Born 16 October 1942 (age 75)
Ijebu Ode, Ogun State, Nigeria.
Other names Iya Rainbow
Occupation Nurse, film actress
Years active 1965-present
Spouse(s) Hubert Ogunde
(m. 1960; d. 1990)
Idowu Philips (born 16 October 1942), popularly known as Iya Rainbow, is a Nigerian veteran actress
Early life and career
She was born on 16 October 1942 at Ijebu Ode, a city in Ogun State, southwestern Nigeria. Her stage name “Iya Rainbow” stems from “Osumare” (meaning “rainbow” in British English), the name of the theatre group of her late husband, Sir Hubert Ogunde, who died in 1990.
She worked as a certified nurse in general hospitals in Nigeria for several years and occasionally acted in theatre. She ventured into full-time acting after the death of her husband.
She has featured in several Nigerian films, including Apaadi, Eru, and Aje ni iya mi among others. She has five children.
The name, Idowu Phillips might not ring a bell but, mention ‘Iya Rainbow’ and several movie aficionados would reel out all the movies she has featured in. Cornered recently at an event,
Iya Rainbow shared her life, acting career, struggles as a widow and Reporter, Lucy Ezeliora. Have fun reading this interesting interview of one of Nigeria’s most experienced actresses of our time.
You are among the pioneers of the Yoruba movie production. But you appear to have gone off scene in recent times. When was the last time you produced a movie?
You are right. I started acting at an early age. Together with some others, we pushed the Yoruba film industry to its present level of development.
As for why I’ve been scarce lately, I’ve been busy managing my other businesses. I’m just on break. I’ve many recent movies that have not been released into the market and still working on more. Be ready to see more of “Iya Rainbow” even though I’m not as active as I used to be in the area of production. I actually stopped production five years ago. This is because marketers no longer patronize people like me because they feel I’m old. Besides, my son, who used to write those scripts, is abroad now. When he comes back, we will go back to business.
Can you take us through your family background?
My father was Prophet Jacob Adebanjo Ifemade. My late mother was also a captain of the Cherubim and Seraphim (C & S) Church. I hail from Ijebu Ode, Ogun State and I have been a member of the C&S since 1969. I attended African Methodist School and Anglican Modern School for my primary and modern schools respectively. Later, I read nursing and practiced as one for 20 years before fully embracing acting.
So, how did you start your acting carrer?
I started out as a stage actress in my late husband’s Osumare Theatre Group. Even while I was working as a nurse, I still found time to go on locations to shoot films. At 45 in 1986, I retired from nursing on the advice of the late Chief Hubert Ogunde. He (Ogunde) reasoned that since my husband had died (in 1984), there was the need for me to continue with the family legacy. So, I went into acting full time. It wasn’t easy at first, because I was formerly a salary earner. In fact, the first set of movies I acted in were; Aje ni Iya Mi and Eru.
Can you share with us the movies you personally produced?
I have produced lots of movies like; Alamose Eniyan, Alepo Rebi, Anikolapo, Omodupe Oluwa, Orisa rebi, among others, but I have acted in over 500 movies.
Why ‘Iya Rainbow’, why are you called by that name?
My late husband’s group was called Osumare Theatre, meaning, Rainbow. One day, I went to act with some white men and in the course of acting, someone asked for the meaning of Osumare and I replied, Rainbow. Then he said I should be called Iya Rainbow henceforth and that was it.
What else do you do?
I anchor engagement and wedding ceremonies. It was even one of the people I anchored his engagement programme that paid for the tiling of this floor. When he came to thank me, he was surprised to find out that I had no tiles on my floor, so he offered to do it at no cost.
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Can you share with us your challenges since you started acting as well as the transformation in the industry?
There were lots of personal and industry challenges I faced in the early days and even till date. For instance, the issue of transportation has remained. I transport myself to and fro locations and at the end of the day, I’m given peanuts as my pay even at times, I’m not paid for my efforts because people that promise to pay later, end up not paying once the job is done. Sometime all I get paid is N25, 000. 00. Imagine a widow with five children surviving on such a meager fee? It got to a point I wanted to go back to nursing. A lot of people advised against it arguing that my husband’s memory would be forgotten. The Yoruba movies industry needs total transformation.
Producers are not helping matters and nobody is saying anything. All they want is money. If only Government can assist, I believe things will be better.
If given the chance, what would you like to change in the industry?
The twin issues of piracy and marketers. Some marketers are not sincere. They pay in bits and pieces, not minding how one sourced the money to produce the movie. But when I was still active as a producer, my marketer, Corporate Pictures, was faithful to me. In fact, he bought my car for me. But since he stopped doing business with me, God has not abandoned me. He never cheated me. Before now, he would make me most welcome in his house, but suddenly, he changed. I don’t know why and I don’t want to bother myself about that. Though it pains but, God knows best.
How have you been coping with the children?
God has been there for me. When I lost my husband, I thought the world
would come to an end. It was difficult for me to cope as a woman, especially with the financial aspect. I had to continue from where my husband stopped and there was no money in theatre then. I went for assistance from one of my late husband’s friends, who said I must have to sleep with him before he would give me the money. I was shocked, because this was a man we called father due to his closeness to my late husband.
Why didn’t you remarry?
My marriage was a challenge because of my husband’s early death. I did not enjoy my marriage as my husband died a long time ago and since then, I decided not to re-marry. I have five children and they have all made me proud. God has been my pillar of support. My late mother was of the greatest help; she took care of my children whenever I went on location. But I usually made it a point of duty to go to their schools whenever I was around to supervise their education. What I missed most about my mother is that I no longer have a bed partner.
Ever since the death of my late husband, we had always slept together on the same bed and now she is gone. She was always there for me. Above all, my mother loved me so much, she had six of us and I was her only female child.
Can you tell us about your achievements?
I must confess that theatre has paid off for me because I have now built a house of my own, bought a car, and three out of my five children are graduates. One of my sons is a very popular writer.
What is the secret behind your evergreen looks?
The special grace of God! Every body keeps telling me; I look radiant and young; but I know I’m not young at all, I was 70 recently. The secret behind my youthful looks is exercises which I actually do once in a while. I also take lots of fruits and vegetables and I rest well.