JULIET IBRAHIM: I spent my childhood dreaming of being a star

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Juliet Ibrahim is an actress, entrepreneur and author. In this interview with Yetunde Oladeinde, she reveals how she sang and participated in talent shows as a young girl; her latest movie, memorable moments and challenges. 

What is the latest movie that you featured in; what was the experience like?

The most recent movie I am working on is called ‘Love Me’. We are still on set currently, and the experience has been great so far.

Tell us about some of the other movies you have participated in. What is new? What should your fans expect from you?

It has been a very interesting journey so far.  Some of the new movies that have been released so far include: ‘Pretty Demon’, ‘Small girls, Big God’, and ‘London Fever’. Yet to be released ones include: ‘Return of the Beast’, ‘Perfect Crime’, ‘Ignition’ and ‘Love Me’.

What were some of the challenges you have faced on the road to success and how did you overcome them?

On the road to success, we all as human beings face certain challenges; and the same goes for me. For instance, there will always be people who don’t believe in you or your dreams. People who will discourage you and tell you that you can’t make it.

Well, for me, I did not let such negative opinions discourage me. I knew what I wanted to be in life. I was focused and determined on living my dream. I put in the work and I pushed through. I am a go-getter. I am a hardworking woman who will never listen to naysayer.

The more I hear I can’t do something, the more you’ll see me doing it.

Can we talk about some memorable moments in your career?

There have been so many memorable moments in my career; from the time I started up until now. I am so grateful to God for all the blessings He has given me.

Some amazing memories include exploring my love for acting at a very young age, and performing at talent shows in school and in church. I was also singing at those talent shows and in the choir. I spent my entire childhood dreaming of becoming a superstar.

Luckily, in 2004, I won a beauty pageant and I got a call for an audition. I went there and I got the lead role for my first movie ‘Crime to Christ’. That’s how it all started for me.

I have been able to use my career to impact many lives and create other avenues for myself and my brand. Apart from acting, I’m a professional compere. I am also into music. I run a production company, Jewelz Productions, and we produce and direct films, musical videos, TV series, you name it.

I am also an entrepreneur and I have my own line of beauty products. They include Moda Lipstick line and Shades by Juliet Ibrahim Eyelashes. I also founded the Juliet Ibrahim Foundation.

What lessons has life taught you?

I would say that the most valuable lesson I have learned so far is the resilience to never take “NO” for an answer. If one door closes, it does not mean your aspirations are not valid. It simply means that particular door wasn’t yours to enter. Simply find another door to knock on or better still, build your own door and walk through it!

I have learned to persist even when it seemed like all the odds were against me. Because from my experience, that point when you just feel like giving up is when your breakthrough comes.

Tell us about your book. What inspired you to write it?

My life inspired me to write it. There are so many experiences I have had and life lessons learned along the way.

I would also say that the book is a memoir, and it is a deeply personal narrative of my triumph over adversity faced at different stages in my life, and my journey to true self-love. By telling my story through this medium, it is my intention to uplift our women, and remind them that despite the many challenges experienced, there truly is always light at the end of the tunnel.

What should your fans expect to find out about you in this book?

My fans will be delving into my world. They’ll be reading about Juliet that the screens don’t show and the media had no idea about.

In this book, I have opened up on my most vulnerable moments and most exciting moments. I wanted my fans or anyone reading the book to know and understand that I’m just a regular girl who’s been through it all and used all of my experiences to shape me into the woman I am today. I simply want to inspire people.

Who or what do you consider as the greatest influence in your life?

My mom is my greatest influence. In general, my faith in God and the support of my family and loved ones – these are all factors that have shaped my life and career positively.

Let’s compare when you started acting and now, what has changed? In what ways has this changed your lifestyle?

When I started acting, a lot was still new to me and I was still learning as well as growing. But now I am an actress, a mother of one, an entrepreneur, a producer, a singer, a director, an author and a compere.  I am bilingual; I speak fluent English and French. I started acting at a very young age where I performed at talent shows in school and in church.

I was also singing at those talent shows and in the choir. Now, the industry has been acknowledged and sighted by foreign as well as local investors, corporates, brands, hence there’s been so much more improvements than 15 years ago.

What are some of the changes you crave for in the sector?

If you had asked me this question a couple of years ago, I would have said “I would like to see more women in the industry.” But it is so satisfying to not have to make such a statement in our era today. Times have changed; I don’t believe it is as difficult as it once was for women to play active roles in the industry. There are so many great, talented women that are even outshining the men in the African movie industry today.

When you talk about top actors, you will find the names of actresses on the lips of many. When it comes to directing and producing, it is also the same thing. Your talent, hard work, and determination to succeed will always take you far and help you get the recognition you deserve. It may take some time, but if you keep your eyes on the prize, your day will surely come.

I am happy about women rising in prominence in the industry.

Who are some of the people you admire?

I admire Beyoncé, Tyler Perry, Oprah Winfrey, Sandra Bullock, Rihanna, and Genevieve Nnaji.

What is your definition of style? What won’t you do in the name of fashion?

Style to me is being confident in You.

Once you’re confident of who you are, you can wear anything you want and create your own style and stay comfortable in it. I wouldn’t be caught following every trend in the name of fashion.

What are some of the things that you treasure most in life?

I treasure my life, my family, my son and good health.

How do you relax?

I spend lots of time sleeping, rejuvenating at the spa, spending time with my family, especially my son – and, of course, travel.

Where do you expect to be in the next few years?

Right now, I am learning to take each day as it comes. I am basking in the moment. I am learning to try to celebrate my achievements and where I am now, instead of worrying about where I’m supposed to be 5 or 10 years from now. My memoir, “A Toast to Life” has just been released, and I’m excited to see the open doors and possibilities it brings.

If you had to advise young people, what would you tell them?

Whatever you want to do in life, you must first of all make sure that’s exactly what you want to do; have a passion for it, learn it, give it your best and strive to be the best at it.

What’s next for Juliet Ibrahim?

Juliet Ibrahim is an author. I have added one more title to my career, and for now I’m bent on pushing my book and making sure my story is heard and used to inspire so many people out there.

What advice would you give to someone aspiring to become an actor?

I would advise that first of all, you should know that your dreams are valid no matter who you are and where you are from – just like Lupita Nyong’o once famously said. Believe in yourself and your abilities. Then I would say, make sure you get some professional coaching, whenever you can, to sharpen your skills. I would also say, toughen up! It’s not for the faint hearted. It’s an unpredictable path to take. When you ventually get your foot in the door, there may be some periods when you get lots of acting jobs, and then there will be other periods hen you’re not working. So brace up yourself. I would also advise you not to put all your eggs in one basket. The fact that you are an actor doesn’t mean you can’t do other income-generating stuffs to supplement your source of livelihood. Start a business…get a side hustle…explore!

I would say my faith in God and the love and support from my family and loved ones are my greatest source of inspiration and influence in my life.

If you could change something in the industry with a magic wand, what would it be?

I would wish for more talented up and coming actors to be given more opportunities to showcase their talent.

I am always on the lookout for talented up and coming actresses, because, after all, they are the future. I am always excited when I come across new faces in the industry and I do my best to help give them a platform whenever I come across opportunities for them to showcase their talent.

What is your profession’s greatest challenge today?

Instead of dwelling on challenges, I prefer to concentrate on our wins.

It used to be that it was difficult for African women to break into our industry. But now, that is no longer the case. There are so many great, talented women that are even outshining the men in the African movie industry today. When you talk about top actors, you will find the names of actresses on the lips of many. When it comes to directing and producing, it is also the same thing. Your talent, hard work, and determination to succeed will always take you far and help you get the recognition you deserve.

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