By Frank Opara
Then fledgling Kate Henshaw, today the five star Nollywood actress, mother, the face of Onga, the quality food product of Promasidor, GLO ambassador, etc., was once made to believe she was a failure by the authorities of the University of Calabar. She was removed from school by the bestial withdrawal policy of UNICAL.
Down, but not out, she left UNICAL feeling embarrassed and humiliated after becoming so popular within the short time she had been in the school through her latent skill in singing (miming) and dancing. She and her two beautiful friends belonged to a group of campus stage performers.
At the University’s New Arts Theater called NAT, the trio never failed to keep their student audience spell bound with their stellar performances each time they were given the opportunity to do so on the superb colorfully lightened stage of NAT.
The social wing of the Student’s Union government then ensured there was no dull moment for the students with series of social events, the most popular of such event being the “Talentica”.
It was a show every student looked forward to at the beginning of a new session; a platform for discovering talents on campus. This was the gong, the town crier so to say that first announced Kate Henshaw to the relatively small university audience as a star in the making. Like a triple jumper, this was her first leap to stardom.
With the right attitude and uncommon determination to “fail forward” as the saying goes, and an enthusiasm of one who is about to make new discoveries, she found herself in Lagos, where she continued her search for an opportunity to prove herself once again.
It was there that this beauty and brain found her way to fame. That opportunity was a turning point in her young life. She was made the face of a popular body cream in a scintillating advert that equally became so popular with the teeming Nigerian television viewers.
In the advert, Kate regaled in a mauve colored bath gown, gradually cascading down her feet, revealing some part of her smooth spotless body and her beautiful long legs. That was it! Kate Henshaw had arrived! And she has never looked back ever since! Truly, in every crisis, there lie opportunities.
I still remember with nostalgia the very first day I saw this advert on television and had to share the touchy story with one of my sisters. In a flustering hush tone, unwittingly assuming I was still under the watch of the tense ambience of the university campus, where such topics are nothing but euphemisms for failure and irresponsibility and so should not be discussed openly, I narrated the story to my sister with so much enthusiasm and the curiosity of a reporter.
The story of Offiong (that was her name in UNICAL) Kate Henshaw reminds me of a timeless saying that every successful person is someone who failed yet never regarded himself or herself as a failure. Albert Einstein, one of the greatest thinkers of our time comes to mind.
We were told that young Albert’s schoolmaster once told him that he would never “amount to much”. The same goes for the legendary classical music composer, Wolfgang Mozart who was reminded that one of his famous opera was far too noisy and had too many notes.
Interestingly, like the greats mentioned above, Kate never believed what UNICAL authorities told her. She knew herself more than they and anyone else could tell her. She had an image of an achiever and defiantly grew to her potentials to match that image.
Put differently, she tried to be the image she envisioned. She felt challenged and sought to prove herself and so moved on with her life in Lagos, a competitive city in comparison from she was coming from.
Sometimes, I wish Kate could tell her story more often for the benefit of our young ladies, the social butterflies and, of course, the rest of us who still believe in free rides. Each time I come across the face of Kate Henshaw anywhere, I get a smug feeling of inspiration.
And I have never hesitated to tell Kate’s story to young girls, some of whom are her admirers, who have found it difficult to differentiate between a mistake and failure each time they are faced with challenges.
Regrettably, the average Nigerian mind has been eclipsed by religion in a scientific age. Our young ladies seem to be the worst culprits. They crisscross all manner of worship centres in the land searching for signs and wonders and “sharp-sharp” remedies to life challenges.
They worship their pastors more than they worship God. In their well-groomed outfits on top of their stilettos and, of course, their God-given brains to think and develop, they prefer to “claim it”.
God has planted a spark in each and every one of us. It is left for us to discover and apply it whenever we encounter problems. “Claiming it” and “it is well” has so much ruined our people that we no longer think rationally. We “claim” even negative situations we can change and apply the “it is well” slogan to apparent avoidable adversities.
Kate Henshaw is a shining example of what most of our young ladies lack today in the long and arduous journey to success. She is a classical example of what perseverance means. She never gave up. She believed in her ability and trudged on because she saw where she is today the very day she refused to see her mistake as a failure.
She never internalized it but rather as Shakespeare would say, “bore it as our Roman actors do, with untired spirit and formal constancy”. Above all, she remained positive and maintained the right attitude. These are the trademarks of an achiever!
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