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[Interview] Yvonne Nelson, Actress and Entrepreneur, Ghana

[Interview] Yvonne Nelson, Actress and Entrepreneur, Ghana

Yvonne Nelson is a renowned Ghanaian actress and producer who has led a life filled with significant moments that illuminate her remarkable characteristics as a human being. From her early struggles to her rise to stardom and her dedication to social causes, Yvonne Nelson continues to be an inspiring example of the multifaceted qualities that define her.

What can you tell us about your early years growing up in Accra, Ghana, and how those years shaped you into the woman you are today?

Growing up in Dansoman, a suburb of Accra, has been a defining aspect of my life. My childhood was filled with a mix of unique experiences, challenges, and invaluable life lessons that have molded me into the woman I am today. If you read my memoir; “I Am Not Yvonne Nelson”, you will realize that I encountered challenges that tested my resilience, but they also taught me the value of resourcefulness and the importance of giving back to the community.
With how far I have come, I hope to inspire others to embrace their own backgrounds and draw strength from their early years because our roots are a source of power and wisdom, and they shape us into the unique individuals we become.

Was show business always part of your plan, or did you come into it by chance?

Show business wasn't always part of my plan or dream, but it turned out to be one of the most rewarding journeys I've ever embarked upon. Even though I have loved music from the early days, show business wasn’t part of the plan. My friend Karen Okata Boateng mooted me into taking part in Miss Ghana pageant and subsequently being scouted by renowned movie producer Abdul Salam Mumuni who gave me my biggest role in Princess Tyra. It wasn't planned, but I embraced it wholeheartedly. Acting was a new challenge, and I saw it as a way to explore my creativity and connect with audiences on a deeper level. Over the years, I've worked hard, honed my craft, and been fortunate enough to be part of some incredible projects. While it may not have been my initial plan, show business has become an integral part of my life. It's given me the platform to tell stories, convey important messages, and connect with people from all walks of life. In retrospect, I'm grateful for the opportunities that came my way and the path that led me into show business. It's a reminder that sometimes the most rewarding adventures in life are the unexpected ones. I continue to embrace this journey with passion and gratitude for all the experiences and people it has brought into my life.

There are those in Ghana, and Africa, that believe acting to be a negative career choice for a woman. What would you say to that?

I respect everyone's perspective, and it's important to acknowledge that different cultures and societies have their own beliefs and values. In Ghana and Africa, as in many parts of the world, there can be varying opinions about certain career choices, including acting, especially when it comes to women. However, I firmly believe that career choices should be based on one's passion, talent, and personal aspirations rather than societal expectations. Acting, like any other profession, can be a positive and fulfilling career for women. It's a platform for self-expression, storytelling, and connecting with audiences. It can empower women to be strong, confident, and influential voices in society. I've been fortunate to work with incredibly talented and inspiring women in the entertainment industry who have broken barriers and made a positive impact. I would encourage anyone, regardless of their gender, to pursue their dreams and passions with determination and resilience. Ultimately, what matters is the impact we make and the positive change we can bring to our communities and beyond.

Your acting career has taken you to Nigeria and Cote d’Ivoire, making dozens of movies in both countries. How would you describe that experience?

Working in Nigeria and Cote d'Ivoire has been an enriching and transformative experience in my acting career. It's been a journey filled with both challenges and incredible opportunities that have broadened my horizons and allowed me to grow as an artist. These film industries have their own unique charm and storytelling styles. Collaborating with talented actors, directors, and production teams in these countries has given me the chance to explore different narratives, cultures, and perspectives. It's been a remarkable learning experience. One of the most striking aspects of this journey has been the warm reception and love I've received from audiences out there. It's heartwarming to witness the power of storytelling to bridge cultural gaps and connect people from diverse backgrounds. I've made lasting friendships and built a strong professional network in these countries. Of course, there have been challenges, too, such as adapting to different working environments and schedules. But overcoming these challenges has been an integral part of my growth as an actress. In essence, my experience working out there has been a beautiful tapestry of creativity, collaboration, and cultural exchange. It's an experience that I deeply cherish and one that has added depth and diversity to my acting career.

In 2015 you mobilized a peaceful protest against power outage in Ghana. What motivated you to personally get involved and to do this?

The 2015 'Dumsor Must Stop' campaign was a significant moment in my life, and it was driven by a deep concern for my fellow Ghanaians who were enduring frequent and prolonged power outages, which we locally referred to as 'dumsor.' It was a challenging period for our country, and I felt compelled to use my platform to advocate for positive change. What motivated me to get involved in this campaign was a strong sense of responsibility as a citizen and a belief in the power of collective action. I could not ignore the daily struggles of ordinary Ghanaians who were affected by these outages - students unable to study, businesses facing financial losses, and the overall impact on our economy. I believed that as someone in the public eye, I had a moral duty to speak up on behalf of those whose voices weren't always heard. The 'Dumsor Must Stop' campaign was a peaceful and non-partisan way to highlight the issue and call for accountability from our leaders. I also drew inspiration from the resilience and unity of the Ghanaian people. The campaign was not about me alone; it was about all of us coming together to demand a better future for our country. It was a testament to the power of collective action and the belief that positive change is possible when we stand together. In the end, 'Dumsor Must Stop' was more than just a campaign; it was a symbol of hope and a reminder that we all have a role to play in shaping the destiny of our nation. It remains one of the most meaningful experiences of my life, and I'm proud to have been a part of it.

Apart from being a movie star, you are also an entrepreneur with many business interests. Please tell us about it.

Certainly, my journey as an entrepreneur has been an exciting and fulfilling one alongside my career in the entertainment industry. In addition to acting, I've always had a keen interest in fashion and beauty, which led me to launch YN Closet & YN Hair collection in 2011. Also in September 2021, I released the YN Bag Collection. YN Production and YN Studios are also my production companies. As an entrepreneur, I've learned valuable lessons about business management, marketing, and customer relations. It's been a journey of growth and innovation, and I'm proud of what we've achieved so far. My goal is to continue expanding my brand and reaching even more people who share a passion for fashion and self-expression. In the future, I'm excited about exploring new opportunities and collaborations that align with my values and the vision I have for my brand. Being an entrepreneur allows me to connect with my fans and customers on a different level, and it's a journey for which I'm truly grateful.

Please tell us about Heels & Sneakers, the TV series you are producing and directing.

Heels & Sneakers is a project that is very close to my heart, and I'm excited to share more about it. It's a series that I am producing and the first three seasons were directed by Maxwell Awuni. The show is primarily aimed at a diverse audience, encompassing individuals who appreciate compelling storytelling.
The series delves into the lives of modern African women, exploring their dreams, aspirations, challenges, and triumphs as well as it focuses on parenting and campus lifestyle.
Heels & Sneakers explores themes that are relatable to many, regardless of their background or location. It is currently streaming on my YouTube. Subscribe to Yvonne Nelson’s YouTube and watch it. The goal is to reach viewers not just in Ghana but across the African continent and beyond.

We understand you opened a daycare, Just Like Mama. How wonderful! How did this come to be?

Thank you! The journey of opening 'Just Like Mama' daycare has been both fulfilling and meaningful for me. It all began with a personal experience. As a mother, I understand the challenges and concerns parents face when it comes to finding quality childcare.
I wanted to create a safe and nurturing environment where parents could entrust the care of their little ones with peace of mind. 'Just Like Mama' daycare is not just a business venture; it's a labor of love and a commitment to providing the best possible care for children.
The name 'Just Like Mama' reflects the idea that we provide a loving and caring atmosphere, similar to what a child experiences at home with their mother. Our dedicated staff and educators are passionate about early childhood development and are focused on creating a warm and educational setting. Our daycare is designed to cater to the needs of working parents and provide a place where children can learn, play, and grow. We offer age-appropriate activities, nutritious meals, and a supportive environment that encourages social and emotional development. I strongly believe in the importance of early childhood education, and 'Just Like Mama' daycare is my way of contributing to the well-being and development of children in our community. It's been a rewarding experience, and I look forward to seeing the positive impact it has on the lives of the children and families we serve.

Is it affordable to the average income earner in Accra?

Yes, affordability has been a key consideration in the establishment of 'Just Like Mama daycare.' I believe that quality childcare should be accessible to families across different income brackets. In Accra, as in many cities, the cost of childcare can be a significant concern for parents. We have worked diligently to ensure that our pricing is reasonable.
We aim to strike a balance between providing a high standard of care, qualified staff, and a nurturing environment while keeping our services affordable. We understand the financial pressures that parents face, and we are committed to being inclusive and accommodating to a diverse range of families. Ultimately, our goal is to provide a safe, enriching, and affordable childcare option for the families of Accra. We are proud to be able to contribute positively to the community in this way.

Now on to your book, I Am Not Yvonne Nelson, released in June 2023. In this tell-all narrative, you were quite candid about your experiences, career, and even relationships. What has been the reaction from the public and your fellow celebrities, especially those you mention in the book?

The response to "I Am Not Yvonne Nelson" has been overwhelming. Many readers have appreciated my honesty and openness about my experiences.
As I wrote in my (author's) note of "I Am Not Yvonne Nelson," I reflect on turning 38 and the common belief that life truly begins at 40. Despite not yet reaching that milestone, I explain my urgency to write my memoir. I acknowledge that my life journey has been both challenging and filled with misconceptions perpetuated by bloggers and media. I clarify that my purpose in writing is not to seek sympathy, validation, or correct narratives but to share my real story, especially with young women aspiring to fame. I aim to demystify the life of a celebrity, revealing the human side behind the fame, the choices I had to make, and the consequences. I embrace the raw and unfiltered truth, showing both my successes and failures, with the hope that my story will help others navigate the challenges they faced. Ultimately, I express a deep longing to find answers about myself through this candid storytelling. This is what matters the most.

Of the many projects in which you are involved, and have been involved over the decades, which means the most to you, and why?

It's hard to pick just one project that means the most to me, as each has its own significance. However, I would like to talk about my current project: The Yvonne Nelson Real Tour of Basic and Senior High Schools. It is an advocacy project on Sexual Health Awareness where I and my team of doctors and knowledgeable speakers talk to children about sexual health and abstinence. It holds a special place in my heart. It's a cause I'm deeply passionate about, and knowing that it has the potential to improve the well-being of children makes it incredibly meaningful to me.

Combining an active career and being a mother is a challenge. How do you juggle the inevitable clash of priorities and expectations?

Balancing my career and motherhood has indeed been a challenge, but it's all about effective time management and a strong support system. I prioritize my daughter and make sure to plan my work schedule around her needs. Also, having a supportive nanny and a reliable childcare institution has been invaluable in helping me manage these clashing priorities. It's not always easy, but it's worth it.

What next can your fans expect from you?

I have several exciting projects in the works right now, including a new film and other philanthropic initiatives. My fans can expect more thought-provoking and entertaining content from me, both on and off-screen. I'm always looking to challenge myself and explore new avenues in my career, so there's a lot to look forward to in the coming months.

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