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In an industry that largely favours the youth, Fadekemi Olumide-Aluko defied expectations by embracing her late-career start at the age of 50. She tells Vanessa Obioha that she views her journey as a mission to positively influence women in society, recognising the

 transformative power of her newfound identity.

It began with an itch. Not the type that prompts you to scratch at insect bites, leaving behind marks on your skin. No, this was a more intense irritation, demanding a deep dive into the soul to dig up answers to some of life’s biggest questions. Fadekemi Olumide-Aluko, a lawyer and educationist was plagued by this soul-searching sting in her 40s. Introspectively, she found herself reflecting on questions like what her potential was and if she had fulfilled them. She also spent considerable time examining her own thoughts and feelings on what she really wanted to do and the things that make her happy.

To be sure, Olumide-Aluko is a multifaceted individual with an impressive array of accomplishments. As a corporate lawyer, she specialises in legal mediation, particularly in the oil and gas field. Her expertise extends to education, where she has garnered acclaim for her insights into child and adult education, school governance, and educational leadership, with her work published in international journals such as the Journal of the Commonwealth Council for Educational Administration and Management.

Beyond her legal and educational pursuits, Olumide-Aluko is a talented poet and writer, with her verses gracing anthologies and literary platforms. Notably, her poem ‘The Night Nurse’ earned her the distinction of being the sole African shortlisted for the Hammond House UK International Poetry Prize in 2020, published in the poetry anthology ‘Survival.’ Also, she has authored a children’s creative writing revision handbook titled ‘Rules for Writing Champions’ and an inspirational book aimed at teenage girls titled ‘Pearls for My Daughter.’

Olumide-Aluko is deeply committed to philanthropy as the founder of the ‘Together We Can’ charity initiative. Through this initiative, she has spearheaded numerous impactful development projects and endowments in underserved areas of Lagos, focusing on education and children’s welfare.


Despite her myriad achievements, Olumide-Aluko couldn’t shake the feeling that something essential was missing from her life.

“I realised that most of the dreams I had growing up I had let them slip because I was just focusing on survival,” she reflected one lovely Sunday afternoon at the Wheatbaker Hotel in Ikoyi. Among these dreams was a deep-seated desire for a career in the performing arts.


Her passion for storytelling had been ingrained in her since childhood. “We’re that kind of family that gathered around and the elders would tell us stories. And those stories were things we fantasised about, they haunted our imaginations and you learn so much from them. So much wisdom is gleaned from the stories.”

Some of these stories shaped her worldview. For instance, her father’s vivid accounts of his experiences as a surgeon in the army during the Biafran War left an indelible mark on her.  She recalled how he regaled her and her siblings the harrowing moments of removing bullets from wounded soldiers’ brains amidst the chaos of flying bullets overhead.


Equally compelling was the tale of her great-grandmother’s narrow escape from being burned alive with her husband, the Obong of Calabar.  Her grandmother from Itsekiri also played a pivotal role in her upbringing, imparting not only culinary skills but also cultural wisdom. She lovingly remembered learning to cook Banga soup from her, the first soup she ever made.

With these rich and diverse stories woven into the fabric of her upbringing, it was only natural for Olumide-Aluko to feel a pull towards the performing arts. Yet, despite this inclination, she found herself at a loss on how to pursue this passion.

Providence, however, intervened through the owners of Proud African Roots production company, Bola and Patrick Edwards. At the time, Olumide-Aluko was overseeing a nursery and junior primary school where the couple provided music and arts training to her students. She proposed the idea of a summer school where children would create a film. The couple embraced the idea and developed the film ‘Falana,’ centred around a female protagonist.

As the project unfolded, Olumide-Aluko found herself unexpectedly thrust into the spotlight. She was tasked with performing a song for the film’s finale. Little did she know, this performance would be the catalyst for a new chapter in her life. Impressed by her talent and creative vision, Bola approached her with praise and encouragement, urging her to consider pursuing a career in acting.


“I told her it’s as if you read my mind. It’s something I have always wanted to do but I just felt it’s too late now, I’m in my 40s.”

Bola however encouraged her and urged her to go for an audition for a production at Terra Kulture.


“Reluctantly, I went for the audition. The director was blown away and asked if I knew Taiwo Ajai-Lycett. I told him I have always admired her. And he said I reminded him of her.”

Despite the director’s compliments, Olumide-Aluko still had doubts about pursuing a career as a thespian at her age. However, the director was undeterred and began listing names of individuals who had embarked on successful acting careers later in life.

Lennox Mall

That pivotal encounter nine years ago marked the beginning of Olumide-Aluko’s journey as a stage performer. ‘She gradually started attending TV and film auditions, refusing to be discouraged by setbacks. Her unwavering persistence and resilience eventually paid off when she received a call from Zuri24 Media in 2022, offering her a role in an upcoming production.

This opportunity was particularly significant as it marked her second audition with the renowned production outfit, known for its captivating and award-winning drama series such as ‘Battleground.’ This time around, she had gotten a callback, but faced a dilemma: she was juggling a demanding full-time job as the principal of a secondary school with 600 students and overseeing a staff of about 120 members.


“So in my mind, the probability that it would work was very low. As soon as I told them, they too wondered why I came for the audition.”

Suggesting a two-day on-set schedule initially met resistance, but a week later, Zuri24 Media accepted, recognising her indispensable talent for the role. However, securing permission from her employer for the time off posed another challenge.


“The first reaction I got from them was that my passion for the creative arts was all over me. They encouraged me to go for it and that they were solidly behind me. They became my first group of fans. Even the parents of the students.”

With that note of encouragement, every doubt she harboured vanished.

“I think we are our worst enemy mentally as women. We would always look for the one that will not work and aggrandise it in our mind and it becomes the story, meanwhile, it is a lie from the devil.”

Eventually, Olumide-Aluko made the difficult decision to leave her position at the school, knowing she couldn’t give her best while pursuing her acting career. Despite the pain of losing her, the school accepted her resignation gracefully and continued to offer unwavering support for her endeavours.


“Acts like that renew my faith in humanity and people. Of course, there would still be people who would have looked at that and asked what am I looking for at that age. I was 50. I had a good job.”

Since starring as Fatimah in ‘Covenant,’ Olumide-Aluko has participated in various television productions, including ‘Refuge,’ an Africa Magic original and ‘Flawsome’ Season 2.

For her, acting has been empowering, as she considered herself lucky to be given the opportunity to connect with humans that ordinarily would not have access to otherwise.

“I love opportunities where we can find commonality in each other as human beings, as women, as people living in the 21st century. There’s so much we have in common, even our struggles.”

In an industry that often favours youth, Olumide-Aluko has defied expectations by embracing her late-career start. She views her journey as a mission to positively influence women in society, recognising the transformative power of her newfound identity.

Her perspective on fame is enlightening. Unlike many, she doesn’t chase celebrity status blindly. With the wisdom of age, she understands the historical patterns of fame, acknowledging its potential to lead to either peace or destruction. To her, fame is a double-edged sword, and she navigates its complexities with caution and introspection.

“You can use your fame to solve social problems and make a difference in people’s lives. Fame can also destroy you if you begin to associate your core identity with it because it is a flickering thing. It’s not real in the sense of concrete and tangible. It is a conglomeration of imaginations, admiration, aspirations, and even jealousy; all sorts of emotions rolled up into this nebulous shiny thing.”

Expanding on her perspective, Olumide-Aluko emphasises the importance of celebrities being mindful of their influence on society. While she acknowledged the value of showcasing beauty on social media platforms, she advocates for using beauty as a tool for positive impact. She strongly disapproves of female celebrities who objectify themselves, emphasising the detrimental effects of perpetuating such behaviour. To her, beauty should be celebrated and leveraged for meaningful contributions to society, rather than being reduced to mere objectification.

“If you rely heavily on beauty, you become an object. And that is what I never want to be as a woman or as a celebrity because beauty will fade. And after it fades, who are you, what are you? It still goes back to your value and identity.”

On a broader scale, Olumide-Aluko is deeply concerned about the struggles faced by women in society. She observes that women often view themselves solely through the perspectives of others – as daughters, wives, or mothers. While acknowledging the significance of these roles, she encourages women to also prioritise self-discovery and self-expression.

“Women have so much more within themselves than they think. I always tell my mentees to leave outside the box, look inside the box and begin to utilise what is in there. What is in there alone can change the world.”

To amplify her message, she has been intentional about her public image and decisions, starting with her appearance. Her choice to wear dreadlocks, which she has been cultivating for over five years, is not merely stylistic but also ideological. It represents the embrace of her African roots and a rejection of conforming to Western beauty standards. She advocates for Nollywood to celebrate and embrace diverse African hairstyles in films, symbolising pride in one’s heritage and identity.

As Olumide-Aluko embraces her life as an actor, she has remained mindful of the role that faith has played in her journey recognising it as the driving force behind her progress. Looking ahead, she believes that her future path, whether in five or 10 years, will continue to be shaped by faith.

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