Nigerian Movie Star Profile
Genevieve Nnaji is undoubtedly the most misunderstood actress in todayís
emerging movie industry in Nigeria. But by all yardsticks, sheís also the
most prominent right now. In this interview by Naijarules.com editor, Sola
Osofisan, you will meet the Genevieve Nnaji you have never read about Ė in
her own words. In the most extensive interview she has ever been put through
to date, she talks about the pains of stardom.
Whether we accept it or not, we have never seen a star like Genevieve Nnaji
in Nigeria. She is the first of a new cadre of personalities Nigeria is
producing, glamorous faces, icons every youngster aspires to be like. Nnaji
has probably inspired more people to consider a career in acting than all
the other popular Nigerian actors put together. She came across as very
confident, even to the point of being impatient, but one can also argue that
it is youthful exuberance. At 24, sheís barely just become a woman and now
has this huge responsibility thrust upon her, to be the vanguard of a new
class of celebrities created solely by a larger than life screen presence.
She will not talk about her daughter, aside of accepting that she has one.
She believes she is protecting the girl from unnecessary media attention and
speculation. Probably the sensible thing to do, considering the danger
children of popular people can be exposed to in the world today.
She is a tough one to interview because she gives short answers and you have
to keep on probing to get more out of her, but she got across as a friendly
and warm individual. Her ideas are still in the formative stages, but she
knows her own mind and is not afraid to voice it. She says it as it is, not
one to pull punches. After reading this interview, you will either love her
more or dislike her even more. She obviously wants the world to take her on
her own terms.
Sola Osofisan: Youíre a very very very popular young lady. Do you know that?
Genevieve Nnaji: I am beginning to realize that.
S.O.: Letís talk about your fame. Sometimes, we ask for something, and then
when we get it, weíre not sure we want it anymore. Did you ask for this
fame? And now that you have it, do you still want it?
G.N.: I didnít want the popularity. That wasnít what I set out for. I set
out to act because itís something I enjoy doing. But the fame came with it.
Itís there, the benefits are there, but thatís not what I set out for and
thatís not what Iím doing here. Iím not here for the fame. I really do love
S.O.: But now that you have the fame, do you still want it, considering you
donít have your privacy anymore?
G.N.: I try. I try. I try to have a bit of privacy for myself. I try.
S.O.: Does it ever get difficult, tiring, having to smile and say hello and
greet everybody you meet on the street?
G.N.: No. No. Because people come up to me with different approaches and one
way or the other, you just laugh at their excitement, the different
expressions. But I donít fake it when I smile. It comes naturally. If you
make me smile, I smile. If I donít find you funny, I donít.
S.O.: Your website, Iíve been there a few times. Where did the idea come
from to build a website?
G.N.: I was called by my manager, Media Business Company, Helen Prest-Ajayi
Ė thatís what she does. She builds websites. She told me about the
importance. With the speed of my popularity, I needed some form of
communication, some form of medium to be able to reach out to my fans. It
was a good idea. Itís like a portfolio for me. The idea came from her.
S.O.: Do you stop by your website? How many times a week do you stop by your
G.N.: Itís hard because I am extremely busy, but I try at least once a week
to be there and personally, since I get so many mails, I read and try to see
if thereís anyone different. They all have the same thing to say really,
that they appreciate me and all. So I try my best to go through the ones I
can and then send a general reply. I do.
S.O.: When I did an article on you a few weeks ago, there were just 3000
entries in the guestbook. This morning, it is over 10,000 entries. How do
you respond to all these people?
G.N.: Yes. What Iím doing is Iím planning to make the best use of it, since
I have so many people on my site. Iím trying to make it more interesting,
more like a TV show on the Internet. Iím going to be running games on my
show. Iím going to be asking questions to find out how well they know me.
Thereís going to be gifts. Thereís going to be prizes. The one thing I know
they all want is to meet me.
As time goes on, I intend to run a charity program which I will involve as
many people as I can. I also intend to update it because it has been running
as a test for the past five months since I opened it. I just wanted to know
if people would react to it properly, if they would embrace it, because itís
quite expensive running a website. So, Iím satisfied now that people like
the idea and Iím encouraged. Now, I intend to update my fans on my
activities, especially my work. Even outside my work. Let them know about
everything I do, functions I attend, awards I receive and stuff like that.
Itís going to be hard because I canít do all that and be on location
shooting at the same time, attending different functions and all that. What
I try to do is get pictures and do a write up on different places and
different events. Thatís what I intend to do. Just fill them in on my
S.O.: So all these will happen in the next few months?
G.N. Oh yes. Iím still running around getting pictures. Last thing I did was
my trip to Sierra Leone. I made a little write up, few pictures of me and my
fans over thereÖ Itís hard. I have to get my own personal photographer to
really go around with me just to get the pictures. Itís hard that Iím doing
this all by myself though.
S.O.: Itís becoming very expensive being a star, isnít it?
G.N.: Yes. Yes, thatís what most people donít know. They think youíre
getting all the money, but weíre actually spending all the money to be where
we are at the same time.
S.O.: Having to get a personal photographerÖAnd youíre going to need someone
to be helping update the site fairly often and all thatÖ
G.N.: Yes. Iím already paying somebody to do that.
S.O.: You have a personal assistant?
G.N.: Em, yes, I am taking up my friend. I have someone.
S.O.: Do you miss your privacy at all?
G.N.: Yes. Of course I have to, because sometimes you just want to be
normal. You just want to something, do what every other person is doing
around you, especially when youíre in a gathering, youíre in a party and you
just want to let loose. You just want to boogie the way every other person
is doing, but you canít do it. You just have to act like the star, all eyes
on me kind of person. So, itís hard. But Iím trying not to deviate from my
true self anyway.
S.O.: Talking about your true self, what kind of person are you really?
G.N.: Everybody asks me that and I say the same thing.
S.O.: Well, you told everybody. You didnít tell me.
G.N.: Iím very reserved. Quite principled. I have my own view of life. Iím
simple. I believe I was well trained. Iím resourceful. I can be nice to
those who are nice to me. Generally, Iím a very normal girl, just like the
next-door neighbor. Nothing different.
S.O.: Talking about your upbringing, do you still live with your parents?
G.N.: Sort of. Yes, my family is very much around. And even though I have a
place of my own, I still stay with my brothers and sisters. The family house
is in Lagos as well and Iím always there.
S.O.: I know you grew up in Lagos. You were born in Lagos too?
G.N.: Yes. Well, kind of. I was born in my momís village and came into Lagos
when I was like a month old or something.
S.O.: Is there any difference between the Genevieve we see in public and the
one that is at home right now?
G.N.: Yes, definitely.
S.O.: Whatís the difference?
G.N.: I am myself when Iím at home.
S.O.: Oh, youíre not yourself when youíre in public? (GENERAL LAUGHTER)
G.N.: Iím very playful. Iím a very playful person. I can be funny, naughty.
I can be a clown, according to my friends. But I canít be all that in front
of people because people wonít understand. Theyíre like ďyou know, she
doesnít do comedyĒ. I believe Iím a different person at home.
S.O.: Tell me one naughty thing you have done.
G.N.: I donít knowÖ Canít remember.
S.O.: Hopefully, we will see you do comedy.
G.N.: (LAUGHING) Ah, very soon. Sooner than you think.
S.O.: What experiences have you had with your (GSM) phone?
G.N.: Hm, more than enough. (LAUGHING). My friends experience them with me
as well. A lot of people pick up my phone pretending to be me. Trust me, a
lot. Itís a good thing. Itís a good thing people want to reach me and talk
to me, different kinds of people from all walks of life, educated,
non-educated, the housewives, the men, the professionals and all of them.
Itís a good thing so I get to meet a whole lot of people on the phone.
S.O.: Your phone number is a very precious item on the Internet.
G.N.: Please tell me which number it is. I donít know.
S.O.: How many times have you had to change your phone number?
G.N.: Eh, letís seeÖ six.
S.O.: In the last one year?
G.N.: In the last one year, three times.
S.O.: I was talking to Fred Amata a few days ago and he was telling me how
much you guys enjoyed Sierra Leone. What was it like for you?
G.N.: Oh, it was unbelievable. The awareness, you know, it was something
elseÖhow much these people appreciate what we do. I was pleased. I was so
flattered. I cried. I felt so moved. And it was touching because it was
almost like the whole of Sierra LeoneÖIn fact. I believe (I may have) the
whole of Sierra Leone as my fans. Very warm people. I particularly like the
S.O.: Was that the first time you met the president of a country?
G.N.: You could say yes. Yes, first time.
S.O.: What was the experience like? Some of us have never met presidents you
G.N.: (LAUGHING). Donít worry, theyíre normal human beings like us. Iím sure
I know what heís going through. Iím beginning to experience it.
S.O.: Would you say youíre more popular outside Nigeria than you are in
G.N.: I know I made a statement in Sierra Leone when I was getting carried
away with all the attention that a prophet is not accepted in his hometownÖ
I donít think that is totally true because itís the same thing in Nigeria,
trust me. The same thing. For crying out loud, you know how many states we
have in Nigeria alone. And the kind of attention I get in Lagos where I
liveÖ In V.I. (Victoria Island) I know Iím always around everydayÖ And my
friends are like ďdonít they get tired of you? They see you every day, come
onĒ. I havenít been to all the states in Nigeria, but I know most of my fans
in Nigeria are from either the North or the Middle Belt (you know what I
mean), so I donít think so. I think itís the same thing.
So theyíre (the Sierra Leonians) like the same with every other African
outside Nigeria, every other Nigerian outside Africa, you knowÖ They havenít
seen me. Thatís why theyíre still very excited.
S.O.: What is the secret of your good looks? What do you do to keep yourself
looking the way you are?
G.N.: Iím a simple person. I like looking simple, and yet classy, trendy.
Thatís me. For my looks, nothing. I donít do anything special. The products
I use for my faceÖ Clinique is what I use. My designers, different people. I
donít have a particular person, no. I buy my clothes and match them myself
and I come out looking the way I am. Itís my own doing. So letís just say
Iím a very creative person when it comes to fashion.
S.O.: I also read on your website that you like singing. In what way do you
like singing? In the bathroom orÖ?
G.N.: Very interesting, I sing in public.
S.O.: Oh yeah? What kind of songs do you sing?
G.N.: I like RíníB.
S.O.: Is there a CD in the future somewhere?
G.N.: Anything can happen. Theyíre all talents given to me by God. I intend
to explore each and all of them as long as I have life.
S.O.: When people talk about you on my website, naijarules.com and other
places, they get rather emotional. Some people love you to death and some
totally dislike you. Are you aware of this kind of feeling all over the
G.N.: Of course.
S.O.: Is there something youíre doing to make them feel like that?
G.N.: I had a girl walk up to me sometime and sheís like ďI donít like you
because my boyfriend likes youĒ. I think she used the words ďloves youĒ. And
ďhe never pays attention to me when heís watching your movie. I think I hate
you for that. No offence, but thatís it. Donít worry, youíre good at what
you doĒ. And she just walked off. That was very brave of her, really.
So, the thing is that if people donít like me, they donít like me for
different reasons. For example, I donít think I like Beyonce. I donít,
actually. I donít have a good reason for not liking her. I donít like her
because sheís so talented. I donít like her because she thinks sheís all
that, but she is all that. You know what I mean? She thinks sheís really
cute and sexy and all that, so sheís so full of herself and I donít like
her. But I have no right to hate her because of that. You know what I mean?
Sometimes, its just beef. Itís just what we call bad belle, you know? So
people have different ways of expressing themselves. Trust me, if I met
Beyonce now, Iím sure I would love her person. You understand? Itís just
like they say when you see a very ripe mango and youíre jumping up to catch
one and you canít reach it, youíre like ďI beg make e go, e no even sweetĒ.
You know that kind of thing? Itís a loserís way of thinking. Its just
frustration. Maybe some people have genuine reasons for not liking me, I
donít know. Maybe I met them sometime in my life somewhere, I donít know.
S.O.: Some are totally unhappy that you donít reply their emails. Can you
say something to those people?
G.N.: (LAUGHTER) Well, Iím trying. I always go to the office of my managing
company to reply these emails. I go there and I sit down and they show me
because Iím still not very good with the computer. But because I really want
to be able to reply these people myself, I intend to get a laptop. And even
if Iím too busy, I intend to get somebody to handle my mail. I will read all
of them and Iíll be the one to write what I want as a reply, okay? I intend
to do this. Of course I love my fans. Thatís just the truth. I always say I
wouldnít be where I am without them, but they have to realize that itís just
me against the world. I canít reply 10, 000 mails. Thatís what they have to
Now, I intend to have the ballot thing Ė just like a draw Ė on my site where
if you have good luck, then you get paid. I get to talk to you live. Iíll be
the one to call you and speak to you. Or I get to meet you and have dinner
with you. So all these are things I plan on doing. So the thing is that at
least that will give them hope that maybe one day someday they will be
picked. What I always ask is if I sit down by myself to take all your calls,
sit down by the computer to reply all your emails, when will I get to do the
movies that you like to watch?
S.O.: Iím sure a lot of people will appreciate that answer.
G.N.: Just let them know that I am making arrangementsÖ
S.O.: Okay. This question is for the benefit of all the single men out
there. Is there a guy somewhere?
G.N.: (LAUGHING). Iím meant to have to I donít yield to temptation. Yes, I
S.O.: Is it serious?
G.N.: Oh well, you know how it is. We have this boyfriend/girlfriend thing.
Iím not engaged. Iím not married. I donít know what the future has for me. I
live it to God.
S.O.: In essence, all those men who are proposing out there, they still have
G.N.: (LAUGHING). It would have been nice, but many of them are proposing
for the wrong reasons.
S.O.: Hey, theyíve seen you in the movies. Theyíve fallen in love.
G.N.: ExactlyÖ For the wrong reason. Theyíre in love with a character in the
movies they watch and thatís not a very good thing.
S.O.: What is your biggest dream right now?
G.N.: To have this situation under control, you know? I want to further
somewhere. I want to progress in this business, with acting, as well as my
education. I want to go a step higher. I need some greater challenges.
S.O.: I was reading on your website where you said you plan to go back to
school. When do you see that happening?
G.N.: Not in Nigeria.
G.N.: Not in Nigeria. And it has to be somewhere Iím going to benefit from,
so, most likelyÖ anywhere. Itís up to me to decide. But of course I pray it
will be in the States.
S.O.: Are you looking into the possibility of international productions? I
know you have been working in Ghana and Sierra Leone and all that, but Iím
talking about America, the UK and stuff now.
G.N.: Yes, sure. If the opportunity comes, I will definitely seize it.
S.O.: But you donít have any intention of relocating, do you?
G.N.: I love my country. I will only go if I have something taking me there.
I wouldnít want to relocate, then go there to look for a job. It just has to
S.O.: Are you saying that I donít love Nigeria?
G.N.: No no, Iím sure thereís something keeping you there. Thatís what I
S.O.: I was just teasing you. Going back to your parents briefly, how do
they feel about your career?
G.N.: (SIGHING). Theyíve adjusted. They had their reservations in the
beginning, but what can you do? They love me, and if they love me (it) means
they love whatever I love. Theyíve realized thatís what I love doing.
Theyíve realized it makes me happy and theyíve been able to accept that, so
right now, theyíre only able to guide me, make sure I donít go astray, make
sure I donít get carried away. They still have their daughter, so theyíre
not losing anything. Theyíre gaining a lot.
S.O.: How do you get the scripts that you do? What do you look for before
deciding whether to do a script or not?
G.N.: I love creativity in stories. I like the story, I like the character
(thatís) challenging, something different from what Iíve done, something
different from the last thing I did. Aside from the story, I also like a
very good sound screenplay. I like very fast, very swift dialogues. Itís
what I like. Mature writing, mature dialogue as well. The story has to make
a whole lot of sense to me first. Especially now. Iím really very choosy
now. I reject more than I accept. If a character is strong enough, if it
makes a difference in the story, cos some characters are very dormant. Take
them out and you donít even realize something was taken out of the script.
My character has to be very strong, has to have a role to play in the movie.
People I act with matter to me as well. Of course I canít carry every
character on my own. Iím not acting by myself. Itís not stage. And so I need
someone else. My colleague has to be able to carry me along. A good actor
brings out the good actor in you.
What else? Those are the major factors. I like to know who is directing meÖ
S.O.: Who is your favorite director so far?
G.N.: I wouldnít want to mention (a name). Trust me, people are very
S.O.: Which director are you looking forward to working with?
G.N.: I think Amaka Igwe. Tade Ogidan, thatís another person Iíd like to
S.O.: One other important thing. You have done a lot of movies with Ramsey
Nouah. Has it ever occurred to you that people are actually tired of seeing
you with Ramsey?
G.N.: Has it ever occurred to people that Iím probably tired of acting with
him? And he is probably tired of acting with me?
S.O.: I know thatís not within the actorís control. Itís more of a director
and producerís choice.
G.N.: Yes. Itís the producerís control. The producer knows whom he wants in
his movie. The director can argue that with the producer, but when their
minds are made up, they go out and get the artistes they want. Although we
have the right to disagree to act with a particular person and drop the
script. So if they see us in a movie together, that means weíre comfortable
with acting with each other.
S.O.: In the past, many people didnít want to go into acting in Nigeria
simply because of the way the society perceived actors and things like that.
I know that has changed a littleĖ
G.N.: A whole lot. Trust me, a whole lot.
S.O.: When you went into acting, didnít this bother you?
G.N.: When I went into acting, even relatives of mineÖ They said I was
wasting my time. They looked at actors and actresses as people with no good
intentions for themselves, lazy people, maybe they didnít have anything
better to do with their time. They looked at it as a non-professional job.
Why donít you go and read law? Why donít you go and read engineering? Nobody
took acting seriously.
Well, we did it. We were happy doing what we were doing and it turned out to
be something else. Over the yearsÖ Maybe itís the way actresses or actors
before us carried themselves outside work that gave the wrong impression,
this bad image of actors and actresses lingering on. Even if youíre not that
and the press happens to promote the bad thing instead of the good, what
people read, even if they donít know you, is what they tend to believe. And
that had a whole lot of damage to do on our image. It dented a whole lot of
things we took years to build. So the lingering image we tried to build with
our work, hoping our people will see our work, they donít see that. They
donít criticize our movies. They donít say oh she was so bad in this; she
acted badly in this film, why did she wear that dress? Thatís criticizing
our work and thatís good. But not oh she has this; sheís been married five
times, and why is she thisÖ It was always a negative story after another and
that was not helping us. And then they say the media is our friend. That,
Iím telling you, is what gave the people the wrong impression they had about
actors and actresses Ė the media. Because when we started out, we were
respected people. They respected actors and actresses and they were excited
every time. Even broadcasters.
Things have changed now, I must really confess.
People try to image how the press paints us. They just have that total
image; it just sticks there in their head. And they donít see beyond what
they read. So thatís the fact. But when I came up, Iím speaking for myself
now, and Liz Benson and aunty Joke Silva and so many others, when we came
up, we wereÖ They tried that with me, trust me. The press gave me a tough
time. For the fact that I never ever replied, for the fact that I never
confronted them, I just felt do your job, Iíll do mine, okay? And I just
carried on. And maybe at they time, they thought they could make and unmake
me, for some reason I donít knowÖ I knew my God was on my side. I knew God
had a purpose for me because if He wasnít in support of what I was doing,
from day one, my father would never have let me. My father is very strict. I
was surprised he actually gave me the liberty to do what I had toÖit was
like a test.
So, it has changed and now people are really taking us serious, especially
now that people are beginning to say, ďIf youíre being called a star, why
donít you look like a star? Why donít you act like a star? Why donít you
take up the challenge, itís a challenge?Ē
For me, I donít regret anything Iíve done. And so far, the media has also
helped cos I think theyíve realized writing good things can also sell, not
just scandals. Now, everybody wants to act. I get a whole lot of that. Itís
kind of funny because I believe people love it for the wrong reasons. They
love the fame. They love the attention. But you canít get all of that except
you love the acting.
S.O.: Itís difficult to please the world when youíre a very popular person,
G.N.: Yes. So Iíve just gone ahead to do what I feel is right. And I have
very good friends who criticize what I do and they tell me when Iím doing
the right thing and when Iím not. I trust my friends, so once I know Iíve
pleased these nutcases around me, these hard cracks around me, I know Iíve
pleased the world. And Iím a big critic myself, so once I like something,
and once I feel this thing would actually make me sit down and watch a
movie, if it will interest me, then Iím ready to do it. I know I canít
please the whole world. Thatís why the whole world doesnít 100% love me. But
I try. I try.
S.O.: Your closest friends, did you have them before you became so popular?
G.N.: Yes. Yes.
S.O.: So at least you know they donít have any ulterior motive or something
G.N.: No. No. And all my friends are very successful.
S.O.: In a few of the postings on your web site, people post urging you to
get close to God. Are you close to God, as they advice?
G.N.: I am a Christian and I am a catholic.
S.O.: So they should stop saying get close to God. You are close to God.
G.N.: Thatís because these are people who still see movies as an evil act.
If it bothers them so much, they should stop watching it. How do they know
that I need God if they donít watch? You know what I mean? Everybodyís close
to God. God is the only reason weíre all successful now. They should look
into their own hearts and embrace their own God and ask their own God to
bless the way God has blessed others. Thatís the prayer they need.
S.O.: My last question Genevieve. We all pay a price for everything we have.
The problem with being popular, being famous, is that people write all kinds
of things about you. Now, are there rumors out there, stories, impressions,
things that people are saying about you that you would like to correct?
Hereís your chance to tell us your side of the story.
G.N.: The only place they can hit me is I should go and get education, okay?
Now, what they donít realize is that I have education. I actually have a
very good education. I was in school before I decided to take acting
seriously, and they go on like make hay while the sun shines. And Iím like,
thatís exactly what I am doing. This is the sun shining. Iím making the hay.
Thereís a time for everything. Some peopleís education will come before
their work. Some peopleís work before their education. For me, my education
and my work will come together, okay? And thatís the way the Lord wants it.
So many actors and actresses who left education to come into the movie
industry, they didnít succeed so they went back to education. By the grace
of God, thatís not how itís been for me. Now, itís actually getting better
because of the kind of popularity I have. Itís really hard for me to say Iím
sitting down here in Lagos or Nigeria to go to school. I probably will pass
and not read. You know what I mean? I would definitely be lured by some
producers. I could be bribed to come out of school. Theyíve done it before.
Theyíve succeeded and thereís no doubt they will succeed again. They have a
way of really pulling you out and convincing you to leave whatever it is
youíre doing and do their movie for them.
Now, it has only opened up doors. It has only opened up my mind and made me
more determined to leave the country, do my education abroad. And that will
also open up windows and doors for me to further my career abroad in both
acting and musicals. You understand? I want them to stop worrying. Trust me,
I get enough of worrying from my father. They should stop worrying about my
education and just trust me, okay? I know I will in due time and Iím already
That andÖ Okay, they say that Iím dating Ramsey (Nouah), Iím dating (name
lost in telephone static)Ö These are all married people. Theyíre all married
men. Itís all professional. They should forget what they read. So, weíre all
being professional here. For me, that is it.
Basically, thatís it. And again, they say Iím a snob. Iím not a snob. But
you do have some people who approach you with an attitude because theyíre
trying not to sound too excited. They try to burst your bubble and ask you
if you are who they know you are. You know? Iím likeÖit will show. I am a
nice person. Iím a warm person. Iím friendly. Be honest and I will be honest
with you. I hate pretenders. Iím open-minded. I like sincerity. Thatís me.
Some of her numerous movies
includes Girls Cot, Darkest Night, ABOVE DEATH
2. BATTLE LINE
3. BLOOD SISTERS 1 AND 2
4. BREAK UP
5. BUMPER-BUMPER 1AND 2
8. CHURCH BUSINESS
9. CRITICAL DECISION
10. DARKEST NIGHTS 1 AND 2
11. DEADLY MISTAKE
12. DANGEROUS SISTERS
13. EMERGENCY WEDDING
14. FOR BETTER FOR WORSE
15. FORMIDABLE FORCE
16. GAMES WOMEN PLAY 1 AND 2
17. HE LIVES IN ME 1 AND 2
18. HONEY 1 AND 2
19. JEALOUS LOVERS 1 AND 2
20. KEEPING FAITH
21. LAST WEEKEND
22. LATE MARRIAGE
23. LOVE AFFAIR 1 AND 2
24. NEVER DIE FOR LOVE
25. NOT MAN ENOUGH 1 AND 2
27. POWER OR LOVE
29. POWER PLAY 1 AND 2
30. PRIVATE SIN
32. RIP OFF
33. RISING SUN
35. SECRET EVIL
36. SHARON STONE 1 AND 2
37. SHARON STONE IN ABUJA
38. STAND BY ME
39. SUPER LOVE
41. THE CHOSEN ONE
43. TWO TOGETHER
45. WOMEN AFFAIR
Some of these titles are available right
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