Famous actress cum film maker, Mercy Aigbe-Gentry has attributed the success of her seven year union to Larry Gentry, CEO of La Veronique Hotel, Oregun, Lagos, to God and her ability to cope with the challenges that always come with marriage. The gorgeous and stylish thespian spoke about her marriage and much more, including her multimillion naira boutique, Mag Divas, why her first personal assistant left after one month, when ENCOMIUM Weekly visited the Edo born entertainer in her Omole, Lagos office on Wednesday, August 3, 2016.
What’s going on now as regards your career?
I just released my latest job as a producer. The title of the movie is Victims, directed by Lancelot Oduah Imaseun and starring A-list actors, including Olu Jacobs, Juliet Ibrahim, Seun Akindele, myself, Saidi Balogun, Fathia Balogun, Funsho Adeolu and a whole lot of notable faces in the industry. It’s a movie everybody must see. It’s actually a story of a young girl called Yemi and her traumatic experience with men, starting from her father. It’s a story told by a victim. It’s emotional, educative and entertaining. And the reports I have gotten so far on the movie are amazing. A lot of people who have seen the movie have commended my efforts, the efforts of the director and those of everybody that participated in the movie. Many people have sent me messages, adjudging Victims as fantastic and award winning flick. That’s the latest from my stable.
What informed the title? Is it a real life story?
When I decided to shoot another job after the previous one, I wanted to do a movie with a serious social message. A movie that a lot of people can see and learn a lot from. So, I came up with the story, Victims. And when you see the movie aside the fact that it tells about Yemi, who is the victim in the movie, we also have other characters who’re victims in the movie. The story talks mainly about domestic violence, rape, a particular vice leads to the other. Victims is not a true life story, it’s fiction, but it’s a movie derived from other people’s experience.
When I talked to people and they shared their experiences with me, I now put everything together to make the movie. And then, I felt it was time for me to lend my voice to ending these social vices I just mentioned. I felt it’s time for me to talk about victimization and stigmatization of victims because in the course of talking to people who have been victims, I noticed that a lot of them didn’t actually want to come out and talk about their experiences because of the fear of being stigmatized due to our kind of society we’re in. And when you don’t come out and share that kind of experience, I believe that person has not been healed properly because for you to be healed properly, you have to share the experience.
So, that person or victim has everything bottled inside him or her. That’s actually what happened to Yemi in the story. So, it’s a movie that everybody has to see and even keep for reference. The basic message is that let’s all work together and ensure all these social vices are reduced drastically. In fact, I want them eradicated.
The movie might have gulped millions of naira, how much exactly did you spend on it?
I spent a lot on the movie. As a matter of fact, I can’t give you a figure now. Victims is a movie that actually put a big hole in my pocket.
Victims was shot in 2015, why did it take you this long before the release?
It’s because I first took it to the cinemas. The movie showed at major cinemas nationwide before I decided to release it on DVD.
How much did it gross at the cinemas?
All I can tell you is that it did very well at the cinemas but I won’t give you a figure. It’s a lot. They went to the cinemas to see it and started telling their friends and relatives that they had to see Mercy Aigbe’s Victims. So, that confirmed that the movie did wonderfully at the cinemas.
A lot of your colleagues and other stakeholders are lamenting poverty in the industry attributing it mainly to piracy and poor economy. What’s your take on this?
Yes, I completely agree with them because the economic situation of this country right now is very terrible. The hardship is telling on everything in the country. Even the rich are also crying now because the standard of living has gone down drastically, and that makes it very hard for me to be comfortable at the moment. A lot of things have gone up in terms of prices. Then, no electricity, fuel is very expensive and more. A lot of things have gone bad and that’s really affecting our industry. When there is no power supply, how do you expect those that buy our movies to see such movies? So, it’s not encouraging at all. Also, piracy has eaten so deep into the system, may be because people don’t have jobs and they’re just looking for other means to survive at all costs. And in the cause of that, they pirate other people’s intellectual property. A lot is going on in Nigerian movie industry. We’re just praying the situation gets better. I particularly have confidence in this administration and believe Buhari will deliver as he promised.
What do you want the government to do concerning piracy?
I want government to help us by coming up with a stronger law that can curb piracy because to me, I am not even aware if there is any law in place. Piracy keeps spreading everywhere on daily basis. So, we want them to help strengthen the law and make sure it’s enforced to the letter. Once there’s such law that says if you’re guilty of pirating someone else’s intellectual property, you either go for like 10 to 15 years imprisonment or pay a huge sum running into millions of naira, I believe all these criminals will think twice. And before we know it, I am sure, piracy will be eradicated.
Let’s talk about this massive boutique of yours, Mag Divas, it’s like a year and half you established it…
Yes, it was opened in December 2014. So, it’s like a year and half now.
Was it started this big?
Yes, it was. We thank God for how far we have come because a lot of people find it difficult to believe it’s just one year and few months. But we thank God. Mag Divas is everywhere. Everybody is talking about it. We have customers all over the country and beyond. So, we give God the glory.
How much did you invest in it?
You should know I won’t give you a figure, but we bless God. Fashion is another thing I have serious passion for aside acting. I just decided to translate my passion into money making and I found out that an average Nigerian woman is stylish. A lot of people are looking for where to buy good, quality and fashionable items at very reasonable prices. And that was actually my aim when I started Mag Divas. The moment you come, you get unique and very good quality items at very affordable prices.
Aside clothing, a lot of other sections exist here…
(Cuts in) Yes, we have other things we deal in. We have children’s section, we have a section for the guys too. We have a make-up studio,. We’re also into hair. We sell top quality virgin human hair. We also have Mag Divas hair which is our own brand. We have our branded cosmetics too. We sell so many cosmetics for both men and women to make them glow.
There was a time you said you’re looking for a personal assistant and you’re ready to pay the person N100,000, did you actually get now?
Yes, I got one.
Is she still working with you?
Yes, I have a PA still working with me. She’s a young, vibrant and very hardworking lady. She’s a very nice person.
But we learnt that the first person you employed left after a month…
(Cuts in) Yes, like I put up the advert online, we had over 1,000 applications within just 24 hours. So, we had to shut down. Then, we conducted the interview, we shortlisted and all that. And eventually, we picked the young lady. But when she started, it wasn’t easy because she didn’t understand the job. Being a PA to someone like Mercy Aigbe entails a lot of hard work and time. Most times, when we’re on set, we work till late in the night. And she’s someone, I think normally, goes to bed like 8 pm. So, she was wondering why we should be on set till like 12 midnight and there about. I found out that she wasn’t coping. I had to ask her to go. Then, I got another person. And this person I have now understands the job very well. And she’s doing it wonderfully.
And you still maintain that same salary?
Yes, she collects that same amount.
You’re one of the most fashionable Nollywood stars right now, what does it take to dress well?
I always tell people, it’s not how expensive your outfit is that matters, but how you put it together, and that’s the style. To me, fashion is the material and style is how you put it together to ensure it fits you. At times, you may wear something very expensive and will look cheap on you because you don’t have the carriage. And it was not even put together properly. At times, when I wear a T-shirt of about N5,000 and a pair of jeans, people think I am putting on something very expensive. So, it’s the way you carry yourself. And it’s knowing what suits your body frame and what’s appropriate according to your age because a lot of people don’t know there are some clothes they shouldn’t wear because of their age. Then, what to wear, when and where to wear it to. Some people don’t understand all these. And all of these come to play when I want to dress up for an outing.
What’s your view now about the alleged discrimination in Nollywood?
I think the gap is closing up now. So, it’s not like before.
Let’s go a bit private, you have been married to Larry Gentry for about eight or seven years now, how would you describe the journey so far?
It has been cool and it’s been God all the way. Before I got into it, I had actually made up my mind that come what may, I was going to stay married. Although, I won’t say there weren’t some challenges along the way, I am just being focused. And I have been praying about it and God has just been helping me. So, it’s been God all the way.
Lest we forget, what’s the staff strength of Mag Divas and how do you source the items for the outfit?
We have about 10 staffers. I travel to the US, UK, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Dubai and others to get my materials. I also sell made in Nigeria. I have collaborated with some Nigerian designers through whom I get some made in Nigeria items.