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.
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.
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,
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.”
‘Jim Iyke and I’
Sometime ago, it was also reported that Yvonne was in involved in a hot romance with Nollywood actor – Jim Iyke. Jim Iyke then was hot and heavy with the Jamaican model – Ketura Hamilton – an affair that has since ruptured.
Jim is now seeing fellow Gallywood actress, Nadia Buari. I asked Yvonne if she was not treading on dangerous path if indeed she had ever dated Jim Iyke. Smiling, Yvonne told me “I am not dating Jim Iyke – and that’s the truth, but I want to confess that we have very close relationship. We have great chemistry together – call it some form of magic between us, especially when we act together.
He is a hot guy and I like him a lot. We are always together when he comes to Ghana to act in movies, I drive him around. When I am in Nigeria, he does the same for me. But does that mean that we are dating? The answer is no. We are great friends – the manner I am with Majid Michel, John Dumelo – these are great and hot friends of mine as well. Does it mean that I must date ever person that I have an on-screen chemistry with?
People should learn to be less judgmental. There is nothing wrong about having a friendship with a co-star and not talking it to the physical level.”
Given that the reason she was alleged to be a lesbian was because she had not been regularly seen with boyfriend, I asked Yvonne if she was currently dating. “I am not dating now –conventionally speaking – but I wouldn’t say that I am desperate for a relationship at the same time.
People have asked me if I don’t think I should be considering settling down, and I tell them that I appreciate their concerns but that I am still very young. I don’t have to rush to get married because everyone is doing so. When the time comes, I will get married. This may surprise you: I am a simple girl – very easy to date. If I go out with a date, it doesn’t cost the man money. I don’t order expensive champagne, I don’t order exotic meals. My drink of choice is orange juice.
Most women would say they are looking for a chiseled man –those with perfect six-packed abs – well, good luck to them. I am not interested in macho men. I am more interested with the substance-the values and the humanity the man brings to the table than with his physical or material possessions. I work hard, so I don’t expect my man to have to slave to satisfy me. I am sure this may surprise you, because any one who looks at me – analyses the roles I play – may incorrectly define me according to those roles. That is the exact opposite of what and who I am – so when the time is right for me to get married, God will bring that guy to me. “
‘No problem with Jackie’
Some years ago, it was widely reported that Yvonne was banned from Gallywood and Nollywood for one year due to her alleged rift and diva attitude toward fellow Ghanaian actress – Jackie Appiah –an actress she is said to be engaged in a fight of supremacy with. I asked Yvonne what was the status of her relationship with Jackie. In a body language that showed she was weary of being thought to entertain animosity towards Jackie, she said: “I don’t have problems with Jackie Appiah at least any that I know of. The industry is large and big enough to accommodate everyone, so the notion that I am in some form of competition with her to determine who is a better actress is ludicrous.”
“But according to published report, you were said to have been banned because you wanted same treatment given to Jackie Appiah on set to be accorded you, and when that didn’t happen, you were said to have stormed offset, leading to your being banned for conduct not befitting a top actress”, I pointedly told Yvonne. “First of all, let me set the record straight – no one banned me. I was not banned, period. I was working throughout the period they claimed I was banned.
Concerning my request to be accorded same treatment as Jackie Appiah, that again is misleading and untrue. I think I have worked hard enough and established enough bonafides to have certain things I need in the industry without having to make an issue out of those demands. I don’t know if some of these rumors emanated
from camps that wanted to amplify a non-existent hostility and rivalry
between Jackie and I. I was in the university for four years and was acting at the same time. Most times, there were conflicts between my lectures and time I was supposed to be on set and I would make some demands and, most times, things didn’t go so well on set and, because I wasn’t going to compromise my studies, I tried as much as possible to manage the two competing demands. Sometimes, I had to make choices that may not have been pleasant with certain actors and producers. I want to say that I have no regrets for pursuing my education, at the same time, giving my best to the industry. It has made me a better actress – and one with a better inquiring mind”.