When it comes to acting in Nigeria, Madam Idowu Phillips popularly known as Iya Rainbow needs little or no introduction. She has acted in several Yoruba movies and soaps on television. She has won both the local and international awards too. Her contribution in the development and structuring of the Yoruba Movie industry is second to none. In this chat with MUTIAT ALLI, Iya Rainbow, as she is called, led us into her world of acting, challenges amongst others. Enjoy….
What is the secret behind your youthful look?
Well, I don’t eat much of heavy food. I exercise once in a while, I take lots of fruits and vegetables and I rest well.
How did acting start for you?
I started as a stage actress in my late husband’s Osumare Theatre Group. Even while I was working as a nurse, I still found time to go on location to shoot films. At 45 in 1986, I retired from nursing on the advice of the late Chief Hubert Ogunde. He (Ogunde) reasoned that since my husband died in 1984, there was the need for me to continue with the family legacy. So, I went into acting full time. It was not easy at first, because I was formerly a salary earner. In fact, the first set of movies I acted in were Aje ni Iya Mi and Eru. My late husband’s group was called Osumare Theatre, meaning rainbow. One day, I went to act with some white men and in the course of acting, someone asked for the meaning of Osumare and I replied rainbow. Then he said I should henceforth be called Iya Rainbow and that was it. I have produced lots of movies like Alamose Eniyan, Alepo Rebi, Anikolapo, Omodupe Oluwa, Orisa rebi, among others, but I have acted in over 500 movies.
When was the last time you produced a movie?
It was about five years ago. Marketers no longer patronise people like me; and my son, who used to write those scripts, is abroad now. When he is back, we will go back to business.
What else do you do apart from acting?
I anchor engagement/wedding ceremonies. It was even one of the people I did an engagement for that paid for the tiling of the floor of my house. When he came to thank me, he was surprised to find out that I had not tiled the floor, so he offered to do it.
Since your entry into the movie industry, what are the challenges you have had to face?
There were a lot of challenges that I faced that, not only me, other people in the industry also face. Let me list some of the challenges. The issue of transportation to location is a difficult one for me. I have had to transport myself going and coming back, at the end of the day, they will give you peanuts as your pay. Most times, they will tell you they will pay later and I will not get to see the money. For each of the movies, I was paid N25, 000. Imagine a widow with five children surviving on such a meager fee? It got to a point that I wanted to go back to nursing. A lot of people advised me against it. They thought my husband would be forgotten, but I must keep on struggling.
What of the challenges you faced in the aspect of life?
When I lost my husband, a long time ago, that was in 1984, I thought the world would come to an end. It was difficult for me to cope as a woman, especially with the financial aspect. I had to continue from where my husband stopped and there was no money in theatre then. I had to meet one of my late husband’s friends, who said that I would have to sleep with him before I could get the money. I was shocked, because this was someone we all called father and a very close ally of my late hubby. Then my marriage was another challenge. I did not enjoy my marriage because my husband died a long time ago and since then, I decided not to re-marry. I have five children and they have all made me proud. God has been my pillar of support. My late mother was also a great helper; she took care of my children whenever I went on location. But I usually made it a point of duty to go to their schools whenever I was around to supervise their education. What I missed most about my mother is that I no longer have a bed partner. Ever since the death of my late husband, we had always slept together and now she is gone. Then whenever I went to locations, she was always there for me. Above all, my mother loved me so much, she had six of us and I was her only female child.
Why the sudden quit from the nursing job?
Like I said earlier, I stopped my professional job where I had worked for 20 years all because I wanted to continue the family legacy which is acting done by my late husband. Prior to my quitting, the late Chief Hubert Ogunde has advised to me to which I did.
Will you say been an actress has paid off for you?
Of course, it has because with it, I can settle whatever bills I have to pay, wear good clothes, eat well and represent the Yoruba culture well.