Olwethu caught up with award-winning Actor, Model, Reality TV Star, MC, Brand Ambassador, Humanitarian, Producer, Entrepreneur, Mother, Annie Macaulay-Idibia who also happens to be the wife to Nigerian superstar Innocent “2Baba” Idibia and star of the upcoming Netflix reality show, Young, Famous & African and here’s how their conversation played out…
Q. We know that you’re an industrious woman who loves your family but now we want to get to know the essential ingredients that make Annie, Annie. So let’s start at the beginning. Where were you born? What was your childhood like? Do you have siblings, etc?
“I was born in Ibadan, Nigeria on the 13th of November 1984, that makes me 37 (smiles), I’m the only girl in the family, I have two brothers – I’m supposed to be a tomboy in fact I am a tomboy but because of the industry that we are in, I cannot afford to be a tomboy all the time, I have to add some fab to it if you know what I mean (winks and chuckles).
I have a degree in Computer Science and I also have a degree in Theatre of Arts and I did that because I wanted to understand the art of acting and I love the stage so it’s not just a hobby for me, it’s something I’ve been passionate about since childhood. I used to talk to myself in front of the mirror – I always knew that I wanted to be on TV, I loved Julia Roberts and watched the movie ‘Pretty Woman’ so much I knew every single line.
I have two beautiful daughters who are 13 and 8 years old and I’ve been married for 10 years.
Q. I love how you are so committed to the community work you do through your foundation. I don’t think I’ve seen or read an interview of yours where your passion for the work that you do has not been evident. As people, we have experiences that shape or inform the trajectory of our lives. When you think back on your life what experience immediately jumps out at you and how did it inform/shape the community work that you do and your current life path?
I wasn’t born with a silver spoon. We were raised by a single mom and as I look back on my life and who I’ve become it’s literally just grace. My mom was a cook and we lived in one bedroomed house and we struggled. I started working young. I used to sell stuff on the streets and I modelled… it was hard not being able to get what you want and feel like I needed as a child. This is why I am so passionate about working with youth and children because in Nigeria opportunities for youth and children are slim. I’m also passionate about empowering women because of what my mother had to go through so I try to do things that can empower women in remote areas of Nigeria to start businesses that can help sustain them and their families.
When I look at my life now, I think back to the young girl who used to have to cross a very busy expressway and walk 20 minutes to go get water just so my mom could cook and I could take a bath…it’s God’s grace.
Q. You’ve acted in and produced movies and now you’re stepping into the realm of Reality TV by being one of the stars of Young, Famous and African. How was the transition of having to dig deep and tap into such a personal side of you, a side that you’ve been protective of for a very long time versus playing a character for TV?
(Chuckles) It was harder than I thought it would be. I always thought that I was used to being in front of the camera, I mean I’ve been in front of many cameras throughout my life, so I didn’t think it was going to be a big deal having cameras follow me every other day. But the show is unscripted, it’s true reality – no film tricks. It is what it is, when you guys see it you’ll be watching what actually happened. So that aspect was challenging because I have no control over how I will be perceived. I hope you’ll like the kind of person that I am because I gave all of myself to that show. I had good days, I had days that I broke down and days where I went off! (Olwethu and Annie both laugh) Everything that you will see is 100% Annie Macauley-Idibia, it’s the woman that I am.
Q. We have to bring up this particular aspect of things in that women, particularly dark-skinned women like yourself hardly get shown favourably, this time you get to showcase yourself in your authenticity. Throughout the diaspora Africans particularly African women have been scrutinised and held to western beauty standards. Just recently Social Media bullies discriminated against former Miss South Africa Shudu Musida for her curves, former Miss Universe Zozi Tunzi for her skin tone and natural hairstyle and now we are hearing that the late former Miss USA Cheslie Kryst was also subjected to discriminatory bullying. As a beautiful chocolate woman born and raised in a country that encourages skin lightening creams, how have you held onto your esteem, your sense of self while navigating issues of colourism, ageism, and other discriminations?
My beauty lies in the colour of my skin. I’m a Black woman. Sadly, we are not just discriminated against in Western regions, but also in Africa. In Nigeria you see girls who have bleached their skin because they want to be lighter, they want to be like White people. You see mixed-race girls receive more attention from the guys at the parties around town…it’s just sad.
I used to wear weaves like you. I had a company in Atlanta and here in Nigeria called BeOlive Hair Collection where I used to sell human hair but I’ve shut all of that down because over the last few years I’ve gone through a transformation where I want to own my heritage completely. I don’t wear weaves anymore and I still look pretty! I don’t believe in weaves anymore and I really want our young girls and women to be confident in the colour of their skin and their natural hair. Look at your skin sis, it’s beautiful!
Q. Something that stood out for me is when you talked about being married for 10 years because my husband and I have also been married for almost the same amount of time. You met your husband when his success was still a dream and before social media took over our lives. Do you think that being able to establish your connection before the fame and invasive public scrutiny has helped you weather the storms of love and how has social media impacted the dynamics of your relationship?
Social media has its advantages and disadvantages. When I met Innocent (popularly known as 2Baba) there was no social media, as you said. He didn’t even have a single out now he has a discography that spans over two decades! It’s sad to see the current state of relationships as they have gone beyond what they should be because of social media. I would say that I enjoyed dating this man before he got famous because nobody was liking his pictures or trying to slide into his DM’s. It was beautiful. I had the best of Innocent before all the fame. It actually makes me sad for my daughters and all the single women who are trying to date in this current age of social media because I don’t think it’s healthy for relationships.
Q. How have you managed to maintain your level of composure and remain such a class act throughout the various situations?
Honestly it’s hard. No one is perfect, I’ve had my own melting points. But I strive to do the right thing but the reality is our lives are out there because we are both successful public figures. So when we go out to lunch it becomes news. However every marriage has its challenges, it’s just that ours have played out in public. But I feel like remembering the love of my children, husband, and my family keeps me grounded.
Q. I recently heard someone refer to you and Innocent as the Will and Jada of Africa. How does that comparison resonate with you? Are there any parallels other than fame?
I don’t want our marriage to be compared to theire’s but there are parallels in terms of how long we’ve been together. I met Innocent when I was 17 and he was 26. I am now 37. We grew up together, we’ve been there for each other through the worst and best times. I don’t want to sound cliche but we are soul mates. We were made for each other and I don’t think that we would’ve endured and overcome all that we have together if we were not made for each other.
Catch Annie, SwankyJerry, Nadia Nakai, Khanyi Mbau, and the rest of the star studded cast of Young, African, & Famous on Netflix 18th March 2022.