She is not just an award-winning veteran actress, or an excellent movie director and producer, but also the founder of a non-governmental organisation, Passion Against Rape and Abuse in Africa (PARAA). In 1998, she made her film debut in a series titled Palace. Ever since then she has featured in several Yoruba movies. In 2013, her film, Cobweb, which she produced and starred in, got her Africa Movie Academy Awards best-supporting actress nomination. Her prominence in that sector of the movie industry has earned her a reputable status.
The Nollywood actress has now also gained credence in the political sector of Nigeria. In an exclusive interview with Omolara Akintoye, Foluke Daramola-Salako talks about her career, marriage, challenges facing veteran actors in the industry, why government needs to invest more into the entertainment industry, among others.
Who and what inspired you to go into acting?
Well, three people inspired me to go into acting while I was growing up. The first person is Uncle Tunji Bamishigbin, second is Ralph Nwadike and the third person is Charles Omiyele. I started with a talk show at DBN. I was in secondary school then. I would go after school and later when I finished school and we were invited for an audition on AIT ‘Our Time’, it was during the shooting that I met my mentors. If you span back, it’s over twenty-five years; but the truth of the matter is over time I have been able to climb the ground at my own pace. I have gone through audition and I was not given any role. I have paid my dues; I was not just paying my dues alone, I was also combining it with education.
So I always had a choice outside acting. I would be doing some other things. I always had my hands full at each point in time and I took acting as a career not as a lifestyle. A lot of celebrities do not understand being an actor or actress is a career and not a lifestyle and as a career, you shouldn’t start infusing that into your life because it is not easy to sustain that kind of life.
If you are struggling and you start seeing yourself as a celebrity and living that life, you cannot sustain it. So, I saw acting as a career.
How was your growing up like?
My growing up was filled with love, though not in abundance because I lost my father at a tender age (three years); so we really didn’t have the privilege of knowing a father but my mum played both the role of the father and mother while I was growing up.
One thing that was predominant in our lives as a family was being contented with what we had, coupled with love and hard work. That was what I knew while I was growing up.
Fond memories while growing up
One major significant thing I can remember is that whatever we had, we shared together in love and any form of dishonesty was never accommodated in my family. We didn’t have a choice than to be hardworking.
Your educational background
I hold a Bachelor’s degree in International Relations from the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) in Ile Ife and a Master’s degree in International Law and Diplomacy from the prestigious University of Lagos (Unilag) among other qualifications in executive, leadership and filmmaking professional courses. I am a mother and responsibly married to Olukayode Salako, the Head of National Secretariat, Buhari/Osinbajo Mandate Group in Abuja. I have always worked with my husband on credible social and political projects.
What are some of your achievements in life?
My greatest achievement is that of my family, husband and children; my career is secondary. My greatest joy is seeing people around me to love me. Achievement is being alive, then my family. The fact that you see people around you to love you, that is the greatest achievement of anyone.
When was the turning point for you?
I started acting at a very young age. I’m still very active in the acting industry; it’s just that I’ve tried to streamline it to other things such as management, producing, directing. What made me to digress a bit was the fact that acting became too monotonous for me. For me, I was finicky about scripts so I needed to do something more challenging and more interesting by going into the managerial part of making the play.
It wasn’t quite challenging for me any longer and for me I needed to do things that were more challenging. That was why I decided to add more feathers in my cap. So I went into the managerial part of a play by becoming a movie producer.
Tell us some of the plays that you acted in or directed
Well I have a whole lot of them but for the ones I did for others or the ones that I acted, the one I did for Saheed Balogun – Obanla; for Lekan – Aiyekan; for myself and the one I produced Cobwebs and the recent one My Blood. I have a whole lot of them.
What are the challenges you encountered and how were you able to overcome them?
Well, for me, I won’t call them challenges per se, because life itself is a challenge. Coming from where I was in the industry and getting to where I’m today is not a child’s play; it takes a lot of consistency, hard work and prayers. For anything you want to do in life, nothing good comes easy. All these actually toughened me to be able to work hard to achieve the set goals that I wanted to achieve in life.
Let’s compare when you started acting and now, what has changed?
When I started acting, my parents didn’t want me to go into it. My mum would say “you want to go and meet those people acting and coming from my background.” For my mum being a widow, it was not easy at all. I could remember taking some of my mentors to my mum to be able to convince her to allow me go into acting. I had to assure her that I was going to represent the family name well, so I had to sign an undertaking with my mum then that I was going to be a graduate and represent my family name well by not doing anything detrimental or derogatory to my family. That is why I did my best after my first degree. I also did my masters before I started acting and I try as much as possible to keep my home as well. Unlike now that most of our young actors just go into acting without the consent of their parents and they are doing exceedingly well.
In what ways has acting changed your lifestyle?
I would say it has made me to be careful in what I do. There is an adage that says ‘someone that people are looking up to is not looking elsewhere’. You that people are looking up to as a role model or a mentor, you have to set the right pace so that you don’t give the wrong impression about yourself. For me, this mindset has made me to be more careful in whatever I do in life because I don’t know who is watching. First impression, people say, always lasts longer. As much as possible, this has moulded me to watch my ways and what I do in life.
What changes would you like to see in the entertainment industry?
Having better structures being put in place by government, that is why I’m happy doing what I’m doing.
I’m not so happy with most of our veteran actors now. These people had made positive impact in my life one way or the other and I always look up to them, now it’s sad to say that some of them are now sick. It’s only very few of them that are doing well, not all of them. I want a situation whereby these people can be proud to say that they have served their country and their country is taking care of them by impacting back into their lives and not for them to be living in misery and penury. That was why I set up a nongovernmental organisation in order to take care of our ailing actors, because a lot of my older colleagues are undergoing health challenges. So, for me, the changes I would like to see in the industry are structures that will cater for actors by the current administration. The reason is that Nollywood is the third in the world, and for the entertainment industry to make our country that proud, and then the industry deserves better attention. With all sense of humility, apart from corruption, one good thing Nigeria is known for is Nollywood. I for one with some others are afraid and don’t pray to experience what some of our older colleagues are going through now, that is why we are somehow making preparations for our retirement because there is no structure of provision in place by government. This is not obtainable in the developed countries at all.
You were recently nominated as Brand Ambassador to Eliezer Properties, what impact has this made on you as a person?
Well, apart from Eliezer Properties, I was also a brand ambassador for Suru Group Investment; the contract just got expired. Now to me as a brand ambassador, I’m not just there as a figure head but rather to see how to make the company to move forward. So, basically, as their brand ambassador I try as much as possible to bring in new initiative, innovative ideas for the company to move forward. This automatically will elongate my ambassadorial appointment with them. My being their ambassador implies that I must add value to them coupled with the fact that their market has a touch of the elitist class and that of grassroots. What my managing director of the company wanted was a mixture of both and someone coming from my background of someone that is well read and I relate well with the middle class and the grassroots. My being the brand ambassador fits in properly. He told me that I can fulfil the three classes perfectly well, hence I was nominated.
Let’s talk about your upcoming event, what is it all about?
The event will hold at Anchor Centre. We don’t want a situation whereby we will organise a seminar and people will not attend. It’s our fifth anniversary and I started Passion Against Rape and Abuse in Africa (PARAA) five years ago. Every year, I try as much as possible to give back to the industry and my community. Last year, I sponsored four young women that were involved in unwanted pregnancies by empowering them financially and materially and today that are doing well. This year, I want to reach out to my veteran colleagues in the industry. A lot of them have done so well for Nigeria and they deserve more.
So in my own little way, I said to myself what can I do to bridge the gap between the actors and the people out there as a representation of Nollywood? So I’m organising a pension scheme through which PARA will be supporting about 10 veteran actors financially. Aside this, we will also be giving them stipend every month for their upkeep, all on November 29th.
But for other veteran actors, we’ll be celebrating them, giving them awards. The aim is for people to understand that we are doing serious business and are having fun at the same time and we are celebrating life. Apart from the veteran project for this year, I’m also unveiling my clothing line on that day and it’s majorly for male. Most times I’m the one that styles my husband and this is how I developed passion for male clothing line and accessories, so I’m launching the clothing line on that day.
What is your definition of style?
My definition of style is to wear or use whatever I’m comfortable in and what makes me feel good. For me, style is not something that has to be elaborate or expensive, but something that makes me look good.
What do you treasure most in life?
My family: husband, children, my mother. My career is secondary.
How do you relax?
I read a lot, play games. I prefer to be indoors or I travel out of the country (at least three-four times a year) whenever I want to relax, because I spend most of my time outside.
Do you believe in mentorship?
Yes, of course, I do.
Who are your mentors?
My mother is my mentor; she represents true value of womanhood. My husband is my greatest critic. I was someone that was very impatient, but my husband has taught me to be patient. In America, Anita Baker represents entertainment and family. She is doing well in the industry and her home is intact. Celine Dion is also my mentor.
In Nigeria, Aunty Joke Jacobs: she represents someone that has been able to combine the corporate world with Nollywood industry. Shola Shobowale represents motherhood’s true definition of professionalism, doggedness and determination. They all have what they represent in my life. To every individual I met I try as much as possible to learn or gain some things from them.
What kind of person is your husband and how did you meet?
My husband is Mr. Kayode Salako. He is a human rights activist. There was this programme he was doing at that time; that was how we met. We started as friends and today we are married. It’s been five years that we are married and I give God all the glory.
Describe him in one word
He is dogged and patient.
How have you been able to joggle your marriage, career, humanitarian work together and are still sane?
I place everything on a scale of priority; my family comes first. I will not jeopardise my family for anything in this world. Followed by my career, then others. I’ve been acting now for over 25 years; at a point it became monotonous to me, that was when I started the humanitarian work.
What is your assessment of women in the entertainment industry?
I say kudos to the women in the entertainment industry. Every individual in the industry has a message to pass. You can’t take anybody for granted; we all have our calling in the industry. For women that struggle to bring out stories in the industry, I say kudos to them.
Any plan to go into politics?
Yes, of course. I’m first of all a celebrity before I became a politician. All my life I’ve been a card-carrying member, and I try as much as possible to be involved now because if you are not involved, you cannot complain.
What is your philosophy about life?
Live well, try and impact positively into humanity make a difference.