After 52 years in the film industry,
she still looks ready to act for another five decades. Lanre Hassan, the
woman everyone knows as ‘Iya Awero’, is every movie viewer’s delight,
home and abroad. Known for her matriarchal role in Nollywood movies,
especially in the Yoruba genre, Iya Awero is gorgeous, gracious and
In this chat with Oge Ezeliora of ThisDayLive, she
talks about her career, her late husband, the high and low points and
how she lost her two children to the cold hands of death.
As one of Nigeria’s film industry’s pioneers, what has kept you?
I give all glory to God. He is the one behind all the successes I have
achieved since I came into the industry. When I started back then, we
were after fame and how to become popular. We were not after money.
Then, we were eager to learn, because I knew I would make money in
future. I just focused on what I was doing and how to become an expert.
If you are a carpenter you must learn how to do the job first before
working for people. If you are a dancer you must learn how to dance
well. If you are an actor you must learn how to act well before looking
for producers to pay you. As for those watching from the outside, there
is no much money in acting .We in the system are just managing with
what they pay us. Some of us have even stopped acting because they were
not making enough money. For Nollywood, it is the survival of the
fittest and God has been the one helping me to date.
What is the most challenging role you have played
(Laughs) All my movies are very interesting. Most times, I act
the role of a mother or grandmother in my movies. It’s like acting
almost the same role at the same time. I always preach the good mother
message in most of my movies and I see it as an everyday thing. My age,
as of today I can only play one role. All the movies I acted are unique
in their own ways and I bless God for that.
Can you compare the movie industry then with the way it is now? What will you say has changed?
So many things have changed. In fact, everything has changed except for
the old actors and actresses like us that are still in the industry. I
mean, we started then with manual camera like Matics camera, VCR and the
rest. Even the quality of pictures on our movies was totally different
from what we have now. Thanks to technology. Now our movies are being
shown on cinemas before spreading to the market. We now shoot with
quality and very expensive cameras. That is to tell you how far we have
gone. Nollywood has really changed from what it used to be.
So far, what is your favorite movie or soap opera?
I love the soap ‘Dear Mother’ and I know so many people also love
watching it, especially the single mothers. They learn a lot of lesson
from this it. It focused on the life of a single mother who takes good
care of her children with the help of her aged mother. It teaches morals
at home. Today, many people don’t know how to care for their children. I
mean single mothers. When you say you are a mother; you should lay a
good example for others to follow. Remember, anything you do your
children will imitate you. Children learn easily from practical
examples. We have seen different cases of single mothers leaving their
children to house maids for pursuit of money. At the end of the day, the
children will lack good morals because nobody cares for them. They will
Does it mean you cannot act any other role apart from the role of a mother?
Well I am over 50 years of age and this is the role that most producers
feel I can act perfectly. Though, if I am called upon to play another
role I will because I am an actress. But presently, I am known to act
the role of a mother in Nollywood.
Your husband died about 14 years ago. How have you been coping?
God has been my husband and my father. I am not the only widow in
Nigeria. If others can cope why can’t I cope? I am a strong woman and
very hard working, so I am not depending on any family member to assist
me. Ever since my husband fell sick and died, God has really been
merciful to me. There is nothing I have asked from God that he did not
provide for me.
Why didn’t you remarry? I know people still remarry at old age?
Remarriage for me is a no-go area. I made a promise that I would not
remarry. Besides, there was no reason for me to marry again at all. What
am I looking for in life that I don’t have now? I had five children. I
lost two of them to the cold hands of death. One actually died when I
was acting on stage while the other one also died. God knows the reason
for this. Who am I to question God? Everything happened in the past and I
have left it for God.
How did it happen?
I don’t want to talk about it. One died the other one slept he did not wake up. Now I have three children and I am contented.
How did you take the death of your children?
I took them in good faith hoping it never happens again. It almost
affected my work because I almost quit. But with the help of God and the
advice of people, I decided not to quit. I put everything in the hands
of Almighty Allah and I continued my work.
You didn’t suspect any fetish activities in the death of your two children and your husband?
God knows best. I almost quit my job because of the death of my
children. But my husband was still alive then so he consoled me and I
accepted everything in good faith. So when my husband died, I was
bitter. Frustration was all over me but God took control of everything.
It took me a long while to recover from the pains of losing my husband. I
thank God for some of my family members who encouraged me to move
forward and today everything has become history. But I can never
forget. It was not easy for me at all. But I thank God.
There was a time rumour were making the rounds that you have retired from acting. How true is this?
Well people have the right to say whatever they like. I am not the first
person they have spread rumour about; so I’m not scared. Yes. I stopped
for sometime after the death of my children and my husband but I
continued because this is the only business I know how best to do. Let
me say I only restrict myself to acting in A-class movies or soap
operas. You know when you retire from acting low class movies; you have
left the platform for the younger ones to grow. Because if you continue
rushing like upcoming actresses, then you have stifled the industry for
the younger ones. I am an old woman and I will be glad if we have more
females in the industry who can act well.
Was there a time in your career that you actually felt like giving up in acting?
I don’t know if I’ve ever felt like giving up. I don’t know if giving up
acting ever really came to my mind. But I’ve felt discouraged and
disappointed and I’ve gone over that just falling back on the passion
that drives me on the job; which pretty much happens to everybody. One
gets to a point where one just gets tired. Then one thinks about the
fact that this is what one really loves. This is why one wakes up in the
morning and one can act for free sometimes. I think about the passion
and I just dust myself up and move on. I love what I am doing.
What is your view about frequent failed marriages in Nollywood?
Marriage is a difficult institution. You must be fully mature before
getting married. It’s not for children. As a mother with experience, I
always advise couples to understand themselves before rushing to the
altar. It is not by force. You must be prepared. Why most people have
issues in their marriages is because they are not patient. Not every
woman can cope with the bad character of men of these days. Many of them
are not sincere. Some of them also rush after our actresses for selfish
reasons. Our job is highly strenuous. We also keep late nights anytime
we are shooting night scenes. Not every man will permit their wives to
keep late nights all in the name of acting movies. I will advise men
who want to marry an actress to be ready to accommodate a lot of things.
Same to ladies who are rushing to marry actors. People should marry
their best friends to avoid problems in their marriage. Marry that woman
or man that understands your character, your profession and do things
just to make you happy. In marriage, you must seek God’s face first.
Allow God to take control of your marriage. If you marry a God fearing
man, he will respect you and will not suspect you in any way.
Sometimes, you hear actors and actresses complain about the burden of fame. Do you feel such burden?
I always say the whole fame comes with its good and its bad sides.
Unfortunately, one can‘t take the good and leave the bad. If one is in
the limelight, everything that one does or even the ones that one
doesn’t do go public. So you don’t have a private life as an actress.
Everybody wants to be your friend and you must be ready to accept them.
Do you have any advice for upcoming artistes?
My advice for them is that they have to be contended. You shouldn’t be
desperate to be there; you have to be watchful and you have to be loyal
to other people you come across, especially the producers, directors and
production managers. If you are coming in through someone, you have to
be vigilant and be wise and don’t be too fast and desperate; Just know
the necessary things you need to know. Another thing is you shouldn’t
think about the money first. Some people would just come and say there
is money in the movie industry; they would say Mercy Johnson is
collecting so and so amount of money; people are making money. If you
have the passion for it, come and work on yourself but make sure you are
good; don’t just come and say you want to become a superstar. It
doesn’t work that way. Make sure you are good at acting and if you are
coming in as a crew member; maybe cameraman or as a production manager
or script writer, just make sure you are good.
A lot of people have made that mistake in the past. Some came as
artistes and at the end of the day they ended up in the crew line but
some people came in with the mentality that ‘Let me see where I belong’
and at the end of the day, they would find out that they are good at
acting while some are really good but the opportunity is not there for
them to showcase what they have.
So it has to do with knowing what you are doing and knowing why you are
here. Like I said earlier, be wise because if you are not wise enough,
you won’t make it in the industry. If you are wise enough, you would
know if you are making progress or not.
In the next five years where do you see yourself?
By then, I would be a lot older but I will still continue acting. I pray
to God that I would be more successful as an actress and I will also be
given more awards.