Monday, 18 March 2013

Shina Peters dropped me from foreign tour after I refused to wear skimpy clothes -Tessy Yembra

Via - Punch

Shina Peter's foremost dancer, Tessy Yembra, tells 'Nonye Ben-Nwankwo about the men in her life
You must have lived in Lagos for a long time for you to speak Yoruba language very fluently...
Oh yes. I was born and brought up at the barracks in Morroco, Shomolu. My mother had a shop in Fadeyi, where she sold clothes and beads. But she was an all rounder. She also sold garri, pepper and other condiments from our state -Delta State. I used to stay with her in the shop.
So how did your dancing career start?
I would say I started dancing right from my mother's womb. My mother was a beautiful dancer. She was in one association. After every meeting, she used to dance so well. My father was an accountant. He was first a soldier before he went to work at the UTC as an accountant. He was a singer. It was not as if they were professional entertainers, but it was something that was natural in them. I inherited that from them.
Who discovered you as a professional dancer?
There was somewhere in Maryland where some people used to organise disco. They organised events like Disco 80s. I was the best dancer that time. I used to party in all the clubs in Lagos then. People would be looking for me to come and dance for them. They used to call me 'Snake Dancer' because they said I wriggle like a snake. We used to move from one club to the other and we were enjoying ourselves. We were always rocking. But I never took my dancing abilities as a profession. I was just having fun.
So what eventually happened?
I went to Madrid. I was still clubbing there and of course, dancing very well. But I eventually came back to Nigeria and a friend of mine took me to the late Ayinde Barrister's show. I didn't understand what he was singing then because I come from Delta State. But I was still dancing to his songs. I didn't know he was watching me where I was dancing. Eventually, he went to my friend and told her that he liked the way I was dancing and he wanted to meet me and tell me to feature in his video.
Did you agree?
I had to eventually. My goods were seized at the airport and I was broke. I needed money to pay my child's school fees since my goods were seized. I couldn't sell my body for money; it is not in my character. So I decided to use my talent to make money. I told Yemi Fawaz, who used to own a modeling agency, what Barrister wanted from me. She encouraged me and said I should go ahead and feature in the video. I was a model then and Fawaz said I should take the dancing aspect as a part of entertainment. She was the one that encouraged me to go ahead with the video.
Your other friends didn't support the idea?
No, they didn't. In fact, every other person deserted me. I would call Yemi Fawaz my sister-in-law because I was dating her younger brother then and I had a child for him. That was how I got into it.
So when did you become Shina Peters' dancer?
Even when I featured in Barrister's video, I was living with Shina Peters. He saw the video and he screamed. He couldn't believe that the person living in his home was a great dancer.
Are you saying you knew Shina Peters even before you met Barrister?
Exactly. I was living with him as I said earlier. My daughter was just two years then.
How come you were living with Shina?
His wife was my good friend then. I had my own house then, but I was lonely and his wife said I should come and live with them since the husband wasn't always staying with them. She wanted us to keep each other company. If Shina was rehearsing in his house, I would be dancing at the corner of the house. He never knew I was dancing but his wife knew. I used to go to Stadium Hotel where Shina was performing every Friday. I would dance. So eventually, when he saw Barrister's Fuji Garbage (the title of the album), he couldn't believe it. His producers were even the ones that invited me to feature in his video. We met at the location of the shooting. I took my costume and I went. The video came out, and it was a big hit. That was how fame started. I was now called Afro Juju queen. I never made myself the queen.
Was there a relationship between you and these musicians?
No. I saw Barrister as a father figure and I saw Shina as a brother. That was why I stayed with Shina for a long time.
Did Barrister feel bad when you started performing for Shina?
No. there was no need for him to feel bad. He only invited me to feature in his video as a dancer. But in Shina's case, I was living in his house. When the music was launched I was going everywhere with him. You know that juju music is slow dance music but afro juju is fast paced. I was travelling everywhere with Shina in Nigeria promoting the music.
Let's go back to what you said earlier about clubbing and rocking. Did you like fun so much that time that you were going from one club to the other?
I love fun. I don't smoke and I don't drink. But I dance to good music. It is not only juju or afro juju music that I danced to. You needed to see me dance disco then. I was a queen of dance back then. There is never a dull moment with me.
You said you never sold your body for money. But then, a lot of people might have perceived you as such because of your clubbing and dancing...
I am a very disciplined and decent lady and I am very hard to get. I couldn't sell myself because I was a dancer. Shina used to tell me that I should be mindful of his friends who would be looking at me lustfully because of my dance steps. He told me I should never date any of them because they would sit back and discuss me. I never even allowed anybody to see me after every performance. I would just leave the stage and wait for Shina who would take me back home or put me in a cab. They used to spray me dollars and pounds while on stage but they never got the opportunity to see me after every performance.
But didn't you have problem with Shina's wife eventually? Women would always feel insecure if another woman is close to their husband...
Such things would always occur but really, I didn't have any problem with him or his wife. When I left Shina, I went back abroad and as soon as I came back, I had to go and stay in my house. We remained friends but I decided to stay on my own and establish a dance school which I called Tessy Turner Dance Academy. Artistes were coming to me for dancers. I pay the dancers and take my commission. I needed to get girls off the streets. That was how I made dance a profession in Nigeria. The profession has become respectable. But when we started, people were calling us names.
But people said you fell out with Shina Peters. What really happened?
I didn't quarrel with him. I was just hurt when he travelled abroad and didn't take me along.
Didn't you know he was travelling?
I knew he was travelling. I was supposed to be among his dancers and band members. But all of a sudden, he dropped me.
I still don't know the reason. But some people said it was because I couldn't wear sexy dresses. But I am a mother. You cannot expect me to wear indecent clothes. I couldn't just showcase my bum because I want to dance. Some other people said I would carry drugs if he took me. They told a lot of lies against me. But even when he came back, I still went to greet him. I went for his welcome party. We have remained friends. I don't have any problem with them at all. He travelled about three or four times later and he didn't take me with him, but I still couldn't take offence. I didn't take it as the end of the world.
Would it have really been a terrible idea if you had worn sexy clothes?
I am a mother. But when I used to perform at Stadium Hotel, I was wearing sexy tights. I would also wear sexy tops. You could look sexy without revealing your 'vitals'. I just couldn't go nude. I wasn't ready to expose my body. My dancers would do it, but I couldn't do it.
At what point did you retire as a professional dancer?
I wouldn't say Shina was the last person I performed for. I performed when Barrister died. I still dance at events. People call me more now to be the compere at their events. I am getting old. I am over 50. But if anybody calls me to choreograph, I will do it, but he has to pay me good money. I would need to buy pain killers thereafter because I am no longer a young woman. I can still dance 'azonto' 'alingo' and all the other dance steps. Dancing with the chest and backside didn't start today. We used to shake everything back then. We would roll, shake and jerk our bodies. That was the trend then. But I cannot dance like that again. I am more mature and I dance mature dance.
Tell us about the father of your child...
My husband and I separated when I lost my baby. I went through a lot of issues when I was pregnant with the second child. After everything, I still lost the baby. I had to go and stay with an uncle to get over the shock. My husband wasn't around then. He was in Warri. But he stayed one year in Warri without coming to Lagos. When he eventually came, he never bothered to come and see me for once. He was busy enjoying himself. For somebody who lost a baby, it was a terrible period for me. I decided to get another apartment. Just as I got the apartment, I met Shina's wife and I moved in with them.
Is the man still alive?
Oh yes he is.
Do you still communicate with him?
I still do. I have a baby for him. She is all grown up. We held her marriage introduction in his place. We couldn't have done it in my own house when her father is still alive. When his mother died, I was there and I played my own part.
Did you eventually marry again?
No. I am a single parent.
Do you regret not having a man you could call your own?
Every woman will like to be married but there are married women who are not happy in their marriages. Sometimes, I am happy I am a single mother. I wish those who are happy in their marriages well. I am enjoying my life the way it is. My daughter is with me. I am now a grandmother. My grandson is my boyfriend. I also have another son who is in the US.
Did you have him for the same man?
No. This other man is from the popular Okupe family.
How come you didn't marry him?
He jilted me. He went to the US to study. I waited for him for four years and he didn't come back home. That was when I met the father of my daughter. People were asking me why I was waiting for a man who wasn't ready to come back home. Before I knew what was happening, I learnt he had got married to another lady in the US. It wasn't my fault. He jilted me and I had to marry the other man who was 'toasting' me. But men are funny. He too started behaving funny and got married to another woman. I decided to be on my own thereafter. If not that I had married twice, I would have got married again. I didn't want a situation where people would be counting all the men I married.
Are you in any relationship now?
Men still toast me. Even younger men still want me to be their girlfriend. But I have to control myself. Men will always disturb a celebrity. I have to be disciplined. Men of these days like ready made women. I see them as gigolos. They want to have you and enjoy themselves. I am not ready to give any man my money. If I had wanted to mess up myself, I would have been so rich now. But I am self made. I bought all the things I have and my daughter also bought some for me. Any man that comes here to say rubbish, I walk him out of my home.
Lets' go back to the first time you said you travelled abroad, how were you able to raise money for such a trip?
Somebody bought the ticket for me. He was my friend. It wasn't a big deal then. People still do it now. I used part of the money he gave me to buy goods. I never recovered those goods. There were clothes that I bought.
Do you feel bad that you didn't further your education?
I am not a dropout. I had wanted to be a nurse but my father died before I could get into a nursing school. Nobody was there to take charge of my welfare, so I had to go and look for work at a hospital. I was a receptionist. But the doctor liked me a lot then and he taught me a lot of things that has to do with the medical profession.
Are you really a happy woman now?
I am happy. There is no sadness in my life.

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