Felicia Henderson: I’m More at Home in Nigeria than Anywhere Else
03 Nov 2012
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At her first visit to the country she fell in love with Nigeria and the people. Felicia has since been back and forth for eight years and running. Now fully resident in Abuja the African American has featured in local TV series such as Tinsel and the likes. Now gearing to set up her own TV production, she can be easily mistaken for a Nigerian who has been in the Diaspora as she has warmed herself into her new environs perfectly. She spoke with Ada Igboanugo
Entry into television
That was about four years ago. Friends who I had grown to know and got close to kept advising me to venture into acting or voice-overs because I had such a good voice but I’m a bit of an introvert and relish my private affairs. But I challenged myself to understand Nigeria before deciding to plunge. A friend of mine eventually went ahead and got me a script insisting I take a look at it and I did. I made sure it was up to my standard and specification and would not eventually mar my image and reputation because I really just want to venture into business. I wouldn’t want my status as a celebrity to change anything and also appreciate the edge it has given me.
The issue with mistaken identity
A lot of people think I’m Nigerian but I’m not. I am actually a black American. I visited the country for the first time eight years ago and fell in love. I have been to and fro the country for eight years now before I finally decided to relocate here with my family. But I love to leave people guessing. I don’t normally expose it. Some people are always eager to know where I’m really from. Some have gone ahead to give me traditional names. ‘Adesuwa’ by the Oba of Benin, ‘Kesia’ was given by my first love in Nigeria, ‘Omobowale’ was given by my first production crew. Then in Yoruba my own name is Adepelumi, in Igbo Adanma, in Bayelsa Ebieren amongst others. I have since considered Nigeria as my home.
From Tomboy to Diva
Growing up for me was a wonderful experience. I was my Dad’s baby which practically made me evolve into a tomboy because I did everything a boy would do with my father including working on cars. My father owned a car company so I know everything about cars. My dad said he never wants to see me on the road with a flat tire or out of gas or that my car is overheating. The first time I went under my car in Nigeria, people thought I had gone bonkers. I can literally change tires, jack my car, and what-have-yous. It doesn’t bother me that I get messy because it reminds me of my father.
My father taught me everything I know about cars. Theoretically I started driving when I was thirteen, but got a permit when I was 15 and then licence on my birthday. Growing up for me wasn’t as rosy but wasn’t shabby as well. We didn’t have much but were content. Personally I couldn’t tell the difference because we were so loved and taken care of. Even when my father passed on though it was hard to continue the same lifestyle, we still did the same things we did when he was alive such as giving to the needy, shopping and a lot of things that I believe builds character in people which is how I became who I am today.
A lot of people ask why I gave up life in the States and come here to stay; truth is I don’t think my life in America was half as satisfying as it is here. To me it gives me a certain satisfaction to help people even if it’s just a little bit of help. I feel a lot of people just need someone to sit and tell them the truth because they have a very wrong perception of what real life is and for some reason nobody wants to talk to them to tell them the truth and I can’t do that. I’d rather be the one to tell them the truth and let that truth have an impact on their lives and the lives of others.
I feel like I have a purpose to fulfil here. I already consider myself a Nigerian. When I was little I always thought all black people were from the same place. I told my mother that when I grow up, I was going to live in Africa. Every day I think, and I tell people that God allowed me to be born in America so that I can come to Nigeria and do whatever it is He has planned for my life because when I look back, everything that I have ever experienced prepared me to live here. So far I understand and can write the major languages in Nigeria but can’t speak yet.
Love for camera
I never really saw myself acting so when I did it for the first time here, with my first production being a documentary for Nokia with Bimbo Manuel, I realised I enjoyed it. The camera liked me and I liked the camera. It seems like a lot of people in the industry here studied theatre arts which I didn’t and that’s why I believe and said that a lot of things that happened in my life prepared me to come here because I’m just using talent. From then on I featured in Tinsel as Myra, an American who ran into Chuks on her return from the states, then Spider, produced by the same company as Tasha, then Troubled Waters and Two Sides of a Coin amongst others. In the long run, I’m going to be working on my own production as well.
Family and career
I’m a full business woman and I’m always writing down my ideas. As I speak I have my notebook open and some ideas put down already and more waiting to be, the moment I get home. I have a portfolio I have had for years where I deposit ideas and I also create ideas as well. I want to leave a legacy for the youth to use as a tool in the future. I am in my late 30s and a mother of 5- two boys and 3 girls and we reside in Abuja. They are in love with Nigeria just like I am, but they didn’t come with me initially when I started coming.
My kids are my work force. I thought them how to be independent. They practically earn salaries from me. I share my business ideas with them and ask of their opinion as well as give them tasks and when they carry it out, I pay them. My youngest is a lovely accountant at her age. She has been able to save enough to become a bank for her siblings.
The older girl is already a practicing designer, the youngest wants to be a lawyer while my boys want to be a chef and technical engineer respectively. They are a beautiful gift to me and I didn’t have to stop anything I love because I had them. I still do all that I like such as going to the beach, singing, relaxing, driving, horse-back riding and traveling amongst others