Mother’s Day with ADUNNI ADE
On any given day you could turn on your television and chances are you would find Adunni Ade’s gorgeous face on your screen, possibly speaking fluent Yoruba or maybe with English with an American twang or pidgin- all depending on what her roles call for. What you wouldn’t immediately know is that beneath that exterior lies a hardworking single mum to two amazing sons, D’marion and Ayden. Her journey to stardom has been fraught with so many obstacles but keeping her sons and her faith at the center of it all, has helped her remain focused, drowning out all the noise.
Her own American mother and Nigerian father separated while she was quite young. She was raised by her dad and step mum alongside her step siblings but didn’t always have an easy childhood. Her determination to seek out more found her reunited with her mother in America after her secondary school education in Ota, Ogun state. There, she got into university, fell into modeling and also a relationship that would produce her two boys.
Balancing motherhood in the wake of a pandemic that has forced many out of work is not a walk in the park and she takes on her responsibilities with all seriousness. Her arrival at the photoshoot is timely and she walks in with an air of pleasantness, lighting up the room instantly. It’s easy to understand why in addition to her talent she is becoming a house hold name despite the many issues she faces constantly. She simply shows up, does her bit and exits while the ovation is loudest. So this Mother’s Day, Ms Ade opens up to DOWNTOWN’s Editor Latasha Ngwube on the things most personal to her- career, faith and motherhood.
Acting has a knack for throwing curve balls with a lot of back and forth which can keep you away from your kids. As a single mum how have you being able to maintain a good balance?
It’s not as bad as it may seem compared to when I was still in Kentucky. I worked 2 jobs back, heading out of the house by 4:30am to drop them off at the daycare and would pick them up before midnight (24 hrs daycare). Being in Nigeria, I’ve adjusted better and the hours of work are a bit more flexible coupled with me having a live-in nanny. In the recent years things have gotten easier as my babies are in boarding schools now. I just make sure I plan my work schedule to fit theirs (visiting days, pickup and drop off dates, holidays) I keep those days open to spend time with them.
Being a parent is a very cumbersome task riddled with ups and downs alongside being a single mother. What mantra do you recite to yourself and what gives you that inner strength to keep pushing on?
“Keep moving Adunni, keep moving!” There is a fire burning so deep within me, stopping, quitting… those are not options for me at least not anytime soon.
It takes guts to take on parenting alone. What prompted you to take the executive decision to separate from the father of your kids?
It should have happened sooner than it did but after 8 years, I had to throw the towel in. It just didn’t workout and I was too stubborn to admit it. Coming from a broken home myself I didn’t want that for myself or my children. I gave it my all but you’ve got to realize somethings aren’t meant to be to keep your sanity for you and yours. I chose the highway.
In light of Mother’s day what was it like being mom early and what hurdles did you have to overcome to be where you are today?
I wasn’t a helpless teenager but a young woman already at university. I was alone, I had doubts as well as fear of the unknown. My paternal family were all in Nigeria and my maternal family weren’t the best as they already wanted nothing to do with my mom or her children because racism. It was a terrible feeling but I’ve always been a fighter. Giving up isn’t what I do.
There have been discussions on how raising boys can be hard. What have you learnt from raising your sons and how has it changed you?
Raising children in general isn’t an easy task because you’re pretty much living your life for them. Any parent would agree raising children can be stressful but you’ve just got to be patient, breathe, take control of every situation and the rest will follow. I have learnt through my sons the true meaning of love.
As your sons navigate into different stages like teen hood, what age would you say has been the most challenging so far?
You know what? It wasn’t as much their different ages and stages that challenged me as it was their personalities. D’marion is a calmer child while Ayden will get your adrenaline going (laugh). You often hear the expression “fingers aren’t equal”, so you have to know what works for who. It’s no news how much you love your sons. You can practically walk on hot coals for them but how would you describe your parenting style when it comes to issues of discipline and correction? It has always been just us 3. We are very close I must say and hold conversations most parents may not have with their wards but that doesn’t stop me from being a disciplinarian. I correct them when it’s needed.
With regards to the opposite sex, do you care to share the kinds of conversations you are having with your sons on the prevailing issues within society today?
I speak more to D’marion about this as it is pertinent to him at the moment. I let him know there is a time for everything and this time we are in right now is for studies and not otherwise. Without going into much detail, he knows what shouldn’t be done.
Born into a Muslim family, you switched to Christianity and then switched back to Islam. What made you go through this phase and what impact has it had on your kids?
When I left Nigeria, I was sort of lost, unsure about life and didn’t know what way to go. I found myself in a hole without guidance, I had lost touch with God. I met mommy (God sent) Mrs Adejoke Oluleye who was and still is an MFM Pastor. She gave me the guidance I needed, the nurturing I yearned for and helped put me on the right path with God. All this time, Islam lived in my heart. When I relocated here, I wanted to, needed to get back with what works for me religiously and that is Islam. Look, no shame in my game. I have attended so many churches, MFM, Redeem, CLAM, etc I know talking about religion can be quite sensitive so I made sure I never did publicly but when the questions became too much from fans, being honest was the only way. I had converted back to Islam years prior to my post and a lot of my colleagues were aware. I have always been truthful in my dealings with people so why hide this? The constant questions were becoming too much, however revealing this, I lost fans, well wishers, followers but oh well! I never lost God. Love is the ultimate religion and that I have.
Despite being born in the states and living more than half your life there you speak fluent Yoruba. How did you learn to speak the language so well?
I learnt from my lovely grandmother the real Adunni Ade (smile)
With a Nigerian father and an American mother, what made you decide to start a career in Nigeria and not America? I actually started in America as a model in 2005 doing fashion runway and shooting editorials. I started my online skits then, probably the first female to do this back then. Through my skits, opportunities started coming my way and I began getting movie roles that required me to travel down to Nigeria, film and go back. I later made the decision to move here to solely focus on this aspect of entertainment with my children. I have grown so much over the years and still growing. If more opportunities come forth in other parts of the world, up and off I go.
There have been rumors of extreme behavior towards you by some people in the entertainment industry. Instances of colorism and prejudice against you to frustrate your passion for acting and essentially push you out of that space.
How have your dealt with these obstacles?
Phew! You noticed? (Laughs) For as long as you’ve got life, you’ve got hope. For years, I never spoke up whenever these sort of questions were asked. I would play it off but my eyes have seen o! I pat myself on the back for not giving up. Many would ask “Don’t you think you made it this far due to your color?” And I’m thinking, what color? Same folks who bashed me and spoke ill of me to prevent me from getting casted are the same who are trying to be like me in terms of complexion, dressing, etc. What I was condemned for is and has now become a norm for a lot of women in this part of the world. Fall 9 times, get back up 10 so no human gets to dictate my path. A lot of folks love to be lied to, deceived and enjoy kissing behinds but that doesn’t work or sit well with me. In my little ‘ole world, I stand in my truth and for that I get hated on or shadow-banned. They say destiny can only be delayed never canceled so we riding till the wheels fall off.
You’ve become something of a veteran in Nollywood with a record of at least 45 movies a year both in English and Yoruba. Which genre do you honestly prefer and what are (if any) the similarities and differences in struggles both worlds have?
45 movies a year is very modest as my annual project numbers are more much higher. I enjoy what I do but I believe we have a long way to go. The structure is still not there and a lot of actors still do not get what is deserved. I applaud a lot of people trying their best to make things easier and creating more exposure for Nollywood across the globe. Aunty Mo Abudu has done fantastically and so has my brother Kunle Afolayan. Yoruba creators aren’t scared for me to show depth. I am constantly challenged to push further in my delivery and will forever be grateful to them for that. I would love to see more roles created for my kind (color wise) beyond the drama genre. More action, thriller, and even horror stories would be appreciated. Between both worlds though I won’t say I prefer one to another, mine is to work and deliver and let me keep making my coins (laughs).
How would you describe your overall time so far as an actress in Nigeria and what useful tips do you have for new ladies in the industry?
It has been a ride. Sometimes it’s a bumpy road, or a narrow one and it’s had smooth moments too. In all, I am thankful to every producer, director, actor and crew member I have ever worked with. I have learnt so much from them. To the ones coming, I’d say be yourself and stay in your lane. Keep your eyes on your prize and remember this is a race not a family reunion.
Lagos being the social central of Nigeria it is a norm for stars to live within the epicenter of the entertainment space. Why have you chosen to break from the norm and live far away from most?
Home is where the heart is.
You are a very physically attractive woman that would have no end of suitors. What is your dating life like as a single parent in the spotlight?
Privacy is key! Have I dated in the past? Sure but my personal life is for me to know and for you to find out. (Smile) That part of me isn’t important.
Beyond being the best mum you can be what is Adunni’s greatest ambition and possible legacy?
Success! To achieve more success! To be known as a woman who stood up for the right things in life. To be known as a woman who never gave up and thrived in all her dealings, while standing for her truth.