|Emmanuella Gift Mensah, aka, Ella Mensah, is what you could describe as a cross-over-actress because her roots are firmly planted both in Ghollywood and Nollywood barely two years after she featured in her first movie. Ella, who dabbled into acting by accident is a graduate of Journalism and Media Studies and mother of a baby boy.
She came to Nigeria to shoot a film but ended up shooting five back-to-back and today, she has bagged several awards. In this chat with ‘The Entertainer’, Ella opens up on her career and how she found love in Nigeria.
When and how did you start acting professionally? I started in Ghollywood after my university education. And after just about four months in the industry, I travelled out and returned to Ghana two years later in 2011. And because I came back with a baby, I had to relax to take care of him. I could say I started acting professionally in Nollywood in October 2012. Coming into Nollywood wasn’t challenging because of my previous stint in Ghana. I had done a couple of movies back home which formed a good foundation for me. Which was your debut movie in Ghollywoood? It was entitled Come To Christ while my debut Nollywood movie was Treated Like A Lady.
Why did you travel overseas despite achieving so much in Ghollywood just after four months?
It was for personal reasons. How did you start your acting career? It is quite an interesting story. I had gone to drop off a friend at an audition venue. I was supposed to zoom off after dropping her but that didn’t happen as I was asked to feature in the movie. And before I knew it, I had featured in six movies and then opportunity came and I travelled out.
Do you mean that they cast you at sight, just like that?
At that time I was undergoing internship at Metro TV Ghana so I was already used to the camera. While waiting for my friend, on her request, a man who later turned out to be her producer walked in and asked whether I came for the audition and I said no. He asked why and I told him I only came to drop a friend off. He encouraged me and even insisted that I try out acting. That was how I got into audition and I said no. I was Majid Michael’s girlfriend in that moview. And after that production, the producer held me back for two other movies back-to-back.
One of them was entitled Pretty Queen, where I played sister to Jackie Apiah. However, after my internship, I didn’t have time again to continue. But it wasn’t easy making up my mind on whether to become an actress or to take up a career in journalism which is my profession by training.
How did you make your Nollywood debut? After I returned to Ghana, a certain Nigerian producer called Eric Stephenson visited Ghana for a movie shoot. Van Vicker was on the set and they needed a tall, pretty lady that would fit into the character of a football coach’s wife. A friend called me up and asked if I was interested and I said why not? The producer was so impressed he commended me and we exchanged phone numbers after the shoot. A while later he invited me to come over and feature in another movie here in Nigeria. I came down to shoot just a movie but ended up shooting five back-to-back. Was your overseas trip academic or pleasure? At that time I just needed to travel out, have some rest and reflect on my life. I wanted to be sure of what I really wanted to be in life, whether to be a businesswoman, an actor or face my journalism career or whatever; I just needed a break.
And somehow, you returned with a lovely baby boy? Yeah, that’s exactly what happened. Did you meet his father on the course of the trip?
No, we flew together. He was not married and I had never been married too; he was my boyfriend at the time. We travelled out, things happened and I got pregnant. We were never married and I’m still single as we speak.
But you are not searching, are you?
Obviously, you are engaged to a Nigerian.
Do you share the popular notion among women that virtually all men are unreliable?
Every man is a man and every woman is a woman. It all depends on how you play your cards. As an actress, I travel a lot. So, even if I date a Ghanaian or a Nigerian, I’m always somewhere outside home and away from my man. Would I ask my man to follow me everywhere? That is where trust comes into play.
So, what attracted you to this Nigerian? Basically my man is unique. Though every man is unique but some are more unique than others; he is a special man. But as for why I chose a Nigerian man instead of a Ghanaian, you never can predict who you will fall in love with. I had a Ghanaian boyfriend, we broke up and now I’m getting married to a Nigerian. Whether he is a Ghanaian, Congolese, Sudanese or Nigerian doesn’t really matter. What matters is that I love him and I am comfortable with him. My man is romantic and hot; what more could a woman want in a man?
Would it be safe to describe your current visit as business turned into pleasure since your man is a Nigerian? That is what it is. I flew here to work. But my man’s presence has made things a lot less stressful. I have done a couple of jobs and more are on the way.
In less than 2 years you have won about five awards. What is the secret? There is no special secret. It is just the grace of God and hard work; it has been amazing and I am grateful to God. The awards have spurred me to always strive for the next level in my career and to always be hard working.
Knowing that some people out there are watching and ready to appreciate hard work makes you want to strive for the best so the awards have motivated and challenged me. Now I realise that I need to be on my toes to justify the awards and also strive to move to the next level.
How would you describe Nollywood?
And we are happy about that.
What about Ghollywood?
Ghollywood is next to Nollywood in ranking. We are taking a cue from Nigeria and the mutual partnership is paying off. You know that both countries usually fight over virtually everything. But at the same time, Ghanaians and Nigerians love each other both as countries and as individuals. If you go to Ghana, you will find that the legally registered Nigerians are over four million. And I have noticed that many Ghanaians are also here.
More so, Nollywood and Ghollywood are almost like one industry because of the healthy partnerships that exists between them. Nollywood and Ghollywood are improving by the day and I am sure that very soon, the industries will merge.
What’s been your greatest achievement as an actress? As a Ghanaian coming from a small country, there is what we call cross-over. Once you cross over from Ghollywood to Nollywood and you are accepted, you are automatically known all over Africa because the market here is big. I can tell you that my cousins and friends living overseas usually call to give me thumbs up for my movies. So, crossing over from Ghana to Nigeria was a dream come true for me.
There are very many talented actors that are celebrated back in Ghana but they are not known because they have not got the opportunity to cross over. When Nollywood notices you, your target becomes the entire African continent. And when you achieve that, you may as well hit the international scene. That is my dream.
Who are your favourite Nigerian actresses and actors? I wouldn’t want to pinpoint a particular actor or actress. Rather I would only say that I have always looked up to Genevieve and Mercy Johnson. I admire everything about Genevieve because she has made huge impact. But Mercy Johnson is the only actress I can watch and cry.
And as for the men, it should be Mike Ezuruonye; he is my number one actor in Nollywood. He has tons of swag and attitude. He is a total package by my assessment.
As a pretty woman, you must be finding it a bit challenging to cope with male admirers…
However, public figures attract more attention and it is normal. So, how do you deal with it?
I just live my normal everyday life. There is nothing I have seen today that I have never seen before; there is nothing new. However, there is no special strategy. The more popular you get, the more advances you get. I used to get over a 100 missed calls and numerous text messages from a particular man once upon a time. To this day I have never met him. He would send messages about how he loves and dreams about me and how he was making love to me in his dreams and all that.
At a time I got fed up and had to change my phone number.
Don’t you think that it is easier for women to cheat? No, rather, it is easier for men to cheat and clean their mouths. Women usually go with emotions but a man can get hold of a woman and just because he is high, he could make love to her. A woman can only cheat when she is not getting attention. It is only when she doesn’t get her romantic dues at home that she can be tempted to seek it from outside. But men can do it for fun. A man can love his wife very well but still keep a mistress outside; that’s their nature. In extreme cases, a woman can have a fling but keeping a permanent boyfriend is out of it. But men can love you from heaven to earth and still have a permanent mistress.