For over half a decade, Toke Makinwa has built the eponymous brand we see before us today. Diverted from her reluctant career in banking she has worked tirelessly to become the media mogul we all know, allowing no person or circumstance to stop her from being the best. Even rumours of a failed marriage (an issue which still has not been explicitly addressed) couldn’t derail her schedule – in fact, Toke took not one day off; she was in the studio the next day, and had a new vlog uploaded a few days later.
It’s her work ethic and driving ambition that puts her in league that epitomises power. This does not come without discipline and strenuous labour. And, presented with the opportunity to sit down with this superwoman, we couldn’t resist talking about her upcoming projects and what differentiates Toke the person from Toke Makinwa the brand.
Studying English literature at university level endowed Toke with a mastery over language, which she loved for both its intricate structure and its playful nature. A simple scroll through her video series, ‘Toke Moments’ is proof of her studies, with titles such as “Much Ado About Yoruba Demons” and “The Writing on the Wall” paying homage to a vast literary cannon. Toke also weaves contemporary issues under seemingly archaic headings, attesting to the plethora of skills her education afforded her.
Of course, experience has been just as important. In 2010, taking a brave step towards cementing her own path, Toke applied for her first job as a radio broadcaster, leaving a career in banking that had allowed her to exist, while “not really living”. Those from an African background will understand the difficulty of going against the grain and choosing a career path your parents see little value in. It was with the support of her siblings, who had noticed how unhappy she was, that Toke found the courage to forge her own way in life and pursue something in which she found joy.
“Radio presenters go on to make better TV presenters”, she advised whilst explaining how those early experiences shaped her career, radio not being the field she intended to settle in. “I knew I had a husky voice. People often said I sounded like a man. I didn’t think that was a good thing.” Yet it was that very voice listeners became so fond of. “Now radio comes first.”
But there is much more needed to appease a TV audience, Toke explains, noting that “people will watch my show because they like my hair or the way I dress… People will watch movies because the actor is attractive. With radio, all you have are your words.” That said, there’s much Toke has borrowed from her experience on radio, where she learned to be spontaneous, to ask the questions that most wouldn’t think to ask; all skills she uses in her on-screen career.
Taking inspiration from Oprah and even modelling her career on the influential figure, Toke hopes to redefine some of the stereotypes around Nigeria. “I want to showcase ‘New Africans’ who are working hard and creating their own wealth and affluence; those rewriting the Nigerian story. Nigeria is not a relic of lost centuries.” This attitude even influences her style, both on and off screen; where she makes a conscious effort to wear Nigerian designs. It’s with her voice though that Toke aims to encourage “empowerment… to teach us to depend on ourselves,” though she admits “time is needed.”
Looking back on the time she has spent on her craft so far, Ms Makinwa says “I Am Becoming!” – humbly acknowledging that despite the reputation she has built for herself and the years of experience she has accumulated, there is still more to learn and so much she hopes to become.
What should we expect from the media star? And what does she feel about cheaters, love and marriage? Here, Toke tells all…
Where does Toke Makinwa see herself in 5 years?
I am working towards being a global brand. I want my name to have gained international status in 5 years. I am also working on my own talk show, which I pray will be huge.
I want to have written a number of lifestyle books and I am working on launching my own label brands. I am laying the foundations of all of these aspirations of mine now and I can only pray towards achieving them all and more.
By Glam Africa’s standards, you are an inspirational individual. What words of wisdom could you share with our readers?
The past year has not been without personal challenges for me and through it all, my faith in God has kept me. I have learnt that where my strength ends, God’s love begins and He is more than I could ever imagine. My faith is my biggest testimony and I would like to share it everywhere. I have hit rock bottom in my personal life and it is there that I found the strength that only God can give: the will to wake up and not just survive, but thrive.
One of your most recent projects has taken Nigeria (and indeed the rest of the African world) by storm – your YouTube series Toke Moments. Did you expect it to make such an impact?
The series was not something I took seriously at first… I didn’t realise it would be so successful. No one seems to talk about the problems they have and I wanted to be the friend in your head, to voice what you normally wouldn’t.
I wanted to connect with people on a different level.
You discuss a lot on sex and relationships. Do you believe a couple can be in love but not feel physically attracted to each other?
I have come to understand that love is beyond what we think it is. In our generation, what we define love to be can come across as superficial and, in most cases, unrealistic. Love is friendship that grows. It takes a lot of work to love someone, even when they’re at their lowest; it’s not for the faint-hearted. Love is a conscious thought; it is constantly forgiving and looking beyond flaws. So yes, I believe that attraction is fleeting and it is possible to love someone that you don’t desire physically. But as time passes, love grows.
A lot of our parent’s marriages were arranged. In the past that happened a lot but they somehow made it work. It is a selfless act only for people who know that it’s not all a walk in the park. Life happens. You might fall for someone for their physical attributes, but then what happens if there is an accident? If they don’t look the same? If they stop being attractive? Do you then move on? Attraction is a blessing it’s an extra topping; not what defines the cake.
Do you think it is possible for married or ‘taken’ men to genuinely have a female ‘best friend’ and maintain a platonic relationship with her?
People say it is possible but I use myself as an example. I have never had a male friend who didn’t fancy me at some point. In as much as I would love to say guys and girls can just be friends, I don’t believe in it. It starts from someone wanting more and maybe in the process they then build a friendship that is more important to both parties; they choose to develop that.
I feel that we are wired differently and I am of the opinion that your partner should be your best friend. God made Adam for Eve, and not Eva, Evelyn and Everett…The moment your partner gets comfortable having a best friend that is not you, it is just leaving room for an unnecessary story. Don’t get me wrong, he is allowed to have female acquaintances and people he is friendly with, but I don’t believe his best friend should be another female. If she’s your best friend, what am I?
Do you believe in the saying, ‘once a cheat always a cheat’? Or do you believe in second chances?
Matters of the heart are tough, incredibly tough. Cheating is bad; it is a cancer that eats you up; it destroys everything. You see a confident woman become a shadow of herself when she has been cheated on. It is one of the most painful things, ever and though some people make it work, it definitely cannot be the same again. It is like a broken mirror, the cracks will always be there but in time, the scar can become beautiful and a place only of reference, not a destination.
People can come back from it. If both parties are willing and if the cheat understands what his or her actions cost their partner. And of course, with the grace of God, watching another person suffer for the choice you selfishly made is so heart breaking – that is what cheating does. People grow up, people change [and] everyone deserves a second chance as we ask God for forgiveness daily, but it may not be with each other. Sometimes the brokenness is irreparable and you can forgive someone without being in their lives.
What are your thoughts on men who insist on splitting all bills in half?
A real man should get the bill but there are times when a woman can treat a man. You can take your man out, pay for things he pays for usually, just so he knows how special he makes you feel.
Fashion & Lifestyle Corner
Five wardrobe essentials:
1. My bra of course
3. Every female should have a little black dress
5. Something mesh, because it’s sexy
7. Lots of shoes and sunglasses.
I have so many of them but I am a Dior girl, I love Dior. I love the stylish sandals by Aquazurra, first the wild thing and now the pom pom. I love April by Kunbi, Grey, Toju Foyeh and of course Lanre Da Silva.
Favourite holiday destination:
I like Europe, anywhere throughout the continent.
Favourite Nigerian cuisine
Amala, Gbegiri and Ewedu.
Favourite international cuisine
I am a pasta girl but I haven’t had any this year. Cutting seafood pasta from my diet was the hardest thing, ever.
WRITER: Ama Badu | PHOTOGRAPHY: Paul Ukonu | STYLIST: Yummie Ogbebor of S_B_YouMe | HAIR: Bernard Smiles | MUA: Anita Brows |Dress: H&M
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