The Rise and Rise of Ayo Thompson

The interview was quite interesting and engaging; she was willing to tell us all we needed to know. Her charming smile kept me smiling and her gestures gave more meaning to her words. I noticed she loved the word, ‘to be honest’ and has a beautiful way of laughing.

I’ll advise you to grab a cold drink, relax and take your time in reading about this great lady. Ayo Thompson is full of insights and a lot to learn as a woman in this dispensation. Enjoy!

Can we get to know you?
Ayo: Hi, my name is Ayo Thompson. I am a Broadcaster, maybe I should say a media personality because I’m all multimedia, I do radio, and I do TV and everything else in between. I blog, I do YouTube videos, so in many ways… I’m a young woman who is passionate about building people, I love people as well, I love working with people particularly women, young women and maybe older women as well. I’m a Christian, most of my platforms are faith-based, and I’m a founder of the Praying Women Circle. It’s a WhatsApp based group that we also get to meet in person. I went to Swansea University, I studied International Relations. My hobbies… I love sleeping, nowadays sleep is very expensive. My ideal holiday is a place where I can sleep, eat, and read. I love reading books, novels. I used to enjoy reading a lot that’s why I like writing. I love meeting people, these days not so much because I meet a lot of people on a daily basis. I’m very involved in my local church, City of David. That’s basically it in a nutshell.

I found out it’s not been long you moved to Nigeria, how did you start your career in Nigeria?
Ayo: That’s a very Interesting question. So, like I mentioned I went to Swansea University and I worked there for a few years. I lived there for eight years before coming back. I moved back in 2013. I didn’t move back and start media, I moved back with an idea, in fact so many people don’t know that. I studied International Relations and I was active in my Student Union, I was a Black Student Officer for Wales and I sat on the UK committee too. What Naija would refer to as ‘Aluta Continua’, so I was responsible for the Black and helping minority students. I was running as the leader of the campaign, in Swansea, then Wales, then UK. So when I moved back, I thought line was that I had gained so much experience because I managed a nonprofit in Swansea, Cardiff and North Wales. So I had a lot of experience and got a lot of training, so I wanted to come back to Nigeria and I love community work. My thought when I was coming back was that, people were like, ‘you can go back and set up your own’. And I thought ‘No’, I’ve never worked in Nigeria, Post-University or a formal job so I said okay, let me gain experience first of all and then I would understand the Nigerian… because different regions have different ways of working and when I do that I would probably start my own. I had ideas, which was why I’m interested in volunteering; I wanted to set up a volunteering thing. That was what I thought I was going to do but I also had the flair for hosting. It is an accidental job, when I was in the UK as well ‘cus when you’re not for profit you do a lot of events, you have fund raisers, I worked with community service, refugees and asylum seekers because we had to do a lot of events, funding and all that. So, I used to host events and seminars. In fact the first time I got paid for hosting was in Swansea, it was the Refugee Week. You know there is an International Refugee Week in June and I did that. Then it didn’t even seem to me like a job and I hosted Swansea’s Got Talent. People really liked it but I was just enjoying myself and I didn’t see it as a career. I started blogging at the time and to be honest because of my love for family and I’ve wanted to have a talk show, that’s why I felt, okay I would like that.

So I moved back, started from the bottom literally. I left a very good job in the UK and started from the bottom. In fact when I just moved back because I’m used to being active and at that time I was independent. My sister had just started a logistics company and I was earning #50,000. They said they needed a receptionist; I said ‘I’ll do it’. I just really wanted to work and in my mind I said no knowledge is lost. I did the receptionist work with all my heart, I can be serving tea and doing it with joy, I was dealing with drivers because it was a logistics company, I didn’t mind at all.

One principle I have, ‘whatever your hand finds doing, do it well.’ My friend who knew me in the University and knew that I was General Manager, would feel sorry for me, how can you come from there to come be a receptionist but I knew that this was not my end, so don’t look at where you are, look at the bigger picture. An opportunity came up, I remember for Moments With Mo, ‘Mo Search’ I went for the audition and I actually got four yeses to go through but my dear friend was getting married the weekend of the booth camp but I just moved back then, it was a few months after. I said ‘okay no, we’ve been waiting for this wedding for many years.’ I let it go and I went for the wedding. I had another opportunity, one of my friends that went to the same university with me, (this is talking about relationships) started working at CoolTV and she told me, ‘Ayo I know you’re very good at this thing…’ I’m like, I sent in my CV but I never heard anything from them. So she was like ‘if there’s any opening, I’d let you know’ There was an opening, she remembered me and she called me. That’s how my journey to TV started. Only two years ago by the grace of God.

 

 

It’s beautiful that you’re both an On Air Personality and a TV Host, how did you find yourself in both?
Ayo: I never imagined that I could even do radio, I just knew I was good at presenting. When I first started for radio, I was rubbish let me not lie, they would tell me there is something about my voice that I should see an ENT specialist(ear, nose, throat specialist) and I had to drink a lot of water. It just makes me laugh. Anyways, that’s why the Future Awards was so special to me (I’ll talk about that later)

I just went in for TV and I had an interview with my M.D, where I told him obviously that I studied International Relations. When the opportunity for radio came, my boss was in a sink or swim situation, the day I was going to start TV, there was a very popular broadcast show on Nigerian Info, Tolulope Adeleru Balogun and she was going to be on TV, so they needed someone to replace her. My MD remembered that I told him that I studied International Relations, so I started Radio and TV on the same day without having the intention that I wanted to do Radio, so that’s another journey. All glory to God and again, God orchestrates our life’s journey.

How were you able to balance the two?
Ayo: Now, I do more TV than radio. I do on radio, ‘The Woman’, my show, I love it. I think it’s the best thing that has happened since slice bread (laughs). When I first started, I was rubbish let me not lie
I love both of them, radio is particularly nice because it’s something I’m passionate about, so it’s just like giving me a hobby to do as work, I love it, if I could extend the time I will. Of course for TV, I work with a great team. Honestly I’ve been blessed with my colleagues, you must have seen our love on our Facebook and our Instagram, Gbenga, Destiny Edewor they are just crazy people in a good way. When I first started, the balance was tough; I used to do radio every morning 5-10am Monday to Friday. I used to do TV every day, 3-4pm Monday to Friday and then I used to write scripts every day. I didn’t have time for myself at all at every opportunity to sleep I did. Now it’s even easier, I do just TV and I have a good producer who does most of the background work. Then, I was one of the people that wrote the script for the next day, look for stories, then I remember 5am you are there every single day. Now, I do it just once, it was very tough. I thank God; I did that for about a year.

You won the 2016 On Air Personality of the year at Future Awards, what would you say gave you an edge in the media industry?
Ayo: To be honest, it takes the grace of God. I never imagined that I would be nominated for radio but like I said earlier passion, diligence, whatever your hands finds to do, do it well. It might take just one person to recognize what you’re doing. I don’t know who nominated me, I don’t know what process. When I went for the photo shoot, I was asking, ‘please tell me what I was nominated for…’ I didn’t want to sound too funny. It’s the grace of God because I pray with Olive my TV colleague, also my prayer partner. She was even the one that picked up the phone when they called me that Future Awards nominated me and she said ‘Ayo you’ll get radio so that God would show you that He would do it for you.’ When she said it, I was like ‘hmmm, na so’.  TV, I can understand because I do TV everyday but now that I have even reduced my radio time and I think of all the people who could have won it. This wasn’t just women only but across Nigeria. Honestly, the first answer I would tell you from the bottom of my heart is, it was God’s grace. God must have dropped it one person’s heart, He just made my little, big. He advertised us (Olive and I). I could have given up when they said I was not good for radio and they were not saying it to be wicked to me. I could have given up, I could have not put in the effort but I did. When there was a small opening came to do ‘The Woman’ for one hour, I took it. And I was equipping myself by the grace of God and that’s what God sees. It takes your little but you have to give him something to work with.

 

Ayo Thompson 2016 Winner of The Future Award Africa Prize for On Air Personality (Audio)

 

In your acceptance speech at the future awards, you said ‘Content is the new gold’ can you buttress on that….?
Ayo: Of course, Content is the new gold. Content and data, in terms of pushing things your idea out there. Young people are making a lot of money from their ideas. People are seeing that media is the way forward, people are doing online TV, we have overnight celebrities on Instagram, mainly Instagram and Snapchat, basically what you can see. You have to think of, okay, what do people want to see? So, you can be in your home and just have an idea and someone would pay you money for it. It’s very important, stop looking at, let me go and steal somebody’s idea, I need a job. You need to be creative and thank God for the internet. The internet has made a lot of people billionaires, millionaires, you know rich. Content is the way forward, thinking of things, it’s not just good enough to be a presenter; you also have to be able to be creative. The day I came for my interview, my boss asked, ‘Can you produce?’ I’ve never even seen TV before but I said yes. (Laughs) What does it take; I said you have to be creative. Anybody can be a content provider, just make sure that you build yourself, read widely, be in tune with what is going on in your environment.

Your activities on social media vividly show your love for God and being a proud Christian. How have you been able to live your faith through media?
Ayo: Let me start by saying, media is not only for condemned sinners. (Chuckles) or you don’t have to compromise to be in the media and I’m a testimony to that. I remember when I first started, to be honest, the first day I went for an audition and I saw the environment and the things they were saying, I had to go back and ask myself that, ‘are you sure?’ And to be honest, I was willing to let it all go. I’ll rather follow Jesus and make heaven than get fame. I asked God sincerely that, ‘Lord If you know I’m going to backslide, let me just end this…’ Its not that hard even till today, I pray to God if it is going to make me, there’s nothing too precious in it for me to hold on to. That you would tell me to compromise, so that I’ll keep my status, who am I without God. Who am I? One of the things for young people going into this is, you have to have a principle, you need to know the child of whom you are and never forget it. Surround yourself with people who are like minded, I’m not saying don’t have friends but your core friends and the people that you can draw strength, have that covering. I have a fantastic support system and one of the things I told my people when I first started, I said to my sister who is my best friend and my close friends, I said to them that, ‘If you see me change a little, maybe you just see something that didn’t use to be there before caution me immediately. Like I have accountability partners, I have people that I told that if your see me change…so I have people watching me.

My mother! Eh! My mother is my biggest supporter and role model, she listens to all my shows literally, watches all my shows. So even in my outfit, if I wear something —I want them to call me to order. I don’t want to get to a point whereby I’m beyond correction. So I have friends who can tell me the truth, whether it’s the bitter truth or something I don’t want to hear. Very important, know yourself; don’t pretend to be what you’re not.

There are list of things that other people can do that is not bad, like Paul said ‘all things are lawful but not all things are expedient’ but I chose not to do them because I knew I was I’m in a very vulnerable position. They said those who live in glasshouse should not throw stones, if I did not leave in a glasshouse, its okay to be throwing stones around but I’m in the glasshouse, I would not throw stones. The things I listen to, the kind of conversations I participate in, the places I go to as well, very important and I’m very careful. I see myself as an ambassador. The way a brand ambassador for Airtel would not be found at an Etisalat event, posing with Etisalat people is the same way I am for Christ. If there are things that do not promote or goes against that, I probably would not go for it, there’s no amount of money. And that’s another thing, money should not be your motivation or fame, ‘cus the devil knows what you desperately want and he would make sure that your biggest temptation is tied to it. If this is the highest that God takes me to that’s fine but that’s the thing about God, he would take you beyond. That’s the truth.

I admire your passion for women; your show on Nigeria Info FM ‘The Woman’ has received positive recognition. What do you think is better about the average Nigerian woman?
Ayo: One thing I think is better about Nigerian women is that, we are supporting ourselves more. In recent times, I’ve seem more women platforms. There are so many women platforms and I’m grateful for Velvet Pitch website. It’s like something has happened to Nigerian women, we’re just rising. I don’t think it’s too much, we have not started. That is why, when I see a woman doing things I never feel is a competition, I want to support because I’m like, we’ve been through so much oppression (if I can put it that way) that we need a lot of galvanization to get up. Not because we want to triumph the men or something because we’re going to give birth to sons. We cannot so without men, for women to achieve to achieve their full potentials. For too long, we’ve been told lies and for a long time some women has had a burning passion but it has just burnt them out because they just felt like this was the way. I’m really grateful to God that I’m in this generation, there are women who are doing fantastic things. So one of the things I think for women that has changed, is the fact that we are supporting each other, we’re rising, WIMBIZ Network, She Hive, bring it on! We need more women who are passionate because the more women we have who are making it, the more women we can see being inspired and the work is so much, when you go for events, you see the amount of women. It gets exhausting, when all of them are saying mentor me. The more mentors we have, the better. It’s a great future for Nigeria because of this. Because I know that, there is a seed being planted and a fire that is being ignited and the women are running with it.

 

I must commend your success in the path you’ve chosen. What habits helped make you successful?
Ayo: I must say, Relationship with God. It’s not a habit but that’s one. In terms of relationship with God, I’ve prayed more in recent times. My prayer life has increased and I’ve noticed that I’ve grown in proportion to my prayer life by the grace of God. So, prayer life definitely, because I knew that, I cannot use the same weapon, if I was using cutlass and hoe for my small farm, when I get an industrial farm I have to get, so in that way yes. I never forget that aspect no matter how busy I am, that’s my engine, that’s what keeps me going and then a positive attitude. Treat people well, I learned from a great leader Pastor Agu Irukwu, he was voted the Most Influential Black Man in the UK. He said something, I don’t have money but I have people, that people are your greatest resource, that there’s nobody now that he cannot call, he may not have money on his pocket but if he needs one or two things, he has someone somewhere that can be able to help him. It comes from the fact that he genuinely cares for people. It’s almost like an investment because of busyness; I’m trying not to let that go out.

The people that I’ve helped me in life are the people that at one point or the other I have had a relationship with them. I mean like friends, look at how I got into TV, it was a friend. Just be good to people, don’t have a bad day. Let people feel that they mean something to you. It was Mandela that said, people would forget the things you said but they will never forget how you make them feel. They will never forget. Sometimes, its drivers that would save your life. There’s nothing for me that is impossible, dream big, having that positive mindset. Be kind to people, even people that are not good to you. You’ll never know. Make an effort to make people your resource. Yoruba’s say, ‘Eniyan laso’ (people are your clothes). Build yourself up, people that I really look up to and I admire, I like to watch them, I like to listen. Anywhere you see yourself, learn. I didn’t go to a formal training school, it was by observations. Don’t despise people, you can learn from a child, an adult, someone who is just in the industry. There’s always something to learn.

What are your plans concerning marriage?
Ayo: I’m getting married very soon by the grace of God. I’m seeing someone at the moment and hopefully, before the end of this year we would be getting married. I’m pro-marriage; if you read my blog ‘One plus One’ you’ll see. A good man is worth waiting for, that’s all I would say. I’m not a young person; I didn’t marry at a young age even though I wanted to marry at a young age. I get to speak to women about the importance of living your life while waiting and not moping or being sad. And also, not settling but waiting for God’s best.

 

What series of experiences formed the foundation of your gospel on celibacy/abstinence?
Ayo: Of course, my faith was one of it. I believe my mother built us up to have healthy self-esteem. Not to believe to go with the crowd, solid principles and of course the Word of God. I think it’s being drummed into our ears that purity is key. I grew up in the Church, I knew Christ at a very young age. You’re worth more than, just because everyone is doing it, you’re doing it as well. It is possible. I had a project in ‘One Plus One’ called ‘Waiting and Loving It’ and that was informed ‘cus whenever you seat with people, I noticed that girls and boys we are ashamed to talk about the fact that they don’t believe in sex before marriage because everybody was talking about I’m doing it and then I also thought about it that many people are not doing it but they are ashamed to say it. And when I started speaking out about it, I want people to see that its cool again, you know it’s okay.

When someone can talk about things that would make suggestive comments, I also want them to know that I’m not doing it and I can be comfortable. Whenever you open your mouth to say it, people would say you’re judging, yet they would sit down and tell me about this time, so and so happened. I’m like if you have the boldness to say what is not right according to the Bible, I should be bold to speak up for God. Whether you like it or not, there has been statistics and experience has proven that people talk about the fact that, they wish they did not have sex before marriage. It’s fun and nice when it’s happening but the heartbreak that comes from it apart from the spiritual implication, it’s not worth it. Why are we shy about it? I’m proudly team V! Team no sex before marriage! Team waiting and loving it! by the grace of God.

How have you been able to cope for over 30 years of abstinence?
Ayo: Wonderful question (laughs) I was on a relationship certainly but I was not sexually active. The pressure was there, I’ve met guys that I wanted to just sacrifice it and say, just take it but two things I use to say; Number one, my relationship with God , nothing was precious enough to comprise. Number two, my mother because I have a very good relationship with my mum. I just imagined that eh, so I won’t be able to talk freely. I just imagined the hurt and disappointment she would feel. Of course she would forgive me, I’m I not her child but I just did not want to disappoint her and God.

Practically, I’m militant in certain areas and I have grown militant as I grow older. I used to do the whole kissing and all that. I shared that on my blog but I got to a point where I thought, no, nothing, I’m not even doing anything at all.

There are little rules know your trigger point; what is my trigger is not your trigger. You can’t say it’s not going to happen, it’s easier to say when you’re single but not when you’re in a relationship and you love that person. Are we just going to be talking, talking and talking? But funny enough it also helps your relationship ‘cus you have the opportunity to really talk and get to know one another. What you’ll not eat, don’t smell it.

I like the fact that you have a good relationship with your Mum, quite a number of females don’t have a good relationship with their Mum, and how can one build this type of relationship?
Ayo: My mum is a treasure. You have to be deliberate about it. When I was younger I just didn’t smile with my mum when people see me now and my mother is like my best friend. It was one of my friends who was very close to her mother that said, ‘Ayo, your mum is such a wonderful person but you don’t make the effort…’ A lot of times what kills us as girls is too much forming, I think it’s a ploy of the devil because you’re both women, when you both get to that stage of adulthood, there’s a clash of egos. I started with dates, in my mind I knew what I wanted and started working towards it. It’s just like how a man and a woman wanting spark in their relationship and the calls her, take her out, date nights. It’s the same way, I’m very particular about my mum, I go date nights. My mother is my date for many things. There is no mother that would reject her daughter being loving to her. So I’ll send flowers, chocolate, maybe because we’re not men we don’t know how to do these things.

You have to be deliberate about your relationship with your mother. What you reap from it is worth more than, it’s a culture thing. It was awkward for me at first, like who has time for ‘Mummy let me take you out’ but it has to be broken. Someone has to break that because of culture and all that and I saw in other people, I really liked it. My Mum can be very traditional, I want to tell her about this boy and I can see she’s uncomfortable initially when I first started but now, there’s nobody we cannot talk about. Most especially because of my blog, I did that because she reads my blog. I had to share everything about myself and be open so that my mother will not ask ‘so you kissed somebody’ (Laughs) they actually crave a relationship, so understand the way they relate. My mother likes going out to eat; we would go to the cinemas. We fight a lot but we find a way to mind ourselves. Someone has to break the ice, it may not work immediately, know your mother and your father. Call them and gist. Mothers like gist. (Laughs)

 

 

If you could have given yourself a piece of advice when you started, what would that be?
Ayo: I should have not worried about boys. If someone told me that I would not be married until I’m like 31, ah! I would have just lived my life. That’s why I’m so passionate about talking to women; they’re so many people that would have waited for a man, pairing the surnames. We all did it. Now that my singleness is about to be over, have I done everything I wanted to do? Because there are certain things you cannot do when you get married. Now I have freedom, my friends I will be looking at them, at a party, they have to go and cook. I’m like if I can’t cook, I’ll buy Pizza. Enjoy your life, be the best of you that you can be. Thank God some women are already doing that. It also starts with the way a woman is brought up, let your girls understand that it’s okay not to be so fixated about this marriage thing, it’s not rocket science, it will happen. Enjoy yourself, discover you, invest your time in doing things that would build you, and not just you, build your generations to come. Very important, I wish I told my younger self that but no regrets. It made me who I am, I can talk to people because I have been through it.

On a final note, what is your beauty routine?
Ayo: I don’t have a beauty routine, but every woman should look after, it’s not vanity. If you can afford to get pedicure, manicure, facials. There’s something about looking good that makes you feel confident. It’s not carnal, it’s not worldly. Look after yourself, take pride on it and men like it too. I like woman who take pride in looking after themselves, you know groom yourself.

Thank God I work in the media industry, a lot of it is done for us, hair and Makeup but also I still have my personal responsibility. I don’t have time for facials more regularly like I would have liked. I didn’t use to do my nails but now I do it. I think I’m more ladylike now. One thing I didn’t used to joke with then, that I still don’t joke with now is beauty products, soaps. I would spend a lot of money on beauty products and a lot of money is relative but I didn’t use to joke with that. It might be saving you money now but that money you’re saving will cost you long term. Look at people who lose their hair at old age, if they know that that one product that they are trying to save extra maybe 5000 Naira would have not made you bald head you’ll pay any money. Hair, face, skin products, I look at the long term impact. I tell Makeup artists the ones we use in the office that don’t put all these things because long after TV have finished I still want to live. When you put all the lashes and my real lashes fall off. (Laughs) I don’t joke with my edges, its important so live for the future.

Thank you very much for your time.
You’re welcome.

Let us know what you one lesson you picked from Ayo Thompson’s experience and would definitely apply to your life.

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