Entertainment & SocietyShining Light on PCOS Will Serve as Beacon of Hope For Women...

Shining Light on PCOS Will Serve as Beacon of Hope For Women Suffering From it – Stephanie Coker-Aderinokun

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March 24, (THEWILL)- Nollywood actress and media personality, Stephanie Coker-Aderinokun speaks with IVORY UKONU about her new documentary film titled, ‘Where The Heck Is My Period?’ which was recently released on Prime Video. The documentary offers an intimate perspective on the experiences of women living with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), a hormonal disorder.

Over two years ago, you mentioned to me that you were working on a documentary centered around Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). Your dream finally came true. What was filming the documentary like?

I must say that it was very emotional for me. I poured my heart into it. I have always been passionate about women’s health, especially women living with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) , a hormonal disorder common among women of reproductive age that causes enlarged ovaries with small cysts at the outer edges.

Women with PCOS may have infrequent or prolonged menstrual periods or excess male hormone (androgen) levels. This syndrome affects about one in 10 women in the world and it is one of the main causes of infertility, but people don’t talk about it. I wanted people who suffer from it to know that they are not alone and to make them feel seen, loved, understood and supported. Sharing my story publicly was a big step I was willing to take. Although nerve-wracking, I’m glad I did it.

Every time I heard the stories of the women, I felt a wave of emotions. While it was hard listening to their struggles, I’m happy I could find women who were willing to be vulnerable, be their authentic selves and support each other by telling our stories. This documentary is very dear to my heart and I decided to pour myself into this by telling my story and being a major part of the filmmaking process.

Your vulnerability and courage to shoot this documentary on Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is commendable particularly because it is your own personal story.

Thank you. I shot the documentary alongside other African women from different socioeconomic backgrounds. They all bravely opened up about their own experiences with PCOS. Their vulnerability and courage serve as a beacon of hope for women everywhere, inspiring them to seek support and take control of their health. I was diagnosed with the syndrome at age 16. So my aim is to educate people on the life-altering experiences, such as menstrual irregularities, depression, anxiety, obesity, irregular hair growth, unexpected physical changes and infertility as some of the challenges women with PCOS face. The documentary explores the challenges, triumphs and resilience of women as they navigate the complexities of the condition. Like I said, I hope every woman living with PCOS watches this and feels loved, seen and heard.

Why the choice of Michael Akinrogunde as the director of the documentary?

Well, because I felt that Michael Akinrogunde who is fondly called AMA Psalmist could bring to life my vision for creating awareness about PCOS. The Covenant University graduate has worked on some of the biggest blockbusters produced in the country as well as getting accolades for his work.

I suppose being affected compelled you to start a foundation on PCOS

Yes it did. I am the founder of ‘The Future Is Her,’ a nonprofit organisation dedicated to the education and early diagnosis of people living with PCOS.

Will you be shooting more of this kind of documentary film?

Of course. We will be producing more documentaries that shine light on some issues that are not frequently talked about and hopefully films and TV shows. I have a studio where I will be producing it with my all female team.

Your podcast, ‘Hook me up with Stephanie Coker’ is a little over two years-old now. How has the journey been?

It has been good. I joined the podcast train in 2019 and the podcast series was tagged ‘Unscripted with Stephanie Coker’. It was me having real, unscripted, unfiltered conversations with some celebrities; talking about different issues from marriage, fashion, life and everything in between. That was short-lived.

In 202o during the COVID-19 pandemic, I started a live session on Instagram where I was helping people out and they really loved it and wanted me to continue. I found another way to do this, that is more seamless because Instagram live can be a bit clumsy. I wanted something that would be episodic so that people can go back and watch it. It was called ‘Hook me up with Stephanie Coker’ which was basically about relationships, marriage and hooking people up literally. It was more or less like having an ‘agony aunt’ who you tell all your issues. A guest and I would talk about these issues and try to help them out. Then there is a segment where people called in, seeking my help to find love. That was pretty much the premise of the podcast.

What was the inspiration behind it?

I have always loved dating shows. I recorded a dating show about five years ago, but I never aired it and since then I have always felt like I need to do this. Besides, I am really big on love, happiness and marriage. I just think that everyone deserves love. So, in my own way, I have been hooking people up. I even hooked people up in my day-to-day life and I have hooked a lot of my husband’s friends up.

In my last interview with you, you did mention that you were hoping that your podcast would transition to a talk show. How has that vision been going?

Yes, that was my aim and I am glad it has worked out. I now host ‘Me, Her & Everything Else,’ a show that is based on discussions around women, society and lifestyle with the aim of uplifting women and sharing their stories.

Not many people know you started your career on radio

Yeah, I actually started on radio. When I moved to Nigeria I started with Cool FM, stayed with them a couple of months. Then I was with MTV for five years. During that time, EbonyLife started. I joined EbonyLife too. I was the first presenter on Ebony Life because I was the co-host during Mo Abudu’s search for presenters. I did their first reality show with two other ladies. Cameras were following us around. I hosted the Wardrobe Diary on EbonyLife as well.

I also hosted a couple of big shows on EbonyLife. I was also on Tinsel at that time. I was working on every single network and people would ask me how I was able to do that. I was on EbonyLife, MTV, Africa Magic plus, Tinsel, all at the same time. And then I got to co-host The Voice season 1 and 2. I was still with MTV when I was doing that and most recently, in season 3 as the host of the Red Room.

You have appeared in some blockbuster movies like ‘The Fate of Alakada,’ ‘The Wedding Planner’ and ‘King of Boys 2.’ What determines the movie you feature in?

I am so picky when it comes to the movies I feature in. I really just want to stick to movies that are organised and not very large, you know, not like ‘oh come on set and just do this character.’ I really want to absorb the character, even if it’s like a two minute scene. I really want to be able to do that.

How do you juggle acting, being a media personality, a mum and a wife?

I am used to it and I like to think of myself as someone who can multitask. But juggling between motherhood and work gives you this ‘Mom Guilt.’ Whenever you leave the house, you just feel guilty. But I am happy that my daughter is in school now so that gives me more room to juggle.

You once revealed that you had your daughter through In Vitro Fertilis ation, (IVF). Why did you feel the need to reveal that?

My mom actually told me not to talk about it. Most people who go through IVF do not like to talk about it because they feel it’s like a stigma and people are going to look at you differently.

Most people associate IVF with people who have made several unsuccessful attempts at getting pregnant. But you were married for only three years and then you tried IVF. Why?

Well, a couple of things, but really the main one was that I felt like I was wasting time as well. So I just thought if there’s a quick solution to something as opposed to the whole process of trying and trying, why not give it a trial.

What happened was that I developed ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome which is a syndrome where your ovaries hyper stimulate and I got really sick like it was really bad; it was life threatening. I was in the hospital and was on anesthestics every day because they were trying to drain liquid out of me after the egg retrieval to make embryos. I got really sick and felt like I was actually done. I did IVF because I didn’t want to waste time. Besides, there were other things as well that were going on. So, I said let’s just do this because it was straight forward and that was it.

A lot of young people do it, though they just don’t say it because they feel like somebody may go like ‘Oh! Your fallopian tube must be really bad, maybe because you had lots of abortion.’ People are too quick to jump into conclusion; they don’t usually think it might be genetic or just medical issues.

What is your take on surrogacy?

Surrogacy is yet to be openly accepted here. That’s the same thing we have argued about because some people still go to church and they will be like God did it for them. Obviously I know that God is involved because without God science won’t be available, but people keep saying that it was because their pastor prayed fervently and then they had triplets. We all know that triplets are mostly from IVF. And the problem of not being open is that people end up feeling like God neglected them, meanwhile, this person has probably done IVF and they are not saying what they did, they just say that the pastor was amazing and now I am pregnant. Don’t get me wrong, I know it happens, but the truth of the matter is that there are other things involved.

What was growing up like for you?

It was good. I have a brother who lives in the United Kingdom and works at the London Stock Exchange. My growing up years were very nostalgic. I grew up in London, but our home was a typical Nigerian home. I used to listen to a lot of fuji music from Salawa Abeni, Lagbaja, Haruna Ishola, Kwam1 and Sunny Ade. I think when you have an accent people just believe that maybe you don’t listen to all those kinds of songs. And I used to attend a lot of Owambe parties in London. When I got into the University, I would come to Nigeria on holiday and one time I stayed for like a year it was on one of such occasions that I met my husband.

Why did you move back to Nigeria?

Even though Nigeria lacks a lot of structure, there is something about it that allows you to be independent. You know in the UK, there are safety nets and structures put in place to make life easy. You go to work and come home, everything is available, there is electricity, water but the thing is that when you’re an ambitious person you have to be around ambitious people and I felt like there are so many ambitious people in Nigeria, especially in Lagos.

When I moved back, I really hustled, though my own suffering was the ‘ajebutter’ suffering because my mom gave me money when money finished in my bank account. I was living in a two-bedroom apartment in Lekki. Before then, I lived in Ebute Metta and then Maryland. But then my mom cut me off because I was always going to eat at ‘The Palms’ shopping mall. She told me to go find a job. So I started managing my money like in the morning I would buy ‘puff puff’, then in the afternoon I would buy indomie noodles and then I would watch Africa Magic Yoruba all day with the househelp then. And then I would create a proposal and concept about shows. I feel things were better than they are now, because everybody then was just trying to make it. There weren’t Instagram people who were showing off.

What is it about your growing up years that has shaped you to be who you are today?

I will say being exposed to different people. While in London I grew up in a multicultural setting with different types of people who had different upbringing and opinions. Which is what taught me not to be judgmental. So, I think that allowed me to be open minded and also to be able to express myself and it taught me to be resilient as well because my mom is very hardworking. She did a lot like shuttling between three jobs and she really inspired me to really hustle and also to work hard. I feel one really needs to pay your dues and work hard. Everything used to be based on merit. It’s changing now, which is fine, but I still believe that you should work hard. Sometimes you’re given a job just because you’re popular on Instagram. Everything isn’t based on talents anymore unlike how it was before.

Two years ago, the late Olowu of Owu Kingdom, Oba Adesanya Olugboyega Dosunmu bestowed on you and your husband the chieftaincy titles of Akinruiyiwa and Yèyé Akinruiyiwa of Owu kingdom. Why do you think you were both singled out for the titles?

Because the King saw what my husband has done for the Owu Kingdom and communities around Abeokuta through his initiatives. Everyone is very proud of him, including former President Olusegun Obasanjo who is not only an Owu indigene but who was also physically present when we were bestowed with the titles. My husband’s title means the warrior that brought dignity home. So by default, I got the title as well. I believe that my husband is very deserving of this. He has definitely brought dignity to his hometown. He has gone through so many challenges and adversities and overcame them and continued to recognise the people in his hometown by helping them through our foundation and by trying to make life easier for them. My family is grateful for being bestowed with these titles.

How is your vision on impacting humanity with your titles going?

We have always been about charitable deeds and helping people around us. Through the Olumide Stephanie Aderinokun Foundation, we have been impacting women and children and have been giving back to schools, built boreholes in communities, etc. We have supplied electricity to communities that do not have any source of light. We plan on doing so many other things, but I personally have been using my platform to help and I am planning a project that will be beneficial to the Owu kingdom, Abeokuta and Lagos State. This will revolve around children and fashion.

If you were not into the entertainment industry and media, what other profession do you think you would have been comfortable with?

I have no clue, maybe law. I studied Media and Communication. I have always known what I wanted to do

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