An actress, television producer, presenter, writer, wife and mother, Ireti Doyle is versatile and good at what she does. The Tinsel star actress began acting in 1995 with her first role in the popular TV Series, ‘Riddles & Hopes’. She has gone on to star in other TV series such as ‘Circle of Three’ and currently plays the role of Sheila on the MNet hit series ‘Tinsel’.
Ireti is also an award winning TV Presenter and Producer who has hosted the fashion TV show ‘Oge’ for ten years among other presenting jobs such as ‘Today on STV’.
She is married to Patrick Doyle, also an actor and producer and is the proud mother of five children. Now in her mid-40s, Ireti is glowing and says she is comfortable with where she is. She shares intimate details of her career, family, children and experience as a mother in this exclusive interview with BellaNaija’s Adeola Adeyemo.
Return to the Big Screen
We’d be seeing you on the big screen soon in “Lotanna” after a long break from movies. What endeared you to this project and why did you decide to be a part of it?
Simply put, the Producer of the movie, Ifan, refused to take no for an answer. A less resolute individual would probably not have me on his cast but he just refused to take no for an answer.
Tell me about the movie and your role in it?
Lotanna is in a nutshell, a young boy’s coming of age story; how he travels through life, the decisions he makes, and how his parents try to mould and shape his destiny using the best methods they know. My character is the young boy’s mother. It might be the first time I’m being consciously, in looks and carriage, cast as a middle aged woman. I actually look like my mother in the film.
TV & Nollywood
As a talented actress, you haven’t featured in as much movies as most of your fans would love to see you in. Why do you tend to tilt more towards TV series?
My career has been shaped differently from others. It wasn’t something I said I would do in the beginning. I’ve come to a place of understanding that the one who shapes everyone’s destiny shaped my career like that so most of my credits are on TV and stage. But prior to shooting Lotanna, I shot two films last year. I suspect that they might be released simultaneously before the end of the second quarter of the year. Torn is one that I would really like people to look out for because it was produced and directed by another very creative mind. People would get to see me in a different light.
Does it get very demanding, being on the cast of a frequently aired Soap like Tinsel?
Oh yes it does get stifling because it takes up a large chunk of my time. For every lead character on Tinsel, we know that our first commitment is to the show. On the flip side of the coin, Tinsel is the biggest Soap in Africa at the moment. You are seen by millions of viewers across the globe five nights a week. Money cannot buy you that kind of platform, so I think the pluses are much more than the minuses.
You’re also a well known TV Presenter. Tell me about some of the shows you’ve presented and how you got into broadcasting?
Broadcasting happened by mistake. I was fortunate to be placed in a position where I could act and learn the rudiments of broadcasting at the same time. I had a job with a small production company and the task fell on me to design a simple television show, which I did, which turned out to be Oge and it lasted for 10 years. I produced as well as presented the show and that was where I honed my skills. From there I got head hunted to present a number of shows beginning with Morning Ride on NTA created by Danladi Bako and then there was Today on STV which I did for two years. That one too happened by mistake. I was to stand in for someone for two weeks and it turned out to be two years.
Are you currently working on any TV shows at the moment?
I present NIMASA This Week, it’s the official public enlightenment programme produced for the Nigerian Maritime Authority and Safety Agency. I am also currently working on a Magazine show produced by MNet in Hausa. It will air on the Hausa channel.
Do you speak Hausa?
Yes I do.
That’s interesting. What do you think about the developments seen in Nollywood at the moment?
There is a new Nollywood, fresh blood, a convergence of new ideas and that is a great thing. There is more competition and if you’re serious about your craft, you can no longer deliver slipshod material. We’ve garnered international acclaim, we’re several chapters in and the journey can only get better. I have nothing but high hopes for the industry.
What else do you do professionally apart from broadcasting and acting?
I am also a public speaker; a large chunk of my income comes from hosting high profile events. And then there is the mother of all tasks, I’m a mother and wife.
Teenage Pregnancy, Marriage & Motherhood
That’s exactly where I was coming to. How do you combine your duties as a mother with the demands of your job effectively?
It’s not easy, every working woman knows that. Sometimes you have to sacrifice and sacrifice comes both ways. Sometimes you have to pass things up, sometimes your family has to come to terms with the fact that they won’t see you for a bit. But the first ingredient for a balanced life is grace. And secondly, I am fortunate to have a fantastic team where each member knows what they are supposed to do and thankfully, they do it well.
Tell me about this team
They are not too many. I have my housekeeper who also doubles as a baby sitter when I need one. I have my Personal Assistant, she’s been with me for years. And I have one or two other people that I can call on short notice. Motherhood is basically being on hand to attend to your child’s needs and I can’t be in two places at the same time but I try and build my career around my family. Fortunately acting is not as rigid as an office job could be. Once in a while you might miss important moments but you just have to balance it out and fortunately I’ve been able to do that well.
What’s it like being the wife of Patrick Doyle? How would you describe your husband?
Actually no big deal really. He is a pretty laid back person. He is not a very demanding person, he is very busy too with his own projects but as an individual, he is very supportive of the things that I do and he contributes towards raising the kids and running the home and all that.Tell me about your children. How many do you have?
We had six but we lost one. One has graduated but the rest are still in school at different levels. Two are in the higher institution, one is in Secondary and the last one is in Primary school.
Please accept my sincere condolences on your loss. I read somewhere that you had your first child as a teenager. How old is she now?
I had her when I was 19 and she’s is 26 now. If you see us together you’d think she is my sister.
Looking back at the time you had your first child, what were the challenges you faced as a teenage mother?
Being a teenage mother is no picnic, back then or even now. As a teenager, you have no business being a mother. You should be discovering yourself, finding out who you are and what your dreams are. It’s one that can and should be avoided. Very few other instances can give a young girl a complex than being a teenage mother and it kind of clouds all your decisions from that point on if you’re not fortunate.
For a lot of girls, teenage pregnancies often affect the mother’s future negatively. How were you able to pull through that period in your life and make the best out of it?
I’m fortunate. I’m the living proof of God’s word that everything would work out for your good. Such an incident will give you baggage but the question is “Can you move away from the baggage? Yes you can”. Avail yourself of God’s grace, forgive yourself, surround yourself with positive minded people who love you and remind you that you’re not damaged, people who won’t judge you or think less of you.
Did the pregnancy cause any setback for you and your dreams at the time?
When all of it was happening, I did not forget my goals. I always knew I wanted to go to school, have a career. So it can’t even be called a setback any more because the fruit of that situation is a very beautiful and unique human being, one I’m very proud of.
Teenagers are more exposed these days and so the rate of teenage pregnancy is even higher. What would you say to teenage girls who have an active sexual life?
It is such an unnecessary journey to make. I try to school young girls that if you must have sex, please have protective sex. Things are even worse now. A teenage pregnancy is the least of your problems. What if you contract HIV/AIDS and you die before you’re 25? What if you contact Chlamydia and you become barren. There are so many practical reasons for you to be careful with your sex life.
Sometimes, it’s very hard to listen to older people’s advice as a teenager because you feel they are just being unnecessarily strict.
There are some things that are completely unnecessary and you would not realize it till you’re much older. So when an older person or your mother is saying curb your excesses, take it in good faith. They know what they are talking about. You can go to the person for advice. Never take that relationship for granted.
In some instances, mothers find it difficult connecting with their teenage daughters and giving them good advice on sex becomes a problem. As someone who has raised five children, what is the best way for mothers to connect with their daughters?
A large part of the reason why the situation went the way it did back then is because of the way my mother handled it. But I’m old enough to realize now that at the time, she was operating from a position of love and she was handling it the best way she knew how to. That I received it negatively is beside the point. We come from different generations, she grew up under completely different circumstances, my outlook on life is different from hers , my education is different. How I have been able to raise my girls so far successfully is by grace. You can’t do anything without it. I talk to my God about the things I hold dear and my children are a big part of that.
I remember vividly my communication with my Mum and how and when it went awry. I know the things my mother said to me that got to me the wrong way so I don’t say them to my daughters. If I’m trying to get a message across to them, it’s completely up to me to deliver that message in such a way that they can receive it. If she is upset and on the defensive, she will not listen to me, she will not take the message and she’s bound to get into trouble. As a parent, I need to get my message across so I have to package my message in such a way that he or she will understand. Don’t be deceived, for the younger generation, that packaging might come wrapped in a cane.
A cane? Now that is another issue causing a debate in the society with more and more people opposing its use. Don’t you see anything wrong in spanking a child?
What rubbish debate? What are they talking about? Even the Bible says it, Spare the rod and spoil the child. I have a policy with my children and they know it: “If you’re shameless enough to misbehave in public, I am shameless enough to discipline you in the same arena”. So if you know that you have a Mum that can embarrass you, you will arrange yourself. When your child sticks her finger in your eye and tells you to sit down and shut up, then you will know. The truth of the matter is that you are responsible for the way they turn out.
Is it really the parents’ fault if a child turns out bad?
Although parenting really never ends especially if you have a wonderful relationship with your child, but you should know that for the first 18 years of life, you’re going to be giving constant instruction. God forbid, if your child turns out to be an armed robber or a bad person, let it not be for lack of trying. Let society be able to say you tried as a parent but the child just didn’t listen. I don’t subscribe to the school of thought that says a child will turn out to be what he will be, that is arrant nonsense! Get into the child’s life and find out what is going on with him or her.
People say being in your 40s is a special time for women. For you, what is special about being in your 40s?
I think the 40s are a really beautiful period in any person’s life, especially women. You’ve evolved, you know what works for you and you’re not afraid to speak your mind. You’ve come to a place of independence. You find that a lot of women really come to their sensuality and sexuality in their 40s. If they never used to wear short dresses, they start to and people think that they might be trying to hold on to their youth. No, that is not it. She probably just finally accepted that she has really hot legs, she probably just came to terms that she has a great body and she should flaunt it. She’s found herself. I’m comfortable because I’ve been blessed. I have a great career, fantastic kids, a supportive husband, a few great friends and for the most part I am content. I’m in a good place.
On a parting note, what do you strive for at this point in your life?
Do I have everything I want? No. Every new day is an opportunity to learn something new. I strive to be the best I can be in any situation I find myself be it a professional, a mother or a wife. To be the best I can be at whatever it is I’m doing at any point in time.
Ireti Doyle in Torn (Preview)