This Christmas, Idia gifts the world with her awe-inspiring story and the highlights of her creative journey. It’s how she combines it all. The beauty, the brilliance, the versatility and the heART for real time impact. Her drive to uplift stays unmatched and we are more in love with her authenticity and truth through all. Her personality is the kind that literally illuminates a room and shines a light in dark places.
Join us on this special annual ISSUE- As Idia shares a truckload of inspiration on her journey as a Creative. How she started. How it’s going and other glimpses of everything beautiful..
Enjoy and Stay Inspired
Hi Idia, Nice to meet you, you are really very pretty and it’s an honor to have you be a part of our interview series, I really look forward to more conversation with you in the future after this interview.
We are in love with you and your works designed for real time impact. We are in awe of how you thrive in your versatility as a TV Star, Model and Philanthropist. You do all these with much style and grace and you’re no doubt an inspiration to many young minds out there with a dream to live your current reality as a creative. Can you please share some highlights of how you began your versatile creative journey?
Okay, so first I will say it’s a bit interesting when you brought up banking, I starting my career in the US I studied journalism and international business, so I was always good with numbers but I also had a thing for research work Etc,
And also for some strange reason when you study journalism in like the school were I went to you get to learn to be on camera behind the camera, editing filming all that good stuff writing and so on.
So I realized I was like wow it’s not just the research that interest me being in front of the camera, my professor my internship they always pushed me to the front, so I said okay maybe there is a career here even though initially I just wanted to write for papers right.
Somehow with my business degree I landed a job in private equity and the money was so good and so tempting but I was bored out of my mind and it wasn’t the kind of boredom that is like this isn’t a great job or I’m not grateful or anything but I was deeply unhappy, like I would cry at lunch time in the restroom because I knew.
You now when you are a creative, you just know that there is more, like you are supposed to be doing more, you are supposed to be giving more, and I felt like I was making all this money but I felt like I wasn’t living out my full capacity, because even though I was making money everything I was getting was for me, there was no way to get myself free and to set free.
Yeah so I was very very unhappy, now somehow I visited Nigeria, I was supposed to help with a women banking platforms with Union bank, I flew in with my boss, she a top executive woman, you know killing it in her game and in her space and all as well. And while I was here funny enough, somebody reached out to me and they were like “oh do you want to host a TV show?” and was like why will you ask me to host a TV show, and they were like we have seen your work and and stuff you try to do on the side because while I was working I did internships FOX news I worked at discovery channels, I did so many things aside but the real job that I landed and was paying the bills was the investment banking and was a private equity.
Anyway the person asked me and they were like look we think you have a great voice and it’s something that we will give you your own show if you wanted to try out and I said okay, I took a chance on a show called “You have got issues” and it’s basically like opera Wilfred style, people come in with their problems and you just have a full discussion on relationships, life styles, EU marriage, education everything affecting people in the society.
I don’t know how that job gave me so much fulfillment, my contract as an expert extended to about six month in Nigeria, I think after the first three month I saw the show finally airing on TV, I knew I had to quit my job, it took about three months, because I had to plan, you know just solidify my path and everything, but one day I just told them the opportunity has been amazing obviously life changing so I was able to save some money but couldn’t do it any more and they were like are you crazy! you are going to leave New York and stay in Nigeria, and I was like yeah I’m from Nigeria I will be fine. And somehow every job just lead to the next job
So from that show, They really love the show on the network I was working for so they gave me an even bigger show, they gave me the biggest show on the channel, so that pushed me to the front of the TV presenters in that space everybody that was somebody was always calling in, they wanted to come on this shows all the celebs wanted to come on the show. So I was like a nice quick burst for some one that had just moved to Nigeria.
From that show I was hosting a really random red carpet event for ARISE and two of the bosses there had meet me in New York, and they were like wait ain’t you that banker girl, blah blah blah blah, and I was like yeah, and they said you can’t be hosting live style and fashion and all this stuff, we want you to come and read the morning news, the business morning news
Next thing I found myself doing the two things the two things I loved combined so it was the global business report and I was doing journalism but I was working with numbers and business, and it was my dream job, I had the job for about a year and half, It was two years actually and it was perfect, it was everything I wanted.
But sadly I lost my Dad and when that happened to me, I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know how to function I didn’t know how to go on, all I knew it was time for something different, and I’m the kind of person that, you know how you are talking about how art is a form of self expression so even if two people do the same thing, two people are dancers, two people are actors two people are artists we could never emit the same emotion or expression even if we did the same choreography or we painted same painting, it will never be the same and that’s what so unique about different persons.
They were people in Nigeria that were doing maybe things that were similar to what I was doing, people in Nigeria that had the jobs before me or after me but path was just so, the way things happened it was just destiny and I knew it was time for something new and I am the kind of person that evolves quickly so I just wanted to be some body else.
I got a call from my manager 2AM in the morning and he was like “Hey Idia there is an opportunity for an audition, and I thought you know maybe like an MTN project fame, normal hosting geeks”
And he goes “Nneka the pretty Serpent” I said that’s a movie, I can’t act are you kidding me, and he was like it’s just an audition we like your eyes we want to see something, I don’t know if they will pick you, but they have requested that we send you for the audition, and I was like Nah this people are trying to add me to the roster of celebrities that do the job and maybe not be paid, and I did not want that. Oh my God.
So I watched the movie whenever I went for the audition and somehow went to the second stage, third stage, fourth stage, fifth stage, and then I was chosen for the film. That’s how I got into movies
I wanted to be somebody else, somehow the opportunity came and I grabbed it, some people would not go for that audition because they are scared or they don’t know, I do everything afraid. So versatility but they don’t know that I’m shit scared, I do it afraid and you know, one of my friends taught me when I was younger that there is no right or wrong you take a decision and you make it right and that’s kind of what I have done through my career yeah.
Yeah, that’s how I became an actor.
Your name is beautiful. Having a Nigerian-Cameroonian heritage is not one we see
everyday, but definitely one we love to see. Isn’t that Art in itself? Do you mind sharing the meaning of both names?
Oh So my first name means Queen. Idia means queen, and it was the name of the famous queen mother.
Benin. There was Idia Esigie, she was the mother of King Esigie, so Idia means Queen, so there is also this on going debate for decades that it also means water, so people also translate it to mean Queen of Water. And then my last name Aisien means ‘’you can not be denied’’
We are grateful to have you onboard this special ISSUE with the theme- The Art of Christmas. Do you celebrate Christmas? What’s your most memorable moment yet, in this holiday season?
So I grew up in a really big family and I don’t know if any of you know much about coming from a big family. One of the things that really helps you is holidays, birthdays, things like that, because that’s when everybody comes together and does exciting stuff. So Christmas was big for us.
When I was growing up would gain comfort and love from doing special things together, like creating a tree together, even this period my sister and I went to my brother house to do his tree then we did my sister’s tree together then we did my tree you know it just helps us, it doesn’t mean nobody is busy, but it helps us find time to do things together and
I would say my funnest memory of Christmas was always just being at the table with my whole family, that period, Christmas day is also my mums birthday so Christmas is like a really big deal.
How was growing up like?
Hmm growing up was very I don’t know if many Nigerians may even say this, but growing up for me was very special. Like I said, because I’m from a big family, but also because I’m the last kid, I have a lot of siblings. I have 11 older siblings. Yeah, I have 11 older siblings and dust being the one to just watch everybody go through what they went through. And I’m like, Oh, this didn’t work, so I’m not going to do this. And, you know, I just had so many role models to learn from. But I just remember our house, like, just banter. If banter was a word, then banter, laughter, arguing over stupid things like plant food meets, you know, siblings fighting.
It’s a really silly thing. So, yeah, I grew up in a very full house. It’s sort of like your life almost arranged for you. So going to boarding school in high school was a really big deal for me because the first time I got to be away from my family and then going to uni in the States was like I felt like I was becoming my own person. I was leaving home, I was going to conquer the world. So yeah, I feel like I was well. I was safeguarded as a child until I was really ready to spread my wings.
Do you feel creatives in developed countries are at advantage than those in developing countries?
Absolutely. I think we have a very long way to go in terms of the creative industries all over Africa, and this isn’t even something that we’re seeing on just the creative side, but we’re also seeing it on the business side of brands and platforms that are trying to engage with the creatives. So lots of brands come to, for instance, Nigeria, I’ll use Nigeria because obviously I live here. A lot of brands come to Nigeria, you do the research, 250 million people. Any business plan that you have is supposed to be able to work. But when you dissect that research, you think about the fact that, yeah, we have creatives here, we have people that can create content. Etc but you look at how much people make in a day in a country like Nigeria, you look at how many people have access to the Internet, you look at how many people are actually educated. And then a lot of times those brands and platforms are comparing that to the quality of influence or the quality of content that they feel they have access to abroad. And sometimes they’re underpaying these influencers based on those comparisons. They are also underpaying the influencers because based on the markets you may be creating content that is as great as Jackie Aina and you know the great people online in like London, America or wherever. But because the market here doesn’t necessarily always translate, you may have a lot of people and a lot of people can afford to buy certain products that you advertise. So it doesn’t necessarily translate to the sales that it would translate to in London, for instance, or in somewhere in Asia or in America. It’s just I feel like we’re really at a disadvantage because the market doesn’t fully understand the creative industry. But I think it’s something that everybody is doing their part to work on the creatives of figuring themselves out. I partner with global brands mainly because I kind of feel like I get to reach outside of Nigeria and I also get shares that other people aspire to. So a lot of people are getting these are the things that Nigerian brands can emulate when they’re engaging influencers. So it’s really trial by error for now as far as I’m concerned. And I think that that has really affected people’s money, people’s opportunities. But we’re getting there. We will get there. We have to get there. And I think I’m one of the people that will make sure we get there.
You’re one star that has continued to shine brightly in the creative industry and beyond. With consistent growth and impact. What would you consider most fulfilling right now in your journey as a creative?
I think what I find most fulfilling is just the people I get to meet. The people I get to meet. The interactions, the messages, the feedback. It means more to me than ever. If you create content for a product, for instance, just an example or you act in a movie or you participate in charity work or of some kind, and you see that you’ve actually made somebody’s day. Made somebody smile. Paid somebody whom you know, trained a few girls in acting classes and mentorship sessions and things like that. You feel like everything you’re doing is sort of worth it. Because even if it’s ten people that have benefited from that, it’s not the same thing as just being in a mundane job and collecting salary. It’s a different level. It’s a different level of achievement. It’s a different level of satisfaction.
You describe The IDIA Project as one that gives you purpose. We see how your mission here is so clearly defined in the areas of media, empowerment, poverty and education without any form of segregation or bias. Please share some personal highlights of what inspired you into establishing the platform?
Um, so, again, making money in New York had nothing to really do with it. Number one. Number two, being successful in an industry and no matter what room you walked into, people would ask you questions like, oh, like you speak great English for a Nigerian and you’re shocked. I mean, this is like 21st century and people are asking you those kinds of questions. And you realize that no matter how successful you become, you’re always going to be as good as people think of other Africans or other Nigerians or other women or other young black women. So it’s up to you to do something about that. And I wanted to create a platform that just showed people amazing things that are happening across the continent. So it’s not a Nigerian focused platform at all. We talk about like phones that are being made in Rwanda, or we talk about an organization like Mercy Ships that has committed their lives to treating people around the continent for free. So they go to like four different countries in a year. I think they spent four months in each country or three different countries, and they spent about four, four months in each country and they just performed surgeries and all of that for free. Like you look at organizations like that, people like that. Have committed their lives to helping other people. So when people talk about Africa as the third World, the dark continent, the developing parts of the world, remember before they used to call us underdeveloped and politically incorrect to say that. So they started saying developing what gives one part of the world the right to call another part of the world underdeveloped. You know what I mean? And there was that continuous messaging condition you would see like The Economist and you would see starving babies or a mother in her child, but, you know, was malnourished.
So the child was malnourished. Like you would see all those messages and what was being communicated to the rest of the world. So if we don’t create platforms that tell our achievements and our stories the way other parts of the world have done for themselves, for instance, look at Asia. They are very big on promoting themselves to their people. They show the kind of content they want. They train people so that people are very smart and consuming the right kind of information. You look at America, America has the most amazing PR for that country I’ve ever seen in my life, you know, from things like Thanksgiving, from things like, you know, just winning wars, from things like spicy. Yeah, it’s not it’s not no, no nation or state is perfect, but you applaud your own efforts like you applaud your own people, your own countries. And that’s what we needed to do in Africa, either to stop winning for ourselves and we needed to applaud our own efforts. So if you put out more messages about terrorism, disease, disaster, poverty, you’re going to get more of disaster, poverty and terrorism. But if you put out more messages about the top performing presidents in Africa and what they’re doing difference that other presidents can emulate, then you’re putting out positive information that people can say, oh, sure, I want to I want to be on this top five list. You know what I mean? And that’s why. Exactly. So it’s positive conditioning versus, oh, Nigeria was last three in education, blah, blah, blah. Those things don’t help us. Yeah
As creatives, we understand the high tendencies of getting stressed out even while pursuing our passion. There are days when even depression may creep in or just that inexplicable feeling of overwhelmingness. Do you have any relatable experience to this? If so, how are you able to manage and thrive beyond phases like this? Any quick tips on ‘Mental Health for Creatives.’
Honestly, for me, I think I don’t know if it applies to everybody because people are different. But I would say that what you’re grounded in is very important. I’m very grounded in my spirituality. I don’t joke with the energy that I expose myself to. I don’t joke with how I speak to myself. So I am very big on affirmations. I don’t care if everything around me is burning down. I am the best. I am successful, I am wealthy, I am this. I am a giver I do not lack. I am very big on affirmations, that’s number one. I’m also very grounded in spirituality. A lot of people are not Christians and I think that people are free to be whatever they are. But I’m very grounded in God because in those dark times I was helped. Like physically there was no way else. I was literally saved by God. So I can’t come here and not give credits, you know, give glory for the times that there was just literally no way out. I remember there was a time my career was dark. I mean, I spoke to you about when my father passed. I didn’t know what I was going to do. All I knew was that I didn’t want to work at my job. I quit my job on air.
I was bursting into tears every day. And I remember thinking, you’re leaving this job. How are you going to make money? That same year I didn’t go to work once and I got seven endorsements in one year. Seven and “Be natural” Schweppes in France. It was the Paris office that called me and said that they loved me and I was like me. And they had this huge interview like all these brands were showing me, presentations like me, what, what am I doing seven in one year? And those endorsements, it’s for two years. While I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do for “Nneka” came along and things like that. So grateful and grounded in spirituality. Something works. You don’t let it go. So I don’t let go I can’t even lie. I can’t even for me, be grounded in something believe something. And when you believe in hold on to it with your life and that’s me. Last week I felt a tinge of depression. I finished shooting three movies and had no plans for the festive period. My whole family was already leaving to England or whatever because one of my sisters is turning 50, just feeling like I do all this work. And sometimes you kind of feel like you don’t have anything to show for it. But the way people reach out, the way people say, Oh, you know, we still want to work with you. We want to sign you next year. We take things like that for granted. You have to be grounded in something you have to believe in yourself because trust me, if you don’t believe in yourself, people are going to be like, if you are doubting your brand, people will doubt the brand. Maybe there’s something we don’t know. Maybe the only way to stuff is to speak positively to yourself and be very conscious of the energy you allow around you. Anybody that asks me, Oh, are you sure you can do blah, blah, blah, is this real?
I don’t joke with my self-love. It’s not an arrogant kind of self-love. I need this for my mental health. Yeah. So that’s it.
Balancing work time and rest time is a struggle for many Creatives. Please share a few tips on how you try to balance work time, rest time and family time?
So to be honest, part of why I really wanted to go into the creative industry was so that I could work so hard that I could buy my freedom and stuff like that
But sometimes when it rains, it pours. Like sometimes when your schedule comes down on you, it’s not very easy. So what I do is, for instance, I was shooting three movies, like I said, over the last couple of months. Once I was done with those movies, I took a limited amount of bookings for Christmas. So whether it’s to do appearances, hosting things like that, very limited amount because I told you my mom’s birthday is Christmas Day, but about five people in my family have birthdays this December. So tomorrow morning at 6 a.m, I leave for London. My sister’s turning 50. Then I have to come back because my other sister is turning 40. So I work around my family as well. And every time I’m with my family, it feels like I’m resting. It feels peaceful. They are easy. They are simple. They’re not like celebrities. They are not in the celebrity world and on social media like that. So I would say it’s more of a work family balance. And my family life is my ultimate, how do I say tranquility? Like, they’re just for me. When I’m with my family, I feel good. I had brunch with my sisters today. It was the best day just because I had brunch with my sister.
What does success mean to you?
Success to me is, Freedom and impact. So like I said, if you’re working and you feel like you’re in a rut and you can’t make certain everything begins to fall into place around you. That’s freedom for me, where people are like, Oh, does this suit your kind of this time? Are you available? Do you want to take a break? Like once everything starts to fit you? I feel like you’re definitely on that freedom route, and I feel like I also think, like I talked to you about the interactions before is how the things that make me feel the most satisfied about my job. So the impact being like somebody telling you that from your movie, they realize that they’ve never acted before, but they feel like they can become a star. That is the goal because this thing that people say many are called, few are chosen is a lie. We are all called. We are all chosen we. The only thing that stops you from getting to where you want to go is you. And yeah, and I don’t want to get into the spirituality thing again, but literally, we are all special. You’re the one that would tell people you are special. You don’t wait for people to tell you. Who are they? You know what I mean? But the understanding that my journey validates their dreams. Like, you can do anything you want to do. Nope. And if it doesn’t work this way, guess what? You can. My friend used to tell me she’s in PR. She used to tell me that different roads in the markets. If success doesn’t happen for you this way, it’s okay to go and take another door and meet them in front. But you get your destination, you know? So I don’t know.
Let’s go a little poetic: If poetry is a rainbow and you have a choice of one color in that pallette, what would that be and why?
I want to say yellow. Because yellow to me, obviously when you think of the colors in the rainbow, yellow to me always signifies that hope that happiness.
I would say yellow.
Massive Love Idia!
The ICONIC Team