WITH life expectancy in Nigeria put at 54 years of age and ranks among the five lowest in the world according to health experts, veteran actress, Idowu Philips, popularly known as Iya Rainbow has reasons to be joyous as she hit 80 years on Sunday.
Born on October 16, 1942 at Ijebu Ode in Ogun State to Prophet Jacob Adebanjo Ifemade and Mrs Ifemade. She had her elementary education at African Methodist School before heading to Anglican Modern School for her secondary education.
She then proceeded to be trained as a nurse and worked as a nurse for 20 years after graduating from nursing school. She began her acting career in the 1990s and has appeared in hundreds of Nollywood movies – English and Yoruba.
Notwithstanding her age, the veteran actress remains unsurpassable and undoubtedly a force to be reckoned with in the Yoruba movie industry, a prove that her acting career is a divine talent.
According to her, she started as a stage actress in her late husband, Augustine Ayanfemi Phillips, who worked closely with the late patriarch of Nigerian Film Industry, Herbert Ogunde at Osumare Theatre group, while working as a healthcare assistant in one of the General Hospital.
She dumped nursing in 1986 to pursue acting full-time on the advice of the late Hubert Ogunde. The group name, Osumare, means Rainbow in English.
“He (Ogunde) reasoned that since my husband died in 1984, there was a need for me to continue with the family legacy. So, I went into acting full-time. It was not easy at first, because I was formerly a salary earner. In fact, the first set of movies I acted in was; ‘Aje ni Iya Mi’ and ‘Eru,” she said in an interview with Tribune.
Philips stated that her stage name ‘Iya Rainbow’ was derived from Osumare Theatre. “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 henceforth be called Iya Rainbow and that was it,” she enthused.
On the secret of her ageless look even at 80, the octogenarian said, “First off, I give tganks and praise to God Almighty, withouymt him I not be here today. Secondly, I don’t eat much heavy food; I exercise once in a while, take lots of fruits and vegetables and I rest well.
“That I’m still very agile, going to locations, modelling and advertising as an ambassador are all parts of exercising, which have helped me to remain smart. But like I always say, it is the grace of God, staying healthy at such an age is God’s gift.”
She continued, “It is by the grace of God that I am still relevant in the industry. When it is God’s time and He has decided to help you, there is nothing anyone else can do.
“When I was younger, I never knew I could be this relevant. I realised my popularity when I was 50 years old, but I pray that the younger ones would never go through the kind of ordeal I experienced before making it to stardom.”
On the impact of acting in her life, the producer of ‘Alamose Eniyan’, ‘Alepo Rebi’, ‘Anikolapo’, ‘Omodupe’ ‘Oluwa’, ‘Orisa Rebi’ among others, stated that theatre has paid off for her as she has a house, a car of my own, and her children are graduates. “One of my sons is a very popular writer,” she said.