WHY I LEFT HOME AT AGE 14-UCHE JUMBO

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Nollywood actress, Uche Jumbo has featured in lots of play-acting, starting from when she was in the church drama group. The beautiful thespian in this interview, speaks about her career, marriage and other sundry issues.

WHEN and how did you develop the passion for theatre?
It all started when my mother put me in a drama group in church, called the Children of the Lord group. We ministered every Sunday, but I was not really happy about that, because I thought with that, my mother wanted to curtail my excesses, as a tom-boy. Later, when I heard they gave scholarship every quarter, I started competing to win and that was the only time I had an acting experience. I have played every woman in the Bible. So it was a very good starting point for me.

How did your foray into the movies professionally begin?
It was just about being at the right place at the right time. It was almost like a challenge. I was asked if I could act and I said yes, so I was given a script to read even though that was not what I went to do at the location. And that was how I got my first role from Fidelis Duker in 1999 and eventually the movie, Visa To Hell was released in 2000.

Where does the inspiration behind your movies come from?
I get my inspiration from people; their true life experiences and also, my environment. This is because I love to make movies that tell human stories, advocacy stories, comedy and many more.

You seem to only feature in the high quality movies so to speak, so what makes a good script to you?
As an actor, I get scripts all the time, but if the script doesn’t speak to me, I won’t do it. A good script should have impact on people’s lives when the movie comes out. I want situations where people would see me on the street and tell me about how my movies affect their lives positively and that only makes you want to do more.

You’ve grown so much in the industry over the years, what were the hurdles crossed at the early stage of your career?
I crawled and ran before I got to where I am today. I saw myself through school with the little amount I was being paid, which was over 10 years ago. It was full of struggle but by God’s grace, it’s been a successful story. Now I am a script writer, an actress, producer, and a studio owner. So it’s been splendid.

Initially, you played more of ‘Tom boy’ roles, but over time you have grown into a screen diva, how did you achieve that growth?
I’m one of those people who would be right if I say I started from a very humble beginning in my career. I did lots of supporting roles and behind the scenes. I think to be consistent at what you do, at a point you should work on yourself more. It was never about money or fame with me. I can’t count how many movies I did without getting paid. So when you pursue whatever you do with a passion and the love you have for it, it might not be that lucrative at the beginning but at the end of the day, every other thing follows. That’s how it’s been for me.

What childhood memories have you?
My childhood is a huge part of where I am today. I was not an easy child. I did everything teenagers do but probably more. I climbed trees, played football and played cowboy. I was the only female playing football with boys. And at that point, my mum had given up because she felt I thought I was a boy. She was so scared that she had to enroll me in a church drama group and quarterly they give the best drama student scholarship. So three years out of my secondary school fund were paid for by the church.

Despite being a celebrity, you seem to be secretive about your private life, how do you manage that?
I try to demarcate my personal life from prying eyes. I choose the information I want the public to know about my private life.

Desmond Elliot is the closest person to you in Nollywood, what initiated the bond?
He is one of my oldest friends in Nollywood. I don’t know anybody as long as I’ve known Desmond in Nollywood, so we are pretty close.

Many movie lovers are of the opinion that in recent times, Nollywood movies have lost their touch of creativity, good story lines and originality, and only offer more of just glamour. How would you react to this?
I don’t think that is a true assessment of the new Nollywood. Actually in recent times, Nollywood has improved. There is a new influx of smart and intelligent producers, most of whom are actors with considerable years of experience. I now produce movies, I have over 11 titles to my name as an executive producer and those movies have been selling all over the world. Desmond Elliot now produces movies, Rita Dominic does the same. These people have been in Nollywood for years and some of them even went to school to learn more about this profession and judging by the number of awards and accolades we get, Nollywood has left the dark-age.

You had a secret wedding last year that it was even rumoured that even your family members didn’t know about it…
It is because I don’t want it to be all over the place. The whole point was doing something that is totally unexpected. Also because it has stopped being me and now us, we have to continuously agree to how we want things done. I am from a different background and my partner is from a different background. We just wanted to savour the moment.

What really swept you off your feet in your husband, Kenny Rodriguez?
I love his positive energy, it’s incredible.

When are you planning to have a baby?
We are still on it. I’m taking it one day at a time.

You left home at the age of 14, what was the reason behind this?
Tragedy happened in the family and I just didn’t want to be boxed into the corner. It was a tragedy that turned out to be a wake-up call for me because without that, I think I was heading to self-destructive path.

So where did you run off to, because the first thought that would come to mind was that you went off with a man?
(Laughs)  I ran off to my uncle’s house who was living in Lagos. I stole his address from my mum, without her knowing. I didn’t even know a man at that time. I was running away from a situation, it wasn’t about me as a person so to speak. I just didn’t want to be placed where I saw my future going, so I felt this uncle of mine didn’t know much about my miscreant ways, and I decided to begin a new life with him.

What has your career cost you over the years?
It has cost me my privacy. People write things about you without getting your side of the story. It’s even worse now because of the internet. Before, we were fighting only the print media, but now, people can publish false stories on the internet. So, I think that is just the down part of the job. But anytime I feel bad about the down part of the job, I always put out the list of what I’m gaining and what I’m not. So far, what I’m gaining is bigger and that is why I’m still here.
Have you ever been caught in the web of the media?
Yes, it was rumoured once that I had abortion. It was the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard about myself.  You don’t say someone lost weight because they aborted a six-month pregnancy. That is actually not intelligent because when people are pregnant, they actually add weight. I lost weight for a movie ‘Holding Hope’ and that was what started the whole thing.  Also there was another one that they said I did a nose job. Of all the things I could do to my body, is it my nose I would want to fix? Sometimes, you pick up a paper and the only truth you read there about yourself is your name.

Would you say the Nigerian movie industry is at its best?
We are not there yet, but I think we are getting there.

Any role restriction?
Yes. I won’t do any role that will compromise my dignity as a person. Because I have principles that have been guiding me since I was a young adult. Integrity comes first in everything I do.

What is your personality?
Uche Jombo Rodriguez is just the girl next door. I hail from Abiriba in Abia State, while my mother is from Mbaise. Although Jombo is also my real name, those close to me know me as Uche Obi and not the popular Uche Jombo that so many people are familiar with.

Educational background?
I studied Mathematics and Statistics as my first degree at the University of Calabar and Computer Programming as my Post Graduate Diploma at the Federal University of Technology, Minna.

What next step is Uche Jombo taking now?
I would just want to continue with what I know how to do best and that is acting and producing.

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