When I Pray Against My Enemies, I Lose Friends – Dr Helen Paul

Her style is quirky and spontaneous and her petite stature and voice range make her childlike. Talented comedienne, Helen Paul, popularly known as Tatafo is indeed many things rolled into one. She is an actress and a singer, who broke out as a naughty comic character on a critically acclaimed radio programme known as “Wetin Dey” some years back. In this interview with EDWIN USOBOH, the gogetter and workaholic Edo-born speak on entertainment industry, growing up, family and sundry issues

I remember when I told people that I was undergoing a PhD program, many people laughed it off. In fact, some asked “what do you want to do with a PhD?” Such reactions actually gave me the strength to keep moving.

Most comedians are deeper and more intelligent than what you see at surface level. They can be so serious-minded that they’re some of the best writers of tragedy.

You mimic the voice of a child most times. What informed that choice?

It is just character re-enactment. I love and play with children a lot and because I have a special gift of studying people and reenacting their characters, it comes very easy for me. I usually do the baby voice mimicking for fun until people noticed the talent and started calling me to do voiceovers for them and the rest is history.

Were any of your parents into comedy? How did you, discover comedy?

My mother is funnier than me, though she is not into comedy. Even when she is discussing something serious, people will still reel in laughter. I think it’s just in our gene.

What were the challenges at the inception of your career?

Were there challenges at that point? I don’t really think so. But as a celebrity, there are challenges. First, people may not respect your privacy. They get carried away by the personality they see and hear in the media. To a large extent, such behaviour can be excused –entertainment thrives mostly on make-believe. People form opinions about you based on what they’ve seen and heard about you, whether true or not. Also, juggling several responsibilities can be challenging but with God and the right people, it make things a lot easier.

What does it take to be a female comedian and the challenges?

Creativity, originality and discipline –when you have them, you will excel in any field as a female. The challenge I see is more peculiar with our society, our mentality. Male comedians can joke about anything and everybody will cheer them up. But as a female comedian, you dare not say some jokes, as you will be easily castigated.

What drives you?

I don’t even refer to myself as a star. I’m just a brand. What I’m trying to tell you is that fame is neither in my mind nor head. I just want to be my natural self, and trust me; fame hasn’t changed anything about me. What does that mean to you? Passion –it’s the driving force because I apply it in everything I do.

How has Helen Paul remained relevant in the industry despite new comers trooping in?

Well, I just do my best and leave the rest to God. I’m just like a pencil in His hands.

What books have you read that affected your life most positively?

I read books a lot, and each of them has their respective impact on me.

Growing up, did you have to pattern your life after some models? I

learnt a lot from my grandma; being cultured, observant, the idea of being a disciplined person and being street-smart. I remember as a child, people in my vicinity used to gravitate towards me as they enjoyed listening to my jokes. I didn’t understand what entertainment was at that point. I was just being myself. I

was never ahead of myself, took things a step at a time. With the way things were, I decided very early that I must find my path and be true to it. So, as I grew older and opportunities presented themselves, I leveraged on my childhood experience in seizing the moment.

The traits I acquired from childhood helped me make mature decisions at crucial points in my life. In the entertainment industry, what everybody does, either through music, acting or comedy is a representation of

what is happening in reality. I grew up in different areas of Lagos like Fadeyi and Iju- Ishaga, where I quickly developed interacting skills. And one of the best things one can have as an entertainer is to have a keen sense of observation, and secondly, the ability to call back when that observation is needed. So, I try to always remember the places I have been to.

For example, Alhaja DonJasi is a product of my observations about the sociocultural issues. I simply re-enact those issues, being funny while at it because the purpose of entertainment is to educate and entertain.

Tell us about the real “Helen Paul” behind Tatafo

? Helen Paul can be your usual or unusual girl, depending on what lens you’re seeing her through. Helen is a perfect blend of choleric and sanguine traits though. Helen is sometimes confusing when you are trying to understand or know her thought (laughs). Meanwhile, Helen wears many caps. She’s so malleable she can fit into different roles all at once.

The crave for sex, drugs and crime among the youth seems to be on the increase. Can you talk about this as it relates to the entertainment industry?

It is a challenge for the society at large. It happens among bankers, lawyers, politicians and the rest. But it may be more pronounced among entertainers because we are in the public eye. When bankers and lawyers are not on duty, nobody cares what they do but as an entertainer, whether you are on duty or not, people are always interested in knowing what you do behind closed doors. We don’t have privacy.

Success seems to be your middle name: You have the face, the fame and the fortune. What is the secret?

I don’t want to sound too religious but honestly, I will say it’s God – and that’s just the truth. Personally, the only thing I try to do is to have the right set of people around me –then God handles the rest. You see, you must surround yourself with people who can cue into your dreams. I mean people who can motivate and encourage you to go all out and make that dream come true. I’m a very positive person. So, I avoid people with negative vibes.

How about your husband and kids? What does family mean to you? Can you remember your first date with your hubby and the drama of those good old days?

My husband and the kids are doing well. To God be the glory. Family is everything, and they deserve all the attention you can give, and the best. My first date with my husband was actually full of drama. He was living on the Island while I lived on the Mainland.

On the day of our first date, he sent me address of a particular eatery on the Island (I can’t remember the name), and we agreed on the time. It was late in the afternoon.

Okada was still working everywhere in Lagos then. So, I took a bike from Mainland to Ikoyi where we agreed to meet. The Okada rider charged me N700, and I agreed. On getting to the front of the eatery, I gave the Okada rider N1,000 note, and instead of giving me N300 change, he stretched out N200 note to me. I asked why, and he responded that the place was farther than he thought.

So, my N300 change won’t be complete. I disagreed and we started fighting.

A passer-by offered to give me the N100, but I declined –I wanted the one from the Okada rider (laughs). While this drama with the Okada rider lasted, my husband was in his car watching us from the other side of the road.

To cut the long story short, I collected my remaining N100 from the Okada rider. It was when he was leaving in annoyance that my husband stopped him and asked what happened, and after explaining, he gave him additional N1,000.

What? I ran after the Okada rider but didn’t catch up with him. I turned back and expressed my displeasure to my husband but he was just laughing.

He said he was surprised that I was not even trying to fake anything, despite hanging out with me for the first time. What does he expect from a girl that grew up in Fadeyi and Iju- Ishaga? (laughs).

With Netflix taking over the Nigeria film industry, how do you think this has helped the movie practitioners?

It is honestly a blessing to the industry. At least, we now have a body that brings every filmmaker in the country together under one single umbrella. It doesn’t matter whether you’re Yoruwood, Kannywood or Nollywood –what matters to Netflix is the quality of your movie.

Sexual harassment and rape have been major discussions in the movie industry and our society at large.

Share your thought Well, with the way my mouth is always busy, if such had happened, you’d have heard it in the news. I would have mentioned names. Trust me, I’d have spoken because I don’t keep quiet. So, it’s a big no to that. I have never experienced it. If

you weren’t into entertainment, what other passion do you have?

I love business.

As an entertainer and a super star, what would you have done differently if you could turn back the hands of clock?

Not wasting my time on some irrelevant things.

When a man succeeds, they say he works hard but when a woman attains success they say she uses bottom power. What is your view on this notion? And how do you think women can change the narrative?

It is really unfortunate, and it is a black man’s mentality. But I’m happy that we have many women who are changing the narratives now.

What is your greatest fear in life?

When I pray to God to expose my enemies, I lose friends, who are close to me.

Your advice to would-be entertainers.

Believe in yourself. Chase your dreams and remain focused, and above all, put God first and rely on His directions.

Leave A Comment