by Rachel Ogbu
African-American singer and former fashion designer Diana Oputa popularly known as Lady D has been the woman in Charles Oputa’s life for 35 years. It’s no secret that many people wonder how the married has worked this long considering the personality of the man known better as Charly Boy.
But what’s wrong with Charly Boy? Nothing! He’s the graduate, son of a former Supreme Court judge turned radical punk showman, he’s been married about three times before, kissed Denrele Edun, has a pet python and has photographed naked. That’s pretty much sums it up, from a shallow point of view, that is.
Charly Boy is an advocate of the masses as he has fought for the rights of the average Nigerian. He has on several occasions been tortured by the Nigerian police and the military for standing up to his country’s government. His television series, The Charly Boy Show was one of the most watch programmes for a very long time. He’s an accomplished singer/songwriter, television presenter, publisher, producer and talent judge not to forget ‘the Area Fada.”
In a recent interview, Lady D talks about the man she’s known for most of her life.
“…no one can know Charles the way I know him. Charly Boy is an image contrived to shock conservative Nigerians out of their analogue way of thinking. Charles is my husband and he puts his family first before anything or anybody. Charles is the kind of man every woman would love to have as a husband. His parents have been living with us for the past eight years and he makes time to take them out on weekends. All I have felt for the past 36 years is nothing but love from his family,” she said.
Charly Boy confirms Lady D’s words about his well-known alter ego that spooks many Nigerians. “…my private life and my public life cannot merge together because they won’t fit. Lastly, I am not Charly Boy. We don’t let Charly Boy into our house. Anything that concerns my family is very personal even though quite a lot has been written too. When we have issues, even our kids in the house can’t tell something is amiss and I never allow any issue drag over a day. If I get really upset and angry, I go to my room and say nothing to her. She hates it! For me it’s just a check, because when one is angry, you can say things that you don’t mean. That’s why I shut up. My life as a husband, son and father is totally different from my life as an entertainer. I was brought up with an overdose of morality and strong family values,” he said.
We can recall that the young Oputa raised in a strong catholic home was training to become a priest before he dropped out of the seminary after one year and later relocated to America to study. But enough said, read the rest of the interview with Chary Boy and Lady D with Punch here:
How long have you been married?
Charles: We lived in sin for about two years but we have been married for over 35 years.
Where and how did you meet each other?
Lady D: We met in Boston. That was in 1976 at a hair salon where I worked. Charles came in to fix his hair, but after he left, he called my boss and asked to speak with me. He invited me to a party the next day with a promise to pick me up from my work place. I noticed that he was so soft spoken and didn’t even have an accent at all. He didn’t even sound like someone from Africa. Now, that fuelled my curiosity. Before Charles, I never dated anyone from Africa. Well, he showed up the next day but guess what? There was no party to attend! We ended up driving all the way to the next state and back. That was the party.
When did the proposal come?
Lady D: I proposed to him! Then, he was just comfortable with us been friends, and after about three failed marriages he was going to take his time. During my first visit to Nigeria, I met his wonderful family and I just fell deeply in love with him. Charles has always been a gentleman to the core, so very smooth and easy. You could tell he was well groomed.
Charles: Marriage was the last thing on my mind because of past experiences. I had three failed marriages. She woke up one day, looked me in the eyes, and said, ‘marry me or I leave you today not tomorrow.’ I admired her guts. Also, I had a sneaky feeling that she could be different from the women I had married before. Luckily, I was right.
What has been the experience with Lady D, considering the fact that she is not a Nigerian?
Charles: Women are the same, irrespective of colour or race. My wife has lived in Nigeria for over 30 years. She has totally lost her American accent. She was ordained by God to marry me. She is my very best friend.
What is the staying power of your marriage?
Lady D: I guess we are two determined persons, who have vowed that our marriage will be different. We talk a lot. We came into this marriage as best friends and I’m glad it hasn’t changed at all. Charles is the first to say, ‘I’m sorry’, when he goofs and he is very sensitive to my feelings. His parents have lived together for over 65 years, while mine have lived together for over 58 years. So why should ours be different? We work very hard at keeping it fresh and exciting.
So, how can a marriage work?
Charles: What works for me may not work for the next person. Women are easy to deal with as long as they feel they are loved and respected. As a man, you have to work at it. But most men are like babies, who forever want to be in a toy shop, with the option of playing with any toy they come across. Some men don’t even have respect for their wives, as they fornicate all over the place as if they haven’t seen a woman before, how do you want your wife to feel? Make your woman your best friend, be considerate, have respect and show her love, if you don’t, someone else may just be doing that for you.
So, how did you blend with his kids from other women?
Lady D: Charles had about six children before we married. I knew they existed and he was always attached to them. Initially, it wasn’t easy inheriting six children but they are so wonderful and I’m now a proud mother of nine children.
Do you quarrel? If yes, how do you settle it? Who apologises first?
Lady D: Yes we quarrel sometimes over some stupid stuff. But it never lasts for long. We trash it out, he apologises and we just move on. If I’m the one at fault, I do the same.
Is he fussy about food, what is his favourite dish?
Lady D: He wasn’t. But four years ago, he turned into a health freak. He watches what he eats, but we have a good cook who is also mindful of his very strict diet. Charles doesn’t smoke, doesn’t drink, and doesn’t joke with sleep! His vegetables dish is prepared in different creative ways. He used to be a vegetarian and almost drove us crazy in the house. He has stopped now.
Has your trust for him ever wobbled?
Lady D: Well, my trust for him did wobble the first few years. Initially, it wasn’t easy but as time passed by, I began to see things for what they really are, not what it looked like. Experience will always teach us how to deal with things. Being fulfilled in marriage is guaranteed when your spouse is supportive, understanding and sensitive to your feelings and most importantly, when he is always looking for creative ways to keep the fire burning.
In almost four decades, don’t you get bored?
Lady D: He is an unrepentant romantic, even though he will always hide that part from the public, but that is what he is. He knows that I love romance. Being married for almost four decades can be a drag if you don’t work on it. That is why we always try to keep it as youthful and fresh as we can. It’s not easy but we are determined.
Do you both still remember to celebrate birthdays and anniversaries?
Lady D: Charles knows how to sweep me off my feet and he knows how to woo me with his outlandish and elaborate surprises. The latest was my birthday a few weeks ago. I feel special most of the time.
What should people hold on to if their relationship must last as long as yours?
Mutual respect, love, patience and good old fashion friendship, like two buddies.