an Icon to A Single Lady:
An Interview with Joke Silva
I know it has been a while; and yes, I missed you too. Today, I am handing the mic to our very own Aunty Joke Silva, to give us life lessons on how to stay positive, sure and happy as single ladies; at least until we getmarried.
(To listen to this interview)
Before I go further, permit me to share with you how I met her and my impressions.
I was at the private screening of the 100th episode of the series, Battle Ground, hosted by Africa Magic. We had about an hour, thirty minutes to mingle while sipping on some cocktails, before the screening began. And just when we were going in for the screening, Aunty Joke and Uncle Olu Jacobs, walked in. I was overwhelmed to see her in real life. Like, I have been her fan since time immemorial.
I remember when I was about twelve years old and was sure I wanted to be a newscaster; I loved how she spoke and pronounced words, so I would pay close attention to her talking, pick up a newspaper and try to pronounce the words exactly how she did. Yeah, I am that much of a fan.
Anyway, as they walked in, people gathered to take pictures with them. I also wanted that, but I wanted much more. So I walked up to her and told her that I had a community of Single Girls, who just wanted to hear real talk in the most natural way. She looked at me, smiled, gave me her number and asked that I called later in the week.
As the phone rang, every nerve in me prayed she did not answer the call; because I was not sure I had the confidence to pull through an interview session with her. Well, she answered and one hour later, I was in her office.
As I stepped in, she smiled and went,
A. Joke: Hello Ebele.
I giggled because I was sure that True Caller, had yet again, sold out my full name for cheap. But somehow, I did not mind that she called me Ebele, a middle name I never like to acknowledge. Now let us delve in, shall we?
T2UH: Aunty, you know we just have to start with sexual harassment in the media industry.
A. Joke: Firstly, your getting ahead does not depend on what you have between your legs, but what you have between your ears; that actually is what determines how far you go. Sexual harassment is only used to bamboozle the dangerously naïve. We need to understand that there are people who are naïve and those who are dangerously naïve and it is the dangerously naïve that falls for that kind of rubbish.
So, sexual harassment does happen, but it lies on you to decide if that is the way to go or not. One time, I was at a shoot with a young mentee of mine and because she has a jovial and bubbly personality, (which sometimes, can be misunderstood), a man old enough to be her father then invites her to hang out with him so he would introduce her to some people who might help her grow in her career. Luckily, she told me about it, I was like: Where are you meeting? She told me a hotel. I then asked her why she must meet him there to be introduced to this person. I instantly told her NO! But you see again; dangerously naive.
I found it very insulting as the person knows that she is a mentee of mine; why would he even dare. But then, it just shows that some people do not even see it. To them, everybody is meat.
T2UH: But how is the issue of sexual harassment for you?
A. Joke: Well, it is not that bad. It is not that it does not happen, but it just isn’t that bad. One that I always find extremely amusing: Some years back, in the last dispensation to be precise, some governor got someone to call me and invite me to their function. After stating all they were willing to pay me, I just simply asked the caller what I was actually invited to do. Because, if it was just to attend, that tends to happen, but the way the caller rigmarole, I knew what was going on. So I gracefully, but nicely said, when they had another compelling job they should let me know (laughs).
Now note that sometimes, when a lady is good to guys, they kind of feel that the way to say thank you to them is sexually. You see, this fact is a socialization thing, which is certainly wrong. It is just wrong to think that sex is the way to say thank you, because it isn’t (laughs). So, it is just for the woman to say.
There is also a trick to saying no, because some people can be very vindictive. Now I am not talking about that stupid and belittling mantra some people say girls give, the “Stop it, I like it” mantra. No. What I am saying is: Be firm, but do not make it an issue. A perfect example of this is what I just gave you. Now, that is just my way and everybody needs to find out their own way of responding in a firm way and not making it an issue.
T2UH: But don’t you think you were able to shove this off easily, because you are already an established brand, so you might not care if you get that particular job or not, as compared to someone who is new in the industry, who might have tried to enter into the industry and keeps meeting dead ends?
A. Joke: Well, I hear you; but, why must it be a guy that will give you that push, because women can give you that push as well.
T2UH: Ma, this takes me to a very important topic. Let me give you my own experience: My first YouTube event was a vlog about my experience at the Moet all white party. I needed celebrities to do shout outs for me. Ma, I met ten guys and all ten of them did it. Then I met one lady, whilst I was still speaking, she told me she was not interested. When I pleaded that she allowed me land with my question, she just said: You obviously want me to make a video for you and I am not interested.
A. Joke: You know, there is this misconception that we women go with as well, it is the fact that women are their own worst enemies. I was reading Mo Abudu’s interview and she said: It is the law of averages. Every lady has to find out what her average is; is it that she has to ask ten women for one to agree; or twenty women and two will answer. That is one easy way out.
I would also like to put it out there, that, that misconception that ‘women are their own worst enemies’, is not true. If I need assistance for anything, I am likely to ask a woman. My first thought is always to a woman who might probably have that connection. Now there is a possibility that she might link me to a man, but most times, it is a woman I would ask when I need a particular thing done.
T2UH: Ma, let us take it back before you got married and became the Joke Silva that we know. How were you able to enter into the acting space?
A. Joke: My talent got me there. I was a young girl from A Levels and my parents decided that I should have a gap year to ascertain that theater art was what I really wanted to do. After my A Levels, I had tried to get into the University of Ibadan to study theater art, but apparently I was late. So my parents asked that I took a gap year.
I had an uncle, Late Cannon Olumide who was then at the open University in the University of Lagos. He said he knew someone at the Cultural Center, Mr Bode Osoyen. They did not have the creative art then, they just had a cultural group that performed at various things that they did. I joined them and even had my own room at the quarters, then. We did a couple of plays.
Did I get hit on? Yes, I did (laughs). I was even thinking about this recently and this made me laugh. I thought it was so idiotic, and it is always some stupid hotel (laughs). You know, it was like: Here is this sprey sprey girl (a lady with a foreign accent), coming from England and there is this person from God knows where, talking rubbish. I thought it was most amusing.
But, when we were done rehearsing for one of the plays, some people heard about me for NTA that there was a new girl in town, that they needed to listen to. Her interpretation and everything about her is pretty exciting. So, a representative came looking for me and invited me to Television and from there I got invited to the National theater. Just being involved in the performing community, I got to work on radio.
I was just one of those who was obsessed with my work, oh I was so passionate about it. And at that time, we used to have recordings at NTA at night, because everybody else had a day job. Sometimes, I would just take a couple of hours sleep and go and do the radio recording; I was working full time.
I must confess that what that gap year did for me was to give me a lot of contacts. I had a network even before I went to Drama school.
T2UH: So you studied Drama?
A. Joke: Oh yes, I did. I went back to England and studied drama. So, by the time I came back, I already had a network.
T2UH: How does someone build a network when you do not have links? You are just a young hungry lady?
A. Joke: See, the thing is that, you must have links. How can you say that you do not have links? Did you not go to school?
T2UH: But, what if no one you know is in the industry you want to enter into?
A. Joke: They do not have to be in your industry. I think they call it the law of 7: That there will always be one person in your group, who knows one person, who in turn knows another person and the 7th person might just be the person you need or the direct link to the person whom you need. That my dear, is the way it works.
One thing that is key is for you to always be polite and treat everybody with respect.
In my profession, some people are usually surprised that I got along well with not just the cast and directors, but with also the crew. A lot of my colleagues did not. Well, I used to get along with everybody. It was fun and it also fed my curiosity to find out the thing that they did as well. I was not interested; I was just curious about it. So everybody, for me, was an important person and that really takes you a long way.
T2UH: I have this friend, who always instantly gets turned off when she hears that someone schooled abroad; because, she feels that schooling abroad will give you undeserved leverage. She says that in the Nigerian space, people will give you more attention if you schooled abroad. What do you think about this?
A. Joke: Yes, there is a sense of privilege. I mean, you schooled abroad, there has to be privileges involved (laughs). Now, is that a plus? Sometimes; but, sometimes, it can also be a minus. Because, what tends to happen is that the people who schooled here have a network that the person who schooled abroad does not have and it can be twice as difficult for the person who schooled abroad to reintegrate when he/she comes here.
The one who schooled abroad might have the advantage of getting the job ahead of the one who schooled here, but integration is a totally different thing. Also, sometimes, what you find is that the people who have been in Nigeria would block you, especially because they know that you are already getting an advantage. So it balances itself out.
I do not see why anyone should be affected by this angle. For me, I think that people are chosen based on merit. If you come from abroad and you are bringing skills that we do not have, then let us share. So, instead of being antagonistic towards each other, and not learning from each other; why don’t you just become a team and learn from each other, because, that is the point.
You see, for people who go out there, there is a lot of technological advancement over there and because they do not have to think so much about most of the challenges that we have to think about; a very simple one is: Iron your cloth the night before, because you do not know if there is going to be electricity the next morning. You do not even think about that if you are in England or anywhere else, so it gives your brain space to think about something else.
But, what this also says is that the person at home is innovative. Yes! I remember, my mum did obstetrics under Doctor Bello Osagie. There is this story that I was told about when he went to England: They said that the speed with which he did caesarian session in England left the England doctors astounded. He just said that he could not afford to be any slower, because, if in the process, the electricity is gone, how then would he function?
There simply needs to be a paradigm shift from: Oh, you think you are better than me, I will show you; or, you local; get with the program. For me, it is insecurity on both sides.
T2UH: For one who has a 9 – 5 job, but hates it and still has no clue what they truly want to do; what do you have to say to such a person?
A. Joke: Once you have something that is putting food on your table, keep doing it until you know what you want to do. It is a luxury to leave your 9 – 5 job, when you do not know what you want to do. Just like you, who was in finance and left it for writing which you said has been the thing you have always wanted to do.
The even more sensible thing is: Whilst you are doing what you do not enjoy doing; figure what you want to do, then start putting money aside until you are ready to leave.
T2UH: Ma, is there a technique to finding out what you want to do?
A. Joke: What makes you happy? What do you enjoy doing? Just like the phrase says, “It is bliss to make money from doing what you love.” I mean, we did not think about it that way in our time. We were just passionate about what we were doing.
Now see, people talk a lot about passion and totally forget competency, but it is wrong. The important thing is for you to be passionate and competent, just don’t be passionate. This is a cracking combination.
T2UH: How should one respond to rejection? If I have gone for one, two, three interviews and they have said no to me, how can I get myself out of that “I am a failure mindset”?
A. Joke: You keep doing it my dear.
T2UH: But sometimes, it is just not easy.
A. Joke: Then you should come and meet the actors. Hmmm, actors go for auditions, upon auditions, upon auditions, upon auditions and you have to keep your game on. For actors, it can be psychologically disheartening, degrading, de-everything, but, because you know you are good and that you have the skills; you just have to keep at it.
T2UH: So how did you know that acting was what you wanted to do?
A. Joke: I have been doing it since I was a child, so my case was even more like trying to get me to do something else (laughs). When my parents saw how much alive I was when acting, they just left me alone.
T2UH: How many years have you been doing this?
A. Joke: I started working professionally in 1981 (laughs).
T2UH: If you were to say something to your young self, what would it be?
A. Joke: (laughs) Hmmm, my young self? I do not talk to my young self. There is nothing to talk about (laughs for a long while, thinks about it deeply, then goes): I would simply just do it all over again. Of course there were mistakes along the way; probably be more confident of what you know is right and stick to it.
T2UH: What is the greatest lesson you have learnt so far?
A. Joke: Oh, it is this thing about knowing that God has my back, no matter what. No matter what I have done. I mean, it does not mean that I go about doing everything that I know I should not do; but the fact that I have someone who is all powerful and all knowing that has my back, is it for me. I can cry o, I can sing o, but he still has my back.
What does this give you? A sense of security. It is certainly not a magic wand, but, you can always put one feet after another. I belong to the group of people who feel that I can be exactly how I feel with my heavenly father. There are times I am angry, however I feel, I just know he has got my back. (Laughs) Yeah!
T2UH: So let us debunk myths ma. What do you feel about the now raving saying #WIFEnotCOOK? This movement that young ladies are pushing to stop men from particularly seeing them as house maids, but more as wives.
A. Joke: Oh Father Lord! I always get this and I sometimes always get blamed because I am saying it. I am one of those who doesn’t particularly enjoy cooking. I cook when I feel like it. I mean, I cooked when I had to, on a regular basis and I did it and I liked it, do you understand. And I did it for years and years when I got married, then I got to a point when, it was no longer necessary for me to be the one doing it anymore.
T2UH: Some people say that it makes men who read it not interested in the lady who’s writing or saying it.
A. Joke: Well, I think sometimes, people want to judge a woman by her culinary skills, I also think that the reality of this is that a woman is more than that; just like a man is way more than just being the bread winner of a home or the person who ensures that there is engine oil in the car, ehen. I just think a woman is more than that and so, if a woman cannot cook, as some women can’t; or a woman doesn’t enjoy cooking as some women don’t, it is not a crime. (Laughs) They are probably very good at other things, so why don’t we celebrate that and allow them be able to do more of that.
And some men are excellent cooks, so why can’t they cook. All the big chefs in the world are men, for crying out loud. One thing that is also fun is when the both of you are doing the cooking together.
T2UH: One more myth: What do you think about the saying: I would rather cry in a limousine than cry in a bicycle? This basically means that a lady wants her man to be rich, because every man might hurt her, maybe even cheat on her, so she would rather go through the pain in a rich man’s house, than in a poor man’s house.
A. Joke: The rich man can lose his money and the poor man can become rich (burst into laughter). Do you get what I mean? And it happens, so there is no guarantee. It is go where your heart is. Go to the person you love and the person who loves you, whether they are rich or not.
T2UH: So is money not important in a marriage?
A. Joke: Hmmm, knowing that your needs will be met. The bible says money answereth all thing, but money is not all things. So, yes it is important, but it is not the all in all. It is not the be all and end all of all things. So, that the person has the potential to earn, you see that that person is hardworking. He may not have money now, but he will and with you by his side, he is probably going to make the money quicker, because you are somebody who makes sure that he does not spend money on unnecessary things.
Wouldn’t you enjoy yourselves? Yes, you would, but within the limit of your expenses. You know, within the limits of what you earn and you would have a good time. For me, that is more important than marrying somebody with money.
Hmmm, a rich man? Ehya, you better go in with your own money (laughs).
Then, some men have that sense as well: They would not talk to you, because their bank balance gives them enough confidence to talk to you. So, because they think that they have that kind of money, they then believe they can talk to you anyhow and treat you anyhow. Because, they would see that it is their money that you see in them. Yes now. And, I do not think anybody would like to be married for their money. Same way women do not like to be married for their beauty.
Women like to look good, but do not marry me for my beauty, because my beauty will fade, after that nko? Or yellow women? The most insecure people on this earth are yellow women, honestly, because they know that it is that yellowness, so after the yellowness nko?
T2UH: Please give one word for that single lady who would read this post.
A. Joke: Basically, these are the things I have thought about in my alone time, they may be right or wrong, but they are my musings and I can change my mind tomorrow (laughs). So do not make it gospel . If I find a good reason to change my mind I would.
T2UH: Thank you very much ma.
A. Joke: You are welcome. Nice to see you again.
*************Single girls deserve to be happy; Shit, we all deserve to be happy*************
Author’s Comment: Oh, I had a good time meeting with Aunty Joke Silva and I sincerely hope you enjoyed the read. Let me know if you did and tell me how her words relate with you, by leaving a comment, in the comment section below. If there is an Icon you particularly love and would love her featured on this segment; Or questions you want answers to, you can also leave that in the comment section and I would work towards making it happen. Please share this with the other single ladies you know, you never know whose soul you might be saving. And remember, we are single and not dead; life must go on. Abi mustn’t it?