There has been a lot of controversy, and mixed feelings between the Liberian actor Joseph Weah and his former managers Lena Thomas Marshall and Carol Jiani over the past few months, since a prestigious affair planned to showcase him alongside several other West African headliners in London fell through for him.
On August 30th the Joseph C. Weah, Jr. was scheduled to attend a fund raising dinner hosted by Carol Jiani in London. The event was said to be attended by the likes of Desmond Elliot of Nigeria, David Mell of Liberia, and Van Vicker of Ghana. According to the actor, the event was intended to raise funds for him as well as promoting him in Europe. However, he did not make it for the event.
“Basically I’m in Liberia because I’m one person who made a vow to this country that I’m going nowhere [during this Ebola fight], no matter what,” he explains. “I should have attended the program in London but due to some poor planning by the organizers, Carol Jiani and that of Lena Marshall, I could not go. I told myself for whatever reason that I should leave my country to another, it should be in the interest of my country and I realized that the whole dinner thing was not going to be in the interest of the Liberian people. Because from the initial stage when I was asked by Carol and Lena to manage my career, I was explicit about my dreams of helping the industry and the youth, getting people off the streets and when the time started to get close for my trip, I did not get any positive response from them. I sent them an email and still didn’t get any response. All I got was a program that said I was going to be a guest of honor at a party. So I was like no, because if I get to London and not knowing what I was going for and get back to Liberia with nothing, I’ve got a lot of people that I owe an explanation and I’ve got a lot of people that are also depending on me. I wasn’t going to go to London just for that. My fans will be expecting a lot from me and I wasn’t going to go just because it’s London.”
The Liberian movie star also confessed that all of his plans and dreams of building a better entertainment industry will now have to come to a stand-still due to the fact that the initial agreement between him and his two managers were not fruitful.
Meanwhile, Lena Thomas Marshall and Carol Jiani reacted to the actor’s remarks in a statement suggesting that, in spite of a signed contract, between them and Weah, the actor ignored their requests for due diligence – information that would help them evaluate the strength and current direction of his career going forward.
“We agreed with Mr. Weah to manage his acting career while he was in Nigeria,” Marshall and Jiani said. “The management of Mr. Weah never got started despite him signing a contract with us. During the very short-lived contract we asked him for copies of his movies to be sent to the UK for us to introduce his work to the European market. He provided us with a contact number of a person in Liberia for us to instead purchase his movies. How can an actor not have copies of his own movies for his management team to have? That, in itself, started to raise a red flag.
“He then explained to us that he had a contract with Cellcom through a modeling agency. He wanted for us to re-negotiate this on his behalf. Again, we asked for a copy of this to read the terms and conditions of his contract with them and this was never produced to us. Again, we asked the question, how could you have a contract with a major company like Cellcom and not have a copy of the contract?
“Mr. Weah was in Nigeria and then decided to come back to Liberia without consultation with his management team. Nigeria has the largest established movie industry in the world with world-renowned faces like Desmond Elliott of whom he has done work with in the past. It is like leaving the Hollywood of Africa to come back to Liberia where the movie industry is still trying to find its feet in the world of movie entertainment.
“His explanation to coming back to Liberia was that he was going into business with his sister, [radio personality] Grace Weah (Master Queen). This was all arranged without any form of consultation from his management team.
“The problem with Liberian artists”, Marshall and Jiani lamented, “is that they want to work for free and without any form of written agreement. We tried to instill that this is a job that is being done. How can you sustain yourself without being paid for a job? The mentality that you are doing favors for anyone has to stop. Things have to be done professionally. If he or any artists wants to match up with the West in this business then their attitude has to change. He needs to understand the role of a manager or a management team. The definition of a manager is a person responsible for supervising and motivating employees. We are not here to furnish the artist with money whenever they wanted it. This is something that has to be earned and as a team we should be working towards that for the artist to get paid.
“Mr. Weah has to take responsibility for his decision to move back to Liberia without any action plans. He may be known in Liberia and within the Liberian movie industry but he has not yet made his marks in comparison to the likes of Desmond Elliott. Van Vicker, Majid Michel who names can be mentioned anywhere in the world and the industry will know who they are. This is a message for all Liberian artists – Humble your attitude and stop working for free. Do things the right way and you will move to another level where Liberians will be proud of you.
“It is heart breaking to watch the increasing death rates of our people in Liberia, as a result of the deadliest Ebola virus outbreak in recorded history. The world struggles to contain the rapid spread of the Ebola virus that has now killed over 2,000 people in West Africa and Liberia is one of the worst affected countries. Carol and I are directing our energies and resources to this crisis. We suggest that [Weah] directs his time into doing what he can for Liberia at this time when his country is in dire need of help.”
Meanwhile, Weah says has a new dream, which is to get Liberian children off the street through entertainment. He recently worked on an Ebola awareness video for the hit single entitled ‘Ebola is Real’ by F.A and DenG.