Ufuoma Ejenobor on Her Interracial Marriage and Motherhood
Ufuoma Ejenobor is a Nigerian actress, model and aspiring TV producer. She is also a wife and mother, with her first baby born in December 2012. She spoke to Bellanija about being married to her European husband, Steven McDermott, choosing to wear a non-traditional wedding gown [see other non-traditional brides], and building her family at the same time as trying to remain plugged into her career. Enjoy...
Can you recall the proposal? How did your husband propose to you?
It was in Cape Town. I don’t know if he planned to propose and that’s why we went to South Africa or he just thought about it while we were there but it was so beautiful. He had just finished filming a commercial and he said we had to talk. He is not really the talking type so I knew it had to be something serious. I can’t remember his exact words but he said something like he wanted us to spend the rest of our lives together and I thought it was romantic. I said yes.
Your eyes really lit up when you said that. How did you meet him?
We have a mutual friend; they both work as advertisers. I met his friend while I was filming ‘Everything It Takes’ for Wale Adenuga. There was a particular day we went out for drinks and my husband who was his friend was with them. We hung out, became friends, started spending time with each other and started to feel very comfortable with each other.
Was it ever your childhood dream or teenage fantasy to get married to an European?
I might be wrong but I don’t know if anybody sets out to marry a foreigner. Almost every girl read the Mills & Boons where your man had to be tall, dark and handsome. I was a regular girl, dreaming the regular dream of what my dream man should be. But God has a way of putting your life in the way that He has ordained it to be and I think that‘s what happened to me. My husband and I weren’t in a position where our paths were crossing very often so chances of me meeting him and being his friend were very slim. It wasn’t anything planned, it just happened and I’m glad it did because my husband is a wonderful person. He has a good heart and that is the most important thing for me.
I saw a few of your wedding pictures online and I noticed you didn’t wear the usual “white” wedding gown.
I’m a rebel (laughs). I never dreamt of wearing a white wedding gown.
Because everybody wears white! Everybody has their unique picture of what they want their wedding dress to be like. I’ve been obsessed with “The King & I” and there was this lovely dress Mrs Anna wore, it was gold and green and I thought that was the most beautiful dress I’ve ever seen. My dress was made by Frank Osodi. He didn’t think the mix of gold and green would go well so he asked me to choose any colour and he would mix it with white. Because I wanted to run away from white, I thought of a colour that would contrast with white so we came up with metallic silver.
When you look back at your wedding day and think of your wedding gown, how do you feel?
Every time I look into my wardrobe and I see that dress, I say a word of prayer for him. When I wore that dress, as far as I was concerned, I was a princess. I felt really good, I look at my album and I smile. I had the wedding of my dreams and I would not change it for anything.
How have you both been able to adjust to the demands of each other’s cultures?
I must say that there was a bit of culture shock. The first time I spoke to his Mum on the phone, I said “Hello Ma” and she said “No don’t call me that, call me Jean”. I had to say to her “Sorry Ma, you might not like this but your name right now is Mummy”. And then my husband’s niece and nephew call him Steven and I look at them like, “are you serious?”. They are just kids! When he was going to meet my parents as well, he asked “what is your mother’s name” I said “her name is Mummy”, and he asked “what is your father’s name” I said “his name is Daddy”. He has been in Nigeria for over 10 years but there are still some things he is trying to adjust to. I cannot honestly tell you that we’ve broken down every barrier of culture shock, but somehow we’ve tried to find our own meeting point to make sure that everything is balanced out.
Has there been any time when you felt surprised at his acceptance of your culture or otherwise?
I was surprised that my husband wanted our kids to have Nigerian native names. It was so bad that he didn’t even want to give our son a middle name. He said Isio McDermott was fine. He said “what do people do with middle names? It’s a waste of name”. But I insisted and we had to call his Mum to give an English name and she gave him Jared. That is the only reason why he has a middle name.
A lot of people were surprised that you had your baby here in Lagos and not abroad.
My husband is a local boy oh! I went to America just before I had my baby and I asked him if we could just have the baby there and he asked “Why?” and honestly, I couldn’t answer that. When I said the health care could be better, he said “don’t kid yourself”. His argument was that “we live in Lagos, why do you want to give birth somewhere else?” My husband is just that kind of person. You need to give him a reason out of this world for him to do certain things.
Was there any particular reason why you had your first child two years after getting married?
There was a project that we were going to work on and it just kept stalling. At some point we decided that we couldn’t keep our family on hold for too long and if it wasn’t happening, we had to get on with our lives. We were kinda wishing that we had started having kids earlier but God has his plans for everything and when the right time came, Isio came.
Now back to your cute son, Isio. What was the experience like for you both as parents around the time you gave birth? How did you feel during those first few days of his birth?
We were just so excited at having him. When he was born, my husband would come to the hospital, take his son and lie on the bed with him on his chest and they will just sleep off. I think he even took paternity leave from work because I couldn’t understand why he wouldn’t sleep at home but will come to the hospital to sleep with the baby. He’s been a blessing, joy, laughter, fun, he has just warmed our hearts. He is the most adorable thing and we love him to bits.
Those family photos you released were so so cute. Especially the one where you put him in a Christmas hat!
He was so tiny at birth, he weighed 2kg so even if we had gotten a kiddy Christmas hat, we couldn’t fit it on his head. So we thought if he can’t wear the cap, let the cap wear him (laughs).
What was the inspiration behind the photo shoot?
He was seven days old and even though I was still weak at that time, we just wanted to capture that moment. I’m sure when Isio is older and he sees those pictures, he would have a good laugh. We had fun doing it and we are looking forward to doing the next set when he starts crawling or when he can walk.
Read the whole interview here, and see more pictures of Ufuoma, her husband and cute baby, here.