Nollywood Actress, Susan Maxwell, made her foray into acting with Isawuru. Since then, she has acted and produced several other movies. Although acting is her first love, the cankerworm of piracy which has burned many actors forced her to face her other passion, skin care. In this chat with ADETORERA IDOWU, Maxwell tells all about piracy, why Nigerian men prefer light-skinned women and why acting is her passion, but skin care is her life.
Describe your journey into the movie industry.
Movie making has been a part of me since childhood. I started from my church drama group. When I felt it was time to bring out what I had to people who know more than I do in the field, I joined a group in my area at Ipaja. A year later, I shot my first movie, Isawuru, in 2007, directed by Murphy Afolabi, and that was the movie that brought me to the limelight.
The marketer approached me to do another movie and the same year we shot another movie called Nkan to ba gba, directed by Odunlabi Adekola. Later on, I got another vision for my skin care business which I started officially in 2010, but started in my house in 2009, and that pulled me out of the industry. Now this business pays me more than acting.
How has piracy affected your career?
Piracy is not encouraging talents. I did a movie recently and after pumping in a lot of money I did not get returns on my investment. Outside money, acting is something I truly enjoy, but piracy is not letting me practice what I enjoy.
I shot Faramade with one million, one hundred and fifty thousand naira (N1,150,000) and made only seven hundred thousand naira (N700,000). Most people ask us if we are crazy. Why do we pump money into something that doesn’t yield returns? Even if it’s not giving you any profit, it should give you the capital back, but when you’re doing something you have passion for, it looks crazy to people, and yes I’m crazy about what I do.
What solution would you proffer to this problem?
I don’t have much of a choice; as they say, ‘If you can’t beat them, join them’. There is nothing one can do about Alaba pirates for now. The solution is to produce what the marketers can sell at a reasonable price before the pirates produce theirs. I will still press further and hope that the new government will intervene. I also hope God helps us all. Many in the industry have tried their best to beat piracy to no avail. They have tried everything, from rallies, to visiting Alaba market etc, all to no avail. No one knows who the pirates are. My conclusion is that when something is beyond human power, we have no choice but to call on God.
How did you start your skin care business?
When I started my skin care business, I thought it was for people who needed to brighten their skin. With time, I got clients with serious medical problems. In some cases, I’ve had to protect myself because of the severity. Some clients came to me after visiting several hospitals. I was their last resort and by God’s grace they used my products and the story changed for better. This has spurred me on.
I started with a short formal training, and with personal research and talent; I have only had positive results.
Many people are of the opinion that light-skinned ladies are more attractive, and everything they wear shows off better and that is why I am here to help people enhance their complexion. I used to be very dark; I never thought I could become as fair as I am. I did it because I want to practice what I preach. I want them to see me and be blown away, especially those who knew me when I was dark. Because what I’m giving people isn’t something that would damage their skin but repair their skin, I use it on myself as well. If I wasn’t in this line of business, I probably wouldn’t have toned my skin at all. I don’t call it bleaching. I call it skin restoration.
They say “Black is beautiful” is that statement overrated?
In Nigeria, people believe our weather doesn’t encourage them to maintain their dark complexions, often getting uneven skin tones because of the harsh rays of the sun. Most people believe when they are fair, rain or shine, they have something constant to maintain. Most of my clients are above 18, and if they want to be white, I give them what they want. Black is beautiful, but I have no qualms with enhancing your complexion. 80% of Nigerian men want their women to be fair. They want a lady that draws attention to them. I’ve worked with many married women who complain of their men staring at fair women and they say to me, “Susan, make me fair, I want to be attractive to my man!”
Some women have said their sons want them to visit their schools because they want to show off their fair mother. Clients all over the world have asked for my products. Black is beautiful but there is nothing wrong with enhancing your complexion.
Acting is my passion, skin care is my life. Acting has helped my business because people recognise me and are relaxed around me because they know I wouldn’t want to tarnish my image.
What are the challenges you face?
So far, I haven’t had many. I just have those I call stubborn clients who expect my products to act like magic. I tell them, anything that turns you white overnight can damage your skin overnight but many of them are impatient.
Does this line of business bring you fulfilment?
I have tried many businesses. Clothing, hair, makeup etc but skin treatment has brought me a lot of respect.
Are you married?
I am not married. I have a wonderful daughter who is my life and my world, and I would like to have more kids. I am currently engaged to my baby’s father, Tokunbo Awoga, a producer/director, although we do not live together. He directed Faramade and we will be working on another movie soon. I named my movie Faramade after my daughter.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
I would like to see my products retailed in different stores.