by Isi Esene
In this Punch Newspapers interview, artiste, Ashionye Michelle Racca speaks on her absence from the spotlight, her son, the ainful split of her former group, Emete amongst other things.
Read excerpts from the interview below:
I was away for two years intentionally. I took a break because I got pregnant. Even when I had my son, I decided to take time out to raise him. Now he is almost three years old but I have been back to work for well over a year now.
Experience of motherhood
The experience has been fantastic. It has been awesome so far. I have the best boy in the world and I thank God for that. My son is pretty matured for his age, it is amazing. You would have to sit with him for about five minutes to understand.
About my movie, Journey to self
A lot of people have actually asked me if the movie was borne out of personal experience. I have not had any of the experiences that the characters had in the movie. Basically, I have had the opportunity to meet some women who have faced similar issues as the characters in ‘Journey to Self’. If you have been following my career from inception, you would know that I’m pro-women. I have been against things like domestic violence; I have been basically supporting women in my own capacity. I just felt the need to talk about the ills that affect women. These ills don’t just affect women; they affect people around women such as kids and men. So I decided to write a screen play and talk about these issues because they affects our society.
My experience in marriage
I’ll say that my experience has been amazing. I have known my husband for 12 years now and we have been married for about four years. I must say that I am lucky enough to be married to somebody I consider as my friend, someone who is my friend. He understands me, I am lucky enough to have someone who is in the industry and understands the industry. So in terms of my work, I don’t have issues with him. Family-wise, he is the best dad a child can ask for. When he has to be there, he is there; he dedicates time to his family. He provides for his family, the usual things a man should do for his family. He is my best friend.
Why it took long for us to get married
There are relationships that have lasted for 10 years and they still did not get married. It depends on the individuals in the relationship. Do you want to court forever or for 10 seconds and you get into the marriage and misunderstand each other? It depends on the individual. Everything at the end of the day fell into place. That is basically it and we are living happily ever after.
About being married to a non-Nigerian
Like I said earlier, it depends on the individuals in the relationship. It all boils down to understanding, communicating. I don’t know whether Nigerian men are less understanding or whites are more understanding; but like I said, my husband is in the industry. He has been doing music and entertainment generally since he was 14. He understands the nitty-gritty of the industry, both internationally and in Nigeria. I have been blessed with that, to have someone who is in it. Then again like I said, it is just about communicating and understanding. I don’t think there is a difference. It’s all about understanding.
Best time of my life
I wish I was a kid again in some aspect because you are not burdened by the worries of life. You are not burdened by what you will provide for your child or where you will get money to go on the next holiday. Whatever it is, you are not worried by the stress of the world and life. As a kid, you are innocent. You have your parents providing everything for you. You just go to school, study, have fun in between, you come back home and it is the same thing. You eat, sleep and wake up. I love my adult life, I would love to be a kid again but I love my adult life. I love the fact that I’m a mother now and I’m experiencing what my parents had when I was a kid.
My first heartbreak
I can’t remember but it happened. But I can’t remember. It wasn’t with my husband though. I have only dated three guys and I married the third. I can’t remember when but it has been ages.
My singing career
I took a break. For me, I believe in working in a comfortable environment. When I am passionate about something, I push, I drive and go for it. I have an album recorded, 12 tracks that I know that I want to re-record because I know that music has evolved. I recorded those tracks in 2008. Music has evolved in Nigeria and around the world so I have to go back to the drawing board. Presently, I’m passionate about screen writing and telling stories from another angle, not music. I love producing movies and television production. That is what I am focusing on at the moment. I do intend to go back into the studio later in the year when I am done with this next production I am working on.
Being a model
I was never a model. I was actually the brand ambassador for Pepsi. The very first in Nigeria, for Pepsi light.
Acting or posing nude
I cannot act or pose nude. I know the picture you are talking about and I was not nude. I had a fur on. That is not nude. What is your definition of nude? Nude is when you show your entire self without anything on. I was not semi-nude, I was covered. I know the picture, I sat for it. Kelechi Amadi-Obi took the picture in 2006. It was for my album of promotional pictures and I personally chose those pictures. I wasn’t nude. I was covered up. It is the same thing that you see on stage. Would you say Nicki Minaj wearing those bum shorts that showed her behind and revealed a lot of cleavage, was nude? I wasn’t nude; I was wearing a strapless mini-gown. You did not see anything, did you?
My girl group
The group thing, Emete, actually set the foundation for me. Being in a group helped me gain my confidence because while on stage or doing interview, the attention is not 100 per cent focused on you. For me, it was shared into three. Basically being in a group just helped me lay the foundation and prepared me for my career as a solo artiste. That is where the confidence comes from.
Why we split
I believe I was not the cause of the group splitting. We all had our share of blame and I have said this like a million times. We all had our share of blame and I am saying it now that I had my share of blame but it had nothing to do with dating Carl Raccah or anything of the sort. Anything that went wrong with the group, I heard it first from him. People say a lot of rubbish but they are not indoors to understand what is going on. That is why I’m explaining. I think this is the last time I will talk about this in any interview. While we were dating and I was in the group, anything that went wrong, I heard it first. I got lambasted first before we had meetings. Imagine how that made me feel, that I was lambasted twice as much as the girls were. There are a lot of things that I really don’t want to get into because we went our separate ways. I’m back to being friends with one of the girls. Unfortunately the third girl, I have not seen her in ages. I recently met one of the girls and she is a doctor. She apparently worked at Cool FM where I was a radio presenter years back. We met and we are back to being friends. She is a mother, she is a wife and we are good.
Why we did not keep in touch
You lose contact, people change numbers. I have changed my number many times. Same thing with them. We were fortunate to bump into each other last at Cool FM. Like I said, she worked there. It was not like I set out not to be friends with them. We did have our differences. We were upset with each other for different things. A lot of people say Ashionye was the cause; I also believe that if this other girl in the group did not do certain things in the group, we would have been together and probably been international because we had international gigs lined up the month we actually split.
The reason we split
A lot of things I really don’t want to go into. We were not matured, that is one thing. We were young. Imagine girls between the ages of 19 and 21 coming into an environment they weren’t quite used to and getting a lot of media attention. Of course, we were the pioneer pop female group in Nigeria, there was another female group but they were gospel inspirational, Kush. We were the first afro-pop female group in Nigeria. There was a lot of pressure and a lot of things we did not know because we were young. But along the line, over the years, I have learnt a lot of things. I have learnt that certain things should be overlooked to continue with work. I am older and wiser and things that I took for granted then, I don’t take for granted now. There are a lot of factors; I don’t want to go into stories at this point. Like I said, I am back to being friends and I don’t want to offend anybody.
Me as a jack-of-all-trades
Before the influx of female artistes, there was an Ashionye. Before all these girls you see today, there was me and I know that a lot of them drew inspiration from me one way or the other – in their style, their clothing, their hair, their stage craft. So, there is no way you’ll say I did not make an impact or I did not master my craft as a singer. Back then, it was a lot harder because musicians were not paid as much as they are being paid today. The money back then seemed much but it wasn’t. Then, women faced more pressure than men and women in the industry today. There was a lot of sexual harassment. There was a lot of rubbish back then and that is why I came up with the Girl Power initiative. That was the whole idea, to help the female artiste come out. I know that through Girl Power, a lot of artistes have come out. If you look at the names in Girl Power, there are women who over the years have made an impact in the music industry as female singers. There is no way you’ll say I did not master my craft as a singer and of course I also took some time off music.
If I ever faced sexual harassment
Fortunately not; I’m thankful for that. I have not faced that, whether in the movies or music. I’ll say I’m sort of fresh in the movie industry but I took the bold step to go into producing but I have not faced any form of sexual harassment.