Stephanie Linus: Of Passion, Movies And Defense Of The Girl-Child | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Celebrity Interview

Stephanie Linus: Of Passion, Movies And Defense Of The Girl-Child

Posted: Apr 2, 2016 at 3:05 am   /   by   /   comments (0)


Hazeez Balogun, Lagos



If anybody can be named the reigning queen of Nollywood or even African cinema for that matter, it will be Stephanie Linus. That is because, she and her movie, Dry, are the hottest cakes in the industry at the moment. She received the awards for the overall best movie in Africa at the Africa Magic Viewer’s Choice Awards (AMVCA), which by all standards was a big feat. Hazeez Balogun was with her recently and she talks about the reason she made the movie and her fight against female genital mutilation.

The movie Dry, released to cinemas last year had been receiving accolades even while at the cinemas, and it was one of the highest selling Nigerian movies last year. The movie focuses on Vesicovaginal fistula condition and underage marriage among young women. It narrates the story of a thirteen-year-old girl, Halima (Zubaida Ibrahim Fagge), whose poor uneducated parents marry her off to Sani (Tijjani Faraga), a 60-year-old man, who constantly rapes her.

Halima gets pregnant and suffers Vesicovaginal Fistula (VVF) after child delivery and she is consequently abandoned by her husband and discriminated against in the society. Zara (Stephanie Okereke), a medical doctor who also suffered a horrific childhood meets Halima and she tries to help her get through her situation and also save other young women under such circumstance.

Stephanie has been receiving a lot of accolades for the movie. She said about her AMVCA win, “I feel so happy, but most importantly the award will shed more light on the movie and the message it passes across. It will also shed more light on women that are going through VVF and the child bride issue going on around the country. The more people that see the movie, the more people will know about these women, these girls and understand what they are going through.”

VVF is a topic that is hardly talked about; Stephanie says a search for a solution is her reason for shooting the movie. “I knew about VVF when I was in my second year in the university. I always find myself being drawn to the subject, and I knew I wi  ll one day do something about it. I did my research and I found out a lot of things. I found out that there is need for our maternal health system in Nigeria to be upgraded. Women who are pregnant go through a lot of issues and do not have access to good medical care. I feel it is something that we need to do something about in this country, she said.

Asides the movie, Stephanie has also been reaching out to VVF victims across the country. According to her she has assisted over 100 women in Nigeria suffering from VVF. She says, “I have a NGO called Extended House Foundation. I have been able to raise funds and help over 100 women with Fistula. We have also started the conversation and people are talking about it. I joined my voice with women at the National Assembly, and the bill against violence against women was passed into law. People who don’t know about it, will watch the film and understand the girl-child issue more because they are seeing things from the eyes of the girl.”

The film also allows us to understand the differing roles in fighting the issue – the role of the community, the role of the parent, role of the government and the role of medical practitioners.

She says shooting the film is playing her own role in the society. “We all want to be happy and nobody wants to talk about issues.  If we don’t talk about these things, we will keep on being the way we are. We need to talk about it so that we can find solutions. As a film maker, all I could do was to use my profession to talk about this issue that is not been talked about so that together, we can find solutions,” said Stephanie.

When asked what her next move is, she says for now, Dry is still top-of-mind for her. “Dry is not done. The film is not just a film, it is a project. It is not a flash in the pan. In the next five years the film will still be relevant. As long as the message it is trying to pass out is relevant, the movie will be relevant. I started shooting the movie in 2012. It took us three year to complete it with a lot of hard work, but I can tell you, it was time and money well spent.” She refused to talk about the actual amount spent on the film.

Born on 2nd October, 1982 in Imo state, Stephanie is the sixth child in the family of eight children. She started her movie career back in 1997 when she starred in two Nollywood movies titled  “Compromise 2’’ and ‘’Waterloo’’. Later, she contested in the “Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria’’ beauty pageant in 2002. In this competition she came out as 1st runner up.

Stephanie studied and graduated with a degree in English and Literal studies from the University of Calabar. She has been dazzling movie lovers in numerous movies and has bagged awards and nominations.

In 2003, she was awarded as the best actress in the 2003 Reel Awards and in 2006 as the Best Actress in the Afro Hollywood Award. In 2007,she graduated with a degree from the New York Film Academy. After this she released the movie, Through the Glass.

She was recognised by the Nigerian Government with a National honour, Member of the Order of the Federal Republic (MFR) in 2011. In April 2012, Stephanie got married to Linus Idahosa at a private wedding in Paris, France which was attended by numerous Nollywood stars and family members.

Speaking on the honour Stephanie says, “I wasn’t expecting it. I was in Los Angeles when I heard about it. I actually read it in the papers. It was a good thing to be recognised by my country and also that the Nigerian government is realising the role that the entertainment industry plays. It is also encouraging for young people.”

In 2005, she had an incident, which would have ended her life. Probably someone else would have received the accolades she is getting today.

“Accident is never a good thing but I’m totally grateful to God that I’m alive. It happened in 2005 and it was not until 2007 that I was able to walk properly. I had three major operations before I could walk and it was a long time before I was allowed to wear high heels. Even now, I can’t wear heels for so long. But I’m very grateful to God for seeing me through and for bringing my loved ones around me when it happened. People supported me. Nollywood was also wonderful to me. Even when I was using crutches, people were writing scripts and adjusting it to suit my condition at the time,” she said about the accident.

For her the incident was so traumatising, that she was already expecting her leg to be amputated. But her legs were spared.

“When I was admitted to the hospital, I remember asking the doctor ‘are you going to cut off my leg?’ At that time I had already started processing that possibility in my mind and wanted to know the best thing I could make out of the situation. But he said no and I was grateful. Now I know that when you’re sick, the healing comes first from your mind and from you being positive about it,” she said.

Another milestone in her life was her grandiose wedding to her long time lover, Linus Idahosa. The event was held in Paris, France and had top dignitaries in attendance. According to Stephanie, the decision to go foreign with the wedding is because they wanted to feel royal.

“We just wanted something different. If it was in Nigeria, it would have been a real carnival but we wanted something serene. Love is a little bit sweeter in Paris, and you know it can be hard in Nigeria (laughs). He feels he is a King and I’m a Queen, that is what we call ourselves, and we wanted to have this whole royal thing going and we knew that we wouldn’t get that serenity in Lagos. We also wanted our families to bond, we wanted our parents to experience something new, to travel and relax. It was special to us and we wanted everyone around us to have special memories. We wanted something spiritual and divine. Not like we couldn’t get it here, but we wanted something to look back at with joy. We wanted to do us.”