Actress and Entrepreneur Zainab Balogun sits with Chude Jideonwo on #WithChude. In this episode, she talks about her career in acting, getting diagnosed and healing from endometriosis and keeping her life private.
On the longevity of her career and how she has been able to stay top of the mind for over a decade in the entertainment industry, she shared, “Back then, I never felt like I was part of the cool kids because being cool was sort of determined by the economics – do you come from a rich family, are you known? I didn’t come from that background, so I felt sort of like ‘a bull in a China shop’, when I came in. There are times when I don’t appreciate what I have done. I have done a decade in the Nigerian industry, and it’s been 10 years of going against the grain in terms of the choices that I have made. I appreciate being able to have longevity but there are conversations we, as actors, do not have with each other. There were times when I felt like, ‘This isn’t working for me anymore, because the income and visibility were not aesthetic’. There were times we were booking talents based on popularity, which hurts me a bit when I think about my industry because talent should matter. But commercially, I get why people make the choices that they do. I don’t knock people who have fallen through the cracks because it is not easy. Luckily for me, acting has never been my sole earner, and I realized that early enough because for me it is always quality over quality for me. I shoot a couple of times a year. Because it is important for my heart and my soul to be fed with whatever I am doing, I will make sure that I have my business coming together or if it’s my content work, my influencer work, and brand partnerships. Those are the things that are keeping me fed on a daily basis. I don’t blame people who have to make tough decisions of whether they will succumb to the ways the industry or people want to be versus what I need.”
Zainab also spoke about how she is deliberate about the part of her life that is out there, which would have presented her with an opportunity to build a brand around her lifestyle. “It was a deliberate choice because I am very conscious of the separation of power between the industry and myself, and when you dabble into all this without the consciousness of what the consequences are, it is quite problematic. There are people who do not have issues with talking about how they spent a hundred thousand dollars on an outfit they wore to the AMVCAs. I wouldn’t be that person because there isn’t a lot of truth in that. I have to be conscious of my audience and the people I am setting the pace for. It is a lie that nobody needs.”
On her choice of keeping her marriage very private and off social media, she shared, “My personal life is very personal. It’s not out for public consumption. That’s not my work, that’s my life. So, I’m okay with giving you that which I’m okay with you criticizing or having an opinion on, but I’m quite traditional, so my personal life is not for public consumption nor the opinions of others.”
She shared about her struggle with endometriosis and her decision to share it with the public. She mentioned that her decision to talk about it came from her observations on the lack of information about the disease. She highlighted how she believes that people watching her talk about her journey wouldn’t have to go through the same struggle to find help. Zainab also spoke about the cultural side of people dealing with reproductive health problems and dealing with it in silence, because they are worried about how they will be perceived. On how she found out, she shared, “My periods were irregular for about 2 months. I think I had about 4 periods in 2 months and for me, that was abnormal because they’re relatively on schedule and extremely painful. And when I say painful, I often describe it like somebody taking a barbed wire with little sharp cuts and putting it in my stomach and just turning it. I would pass out, wouldn’t be able to go to work, or school. My hormones were all over the place and I was like ‘this doesn’t feel normal, so let’s go find out what’s going on’. I went for a test. They did an ultrasound and TBS and they discovered that I had two cysts. The thing with Endometriosis is, it’s quite hard to diagnose when you’re outside of the body. You kind of need to be looking in because you need to look up for the adhesions. I was scheduled for surgery to take care of the cysts because one of the cysts was torsion. It was twisted, meaning if it grows bigger or the weight bursts, then we’re in trouble”. After the doctors checked, she was diagnosed with stage 3 endometriosis. She also shared how the cyst disappeared when she was preparing to have her second surgery. “I had gone to do my scan before heading to the church and the doctor says to me, ‘oh yeah, everything is okay.’ He said something about ‘reabsorbed’. So, I was like, ‘okay what’s the size of the cyst now? He said, ‘I can’t see it’. I was like ‘I don’t understand’ And he said, ‘it’s not there anymore’. So, I took that as a sign, and I called off the surgery. I was like well, ‘if he has done it on the right, let him finish the work on the left-hand side.’ So, I just continued to be on my holistic journey and continued the test. Then I went to another clinic where the doctor was like that, he can’t really see the cyst but maybe if I wanted to do an MRI just to confirm because he was seeing something else completely. So, I had an MRI. Took it back to him and he read it and said, ‘yeah there’s nothing there.’ This was September. I was like I don’t understand what you’re saying. You’re saying the MRI is the best picture for looking for any kind of masses in the body and it is telling me that I have no cyst in my body. That was my miracle moment, that was my relief. It was wonderful”.
Watch the excerpt here