Written by By Omoye Uzamere
A few weeks ago, I was catching up with a family friend. Part of our conversation went like this:
Friend: What’s new in the man department?
Me: Do you have someone for me?
Friend: Actually, I do. (In the most serious, contemplative voice) But first I need to find out if he is okay with your career. You know you’re an actress.”
Me: (In my usually imperceptible sarcasm): Oh, I will be so grateful!”
There are three career groups in Africa:
The Upstanding – Medicine, Law, Engineering…
The Manageables – Business Administration, Computer Science, Accounting…
The Disgrace To The Family – Performing Arts, Visual Arts, Fashion and everything else. You marry one of these and you will have some explaining to do.
For example, an actor wife or husband is a choice that most will have to defend to their family and friends.
Back in the day, actors lived in stigma, but now that it’s become a bit more acceptable, the spouses come under fire. Dare I suggest that the actors themselves eventually face pressure in their marriage? I believe so.
Let’s say, I marry this great guy. He isn’t very comfortable with the unconventional lifestyle, but he admires my talent and allows me to be myself. Now, imagine a hypothetical formula:
Family + Pressure x Time = A New Set Of Conditions:
- No kissing
- No scenes where you’re physically close to another man
- No late night filming.
- Get home before 10pm
- No filming outside the state.
- No public appearances outside the state.
This is the beginning of the end. Let’s say the husband protects her from his family, they might just make her uncomfortable.
That conversation reminded me of something I have had to deal with. My choice of career has gotten in the way of some potential relationships. But then, my attitude has always been to make my work a deciding factor for choosing relationships. If my acting is a “thing”, then we’re not meant to be together. Like the guy who said to me on the first date: “I love actresses!” Further down, he asks, “Must you really keep acting? Shouldn’t you should branch into… maybe writing!?” When someone regards a fundamental part of your life as a “thing”, chances are they won’t try to understand it or encourage you and it is likely to become a hindrance eventually.
The question is, why is so it hard to marry an actor?
I once saw a wife give her husband an ultimatum when he took on an acting role, “I did not marry an actor oh!” It came across to me like, ‘I can manage his being a comedian, but I can only go so far’.
I understand that people have their preference, but what is it about the profession that makes some feel we aren’t good enough? They say actors are promiscuous. Perhaps, because we are together for long periods of time, they imagine it is impossible not to build attachments… or have there been actual cases of promiscuity?
My opinion? Only the untrustworthy are distrusting.
There is also the constant reference to public divorces and marital issues. Okay… Do you hear about the cheatings, divorces and abuse that happen among doctors, bankers, lawyers, engineers, etc.? No. Because entertainers live in the limelight, it’s easy for the unlearned to imagine that they’re the only ones dealing with real life issues. Rather than be sensitive, they make it a trademark. For every actor or celebrity who is divorced or struggling, I will show you 20 regular couples that have dealt with the same or worse.
Let us now consider the Africa Man mentality aka How Can… “How can my husband/wife be lying in bed with another?” ‘Why should my wife run around in the bush, barefoot, like a village girl? For how much? I’ll pay you real money to stay at home.’ “How will my husband make a fool of himself in front of the whole world?” Though it isn’t as intense as before, there is still the presumption that our profession is not respectable.
Then there is the question of unstable finances, usually with the male actor, where the responsibility of provision is on the man. Actors typically do not receive regular paychecks, so until a woman sees a plan for economic sustenance, she may not be quick to make a long-term commitment to an actor.
Nevertheless, I like to think there are advantages to marrying an actor, entertainer or anyone in the Disgrace To The Family field of work. One major advantage is availability. The flexible schedules make it easier to spend quality time with family and that is something we cannot overlook in the world today, especially with raising children.
Ultimately, we choose what’s best for us. One of the ways we’re developing as a country is that people choose alternative careers daily. Each person will find the one they are meant to be with. Whatever your purpose in life: actor, dancer, model, singer, presenter, painter, designer, writer, etc., nobody is doing you a favour by choosing to spend their life with you.
I say, “keep an open mind, focus on your purpose and be the best Disgrace you can be!”