She’s an all rounder. Her professional credits span across stage, television, film and print. Iretiola Doyle, producer of ‘Oge with Iretiola’, a talk show and anchor of Morning Ride and Today on STV, is also a writer and public speaker.
The mother of six children is currently an ambassador of Fairy, world’s No. 1 dish-cleaning brand and a trusted household name since it first appeared as a bar soap in 1898. In an exclusive chat with TS Weekend, Doyle opens up on her life, career, motherhood and many more. Enjoy it.
You speak the three major Nigerian languages as well as have good accent, what’s the secret behind this?
You will not go far as an actor if you cannot deliver on different accents. Today, you are required to sound like an American, tomorrow you are required to sound like a Nigerian, and day after tomorrow you’re required to sound like a Jamaican. Your success as an actor is to be able to play different characters and sound like these different characters. I grew up in America. My parents were immigrants and they took me there when I was 2-year-old. And for the first few years of my life, I schooled in America. That accent is not as strong as it used to be; I’m very Naija (smiles). I dey knack broken as I dey do spri spri… No be me and you dey yan so? Mo de gbo Yoruba daa daa. (I speak and understand Yoruba very well). Ina jin Hausa (I speak and understand Hausa very well) Ma nmanu Igbo nwobele wobele (I speak and understand Igbo well). I am a Nigerian. I am consummate. It is my job as a broadcaster and actor; you have to be able to do all these things. This accent you’re talking about is not necessarily American; it’s just a broadcaster’s accent. You need to be able to hear what I’m saying really well. My parents really invested in me education wise. They sent me to a very good school. So, it’s the consummation of all these things. As for the three major languages that I speak; I’m Yoruba but I lived in Jos for 12 years, that’s where I picked up Hausa from. My first daughter is Igbo; doesn’t it make sense that I should be able to converse with her? So that’s it.
Over the years, have you ever turned down any role?
Several… It’s either I don’t like the script or we didn’t agree on terms, or my schedule couldn’t accommodate it.
Aside acting, what else do you do?
I am an actor, and a broadcaster in every sense of the word. I produce, I present, and I write. I am a mother and a wife. And I am a socially conscious Nigerian.
What do you consider before taking up a role?
First and foremost, the character has to be memorable. You talked about Fuji House of Commotion; yea, I did that one, how many years ago? We have people who still talk about Sitanda; that was the first AMBO film. That one was 10 years ago. So, the character has to be memorable, and for the character to be memorable, the script has to be tight of course. The crew is also very important. Who is directing and who is producing? Those are the questions that are opened in my mind.
What’s the secret behind your ageless look?
To God be the glory for the great things He has done (laughs).
How have you been able to avoid scandals that trail most celebrities?
I hate this kind of question because you would be forced to put yourself on a pedestal, and if you put yourself on a pedestal, you are setting yourself up for a fall. My response is, but for the grace of God there goes Ireti. The truth of the matter is that nobody is perfect. We all have our challenges; we all have our weak points. But my policy is this: I do not live my private life on the public stage. It’s not that my husband and I don’t quarrel; it’s not that we don’t have our stressful moments; we just don’t do it in public. For some of my colleagues, any kind of publicity, either good or bad, is good publicity. I don’t think so. I live my private life privately. That’s all I will say.
How did you meet your husband, Patrick Doyle?
I went for an audition in school; it was in my third year in the university. Patrick Doyle was the producer and director of the play at that time. This was a period of time when schools were shut excessively. Rather than waste my time and wait for school to re-open, I decided to do something meaningful, so I came to Lagos. I did an audition and got a role. I told Patrick that I had interest in writing. I also told him that I could write scripts, so he employed me on ad-hoc basis. I worked with him for about two or three years; he was my boss, then his wife passed on and the rest is history.
Can you share with me your experiences about motherhood?
Motherhood! Motherhood has its blessings and it also has its feelings (chuckles). Motherhood has been pretty interesting for me because I was a mother at a very young age. I had my first baby when I was twenty. It’s been a learning experience, it’s been a labour of love, and it’s been very enjoyable.
Regardless of the conflicts and all it takes to mould a young person, all the way up into maturity, nothing describes and can compare to the feeling of accomplishment that you get as a mother. I have a daughter who is 28. She is a graduate and married. She’s an entrepreneur in her own right. She owns her own successful business, that she began while she was in school, with her N15,000 allowance. Today, the business is in millions of naira. I’m very proud of her. I consider myself an accomplished mother.
My second son read Mass Communication and just graduated from Babcock University. My third son got into the university last year, and the baby of the house is going into secondary school. So, motherhood has been quite good to me. I don’t even see the pains anymore. I just look at these giants and I go ‘wow!’ How lucky can I be? Who are all these people and where did they come from?’ So, it’s been worth every single sacrifice I’ve had to make.
Marrying a celebrity comes with challenges. Is there any you would like to share?
I’ve never experienced any challenges; I’ll tell you why? I’m not a celebrity at home. I am a celebrity because you say I’m one. I’m a celebrity via the work that I do. At home, I’m just mummy and Patrick’s wife. And I will give you a classic example. Last year, I was part of a stage production that was big and popular. That night, we played to a full house, getting a standing ovation at Muson Centre. Do you know what that means? I got home at about 10 pm. It was my last daughter’s 10th birthday, so she had her friends around, five or six of them doing a sleep over. I got home at 10pm and those ladies were still waiting for mummy to cook for them.
I got into the kitchen and was frying dodo (plantain) and I looked at myself and was like ‘see star actress slicing and frying dodo at 10pm’. Motherhood is equivalent to playing to a full house and getting a standing ovation and coming back to fry dodo for five hungry 10-year-olds. So, that’s a leveler for you. Motherhood would calm you down. It doesn’t matter how; it’s a heady business. If you’re not careful, if you don’t have anchors, you might lose yourself. But I am blessed to have a large family that reminds me that ‘eh! Your responsibility is first and foremost to us. When you’re done climbing all your professional mountains, you will come back and fry our dodo. You will come and make that soup. You’ll go and look for those socks’. You need to come and see me at 6am when I’m trying to get my daughter ready for school. You’ll go under the bed trying to look for her shoes or socks. I’m a wife and mother first and foremost. No, I’m a human being first and foremost. Fame and fortune are just a bonus, an added plus. It doesn’t define who I am.
What does your typical day looks like?
I wake up at 4am every day, whether I have to be at work or not. And that’s a throwback to the days that I used to present on TV, because you have to be up by 4am, and go out by 5:30am so that you could be live on TV by 7am. I’m usually in the studio by 6am to be ready for make-up and ready to shoot by 7am. If it’s a very busy day, if it’s 15-scenes day, the day that you have upwards of 15 scenes, you know that you are not going home until about 6pm to 7pm. If it’s a short day, and I don’t have any other responsibility like a press conference, or a photo shoot or not engaged in any other production, then I’ll go home and chill. If you see me at an event, it’s either because I’ve been paid to be there or it’s done by someone I respect greatly, or that I’m enjoying myself. If I’m not working or if I’m not representing anybody, or being paid to be somewhere, I’m at home with my family, just chilling and conserving my energy.
What advice did you get from your mother that can be passed on?
My mother? …Hmm. Humility is key regardless of whatever is given to you. Whatever your accomplishments, wherever you find yourself, because the truth of the matter is, time and chance happen to each and every one of us. I am proficient at what I do. Yea, I am one of the best but I don’t think that I am the best out there. So, don’t take anybody for granted and don’t take any situation for granted. Humility is key. Humility will take you very far.
You have six children, right? I mean your own children…?
Yes, between my husband and I, we have six kids but unfortunately, we lost one of them a few years ago to sickle cell anemia. It is well. So, we have five now.
Would you encourage any of your children to pursue your kind of career? Do you take them out to the theatres to watch plays or to the cinemas?
When my children were younger, I censored what they watched. Not just Nigerian films but generally. That’s the responsibility of a parent. However, that has changed. We now have fantastic indigenous content that my children watch, and Nollywood has gotten a whole lot better. So, my kids are heavy consumers of television programmes. Do I still censor some of the programmes? Yes, to some extent. They are older now but I still monitor what they watch. It’s my responsibility to do so. Do we go to theatre together? Absolutely yes, I was at SARO with my last kid. They are performing artistes in their own right. My last daughter acts. Her immediate senior brother is also a performer. They are also presenters in their own right. They have voiced a desire and shown a talent for what we do. So, what will parents do? Is it not to encourage the kids to be the best they can be? Yes, we attend theatres together, we attend movies together, and we watch TV together. You need to listen to my 11-year-old daughter critique what she sees on TV and she makes a lot of sense. Sometimes it’s scary and I see each and every one of them covering their own inch in this industry.
Do they criticise your roles?
Yes, definitely. Let me make you laugh a little bit. If you are an average follower of Tinsel, my character has a man so to speak and I watch TV with my young girl when I get home early. Every time we get physically close or anything, my daughter will be like ‘Hmm…. why are you looking at me now?’ She gets jealous. And is there any work of mine that I won’t let them watch? For instance, I have a movie coming up, unless the chunks are taken out, I won’t let my last girl watch it. Not because I am ashamed of it but because she’s not old enough to watch that kind of material. When she’s old enough, she can go ahead and watch it. I do not apologise for my career; I do not apologise for the characters that I choose to play. I am an actor and it is my responsibility to portray that character to the best of my ability. My career is one where I take no prisoners and make no apologies. If you like what I do, fine. If you don’t like it, too bad, move on to the next one. That’s my position.
What kind of friends do you have around you?
My intimate friends are few. Friendship is a deep word. It’s a word that many of us do not understand. My friends are people who would not expose me in my moments of vulnerability. I’m human. I have my own flaws and my own down moments, and you need people to talk to, friends who would be there. You don’t want a friend who would sell you out. So, they are few and far between but the friends I do have are strong, independent women. Some of them are married, some of them are not, but the common denominator among all of us is that we are independent minded; we are not lazy, we are very hardworking and we are loyal. We are there for each other. But they are not that many; it’s a very small and tight clique.
Your daughter is eleven now, would you like to feature her in your next project?
Oh yes! Should I ever? And that’s another dream of mine. I’ve produced a magazine show. I’m not a control freak but I’ll like to have a control over my life, including my career. So, I see a point in time where I do become a producer of my own stuff. I don’t want to call it movies; I don’t want to call it series. Stuff! Dramatic presentations. And when that time arrives, it would be stupid of me not to feature them not just because I’ll want to create opportunities for them but also because they’re very good at what they do. A good actor is a good actor. That they are related to me is beside the point, if they fit the character, they’ll get the role.
As a celebrity, what appeals to you and what turns you off?
What turns me off is bad attitude. I don’t see the reason for it. Classic people are naturally polite even when they feel otherwise. Politeness turns me on. I don’t like people exhibiting bad attitude especially when there’s no need for it. I understand if people upset you, but even at that, you should be self-contained enough to manage it with whatever emotion you are going through.
Women are said to be their own worst enemies. From your perspective, how true is this?
I don’t like generalities. I don’t like to make general statements because we have examples of very strong female relationships and friendships that have endured. Funmi Ajila and Abike Dabiri have been friends for well over three decades. Have you ever read anything negative about them? And I can continue to give examples; it’s just that I cannot readily come up with names at this moment. There’s a girl friend of mine, Sophia, she’s in Abuja now. We have been friends since when I was… Our relationship spans 20 years. My birthday was on Sunday, May 3, 2015. Someone sent me a BB message, we’ve been friends since 1995. How many years is that? Twenty, right? And I have tons of friends too that have been with me for two decades or more, and no one has heard us tearing our clothes in public. No! As a matter of fact, we have tons of back stabbing men just like we have them in women. It’s about peoples’ relationship and not gender. It’s just advisable to select your friends and live better.
What are your beauty tips?
I am always considerate of what I put inside of me; I mean what I eat. I eat everything but with moderation. And I get spots on my face easily and that’s the only part of my body that I pay more attention to regularly, because spots on your face as a broadcaster or an actor might get you denied of some roles. So, I do not joke with my facial care. I also enjoy going to the spar, that’s how I relax. Yea, you need to look good in this business. You can’t be a star actor and have nasty skin.
What best advice can you give to young persons out there?
Know yourself at a very early age. Search yourself. What do you want from life? What are your dreams? What are your passions? Where are you going? When you answer those questions from a very early age, the rest is easy. Then get an education. Have fun along with it; don’t take yourself too seriously.
What legacy do you want to leave behind?
I’ll like to leave a good smile behind, practically and figuratively. I like people leaving my presence feeling good. In whatever way, be it by watching my performance or by one on one inter-personal interaction, I’ll like for you to leave feeling good, and when you think about me, it still makes you feel good.
What would you like to be remembered for?
I think you’ll have to answer that question yourself. Really, I don’t know. All I can tell you is that in all my dealings, be the interpersonal, business and my commitments to whatever I’m committed to, I’ll like to show integrity, loyalty and be truthful, and be a people’s person. I’m described as an actor’s actor. Why? I’m a team player. My philosophy of life is: when we work together, it’s better for all of us. Teamwork makes all of us look good. What needs to be done, let’s do it so that we can move forward. I hope that people will remember that I showed all these character traits in all of my dealings. Mark you I’m not perfect.tweet Follow @@metrolens1