Ohumotu Bissong, better known as Omotu, is one of those Nollywood stars whose art you can’t help but notice. A graduate of economics from the University of Calabar and accounting from the City University of New York, Bissong brings an unforgettable passion into all the roles she plays.
She has gone from winning the Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria (MBGN) pageant in 2003 to establishing a modelling career and now, gradually gravitating towards screen goddess status.
In this interview, the actress speaks on the different phases of her career, childhood and her journey so far in the world of make-believe.
Tell us about your background and how you became a beauty queen in your teenage years.
My background was simple; I don’t think there is really so much to say about it. I had a very good childhood. I have heard people say a few times that parents who allow their children take part in pageants aren’t the ideal parents but that is totally wrong. In my own case, I was brought up to know right from wrong and my parents had confidence in me to live up to that. So they supported our decisions and if they said no to any decision they had a reason for that and would advise you on why it wasn’t appropriate. They imparted discipline, morality and social consciousness in us.
I remember when I wanted to contest for Most Beautiful Girl In Nigeria (MBGN), I called my sister up and asked her to get the form for me which she did. The audition was on a Sunday, and my sister was taking me but I hadn’t told my mom… she noticed we weren’t getting ready for church and so she asked why. I then told her we got the form for MGBN and today is the audition. She said “you want to compete for the pageant,” and I answered ” yes” and she said “ok, you have my blessing,” and the same with my dad, and whatever I needed, they were there for me. So I’m super grateful for that, I guess I was that fortunate my parents were supportive but it came from the confidence of knowing the kind of children they brought up. Growing up was really good. There is no is no way I could complain about it and I thank God for that.
What was it like to be the first south-south native to win the MBGN crown?
Was I the first from south-south? I honestly don’t know that. However, I am really glad that I had the opportunity to represent my state and come out a winner; it was a pivotal moment in my life. For that one year, I had the opportunity to campaign against HIV/AIDS and also promote tourism in Nigeria. I can’t thank God enough for the experience.
You achieved so much as a model, why did you delve into acting?
Acting was always something I wanted to do, I remember playing a school teacher in a church play when I was young. I had so much fun doing that, so when the opportunity came up I took it.
How did your acting career begin?
I was talking to a friend of mine Jason. We presented the Peak Talent Show together and he was telling me about this audition he just attended and if I wanted to go for the casting because it was still open and I said yes. The next day he was kind enough to take me there.
Can you share the experience of your first day on set?
Oh gosh, I was nervous, I mean the lights, camera, people around and you have to remember all these lines. (Laughs) I was definitely nervous but I got through it somehow and there has been no looking back.
How many movies have you acted in and which is more challenging?
A lot which I am thankful for. You know every movie is unique in its own way and has something it’s trying to convey to the audience and each character plays an integral role in that story, so talking about which more is challenging is difficult. They all are in their own way.
One of the high points of your career would be being part of Desperate Housewives, Africa, how did that happen and how challenging was it?
There was an open call for actors which I attended. The casting process was different from any other casting I had attended. We were called back for readings over a period of about 2-3weeks and it was always packed, the competition was stiff. And then months after that whole process, we were picked. When they called to tell me that I had the role, I thought I was day dreaming.
About how challenging it was, playing Funke who is a mother of four was different and interesting. Well, every role comes with its own package, every role makes you grow as an actor and this role wasn’t any different.
I am not a mother of four and that was the role I was given, so I had to draw inspiration from my personal experiences, I had to abandon who I am and embrace the character. I would like to say it was pretty interesting and enlightening to play “Funke” on the show. I am happy that it happened. It was a character that I lived truthfully in. It just gives you a deeper respect for women who are juggling kids and career and keeping their home together, truly shows you the strength of a woman.
You seem to laugh a lot, what’s that about?
I think it is a good thing to laugh a lot, isn’t it?, I mean I’m a jolly good person, I find humour in things and I have no reservations laughing so there you have it. As I go older I would rather have wrinkles from laughing than from frowning.
Any regrets in life?
Regrets hold you back; you just have to forge forward
Who is your role model in the industry?
I have a great deal of respect for the people who have been there before me, they have helped to pave this road for so many of us to journey on, so picking one person is hard because I respect and admire so many of them
You are an undoubtedly gorgeous lady, how do you handle your male fans?
Male fans have been nothing but courteous to me so far. So, there hasn’t been much to really handle and I am grateful to God for that.
What is your unique selling point?
I would say my versatility, I am open to and able to play a wide range of roles and immerse myself into them and I am still trying and willing to improve my art with every opportunity that presents itself. Versatility is the promise that I want to be able to promise every director I work with.
What is your highest point so far in your acting career?
I don’t think I have gotten there yet, there is still a lot to do by the grace of God
What advice would you say had helped you so far, and who gave it to you?
I would say that was given to me by my late dad and he said, “be true to yourself, do what is right let go of situations you have no control over and trust God.” I can never forget that and it has done a lot for me.
A celebrity once describes marriage as a scam, do share in that belief?
I have never heard such quote from any celebrity before but I’m sure he or she must have had a reason to say that. I believe people relate to life with their personal experiences. I really cannot speak about marriage, since I have not been there. However, I don’t share that belief; I really don’t think marriage is a scam, from where I am coming from.
Tell us about the man in your life?
About the man in my life or lack of it, I would like to keep that to myself. I consider such things to be private.
When is the bell going to jingle?
If any bells are ringing, it would be my ringtone with director/ producers calling me for work. When that event will ultimately happen, I promise to send you a personal invite.
If you are given the opportunity to change some things about you, what will that be?
I am comfortable with who I am, good or bad, I accept myself for who and what I am and I wouldn’t change a thing. I was brought up to appreciate what God has done for me or what he has used people to do for me, I am just grateful to God the way I am.
You did some humanitarian work during your reign as MBGN, is that the end of it or you still plan to do more. Are you doing to set up a pageant one day?
I really can’t say I will be introducing my own pageant. I might lend my expertise from time to time, but I like to work with young girls on a different level.
One passion that I have is helping young girls to be well-rounded individuals, helping them believe in themselves and their potentials while buttressing the points about the importance of the values that the family and educational system offer them. I work with girls to see that they are prepared for the future in which the world needs all of its citizens to be
A lot of people think we are just scratching the surface in Nollywood. They feel that there are far greater potentials than we currently exploit, what are your thoughts about this, and how can we get there?
Have we grown leaps and bounds in Nollywood? Yes, we have. Is there more to do? Yes, there is. If we look around at movies that come out of Nollywood today, you can clearly see how much we have grown, it’s still a growing industry but I’m confident the industry is heading in the right direction.
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