My interview with top Ghanaian actress – Yvonne Nelson-was a revelation in so many ways. Of the leading Nollywood stars, Yvonne is among those I had not had a close relationship with. I had watched her from afar, seen countless number of her movies and had always thought she was a great and talented actress – someone who combined poise, beauty and style. I had also heard of some unsavory things ascribed to her – the rumors of sexual orientation which some say verged between pure lesbianism and bi-sexualism – all manner of shenanigans that had been whispered and published about her.
Some years ago, she came out with a movie, “Heart of Men”, in which she seemed to have appeared in frontal nudity– a development that set off a firestorm of protest among Nollywood lovers –with many condemning the exploitation of graphic sexual images to promote and sell movies – which was a deviation of what Nollywood had always been seen to represent: a family friendly entertainment medium.
It was with mindset that I welcomed the chance to interview Yvonne Nelson, when her representative called and informed me that the pretty actress was in New York, and would love to talk to me. And so, on the balmy and unseasonably warm evening of March, 2012,Added to an alleged fight for supremacy between her and fellow Ghanaian actress – Jackie Appiah – a development that was said to have resulted in her much publicized one-year ban from Nollywood- you begin to have a profile of an actress who may come across as a diva and somewhat opinionated.
I drove to the Marriot Hotel located at the heart of Times Square, Manhattan, where she was staying, to do this interview.
Bad girl roles
The first revelation was that Yvonne Nelson is an exceedingly pretty actress –far prettier in real life than in her movies. Second, she is a far cry from those bad girl roles she plays in movies. Yvonne neither smokes nor drinks. An offer of drinks from me was flatly but graciously rejected. Her depiction as a diva also felt flat because the Yvonne that I saw and interviewed was thoroughly grounded and even shy.
So why all the misconceptions?, I asked her. In a diction and vocal cadence that showed a highly educated and urbane mind, Yvonne told me she had been hugely misunderstood. “That is why I am willing to address some of those misconceptions now. Even though it pains me to have to talk about them, but I will. I am nothing close to the roles I play in movies. People should understand that I am an actresses and I get scripts that expect me to act in a certain manner. As a consummate professional, I am not going to turn down those scripts because
I was expected to act in a certain manner,”she said. “I am aware that some people took exception to the role I played in the movie “Heart of Men” where there appeared to be some form of frontal nudity, but the truth of the matter is that there was no such overt display of nudity. But let’s even for the sake of argument say there was some nudity, why are we so judgmental and somewhat hypocritical?
The same people who took issues with that movie watch Hollywood movies where sexually graphic scenes are shown in a most morally appalling manner. We don’t condemn such roles; we, as a matter of fact, celebrate such roles. I am not an advocate of nudity or sexually graphic images in our movies. I have actually spoken against some of those tendencies; I will never appear frontally nude in any movie no matter the fees promised.
“I have morals and my morals are held closely to my chest. As you may recall, I was not the only person in that scene; there were others, and I am always at a loss when my role appeared to have been the one that garnered the most reaction. If you have been following the industry, which I believe you do, overt resort to nudity has been greatly reduced. It was a phase-one that was experimented by some producers and realizing that it ran counter to the values that Nollywood orGallywood espoused, the producers went back to doing stories that are heavy on family values.”
One of the rumors that dominated the industry, last year, was one that centered on her sexual orientation. It was widely speculated that Yvonne Nelson was a lesbian or, at best, a bi-sexual. Until this moment, Yvonne had not commented on that rumor and when I asked her what her real sexual orientation was, she looked me straight in the eye and said “look at me….what do you think? Of course, I am not a lesbian.
Lesbianism is against my religious beliefs, it’s against my cultural norms and I think it was very mischievous for people to insinuate such about someone they hardly knew. The rumor was started by a notorious website in Ghana last year when they reported that they had never seen me with a man. In their warped and twisted calculation, I was thus a lesbian. Can you imagine such crass reasoning?
That they had not seen me with a man, and may have seen me with my girlfriends going out to have fun, and then automatically I was a lesbian. It was a hatchet job – an attempt to discredit me, but they all failed. I am heterosexual and would remain one till the end. When you are in the public light as I have been blessed and privileged to being, your life becomes a public property and some mischievous people will say all manner of things about you. It comes with the territory, so I forgive them.”