In a little over six months, his name has become a household name. He’s famous for being at the helm of affairs of the Filmhouse Cinema. A lotof times, people are looking for him to complain, other times, they are looking for him to commend his good works. (The former supersedes the latter though, lol). Anyways, whether this is going to be your first time of hearing about him or not, just relax with probably a glass of water in hand, and read this interview we had with JERI OKON. 🙂
- A brief intro. Tell us about you.
Okay! Like everyone would call me, Jeri Okon. I’m actually Jerimiah Joel Okon. I’m from Calabar Municipality, Cross River State. You could say i’m an Efik boy but i’m not a “Calabar boy”. Small family: I’m the first born and only boy, I have two lovely sisters that i don’t joke with. I’m very protective of them. My social life has been one that surprises me. My friend, Edem Ekpo would call me “Jack of all Trades”. I switch with every social activity that comes in. I’ve been dancing since 1997 up till 2008. I had an accident in 2007 so I stopped officially in 2008. From dancing to singing and also modelling, which was a very big thing that came out of nowhere, I think I’ve been able to balance my social life. I’m in the choir which is still a shocker to a lot of people but I do that because I want to serve God. My social life in Calabar is one that still affects my friends in Lagos. If I tell them this is what I’m doing now, they’ll always be like “you were meant for that”. The dancing aspect was war with my family because my parents especially my mum believed anyone that did anything that was ‘theatre-related’, it had negative effects but I wanted to be the ‘black sheep’ and prove them wrong and I did. My sister would always come to every show. She never missed any. She would go out there and brag that I was dancing and I loved dancing, I still do especially ballet. I did ballet for 5 years. Salsa wasn’t really my thing. The dancing aspect really brought the females into my life and the modelling gig killed it. So, I should say my social life, I love it.
- So, what are you focusing on now?
In 2002 when I came to this town, one obvious thing was that the entertainment was whack. And I would say we’re still not there. So, for now, I work with a cinema company and I’m going to say it here and now so everybody knows, I actually brought Filmhouse Cinema. I brought up the cinema idea when I was in MINDS OF CREATION. We met with Genesis and the talks were long and there was no positive response then Mr Kene Mkparu, the CEO of Filmhouse Cinema was in Calabar and I met with him, took him round town and that night, he prepared a proposal to the Governor and that’s how we started chasing this project. I remember going into town with 3,000 questionnaires to ask people’s opinion about getting a cinema in town and it was funny that everyone wanted a cinema. Well, I wanted Marina Resort because of proximity and that’s basically how I switched to a cinema development body. So far, my whole life is there…
- So, have you had any challenges?
There are a lot of challenges in this cinema business. One of our biggest challenges is the comparison with Uyo. People want to movies at N250 even the latest movies when Calabar is the only place you see a movie released the same day for N500 unlike Lagos or Abuja. They keep forgetting it’s a private body unlike in Akwa-Ibom State where it is subsidized by the government. Also, we can’t get all the movies everyone wants because the cinema is a four viewing-screen with only two functioning screens so instead of showing 15movies, we can only show six.
- Horizon Inc. Is looking into the fashion culture in C.R.S. what’s your take?
On a scale of 1-10, you and i know fashion is 2/10 and it’s really annoying because we have several higher institutions here so, there’s enough reason not to get it wrong. So, if you’re looking at fashion…you’ll get there. As long as you can’t accept corrections, you’ll always get it wrong.
- How fashion conscious are you?
I’m very conscious. My female friends get tired of me. One person that makes me do that a lot, with all the respect I have for her, is Mrs Sandra Charles Itu, CEO LeyiUsh Styling. She would ask me to spot what’s wrong in a female who is probably just passing by and I would. It’s not my fault; I’ve always wanted them to get it right. If you want to copy celebrities in magazines and music videos, just get it right. Why would a guy wear pink trousers because Wizkid did it? Why?
- What are the extra efforts you put into staying on top?
To be honest, I never fight for the ‘spot’. Well, who doesn’t Iike spotlight? I like the fact that I can walk into a place and people want to ‘famz’ me. But half of those people are waiting to see you fall. So I tell the truth, sometimes true lies but I try to be straight forward. I try to be fashion conscious. I don’t bring age into anything I do. The youth of nowadays know a lot so, it’s just to mingle with them and when it’s time to get serious, you get serious. That’s the part people don’t like about me.
- What has been your lowest point so far?
Modelling. I have trained a lot but I haven’t made a lot. Nkem Okoroafor, one of the Blackberry Ambassadors, is one of my products. I’m proud to say she has done a lot without me. I don’t give compliments but I am proud of Nkem. Another person is Kanayo Richards and the same thing goes for Stephen Nkang and Ugo Eke; these FOUR guys are the best. No beef in town. So, I should say I’ve projected 30 out of the 50 models I’ve trained, but I haven’t. It hurts.
- And the highest point?
Getting a cinema to this town. On the 26th of January, 2012, we started work and on the 14th of December, 2012, I cried. My boss asked why and I said, “Satisfaction”. That was the first time I saw something start and finish and I’m still a part of it.
- Was this always your dream or would you rather be doing something else?
I would rather be doing something else. I’d rather be a boss of my own. 5 years ago, I wanted to go into production and event management. But it’s just a thought of every youth. I have to thank Miss Enuma Chigbo because she taught me a lot. I’ve had to write scripts for events and I didn’t learn that in school. It’s been tough but today, I’m here. I’m the Head of Marketing for Filmhouse and the Cinema Manager. Fortunately, this is in line with what I’ve always wanted to do and is giving the right experience and exposure for realizing my dreams.
- How’s it been so far?
How rich am I? Ha! I’m rich in Christ oo! I would say the sense of being a man is now in me. It’s not about smiling to the bank at the end of the month and heading to the club and two Fridays after, you’re broke. I’d just say I’m almost there.
And now to the personal stuff…
- What’s a typical “Jeri” day like?
My day starts at 5:30am with a stare at the ceiling. I miss prayers most times. I tidy up my room if I’m in the mood, bath and head out but not towards the kitchen, because I won’t eat. I plan my day and take control of my day. My girlfriend says I’m spontaneous. I head to the Cinema, make a head count and if I’m not satisfied, I head out to try to make people come to the cinema sometimes I even sacrifice and pay for movie tickets. My day ends at four sometimes six, I don’t just go home, sometimes I hang around maybe with some friends but it’s not an everyday routine. I have tight weekends but I take out time to party and when I want to party, the party knows I’m around.
- What designer labels do you patronize most?
Well, I’m not a freak for designs but if there is any that I love; Ajeh Clothing, LaShakara, Dilem Designs. They are indigenous designers and it’s just that I saw them start. Like Dilem is my personal designer for my Ankara and sometimes, shirts and when it comes to Urban, I’m cool with LaShakara and Ajeh Clothing. Some stylists I admire are La’Estel and LeyiUsh Styling.
- What’s your idea of a perfect outfit?
I’m not too loud when it comes to colors For a guy, Casual does it. For Monday to Friday; shirts, personally, short sleeves and probably, Jean trousers. I’m not big on the Ankara on Friday thing so I prefer wearing Ankara on Sunday. For events, I just like to have a throw-on jacket, a simple Chinos trouser, a shoe or maybe sneakers. And then, I’m looking out for other people. Paparazzi things: I actually run away from it. I think ‘simple’ does it.
- What’s the most expensive item in your wardrobe?
ME! I am my wardrobe. Well, I have a Kenneth Cole Jacket which was a gift and when I saw the price in Lagos, I vowed not to give it to anyone. I’m not keen on Designers but I’m keen on one designer for my wedding day. It has to be a Dolce & Gabbana, not D&G oo, Dolce & Gabbana Tuxedo for my wedding day.
- What’s the most treasured item?
I rarely put it on but it was given to me on my birthday by my ex-girlfriend. She got me a gold necklace. It came as a surprise to me. I woke up and it was on my neck. I didn’t realize till I went to have my bath. I took it off and checked and it was pure gold. I cherish it a lot.
- Are you in a relationship?
Following my age, I think I’ve passed the age of playing games and yes, I’m in a relationship with someone I love so much, Priye Jaja. I remember I put up her picture and wrote on my status, “she’s lovely and I know it and she’s my duchess” and I noticed the number of my contacts reduced. But I’m always proud of whom I date and I love my girlfriend. If Kelvin Udofia is reading this, he’ll give me a wedding date. So, keep your ears to the ground.
- What do you see yourself doing in 5 years?
Managing a branch of Filmhouse, happily married and by the end of the year, something I’ve been planning to do is going to come up and that is managing a modelling school. I’ll be the proud owner of a modelling school here in Calabar.
- Any last words?
I didn’t know about you blog until I added you. I’ve been following up on your short story series and I must give you girls credit. It’s starting small but people are actually reading it. I’m proud of you girls, I really am. So, it’s been nice doing this.