‘How I Escaped Death And Became Tope Brass’

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Tope Olagunju is more popular on the entertainment and fashion scenes as Tope Brass. She was a popular model and rising actress before she staked it all to get married in 2001. Now, she is back on the movie scene and has a story to tell. Correspondent, Vivian Onyebukwa, spoke with her.

You studied accounting, why did you abandon it for show business?
When I was very young, a friend of mine dared me that I could not go into Zeb Ejiro’s office because I always told her I love acting. Then Zeb Ejiro’s office was very close to where I lived then in Aguda, Surulere. So, one day, I went into Zeb Ejiro’s office and walked up to him. I was about 13 or 14 then. I told him I was interested in acting and I would love to act. He asked me what I was doing then and I told him, and he started drilling me. I was in Ripples for a while. I later worked with Fred Amata and a couple of other people as well. The funny part is that my father was not aware of all this. He always wanted everybody to go to school and have a respectable profession, not anything showbiz. So, I always sneaked out. Along the line, a late friend of mine introduced me to modelling. After Ripples I went into Fortune and worked with Ralph Nwadike whom I met during Ripples. I still remember one day he came to check me at home. Remember, I used to sneak out. When my father saw him he questioned him, he told my father he came to pick me up for a movie. My father agreed and said as long as it does not disturb my schooling. He allowed me, probably because he saw Ralph as a respectable person and was impressed.

Can you remember the outfits you modelled for?
A lot of them. Anybody in fashion designing, like Regalia, Frank Osodi, Zizi Cardow, Labanella, Rose of Sharon and Maufechi, knows me. In fact, FADAN as a whole. I’ve worked with a lot of designers. Between 1995 and 2000, if you mentioned five top models, my name must come up.

Why did you disappear from the screen?
I have not stopped acting and can never stop. I think everybody is an actor. Everything you do you are acting. What happened is that I took a break when I got married in 2001. I think the most important thing in life is the family. I had to start my own family. I started having kids. I just wanted to take care of everybody and make them happy. But I am back now.

You recently produced your own movie. Tell us about it.
The movie is entitled Kemi Iyalaje. I played the lead role. The movie captures the problems of widows in the Nigerian society. It also encourages people to be strong against all odds.

What inspired you to produce this film?
I was inspired by the happenings in the society. When you walk along the streets you see a lot of things. Also, my sister told me about her experience in school, how some parents just send their children to school without caring about what happens to them. So, I was also inspired by what my sister told me.

Who are some of the key actors in the film?
They are Tunde Alabi, Jide Kosoko, Yemi Solade, Biola Eyinoka, Akin Olaiya, Dupe Jaiyesinmi, Toyin Irepoju and Lanko. Femi Ogedengbe directed the film.

Can you remember the title of movies you featured in?
My very first movie, apart from soap opera, was Thorns Of Roses, which was produced by the late Jennifer Okere and her husband then, Emeka Ossai. I was in Glamour Girls and Fast Cash, among others.

How would you describe yourself?
I can’t really describe myself, but I am a quiet person and I try to mind my own business. I am also shy, but determined and principled.

Does your husband support what you are doing?
He is very much in support. He’s been my pillar. He is my other daddy. Even my father trusts him. He is very helpful financially and morally.

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