Regina Askia-Williams: How Stardom Has Affected Me

Culture

In this interview with Adedayo Adejobi, Regina Askia, one of Nigeria’s most celebrated silver screen superstars, talks about life as a glamorous movie star and a humble life as a nurse in the United States of America. Excerpts:

Despite the fame and fortune, you seemed to enjoy in Nigeria, why did you relocate to the United States?

The fortune was not a steady stream of income. Don’t forget the industry was just unfolding. I made quite an impact on that scene with some class, pizza, and style. That era saw a lot of young women and guys decide to give Nollywood a try, and here we are with Nollywood in reckon with the world.

What attracted you to acting?
Saturday playhouse at University Staff School and African club in Calabar. Dance and drama clubs, debating clubs. These stage performances and programmes prepped our public speaking and acting skills.

Of all the roles you played in the past, which is your favourite?
It felt so cool when we shot ‘Most Wanted,’ but today, we laugh at that stuff. ‘Suicide Mission’ was so sad. It was hard to watch.

Tells us about your yet-to-be-released film?
WEB. I played the role of a woman technically abandoned by a ‘busy’ husband, who seeks comfort in ways unacceptable to her husband.

Any collaboration with Hollywood big names?
WEB had on set a few actors from Marvels’ Black panther. Atwani, who played T’Chaka, the father of T’Challa. There are definitely more and more collaborations between Nollywood and Hollywood. It’s time for Africa.

Which celebrities you believe are the most influential in Nigeria?
Wizkid, Davido, and Burna Boy. Then, there are a host of others. Nigerian artistes are indeed taking the world by storm.
How has stardom changed you?
It hasn’t. Growth has changed me. I’m definitely more tactful and patient. The ‘hot-headed me’ is latent.

How do you juggle being a nurse, an activist, television producer, writer, public speaker, actress, and model?
Good time management.

How do you balance your work and private life?
You must make time. Time has become an essential commodity. If it’s important to you, your kids, spouse, projects, if it’s important, you must make time.

What is your dream project?
It is working to provide skilled health care services to underserved populations in Nigeria.

What are your most successful projects to date?
My projects have always been public service, either health education outreach, public lectures, or television programs. All have been successful, considering everyone involves goes home with something: money, food, knowledge, opportunity, motivation, etc. For this, we thank God.

By your Facebook posts, there’s a pointer to the fact that you are passionate about Nigeria. When Nigeria comes to mind, what goes through your mind?
Such a shame for a country so blessed to flounder the way Nigeria is floundering.

What’s your view about Nigeria’s situation?
A crying shame. I was very vocal during the presidential elections encouraging Nigerians to vote for Moghalu. Failing, I encouraged people to return Buhari to office. My hope was to give the general a chance to protect Nigerians against rampaging marauders, police brutality, murderous herdsmen, raping of women and kidnappers. Today, as events unfold in Nigeria, I am stunned and stupefied at the government’s total inability to get a handle on the number one service any government owes its populace – security. The ship is floating seemingly rudderless. People are suffering so much it’s a sin from which there will be no ablution for the perpetrators. Nigerian leaders have chosen to sacrifice the nation on the altar of greed and lust for filthy lucre.

You seem politically aware. Any plans to run for public office now or in the future?
Never say never. If there is a bigger platform to reach a greater number of people, I would gladly serve. I do wish that there for whatever office one is elected into, folks come with qualifications for the job. Nigeria is where it is today because there are too many folks in charge of offices, the demands of which they do not understand.

What makes you smile, and what scares you the most?
Simple things bring me joy. Playing UNO with my kids on a Saturday morning, acquiring property, miracles of recovery when patients whom we didn’t think would make it actually get better.

On what do you spend the most?
Clothes – no, accessories – no, perfumes – no, underwear- no. Food. It’s important to me that my family eats well-balanced and nutritious foods. Soon as we get paid, automated withdrawals go to taxes, mortgage, tuition, utilities, savings, insurance, 401k, personal upkeep, etc. Whatever is left to spend goes to good food. If you eat well, you will be healthy. When you are healthy, you can figure everything else out.

Whom do you love most, your parents, friends, spouse, kids, siblings, or yourself?
I love them all so dearly I often get emotional. My son, though, has a special place in my heart. Each child comes with their unique personality. My daughters are ice and fire princesses, but my son is a gentle brook. We must realise that we each are a gift to each other only for a time, and as such, we must appreciate, love, and care for each other for the time we still have.

What do you do when not working?
I sleep. Every nurse knows the importance and great need for healthy sleep.

Do you have any talent that you consider useless?
No talent is useless. I’m good at so many things, and various skills have come in handy in different situations.

What inspires you?
Making things better. Helping change things for the better.

What does it feel like to be a celebrity?
I can’t say because there is nothing to compare and contrast. I have always stood out in my circles, always a centre of attention, from grade school, through church, school, always.

What can a person do to attract your attention?
Kindness, skills.

What is the most memorable and exciting thing you have ever seen in your field?
The influx of Netflix and Amazon have been game-changers. This shows Africa to the world.

What has been your greatest accomplishment as an actor?
Being among those talented men and women who birthed Nollywood.

Have you ever wished to meet any fictional character in real life? What character is that?
Jack Sparrow – Pirates of the Caribbean.

Will you rather be in Nigeria or the United States?
The United States: stable career, great income on the regular, real skills, great family, enabling environment with opportunities, and a level of security.

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