Did you know that Nollywood screen goddess, Stella Damasus is Igbo? Truth be told, I did not know that either until she participated in the Igbo Challenge trending across social media.
In a recent interview with BBC Igbo, the singer, actress, producer, model, and mother of two Stella revealed why she changed her surname from Ojukwu to Damasus.
Stella Damasus was formerly a singer, signed to the famous Klink Studio, owned by filmmaker, Kingsley Ogoro. At Klink studio, she horned her musical talent and went on to do top jingles and vocals for radio and television stations.
However, in 1992, Stella Damasus got into the Nigerian film industry, starring in her first film, “Absurd”.
Telling her story, Ms Damasus revealed that after her father was transferred from Benin to Asaba, she left for Lagos to stay with one of her sisters.
One day in Lagos, she accompanied a friend to an audition but on getting to the venue, she (Stella) did not enter the hall.
Hours after the audition, a man met her outside and asked if she had done her audition, but when she answered that she only accompanied a friend, the man ushered her into the hall to partake in the event.
According to her, she did not take it seriously, laughing the whole time while she read the script handed to her. Surprisingly, three weeks after the audition, she was contacted to play a part in a film.
The agent offered to pay her N10,000 for the role, an amount she jumped at, especially because she earned N750 monthly at Klink Studio.
Ms Damasus was also excited because she never thought there would come a time when she would be watched on television like her icons, Liz Benson and Hilda Dokubo.
Like myself, many Nigerians do not know that Stella Damasus could speak Igbo, but the actress disclosed that late filmmaker, Amaka Igwe knew that she is Igbo. Part of the reasons why Mrs Igwe drafted her in “Rattle Snake 3,” a film in which she spoke only the Igbo language.
When asked why she changed her surname to Damasus, she explained that the surname had existed since the Nigerian Civil War.
Speaking in Igbo language, the actress said: My surname is Ojukwu but during the Biafran war, Nigerian soldiers thought that we are related to the family of Odumegwu Ojukwu. That is the reason for the change.
She explained that during the civil war, Nigerian soldiers killed many of her father’s kin in Asaba based on the perception they have about the name “Ojukwu”.
For that reason, her grandfather opted that the family adopt his first name, Damasus [a Greek name] to keep safe.
But since Stella Damasus was born in Benin City, Edo State and lived parts of her life in Asaba and Lagos, how did she learn the Igbo language?
The mother of two disclosed that her father was originally from Asaba, and her mother, from Owerri in Imo State, and both parents taught her different dialects of the Igbo language.
Although her Igbo language proficiency is intermediate, Stella Damasus says she finds the Owerri dialect a bit difficult, and prefers to speak the Asaba dialect.
Absence in The Industry
In case you are wondering why she has been absent from Nollywood, Stella and her family moved to the United States in 2013 after her husband, Daniel Ademinokan was contracted to teach filmmaking at a university in America.
Stella’s other name, nay, Igbo name is Obiageli. Therefore, you can call her Stella Obiageli Ojukwu.
Compiled by Johnnassa