and there are also those who came after you who are already out of the system. This should teach us gratitude, humility and respect to mankind irrespective of social status. No condition is permanent.
How have you managed to remain so beautiful even in your 40s?
People keep on asking that question, but believe me I don’t know. Each time I look at myself in the mirror, I only thank God. I don’t have a special diet. I don’t have a special cream or exercise. I just do normal, everyday things. I don’t have any special drug to keep fit. The only thing I take when I go through a lot of stress is Paracetamol. It is just wonderful to me.