RUTH AND DAUGHTERS – Fame, Family, Future

ruth

Ruth Benemasia (right)

Ruth Benemasia -Opia and her colleagues, undoubtedly, ruled the airwaves in the ‘90s and the beginning of this century. They were the original ‘glamour girls’. That was then, when micro – mini was her dress code and the fast lane, her highway. These days, the mother of four works, in the oil and gas sector and spends her time – when she is not at work, in ‘church and with friends’. In this joint interview with two of her daughters, she talked about fame and family.

“I miss being part of the breaking news”

Ruth Benemasia- Opia and Daughters

 

You work in the oil sector now, what is your job description?

I am Community Relations Manager. It is my job to see that my company and community are on the same page regarding our joint aspiration to see that the company’s social license to operate is not threatened. Also, that our vision to impact positively the growth and development of the Brass Island community is achieved.

You have been out of broadcasting and public glare for about 10 years, what is the comparism between the corporate world and broadcasting world?

Without a doubt, the corporate world is fiercely competitive, stiff, but invariably pays more than the ministry where I came from. Ambition rules the day and nothing should be taken at face value.

Do you miss broadcasting, what do you miss most?

Yes-unashamedly do. I used to miss being part of the immediacy of breaking news. The rush, of having the news unfolds from your/our NTA news desk. I miss the exclusivity of knowing the authenticity of a news story and being the one to break it. Social media has robbed us of that with every hand held device being able to video the action.

If you look back at your days in broadcasting and now, would you say there was more professionalism and appeal of the news and newscaster?

Definitely there was more professionalism! The edge we had was there wasn’t the proliferation of stations as we have today.

Our love and passion for the job kept our adrenalin pumping. Many of those the Nigerian viewing public adjudged to be very good on air, you will find had been on Radio Nigeria at one time or the other. You couldn’t just go on air without understudying an older hand. Even if you had raw talent, you were eased in slowly. The Standard English then was British. After all “we are British”. There was the odd American trained journalist now and then but even they came with a lot of candour and professional edge and comportment. No slangs and street language in a belt-news- that is formal.

You have two lovely daughters and two equally wonderful sons, how do you manage the four of them giving equal attention, love self and work?

My faith. Also, women are specifically wired like that.

Being a single mom must have been tough, how did you manage that-and achieve work, life balance?

Again my faith. A supportive family and loyal friends. One of those loyal friends -a single mom herself, sent me the next quote on father’s day this year – “HAPPY FATHER’S DAY TO ALL THE SINGLE MOTHER’S PULLING DOUBLE DUTY”!

Your daughters seem to have followed your line- professionally. The broadcaster and actress, did you in any way influence their choice?

Not for one moment. I had no say in their choices. Their choices came naturally. I have come to believe that God puts professions in a family. You don’t have to look too far to know what line your child will follow. Even if your parent is illiterate, there is a talent in them that is more than not God improves on and takes to the next level in an offspring. I have art in my line. Both in drawing and entertainment. Their father has sport, entertainment (he managed a band in America in his colourful past).

How do you feel seeing them all grown up and having their own lives? Do you feel like the mother-hen, wanting to protect and guide them-imposing your will?

Imposing my will? No! Protecting and guiding…especially in the Christian faith, yes.

Apart from work, how do you spend your time these days?

I go to parties, read Christian literature, and go to Church programmes, laugh and gist with friends.

You had long dreadlocks, which you cut off, and now you are back on dreads, it looks as if you have an enduring love for dreadlocks? What is the appeal?

Easy and cheap to maintain-Ha! Ha! Ha!

In those days, you wore the most sexy micro minis, do you wear an abridged version now, or you never into shorts anymore?

I just laugh and think … oh! To be young and carefree

Your daughters are yet to marry, does that worry you?

No. Not particularly. In God’s time. He makes everything beautiful. They are not out of the world’s idea of the marriage corridor yet, if there is such a thing.

What is your philosophy?

A soft word turneth away reproach. Do unto others what you want done to you and the best that you can be.

What is your style preference these days?

Young, simple and sometimes conservative if I can help it. That’s because I fancy myself a bit eclectic at heart.

Do you relate with your daughter more as sisters and friends, or do you maintain the mother is always right attitude?

All of the above approaches I adopt, depending on the situation.

What future are you looking up to-professionally, emotionally and family wise

I shall keep that information to myself. I mustn’t give everything away.

I like interaction and I love conversation.

Nnei Opia

Nnei followed her mother’s footstep into broadcasting. She has Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and broadcasting from the Salford University, Britain. She has a wealth of experience in broadcasting. She however, did not follow mom’s step as a newscaster. She chose instead, too do interviews and features. She has worked with Ben TV, London and other International news media. Lately, she worked with the late ChazB, in ‘Sharing Lives Issues’ a popular radio programme on Rhythm 93.4

Who is older between you and your sister? How do you relate with her and your other siblings?

I’m older. I tend to mother them a lot. My sister hates that except of course when its work or speaking to strangers she’s happy to let me do that. My boys love me as I am, although our youngest Ozed thinks I’m archaic (there’s an 11 year gap so he’s allowed).

You choose broadcasting like mom, are you pressured to be like mom and have there been comparisons?

There have been comparisons when it comes to my command of English, especially diction. But no pressure, thank God.

Mom is so proud of you and your work; tell me what you have done that she is beaming about?

I’m not quite sure; I think it’s a tie for me. I do a radio session with my Hexavia colleague Eizu, Uncle Chaz and ChikeOnyia of Zolts on Chaz B’s show, Sharing Life Issues. It’s a business/career session. My mother loves my intellectual side. The other is a skit my sister and I did on Ebony Life TV called Lagos Big Girl’s game. I think her seeing the two of us together, acting really tickles her.

You’ve said you worked with Chaz b and he was your mentor what did you learn from him and how did you take his death?

I learnt humility and I was still learning how to listen. It’s very important both in the industry and in one’s growth as a person. He always said listen to the people you are talking to/interviewing they aren’t just talking they’re sharing, it’s a privilege for them to share with you and don’t take it light.

Then listen to ‘I AM that I AM’ what is HE saying.

I was fortunate to have met such an amazing person. I didn’t take it very well. We (myself and Eizu) were supposed to meet up on Sunday, talk business and of course I would have my usual therapy session. He would always ask how I am, remember every detail and follow up. He gave his heart, his time, his wisdom. His wife is an amazing and strong woman, often times she is close by. My heart is with her and the family at this time. He has left a huge hole in Nigeria’s heart.

Why did you choose broadcasting?

I had been studying Law for two years and decided to take a year out to get work experience with a law firm. After being first chair for a murder case I decided I wanted a less hazardous job. My uncle’s friend who happened to be OAP was visiting London, and he commented that I was witty and personable and that should try radio. The rest as they say is history.

Where you – consciously – influenced by mom to choose your profession?

Unconsciously. In fact, my father still hopes I’ll go back to Law School. My mother used to call me her little QC. She was disappointed when I ditched law for broadcasting! The joke however is I first presented when I was about 9/10 years old at an NTA children’s party.

How do you find broadcasting in Nigeria, compared to England, where you also worked as one?

I think there’s less respect for the job, both by people who do the job and people who run the broadcasting houses, which is a global problem – but it’s more obvious in Nigeria.

Broadcasting in its original form must fulfill 3 things – educate, inform and entertain. A lot of the time it’s only entertainment that gets funded with man-power and finance. While there’s nothing wrong with it, it makes me think if everyone is being entertained, who is being taught? There are very few people that I know who study broadcasting, diction, who go into the field. It’s all desk journalism and in Nigeria there isn’t much.

You choose interviewing and reporting, rather than news casting like your mom, why don’t you like new casting?

I like interaction and I love conversation. You can’t get that with news casting. I would love to be a Christiane Amapouroor Jeremy Paxman. What Cyril Stober does now, hold panels of discussions. There are many interpretations of life and its intricacies I like discovering them.

Did mom’s fame have any impact on you.In terms of how people relate with you?

Most definitely! One of my colleague calls me the “Kim Kardashian” of our office as per celebrity. Which is ridiculous because I’m not a celebrity? I usually hide the fact she’s my mom because I don’t want preferential treatment. People eventually find out and I get hugs and questions, scream and a so when can I meet her? On the streets of London, people have waved, come over to take pictures, generally where ever we go people express how much they enjoyed watching her read the news. It’s beautiful.

How do you bond with mom, do you relate with her as sister and friend, or a distant mom?

She’s more of a friend now, although she struggles with that. She still tries to be mother supreme and then we remind her how old we are, after all when she was my age she was pregnant with me! But mother is mother. Sometimes she’ll discuss it and come to a compromise other times she’ll give you a tone and you know this is MOTHER speaking and I just hush. In the end I trust her completely and she has shown me by example. So I follow.

Siblings always compete with each other, especially when they are close in age. Do you compete with your sister, to excel and for mom’s attention?

I really take being the older sibling seriously, I am the eldest and it’s my job to assist my siblings in anything they do and protect them. As I moved back to Nigeria, my sister had to pick up the baton. In friendship, faith, career we are a team. It’s even hard to compete with, watch other for mum’s attention because we are different sides of her, we learnt that awhile back.

Any plans for marriage soon. And is mom not pressuring yet?

Not yet. Marriage is a big deal; I want to get it right the first and only time. So as God wills so shall it be. She’s not pressuring me, but she is constantly rating my cooking by saying either, “your husband will enjoy this!” or “Is this what you’ll give your husband?”

What is most important to you?

Faith, family and passion

How do you relax and have your time?

I either have a beauty day, where I get a facial, get my hair and nails done and have a nice meal, or I go for an early morning jog come home and cuddle up to a good book or movie.

TIMES ARE MOVING, AND I EXPECT THE ACTING INDUSTRY WILL TOOWERUCHE OPIA

Weruche (formerly Reanne) Opis, a drama and sociology graduate from the University of the west of England, decided she would make her mark on the world through acting and has since then been on a mission to actualize her decision. She made her professional acting debut in 2010 when she appeared on the hit UK police drama “The Bill” and then went on to claim roles in a number of theatre Studio (UK) and Ice and fire theatre. Since then, she has appeared in several movies and plays, in the UK and in Nigeria. Her current movie “When Love Happens”, a feel good romantic comedy by Seyi Babatope premiered recently in Nigeria.

Mom is so proud of you and your work; tell me what you have done that she is beaming about?

She’s proud of everything really, but I bet her proudest moment was at the premier of “When Love Happens” when she finally got to see me on the big screen! I wasn’t able to attend due to previous work commitments, so she and my sister, who is also my manager, attended on my behalf.

You have a new film which has been in the cinema for a month, tell me about it, and the role you play?

The film is called “When Love Happens”. It’s a feel good romantic comedy by Seyi Babatope. I play the lead character Mo and the film follows her love life as she attempt to find Mr. Right. In her attempt she starts a blog, signs up for internet dating and kisses a few frogs till she discovers “the one”. It’s a coming of age story with the incorporation of social media/technology, bringing it right into 21st century. The best thing about this movie is apart from the excellent production quality and photography direction, it was a platform to allow new talent shine. We need more opportunities like this.

Where you – consciously or unconsciously – influenced by mom to choose your profession?

I think it may have been unconscious for me as well. I remember when I told my mum I had decided to act professionally and she told me she had tried her hand at acting as well and I didn’t believe her; till I met Ms. Joke Silva at a lunch for the cast of “For Coloured Girls: A Nigerian Adaptation” and she said to me how I reminded her of my mother when they were all starting out, and the only difference was my skin complexion. I remember going home to my mum and saying “So you weren’t just making it up mum! You actually were an actor!” It’s quite weird actually. My mum started off as an actor but broadcasting stole her heart, so I guess she may be living her life as an actor vicariously through me. I am grateful though. That both my parents trusted me enough to make my own decision on my chosen career, and most importantly support me to chase my dreams.

Did mom’s fame have any impact on you.In terms of how people relate with you?

(Laugh) Yes it has. A lot of times when people introduce me to other people in Nigeria they mention my name, and a lot of them tend to not have seen my work; but when they mention I’m Ruth Benamaisia’s daughter, I get a “ Oh my gosh !!! I can see the resemblance! I love your mum! I grew up watching her!” and then they usually warm up towards me. Thank God for good mothers!

How do you bond with mom, do you relate with her as sister and friend, or a distant mother?

My mum is one of my best friends. As I got older I found that my mum and I are VERY alike. We are both headstrong and stubborn, in a good way, and we like efficiency. I relate to her very well as I am an open book and mother is not one to mince her words. As a teenager we had our fair share of issues, but as I grew up I began to understand her and appreciate her more. Honestly, I don’t know where I would be without my mother. She has been the ultimate role model with my faith, career and life in general. I am extremely blessed to have her in my life, as mother and best friend.

How do you rate actors and actresses her?. Are they well appreciated by the public?

Nigeria is a very rich country in every sense of the word. We have so many talented individuals, young and old and I love to see the way people appreciate them. Recently, I went to watch “When Love Happens” at the Cinema and I went to the screen right before it started so nobody knew I was in there. The most enjoyable part for me was hearing the comments from people as they watched the movie! Nigerians know how to enjoy themselves! They expressed themselves freely throughout the movies as though they were in their living rooms and that for me made me feel appreciated. I also had the opportunity to meet with some people who watched the movie and their response was amazing. Their faces lit up as they told me how much they enjoyed the movie; moments like that make it all worth it.

What future do you see for the acting profession in Nigeria and for yourself as an actress?

I see it evolving. Times are moving, and I expect the acting industry will too. I have a lot of respect for those who paved the way for us, those who made do with small budgets and tight schedules. We appreciate them and can never discredit what they have done; however we must now improve in acting and production wise, to give us chance on the world stage. I look forward to the days where Nigerians films, with Nigerian content, made by Nigerians will be nominated for Academy Award.

Any plans for marriage soon and is mom not pressuring yet?

Marriage will come when God wills. I would like to get married soon though! My mum isn’t the kind of person to pressure about things like that, though she drops subtle hints.

Siblings always compete with each other, especially when they are close in age. Do you compete with your sister, to excel and for mom’s attention?

My sister is the right hand woman. There’s no space for competition as we have the same goals and want the best for each other. When one of us wins, we all win. I’m the middle child so I have the choice of when I want to be noticed and when I don’t. There’s no real pressure on me because I’m not the first born, or the first boy or the last born like my siblings. I manage to cruise through a lot and I like it that way.

What is most important to you?

God, my loved ones and my career

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