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‘IN HER MOTHER’S STEPS’ WITH TEMIDAYO ABUDU AND SONIA IRABOR

The influence of a mother on her children is beyond calculation- James Faust

 

 

Truer words have not been said.

As we celebrated Mother’s day yesterday, we decided to catch up with the daughters of two tremendously successful women who have left and continue to leave their mark in Africa.

On one end of the spectrum is Mosunmola Abudu, fondly referred to as Mo Abudu; she is the first African woman to own a Pan-Africa TV channel that airs in more than 49 countries in Africa as well as in the UK and the Caribbean. In 2015, she made the list of Forbes’ most successful women in Africa and in 2016, she made history yet again, with the production of Nigeria’s highest grossing film ever recorded, The Wedding Party.

On the other end, we have yet another remarkable woman whose giant strides have been made in the world of publishing; honored by the Association of professional women bankers as the most successful woman in publishing, she is the Editor-In-Chief and Chief Executive Officer of Nigeria’s foremost women’s lifestyle magazine,  Genevieve.  Her work is not only spoken of in the world of publishing but she continues to make great social impact through her foundation, Genevieve foundation which focuses on fund-raising for women struggling with breast cancer.

Although we celebrate their achievements; one thing these two women seem to have in common is their ability to have raised two equally powerful women. These women are trail blazers in their own rights who despite seemingly following in their mother’s footsteps are walking in different heels altogether.

I caught up with Sonia Irabor, the quiet yet, assertive writer whose interests vary from painting to surfing; Her love for reading comes through in her way with words and her ability to articulately communicate. A great advantage for her role as Editor of Genevieve Magazine.  In this interview, she represents herself in a way that reads as one who is incredibly mature and fully comfortabe in their own skin. I find that this might perhaps be one of her greatest strengths.

Temidayo Abudu on the other hand, came across as having a zest for life; quite in line with her job as producer on Ebony Life TV.  There were no airs to her and although she hinted at being as tough as nails, in the same breadth, there was something sweet about this young woman. In this interview, she is quick to mention that she and her mother are not as similar as one would think, she mentions that over time, they have grown to embrace their differences and it has made for a solid relationship and a unique leveraging of their strengths.

 

These millennial young women are a representation of a generation of women who are starting to truly embrace their unique personalities outside of the expectations of society. Their privileged background, a thing of which they don’t pretend to be unaware, has not encouraged them to conform. If anything, it brings their uniqueness furthermore to the forefront.

SONIA IRABOR

  1. Describe your style when no one is looking

My style when no one’s looking, is pretty much the same as when people are looking: comfort first. I like to describe my style as “Nepa took light before I could decide what to wear so I just grabbed the closest thing to me and threw it on.”

Peculiar things about my childhood: I used to be a very serious Pokemon card dealer in primary school.

 

  1. What are three things that most people would be surprised to know about you?

  • I play the electric and acoustic ukulele
  • I started to learn how to surf but my irrational fear of the ocean ensured that I only made it to a handful of lessons. I will return to it eventually.
  • I co-wrote the Red TV comedy series, Inspector K, and did a bit of acting in the first season. The second season is coming out later this year.
  1. You’ve always been quite staunch about staying out of the public eye. I see that you’ve dabbled in movies and are gradually coming out of your shell. What changed?

I like to occupy spaces I feel comfortable in. Also work can be very demanding and that takes up a great amount of time and leaves little energy for much else.

 

  1. What inspired your decision to follow in your mother’s footsteps?

Before I became editor of the magazine, I was a PR professional, ghostwriter and actress in England, while contributing to Genevieve as a columnist and UK correspondent . And now, I am all those things as well as the editor of the magazine. The latter was not a specific decision or long-term goal of mine but I am as open and receptive to it, and excited for it, as I have been with my other passions.

What I appreciate is that my mother’s passion is hers, and it has not in any way been forced upon me. So I’m marching to my own beat but there is interestingly and excitingly that crossover on my journey.

     5. Are you ever frightened that you have some big shoes to fill? (If yes, how do you cope? If not, how so?)

I once said that “my mother’s shoes are not mine to fill.” I still maintain that. I am instead carving my own path and working to build my own legacy at my pace. I am therefore not frightened by that prospect. I am excited about my personal journey, it’s looking good so far.

     6. As Editor at Genevieve Magazine, there have been quite a few obvious changes. Did you meet any initial opposition?

I accepted the role under a few conditions: a lot of which revolved around being free to rebuild and begin to re-introduce the magazine to the public. The process itself – as a business in Nigeria – is the real challenge.

     7. Has your mother in any way influenced your attitude to work and business? How?

Absolutely. I grew up watching how she worked. I have learnt from her ethics, her unrelenting spirit and – perhaps most importantly – her mistakes.

    8. How do you hope to remain sustainable in an era where everyone seems to be going digital?

We’re going and growing with our audience by becoming digital ourselves. In exploring that space, we’ve begun to find our voice very clearly and our online presence is growing rapidly as a result. We introduced our e-magazine – the digital copy of the print – in December and  that’s really beginning to hit its stride. The digital platform allows us to do so much more and bring an even wider spectrum of content to our readers worldwide. It is an exciting digital journey we are on.

   9. What have been your top achievements since joining the magazine?

Hmmm…. I think the top of which is starting and committing to a teen column in the magazine aged 13. Followed by the time I booked my first international interview with Grammy-nominated rapper, Wale, aged 19. There are so many little moments of pride and joy that I think back to on my 15-year journey with Genevieve Magazine.

   10. What is your advice for anyone looking to follow in their parents’ footsteps?

As with any career journey, it is a bumpy road. There will be moments of doubt brought on by your inner-critic and external forces, do not be discouraged. Let your self-belief kick into overdrive and power through.

Do not apologise for who you are, but do not become complacent either.

Life comes at you fast. Keep your head down, do the work and let that speak on your behalf.

     11. What would you say is the key to empowerment for all women?

Understanding. We need to strive to understand that every woman is different and we must not punish each other for this. There is no such thing as a good or right way to be a woman, we must start from a point of openness to understand, appreciate and celebrate our individuality. I don’t know if that is the key but it certainly helps, I believe.

     12. People aren’t always the nicest on this side of Africa; discrediting your hard work and accrediting it all to privilege. How have you coped?

I acknowledge and accept that there is privilege in my life; it would be ignorant of me to deny. However, I also acknowledge and celebrate my individual experience, talents and abilities.

My CV is extensive proof of that. I have built other endeavours from scratch, worked, learned, failed numerous times and succeeded on my own. So I don’t sweat it. At the end of the day, the work I do, with Genevieve Magazine as well as my other pursuits, will hopefully speak louder than any doubt or dismissal.

      13. Where’s Sonia looking to be in the next five years?

I am hoping to still be alive and living truthfully; growing and evolving. On a more romantic level, I imagine I’d have written and directed my second film, which will be accepted into the Sundance Film Festival and maybe I’ll finally get to tell my hysterical anecdotes on Conan, Kimmel or some such late night show. But it’s ultimately out of my hands, so I abide.

 

TEMIDAYO ABUDU

1. Tell me a little about yourself (what fascinates you? what are your hobbies? what’s your style when no one’s looking? peculiar things about your childhood etc)

I always find it awkward answering questions like this. *laughs* I’m a pretty easy going person but I also like to be in control. I love to watch tv shows, movies, short films, random shows on YouTube or wherever I find them. My style when no one is looking is easy, I just like to chill, think, my brain goes back and forth over a lot. I write stories and scripts as well.

2. What are three things that most people would be surprised to know about you?

  • I’m a cry baby, I could cry at the drop of a hat if I feel attacked.
  • I love reality TV. The ghetto ratchet types are my favourites. It’s really about the people!
  • Usually hate wearing earrings. Something a lot of women in Nigeria always question.

3. You launched a healthy lifestyle company. Tell me a bit about that.

I launched HOBT in 2014, when I started taking my weight loss journey seriously. It was a great experience, I started a business for the first time and I enjoy cooking so that part was easy. Running a business in Nigeria is difficult but I decided to focus and do that full-time. I grew my business very well but also had a passion for telling stories. I did both for a short while but a full-time job in TV production was no joke, so I put HOBT on the back burner with plans of relaunching really soon.

4. You studied Marketing and Management in London. Did you think you would ultimately still end up in film?

I had no idea I would end up in film. I knew I wanted to be in the creative space. I love reading as well so I thought I’d be an author or go into advertising.

5. What inspired your decision to follow in your mother’s footsteps?

I got to see first hand what is was like working in media. I would come on holiday to Lagos and intern on productions. I really enjoyed it, even though it wasn’t drama series. I got the chance to attend MIPCOM one year and my eyes opened up to the possibilities. Watching shows like Gidi Up inspired me to want to create stories relatable to young Nigerians.

6. Are you ever frightened that you have some big shoes to fill? (If yes, how do you cope? If not, how so?)

Well I don’t think I’m frightened, I’m more scared to be in my mother’s shadow. I very much want to be recognised for my own contributions and achievements, not for being Mo Abudu’s daughter.
I just basically stay in my lane and focus on myself. I get all the advice and support I need from my Mum. We are also different, we both know that and have actually started dealing with it very well. We kind of learn from each other in different ways.

7. Film production at Ebony Life tv, your mother’s company, means you have to work alongside other producers. What’s the nature of your relationship with them? (Is there ever an underlying weirdness about your mom being the boss? How do you handle it?)

My relationship with other producers works really well. I am diplomatic and straightforward. As long as everyone pulls their weight and does what they need to do, we are fine. I don’t walk around like the ‘boss’’ daughter’ so I don’t think there’s any sense of weirdness. I allow for us to develop our own working style and relationships, some of our work relationships have grown into friendships.  Also, my mum treats me like everyone else, she’ll tell me off when necessary and she won’t hide it! So that also releases any awkwardness.*laughs*

8. You’ve garnered quite the clout for yourself and rightfully so. What would you say has contributed to your success?

I’ve gathered clout? Well I don’t think I’ve really achieved success yet as such. I have been given great opportunities to show what I can do and I’m thankful that people see and appreciate that. I’m passionate about what I do. I love to produce and it’s all worth it in the end when you see the final result. I just want to keep going, conquering one thing after another until I take over the worlddddd! *laughs*

9. Has your mother in any way influenced your attitude to work and business? How?

Well, yes she definitely has. First thing, reply emails. She has ingrained this habit so much that it’s second nature. She’s taught me to keep going even though there are obstacles, if you want something do everything you can to get it.
And nothing is impossible, I have so many ideas, I know I can do them. Just not at the same time.
So I’ve learnt to also do things in stages, there’s plenty of time.

10. Do you hope to carry the torch even after she’s retired?

I hope to take African media to the world, so yes. I just want to keep on creating in any capacity, as a producer, writer, one day director. There’s so much to do!

11. What is your vision for Film production in Africa?

Wow, I think the possibilities are endless. I want to build capacity in the continent so we can make content that sits on the same level as international media. I want people in the USA to watch movies made in Nigeria with Nigerian actors. I want Nigerians to make great films for Nigerians. With great stories and great characters. We need investments to do this so I hope we can get our hands on the funds necessary to make this happen. Africa to the world is how I see it. The World isn’t so big anymore.

12. What are some of the projects you’ve undertaken for Ebony Life TV and what would you say your top achievements have been?

I’ve just recently finished Castle & Castle, Nigeria’s first legal drama which I produced with Isioma Osaje. That was the most challenging I’ve done so far. My baby, ON THE REAL is one of my biggest achievements. I love the show, the characters, the team behind it.  Also co writing my first TV series which will be out later this year. 

13. What is your advice for any one looking to following in their parents’ foot steps?

If you have a passion for it, go ahead. There will be bumps, you will sometimes have disagreements sometimes but that’s where you draw the line between them being your boss and your parent. At times, the only thing that will keep you going is your passion. But it’s important to learn to listen first and then find a way to get your point across.

14. What would you say is the key to empowerment for all women?

Women. If we come together, respect each other, educate, enlighten, pray, we can do anything.

15. Where’s Temidayo looking to be in the next 5 years?

I want to be at the Oscars or the Emmy’s in the next 5 years! That’s the dream! Either as writer, producer, director I will be there by God’s grace.

One thing that remains clear from both ladies is that although they walk a path previously tread upon by their dynamic mothers; they’re looking to define their own status quo. Make no mistakes, they’re equally doing so unapologetically. They are afterall, their mother’s daughters.




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