Why I Opened Film Academy —Helen Paul

Helen Paul-Bamisile, famous female entertainer, shares her success story in this interview with BAYO ADETU

Congratulations on the arrival of your new born baby.

Thank you very much. I feel really blessed. God has been very faithful to me and my household. It was a great privilege and I’m excited about it.

You recently opened Helen Paul Theatre and Films Academy. What informs the decision?

The entertainment industry in Nigeria has no doubt become a force to reckon with nationally and internationally. The film and music sectors have reignited the pride of Nigeria all over the world. All over Africa and globally, Nigerian entertainers are highly respected and regarded as ambassadors worthy of emulation. Besides, in a country where unemployment rate has continued to be on the rise, the entertainment sector has also proved its relevance by providing employment for a reasonable amount of citizens by engaging them in productions and events on daily basis.

•Helen Paul-Bamisile (Tatafo)

As a result of the boom in the entertainment sector, thousands of youths aspire to make a career in the industry, and this has subsequently given room for many charlatans and half-baked practitioners. It is in view of this that Helen Paul Theatre and Film Academy decides to create a strong, credible and professional platform where aspiring entertainers can acquire their skills in different departments of the entertainment sector under the tutelage of seasoned thespians, and in a structured environment. The academy provides its trainings in accordance with the required standards of the Federal Ministry of Education (FME) and the National Board for Technical Education (NBTE).

How do you effectively combine your multiple roles as PhD student, entertainer, wife, mother and business woman?

I give all the glory to God for giving me a husband that is very understanding and supportive. If I come back to this life, I will pick my husband again and again. The credit goes to him and God. He is a fantastic guy. He has been very supportive. He is my friend, he makes life very easy for me and I pray it continues like that forever. Marriage is not an easy institution. It is the only school where you get a certificate before you begin schooling. That is why I say a big thank you to my husband. He is making it work, not me. It is all about sacrifice.

You also have your fingers on music, comedy, acting, compere?

I’m also a business woman. I have bridal and aso-ebi shops. I’m a proprietress and a columnist. I write for the New Telegraph newspaper every Sunday, and my ministry is still expanding. Very soon, you will get to know about the other things I’m working on. Yes, I’m a jack of all trades-but master of all!

Tell us about how your music career started?

I have always been singing, though not professionally at first. I was a chorister in my church and I have been doing that since childhood. I started it professionally as a back-up singer. I worked with P-Square on their Get Squared album, and many other artistes.

What is the difference between Tatafo and Helen Paul?

Tatafo is that little and inquisitive girl you hear on radio. She is a radio personality. Tatafo wants to know everything, and she asks questions a lot. Most times, she pokes her nose into issues that are none of her business! She uses satire a lot as well. But Helen Paul is the compere, actress, TV personality, singer and comedian. She is also a wife and mother.

Where do you get inspirations for your jokes?

I’m a spontaneous comedian. I look at the things around me to make my jokes. Most times when I’m going on stage, I don’t even have an idea of the jokes to crack, but the moment I see the audience, I flow with them, and the jokes will start rolling in. I interact with my audience. Most of the times, if I’m backstage, I see through. I understand the stage – if it is a proscenium stage, I know the audience will face me directly, if it is an arena stage, the audience will sit round me, so I have to look for a way to move round the stage in such a way that everyone sees me. Sometimes, I get there early to meet people buying tickets, so I observe what they are wearing. I also try to understand if they are from the elite category or ordinary people in the society.

Your comedy is based on everyday life, how are you able to interpret everyday life and crack your audience with laughter?

I do comedy of manners. This is a situation where you entertain and make people laugh, and at the same time, they learn. The easiest way you can educate and entertain people is by talking about issues they can easily relate with.

Why are you in the entertainment industry, passion or fame?

Even as I’m speaking with you now, I don’t refer to myself as a star. I’m just a brand. I see myself as the girl next door; I can walk on the streets when I feel like, stop by the road to buy roasted corn and plantain, name it. Most times, it is people that remind me that I’m a celebrity. What I’m trying to tell you is that fame is neither in my mind or head. I just want to be my natural self, and trust me; fame hasn’t changed anything about me.

Did you really set out to become everything in the entertainment industry or was it by chance?

Well, rather than say it is by chance, I will say it is God, hard work and the fact that I have the right people around me. Right from childhood, I had always known that I would become a celebrity, but I didn’t know how it was going to happen. I was just a receptionist then, but I was so confident of becoming a star. It was later that I started as a back-up singer and voice-over artiste before the comedy and acting aspects took over. I wouldn’t say my success is by chance. I would rather say that it was God’s plan for me, and I worked relentlessly towards it.

I started as a voice over artist. I was a receptionist at Eko FM Studious and from there, I started doing back-up and voice-over. But when I got into the University of Lagos, I discovered the comedy part of me. I actually went for a show, and the MC did not come, so my friends said I can do it because I’m a funny character. I eventually did it and it was awesome, and from there, people started calling me for shows and the money kept coming in. I had to stick to it and of course met the likes of Ali Baba and others who now enlightened me on the business part of the job.

Who is a successful woman?

A successful woman is not known by the number of material things she has, or how expensive they are, but by the number of lives she has impacted positively.