NSE IKPE-ETIM: I had to remove my uterus to live a normal life
‘I’m not born to be married’
Nse Ikpe-Etim never thought of being an actress but by a stroke of fate, she has established herself as one of Nollywood’s finest, winning the Best Actress in a Drama award at the 2014 Africa Magic Viewers Choice Awards amongst other awards. The actress who stars in ‘Heaven’s Hell’ which was premiered in the cinemas on Friday, recently shared her story at an event tagged ‘Conversation with Nse.’ JOE AGBRO JR. attended and writes
NSE Ikpe Etim comes across as a successful movie star. And yes she is. Ever since she was thrusted to prominence in 2008 for her role in ‘Reloaded’, Nse, 44, has not looked back. And over 25 films later, she has become a force of Nollywood.
But penultimate Saturday, ahead of the Friday cinema release date of ‘Heaven’s Hell’, the latest film she stars in, Nse engaged her fans with her life. The event which held in Lekki, Lagos, and was tagged, ‘Conversation with Nse’, had no script, no direction, no takes or retakes. It was Nse speaking unabashedly from her heart.
Revealing how he was lusted when he watched the movie, ‘Guilty Pleasure’ in which Nse had a sultry role, fellow actor Femi Jacobs who engaged her for the session described her as ‘crazy’ during the introduction.
“I’m not talking about mild crazy,” said Femi who has done seven films with Nse.
“I’m talking about crazy crazy. Nse is not okay. But she is one of the most gorgeous souls, one of the most conscious souls to work with.”
And strutting in a matching shirt and pants to an applause, Nse settled down as layers of her life were peeled off.
THE University of Calabar Theatre Arts graduate said she got into Nollywood when she ran away from a wedding she was not ready for.
“I got on a bus at Alakija bus stop because we used to stay at CBN Estate at Satellite Town (Lagos),” she said.
“I didn’t know where I was headed. I just saw cameras and I gravitated there. I was drawn to the camera.”
The crew was headed to Badagry. According to Nse, the first born in a family of six children, it was there she met Kate Henshaw, Francis Duru and Julius Agwu. Nse stayed on the set for almost a week and had to go back home where she said her mother “beat my soul back to life.”
She vowed she wasn’t getting married. She also ran away from acting, taking to banking, fashion and other endeavours.
Later, she would say, “I never thought of being an actor. I have a friend who calls me the reluctant actor. I just saw the camera. It looked interesting, better than marriage. So, I walked out. It was as simple as that.”
NSE’S father had died when she was 15, leaving only her mother, who was a teacher, to take on the burden of raising the family.
“It was a very tortuous period in our lives,” said Nse who revealed that her mother was a child bride. She bleached her hair and blamed everyone for her misfortune.
“My mum, a teacher, was dependent on my father for everything. And which is why today, I like it that women are breaking out and working for themselves.
“So, here’s my mother at 31, nothing but money my father probably left. And so, I decided to just be that rebel and that’s when I met my husband. We started dating. I have a friend here who her parents said, see this Nse, don’t follow her.”
As teens, Nse and her husband, Clifford Sule, started a relationship and called it off and he came back again. They finally signed the dotted lines in a Registry in Lagos on Valentine’s Day in 2013. Nse said this was even after a story about her with the headline, ‘I’m not born to be married’ was published.
She repeated the same thing at the event.
“I still am not born to be married,” she said, though she admits she and her husband her still very much in love.
“I stand by it. I’m not. The only reason I was born is to affect the world. And if it happens negatively, take me the way I am.”
Though she came to prominence in 2008 for her role in ‘Reloaded’, Nse said her best movie is ‘Guilty Pleasures’ which was co-written by Nse’s sister, Uyaiedu when she was 19.
“I like ‘Guilty Pleasure’ a lot because it was filmed in a difficult part of my life. ‘Reloaded’ was difficult because I don’t know how Emem (Isong) was able to get me to do that,” she said.
“But I think I wanted to prove to her that I could. That was when I had my first surgery. And three months after that, I did ‘Reloaded.’ Then ‘Guilty Pleasure’ came and I was still very unwell. I shot that film literarily living out of a doctor’s pocket. I guess nobody saw that pain.”
Nse also revealed that she was never going to be able to have a baby as she was diagnosed three years ago with Adenomyosis, a condition whereby the inner lining of the uterus breaks through the muscle wall of the uterus.
“I was told I couldn’t have kids,” she said to the now sombre audience.
“And so, I had to have a hysterectomy (removal of the uterus) to make me have a life again and to stop going through what I was going through. And I’m literarily telling women and men, it really doesn’t matter if you can’t bear children. What really matters is what you would do for the world, for the universe.”
Recalling the moment when the doctor told her she’d have to have remove her uterus to live a normal life, Nse said: “Tears dropped and then my husband squeezed my hand. It was reassuring there was someone there and it was telling me that this is reality, my reality.”
She fell into a depression.
“I didn’t think there was any point anymore because my society taught me that I have to be a mother to be appreciated and every time I went online, I would have one troll or two say ‘you never born?’
“But I’m thankful that that didn’t break me.”
She is however appreciative of her acting career.
“I’m thankful for Nollywood,” she said.
“I push my pain through every single character.”
Nse revealed that prior to the hysterectomy, she badly wanted to have children.
“I wanted a set of twins,” she said boisterously.
“I wanted children. I wanted so badly I was brooding forever. Femi, I did IVF. I tried. Femi, I did everything our society wants every woman to do so that we can be accepted as women.”
She however described as “crazy” how some media reports speculated on her being pregnant.
Affecting the world
NSE’s story got some members of audience shedding tears. And each time, it happened, she hugged and comforted them.
“If I registered a foundation, I would look into women like me who are questioning that they are no longer women because they can’t bear children, women who are marginalised because they suffer one way or the other,” she said.
“There’s so much that we go through that nobody sees but yet we smile. I’m not saying men don’t go through it. Men have to struggle because there’s so much pressure on the man.”
But going forward, Nse who disclosed she has embraced her pain is set to use her star power to affect lives.
“I think I want to affect the world positively,” she said
“Mentorship… I would want to do that. I want to do it because the creators of the internet failed us, that’s why I want to do it. When they let it out, they didn’t know what it was.”