Writings of the general word's body

Monday, March 19, 2007

Funmi Desalu on Ugly Betty

It was a classic blast from the past three weeks ago, when during an episode of Ugly Betty, a friend I'd not seen for 9 years or so came swanning past on the screen. I was on a phone call at the time and screamed into the mouthpiece, "Ahhh!!! Funmi Desalu's on Ugly Betty!!!"

Blink and you'll miss her, but a few seconds was enough. When the hour-plus repeat came on shortly after, I took this blurry shot of a screen in constant motion. Ever had a friend you were very fond of but had lost touch with, and wondered now and then where they were? What they were up to and if they were okay? I've wondered the same concerning Funmi Desalu since she left London for the US in search of bigger modelling dreams circa 1996. She, myself and a number of mutual friends were once part of what I've called
"an impossibly glamorous pack of young Nigerians living in London known as the North West Set."

Born in Moscow to a Gambian mother and a Nigerian father, Funmi Desalu was/is tall, sophisticated and witty. She inspired a character in a short story of mine. I remember Funmi always used to laugh at the way I called an irritant male "a cretin". I've scanned the odd fashion magazine for some sighting of her over the years - and saw nothing. Until now. I guess I'm glad to learn my old friend is walking on the right side of fame.

In this episode of Ugly Betty (starring producer Salma Hayek and Vanessa Williams, who is astonishing as Wilhemina Slater), Funmi is credited for a non-speaking role, playing an assistant in a conference scene with Ugly Betty star America Ferrara. And in the following week's episode, it was a game of 'Spot Funmi' as she could be seen as one of the extras in the elaborate choreography of background office workers walking back and forth behind the main players. My curiousity piqued, I googled Funmi only to find that she's credited for a string of small roles as "Fumi Desalu" (somebody please put the 'n' back into that name! At least Ugly Betty got the spelling right). As a result, I'm now paying better attention to episodes of 'How I Met Your Mother' in case my old friend turns up one day as a 'bar waitress'.

Funmi's biggest turn to date would appear to be in Eddie Murphy's latest film, Norbit.

Unfortunately, it is the kind of film I absolutely detest, for the lavatorial humour that reaches only for the lowest common denominator. But most importantly, for the perpetuation of the disgusting stereotype of the 'dark' black woman who is so fat and undesirable no one in their right minds would want her. She is so ugly, even a man could play her convincingly on film.

Eddie Murphy (and Martin Lawrence - with his 'Big Momma's House' movies) has a made a career of raking millions out of this uneducated stereotype (I'll never forgive his twisted-mouthed African woman's: "Eddieee, what have you done for me latelyyy?" joke) which is harmful to black females. Murphy does this, while (1) his ex-wife and mother of his five children; (2) his contentiously pregnant ex-girlfriend Mel B; and (3) his current, joined-at-the-hip squeeze Tracey B Edmonds (Babyface's ex-wife) - are all very obviously mixed race - light-skinned black women; the opposite of the 'dark' black woman he lampoons mercilessly onscreen. And in this new film, the 'disgusting'-fat-mistake-of-a-black-woman is juxtaposed with the 'fragrant' female that Norbit-the-geek desires - and she's played by the obviously mixed race Thandie Newton. Need I say more?

It was really good seeing Eddie Murphy challenge the viewer's expectation in
Dreamgirls, a film in which he is really, really good. But any goodwill he garnered for that role is destroyed by Norbit. I'm glad he didn't get that Oscar.

But look at me! Talking about my delight at seeing a long lost friend on an international hit show and getting bogged down with the colour politics of a movie! After all, it's only a movie, isn't it? No, it's never really only a movie. But I respect the fact that Norbit was good payday and another notch in Funmi Desalu's resume. Writers have to work strategically sometimes too - some you do for love of the art and some you do for god-knows-what. And for this reason, I shall put myself through 2 hours of excruciating 'humour' - and pay for a ticket to see Norbit - just to see Funmi Desalu for a few minutes on that big screen. That's what old friends are for, I guess.

And I look forward to the day I see Funmi in the flesh, again.

18 comments:

My Talking Beginnings said...

But you ARE right about the Eddie Murphy thing, i am glad someone is reading between the lines and not just guzzling down hollywood tripe! As per Ugly Betty, your friend Bunmi might not be the only Nigerian on there, i read somewhere that Nigerian model Ojy is also in it too!

Wordsbody said...

My Talking Beginnings,

Thanks for stopping by. Glad to know Funmi Desalu is not the only Naija on Ugly Betty. I always beam with pride when I see a Nigerian name in film closing credits. But Funmi's one is extra special, joyous even, because one knows her on a personal level.

MW

Anonimouse said...

OK. So Eddie Murphy prefers black women who are almost white while he ridicules dark ones. But from what I hear, it's what he thinks of dark black men that counts sometimes. Heard the one about Eddie Murphy and Johnny Gill?

Jola Naibi said...

Oh I am so glad you went off on a tangent and mentioned Eddie Murphy's annoying roles - reading about the irritating male friend that you called a cretin, kindly allow me to put Eddieee in that category. Don't get me wrong, he has had a great career but the roles he has played from the Klumps to more recently Norbit are so unfunny in my book and I credit myself with having a relatively healthy sense of humor.
Thank you for sharing about your friend Funmi Desalu...I will be sure to look out for her in other roles and I am sending her tons of positive vibes that her career continues to be successful and that she will break ground yet. In the past decade, there have been so many Nigerians in the international entertainment industry and beyond that one is able to look beyond the many idiosyncracies that plague our nation and think of being oneself and making a name for oneself

Wordsbody said...

Anonymouse,

I guess I should respond to yours above and say: No, I don't think I've heard the one about Eddie and...

I suppose the focus here should be on what is known and generally acknowledged, as opposed to hearsay.

MW

Milton said...

Nice commentary wordsbody...i just stumbled across it because coincidentally we're about to run a brief interview with Ms. Desalu on www.blackstarnews.com ....my website, which by the way i invite all to visit...and also look out for my book..The Hearts of Darkness How White Writers Created The Racist Image of Africa...(if u can't find @ a Barnes & Noble...can order via amazon or Black Star Books 212-481-7745).
Are you also actress/model?

milton

Wordsbody said...

Hi Milton,

I'm a writer. I'll check out your book on Amazon.

Your site looks great and I'll visit regularly from now on. Great news, that you're about to run an interview with Funmi Desalu. If it comes up, please tell her an old friend is watching her progress with interest and pride.

My email, in case: laralara8@hotmail.com

MW

sokari said...

See Review of African Blogs on Pambazuka News:

http://www.pambazuka.org/en/category/blog/40484

Anonymous said...

Funny that Funmi mentioned she was West African or was it African? No mention of her Nigerian roots or her ever living in Lagos.The 'n' absent from her name is intentional as I saw her website. I remember her from Lagos. She was at school with a friend of mine. Her official date of birth makes her 29!!!!! I am 40 and I begin to wonder...give or take Funmi is def no more than 2 years younger than me! I guess acting and the modelling world puts you in some kind of dream state.

Happy for her o. But the 'k' leg too plenty.

Yanju Desalu said...

Directed @ anonymous - I noticed that you don't have the courage to put your name up there to back up your words. Anyhow let me educate you on life in America as an "African" trying to make it in the entertainment industry.

1. Fumi (as she spells her name)not sure if it is up to you to determine her stage name (which automatically tells me you are of African) is half Nigerian and half Gambian - born in Moscow USSR and raised mainly in the UK.
2. Fumi proudly claims and exalts her African roots in all she does -pretty obvious you are an outsider with little relevance in her circle of friends or you would know otherwise.
3. She is obviously not 29 I'll let you figure that out for yourself since you are such a knowlegeable and successful actor/actress in a youth driven society.
4. It is always those who have achieved NOTHING in their lives or even worse do not have the capacity to achieve ANYTHING that come out swinging at those who are precariously trying to navigate their way in their chosen profession against all odds.
(a) A woman.
(b) A black woman.
(c) A black woman not born in America.
I dare you to name ANY successful woman with that criteria in Hollywood. Exactly! So why don't you focus on you and let Fumi do Fumi (apparently she has done a good job since you feel the need to comment on Her "life").

A very proud brother,
Yanju Desalu

Yanju Desalu said...

Directed @ anonymous - I noticed that you don't have the courage to put your name up there to back up your words. Anyhow let me educate you on life in America as an "African" trying to make it in the entertainment industry.

1. Fumi (as she spells her name)not sure if it is up to you to determine her stage name (which automatically tells me you are of African descent and most likely male) is half Nigerian and half Gambian - born in Moscow USSR and raised mainly in the UK.
2. Fumi proudly claims and exalts her African roots in all she does -pretty obvious you are an outsider with little relevance in her circle of friends or you would know otherwise.
3. She is obviously not 29 I'll let you figure that out for yourself since you are such a knowlegeable and successful actor/actress in a youth driven society.
4. It is always those who have achieved NOTHING in their lives or even worse do not have the capacity to achieve ANYTHING that come out swinging at those who are precariously trying to navigate their way in their chosen profession against all odds.
(a) A woman.
(b) A black woman.
(c) A black woman not born in America.
I dare you to name ANY successful woman with that criteria in Hollywood. Exactly! So why don't you focus on you and let Fumi do Fumi (apparently she has done a good job since you feel the need to comment on Her "life").

A very proud brother,
Yanju Desalu

Anonymous said...

I don´t think appearing as an extra makes anyone an actress. I wouldn't call her an actress at all. She ´s a fraud like most Nigerian. She claims she´s starred alongside Will Smith in Hancock and I couldn't spot her anywhere in the movie. As for Ugly Betty , you actually have to avoid the main scene and focus on what´s going on at the back to see her. She came to Norway and claimed to be a famous actress when in actual fact she nothing but an extra who hardly ever got speaking role. According to her she was in Dreamgirls . While I´m happy she´s gotten some work in Norway , I don't think she should have pretended to be an actress. For someone who grew up in Scotland her accent is unmistakably Nigerian. She has not hint of either American or British accent.

Fumi's Fashion Files! said...

@ Anonymous said...
December 28, 2011
Anonymous said...
I don´t think appearing as an extra makes anyone an actress. I wouldn't call her an actress at all. She ´s a fraud like most Nigerian. She claims she´s starred alongside Will Smith in Hancock and I couldn't spot her anywhere in the movie. As for Ugly Betty , you actually have to avoid the main scene and focus on what´s going on at the back to see her. She came to Norway and claimed to be a famous actress when in actual fact she nothing but an extra who hardly ever got speaking role. According to her she was in Dreamgirls . While I´m happy she´s gotten some work in Norway , I don't think she should have pretended to be an actress. For someone who grew up in Scotland her accent is unmistakably Nigerian. She has not hint of either American or British accent.

Response part 1
Wow, Wow, Wow!
When I read this particular post, I just HAD to respond. Ist of all whoever you are, you're a coward.
Secondly, how DARE you insult my fellow Nigerians???
Rule one, ANYBODY, and that includes Tom Hanks, Will Smith, Ton Cruise and the list goes on....ALL did extra work! B'cos you've obviously never ever left Norway, you're completely clueless. EVERYBODY does extra work, this is the way you learn what acting is. You might go and study acting, but the real teaching is on the set.
What do u think? That all actors just became famous like that without any effort and doing small roles first?
I will also correct you, I AM AN ACTRESS. I'm a member of SAG (Screen Actors Guild) and AFTRA (American Federation of Television and Radio Artists).
It is IMPOSSIBLE to become a member of these world renowned and established Unions without having SIX speaking roles in a film, Television Series and/or a Commercial. IMPOSSIBLE.
THAT, my dear is not FRAUD, it's a fact.

Fumi's Fashion Files! said...



Response Part 2 to
Anonymous said...December 28, 2011



The ONLY reason I came to Norway is b'cos I'm married to a Norwegian. I was born in Moscow, Russia and grew up in East Kilbride, Scotland. I left when I was a young girl of 13.
My family relocated to Lagos, Nigeria where I stayed until I was 21, leaving with the title of The 1st Super Model of West Africa title under my belt to London, where I went to The University in London and studied Business Administration/Marketing and was a model with the prestigious Elite Model Agency.
Once I graduated my agency took me to New York where I continued with my career and also got into commercials for Colgate and cosmetic brands.
It was these commercials that led me to be scouted and I was sent to LA to play a lead role in one of Puff Daddy's music video's. He was dating Jennifer Lopez at the time and was a really great mentor/friend to me.
Many, many actors have done music videos for big recording artists such as Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson (Jennifer Lopez starred in one of hers) and so many others. That's what you do, you do everything across the board for your craft. And so I began to go back and forth from LA to New York, working as a MODEL as well as an ACTRESS.
While in New York I took my acting talent very seriously and attended The Actors Studio. To begin with You can ONLY apply to NYU Actors Studio if you have a bachelors degree, I doubt if you even have the equivalent of A levels.
And then you have to Audition to get get in by James Lipton, the an American writer, composer, actor and dean emeritus of the Actors Studio Drama School at Pace University in New York City, AND the executive producer, writer and host of the Bravo cable television series Inside the Actors Studio!

Fumi's Fashion Files! said...

Response part 3 to

Anonymous said...December 28, 2011

Beauty and brains honey, we're very few of which you are not either judging from your post.
I am an American Citizen and a Proud Nigerian Citizen, I never and will never give up my Nigerian passport and I don't NEED a Norwegian passport like you.
I've traveled all over the world and lived in three continents and have never changed my accent unless I play a certain part in a film.
You have no idea what I've done and yes I have had lead/speaking roles in Ugly Betty and Hancock (have you ever heard of the cutting room floor? It's called editing, not everything makes it into the film. A film is shot for 21 to 45 days, you tell me how they're supposed to squeeze all of that in a 2hr feature film? I'm not the only one, lead actors get cutout too depending on how they want to direct the story, did u know that Will's wife was in it too? Yep, she got cut out!! ). That's a fact. Look at ALL the episodes of Ugly Betty honey, I know you're stupid but you cannot be BLIND as well.
What a shame that you should be so jealous and vindictive to make such false accusations and try to discredit my name!!! Worst of all about a complete industry that you have no CLUE about. You're one of those that just sits on your behind and believe everything that you see, how gullible are u.
I speak my native tongue and have learn Norwegian, plus I speak Russian and various accents.
Pray tell ALL of us in this forum what have you ever ached in your miserable life!
I've been in Norway for only 3 short years and against all odds have done Film, television, Hosted Red carpet events, Commercial and brought Norwegian Designers to show case their collection for the 1st time ever at New York Fashion week, plus had a feature on the on-line website of Italian Vogue.
I have achieved more in the 3 years in Norway than you will ever accomplish in your life time there.
And you have the flagrant audacity to call me a fraud!!!!!!
I AM the ONLY actress from Hollywood that lives in Norway!!!! That's also a fact! I live there and I'm yet to meet anybody else. I'm also the ONLY African American that is a member of the Norwegian actors Equity Association. I have done VERY well for myself and have achieved a hell of a lot, so maybe you should plead with me to teach you as opposed being the green eyed monster.
You're a joke and a disgrace.
Check your FACTS and THINK (oops, u cannot think) b4 you act.

Fumi's Fashion Files! said...

Response to
Anonymos February 23, 2009
Funny that Funmi mentioned she was West African or was it African? No mention of her Nigerian roots or her ever living in Lagos.The 'n' absent from her name is intentional as I saw her website. I remember her from Lagos. She was at school with a friend of mine. Her official date of birth makes her 29!!!!! I am 40 and I begin to wonder...give or take Funmi is def no more than 2 years younger than me! I guess acting and the modelling world puts you in some kind of dream state.
Happy for her o. But the 'k' leg too plenty.

Na wa O!
I'm going to clear this up for you b'cos you need to understand a few things. I'll over look what you stated here b'cos you really have no idea how Hollywood works. I'm very PROUD of who I am and that is of Nigerian/Yourba and Gambian/Wolof decent, that's why I consider myself West African, b'cos I'm from 2 different West African Countries. I'm not going to claim one and leave out the other.
More importantly my age. It's true that I'm 10 years older and very proud. You see every actress or actor needs representation to get you acting jobs, and so you have to find an agent and/or a manager that will represent you. Which I did. It was my agent who put my age at 10 years younger b'cos he said that I didn't look my age and would be type cast for only certain roles. To broaden my horizon, you have to be as versatile as possible b'cos your work and talent should never be pigeon holed into what casting agents think it should be. That also includes your name and many many times, how you look. She laughs, I woun't even begin to tell you the stage actress names they wanted me to have and I put my foot down and FOUGHT like hell to keep my name as close to the original as possible b'cos that is ME! This entertainment industry is SUPER competitive, u have actresses and actors coming to Hollywood every day trying to make it in an industry where only %1 percent succeed. The rest end up being waiters or security b'cos they're not able to make it. I'm extremely proud of how far I came and what I achieved in Hollywood b'cos millions of Hollywood hopefuls do even get that far.
It was strictly for profession work only. I don't have that age on any of my ID information or passport and anybody that is close to me (which you are not) knows the truth on top of the fact that this is a standard for everybody in Hollywood up until you make it internationally. Just name ANY actress or actor and I can tell you that, it's not their real name and their age is off from 15 to 5 years. It's called marketing and branding. So next time darling, pls do NOT be quick to judge. My work is in the public eye, I know what I'm doing and I'm sure if I take a peek into your skeleton wardrobe there will be a few unsavory secrets that are a 100 times worse about you spilling out onto the floor for everybody to GASP at.

Fumi's Fashion Files! said...

Thank you very much Wordsbody, you ever so kind and too much time has passed, it would be great to reconnect, you can contact me at www.Fumisfashionfiles.com

Final note!
We as entertainers/actors understand that we will never please everybody and we know that choosing our line of work we are going to have people say all kinds of things about us, that's the nature of the business.
But ALWAYS realize that not everything you read or see is truth or even formulated by us. We have families that hurt to read things like this.
All we want to do is do what we love and entertain you so it would be really nice if once in a while you showed some gratitude.

These are mostly women that have commented on this article, if we don't stand and support each other then it's very easy for others to bring us down.
That we are mostly African/black women and this is how we are behaving for everybody to see is a shame.

Fumi's Fashion Files! said...

And finally to the fraudulent Norwegian
You're even more stupid than I thought, People that are famous do not go around saying that they are famous. I know that you haven't had the good fortune of traveling (awwww, cannot afford it) But you have access to the Internet so anybody would know that I'm not Marilyn Monroe, or should I say Norma Jean Mortenson, since that's her real name and that's another issue people on this forum have with me.
I don't go around saying I'm famous, after all I didn't write this article about me and you, my crazed fan are the one who seems to be SOOOOOOOO interested in me that you have to sit down and watch films so that you can see me or not see me.
You insult my fellow Nigerians!!!!! I would be VERY careful if were you, yes, I do KNOW who u are. I wouldn't play with the big boys honey. Public record, Norway's population is only 5 million, while The federal Republic Nigeria's population is 162+ Million. They will EAT you for breakfast. And don't forget that while you don't know anything about Nigeria, I definitely know a lot about Norway since I've lived here for three and a half years. Norway has the highest rate of suicide, so why don't you do us all a favor and join the statistic. You are nothing but a FRAUD and a racist, let not mention again that you're a coward since you didn't declare who you are t the rest of the world.
My accent is authentically me, not from any place but a collective of everywhere I have lived, but then again how could you know that when you have not had the good fortune such as I have to travel the world let alone visit them. A Nigerian accent does not exist since Nigeria has many different ethnic groups with different accents, just like the United kingdom, or are you trying to tell me the Scottish sound the same as the English? The same goes for the USA, anybody who has lived there knows the difference from a Texas accent to a Brooklyn accent. You are definitely a stark illiterate, completely and totally without education. That's another thing about Norwegians, only %20 have a simple, basic bachelors university degree, shocking but true.
Hahahaha, I have to laugh, you say I'm not an actress, then how come anywhere I go, no matter what Country, no matter what language, no matter how OLD I am, I have been able to continue my career? THAT my dear is TALENT.
I'm in your movie theaters here in Norway, in your television Soap Opera's and read about in your magazines. I was the only ACTRESS that spoke THREE languages in the feature film, VARG VEUM.
So stop disgracing yourself and disgracing your Country and the good people of Norway. Instead line up like the others to by a ticket to watch me perform.
Check your FACTS and THINK (oops, u cannot think) b4 you act.
So do what you do best, shut up, wait in line and try and watch the movie. You're nothing but a crazy fan.
Sorry honey, I'm not signing any autographs today! ......Security pls take this Norwegian FRAUDULENT TRASH out of here!

Finally words body, I've noticed that you haven't been on this blog since March of 2012, it's a shame that I'm just seeing this now, but I CANNOT wait for you to come back and approve all of my comments for posting. This Norwegian racist and fraud not only insulted you and me but insulted all Nigerians. Again if we do not stand together, then we fault apart by letting other people and nationals see the lack of support amongst us. That you approved this persons comment and posted it, is absolutely something a Norwegian would NOT do to their own. That's food for thought for next time.