Toke Makinwa, arguably one of Nigeria’s most controversial on-air personalities, tells Karen Eloke Young how she handles the hate during an intimate evening chat
Kim Kardashian, Paris Hilton, Jersey Shore Cast, Kanye West and Justin Bieber are famous people. Everyone knows their names and talks about them. Yes, they are known for different things, but the one thing that makes them the same, besides the fact that they are famous, is the intense reaction they evoke from the public.
There is something about these people that everyone loves to hate; their every move is met with harsh criticism from the public, insults and sometimes death threats.
Why is this so?
That may remain a mystery.
Cue in Rhythm 93.7 radio personality Toke Makinwa and, within a few seconds of reading several celebrity gossip blogs, a keen observer draws parallels between her and the celebrities mentioned above. The intensity of rage and insults whizzing towards Toke Makinwa whenever she is in the news is astonishing.
As she settled down for an interview with her visitor, it was as if she expected the first question: “Why do people hate you so much?”
Strangely, there was no hint of bitterness or anger in her voice as she said, with a hint of a smile tugging at her lips, “I sit back sometimes and ask myself these same questions. Why do people dislike me? Why do I create such a buzz and whip people into frenzy? Why me? I really don’t know, but I would call it polarity – it’s that thing that certain individuals have that makes people love to hate them – it’s sort of a gift.”
A wry smile lingered on her lips. And then she asked that question most women would easily answer “No” to: “Would you rather be that girl that no one takes notice of, and people get bored with or the one that gets everyone’s attention?”
Of course not!
It is admirable that this petite lady can hold her own against the scorching hatred of many. Yet, how could she still keep her cool and brush aside negativity? “We are human and regardless of anyone who is famous, anyone who has a calling, or has a ministry, you have blood flowing through your veins so of course these things would hurt. I sometimes ask myself, ‘am I really a bad person?’ It can be very overwhelming, you shed some tears sometimes, it hurts, it really does.”
Was there a slight catch in her voice? She quickly pulled herself together and continued, “But I’ll say the God-factor has helped. I look back and I know that the toughness, the strength, the will, the resolve. It was incoming, it was from my growing years. So I don’t even read the negative stuff, I try not to let it bother me. I simply dwell on what I’ve accomplished so far, my journey and other things I’m yet to achieve.”
And then as an afterthought she added, “You know, you also have to be grateful for the naysayers or haters as people call them, they are there to keep you in check, they are there to keep you grounded. Deep down they admire you. They just have a funny way of showing it.”
Her laughter would surely stoke the anger of her many critics. Yes, her remedy to public hate deserves to be taken seriously. Exquisitely fascinating in its simplicity, it takes only those with the toughest resolve to turn deaf ears to intense public criticism and dislike. Perhaps, it is a human thing to seek the public’s approval, adoration and love.
Yeah, talking about love, it is interesting to note that Makinwa’s love life has been a subject of public speculation for a while now. The last that was heard was that she had ended her 11-year relationship with her boyfriend. Recent rumours, however, seem to suggest that they have mended fences.
“Yes, we are back together,” she confirmed. “He’s a great guy. I never get to appreciate him as much as I want to and I look at my life and I look at where I am today and even the bad stuff we went though and the craziness we went though. It helped to shape me into the woman that I am today. We’ve been together for about 11 years.
“You never really know that one person. The changes, the breakups, the make-ups, and all of that is building character, you get to know the person. We had our crazy days and I hope those days are behind us forever. He’s very supportive. You know in this industry, the times when these things are being said about me and I’m trying to act like I am all tough, he either sends me flowers and he says to me, ‘You can let it out. It’s me here’. And sometimes he just takes these articles and laughs about it, and that is what women need, someone who can make you laugh, someone who after so many years can walk into a room and your heart still skips a bit.”
But this lady isn’t just about the romance and the glamour of being a radio personality. She is also a hardworking woman, who recently decided to enter the world of TV. Her new show, called “VHS”, is one that most people are looking forward to watching and, thankfully, she gave a sneak peek into what her new show will be all about.
“VHS is a music review show, it has more to do with music videos – we cannot deny the growth of Nigerian music videos, it’s amazing. It’s a growing market, so VHS is a show that critically analyses the Nigerian music industry, the styling, and the directing. And because I work on the radio I’m always surrounded by music so for me when I had the opportunity to read the script and when I was approached I thought ‘yeah I’ll do this’.”
This brief peek elicits curiosity. Many would like to see what it will be all about when it finally airs.
Toke Makinwa is indeed very a interesting and intriguing character, every moment of the interview that day was filled with humour and new knowledge. And in an uncharacteristic move, she revealed ten things about her that the public doesn’t know. This funny list of tit-bits about this controversial OAP is quirky and amusing, here they are:
• “I suffer from short-man syndrome. A lot of people think I’m snobbish, or I’m a rude person. But it’s just us short people we always think people want to take us for granted because of our height. So I’d rather cut you off before that happens.”
• “My favourite food is Amala, Gbegiri and Ewedu. I don’t get to eat that as much as I’d love to but every time I go to like a local restaurant I always order that.”
• “I cry easily. I’m a big softie. I’m a hopeless romantic – I don’t go to weddings because I cry a lot. That’s one thing people don’t know. People invite me for their weddings and I don’t turn up, and they don’t understand why. I’ve been to a few weddings and I cried my eyes out.”
• “I suffered a great loss at a very young age, and I’m still trying to open up about myself. So let’s just say I’m still not ready to talk about it.”
• “My favourite holiday destination is Spain. I would go to Spain over and over again. I love Marbella. It’s so beautiful there, the people are so nice.”
• “I’m a TV series junkie. I never have time to watch a lot of TV but right now I’m watching ‘Scandal’, ‘Revenge’, ‘Suits’ and ‘Downtown Abbey’.”
• “I love pets a lot. I don’t have one yet but I’m thinking of getting a dog soon.”
• “I’m very open to adoption. I find it very weird when people talk about having kids and they say, oh you kids must be your kids and I think it’s such a selfish way to live because there are a thousand children out there who could do with some shelter. Even when I have my own kids I’ll still adopt. I think it’s such a beautiful thing; it’s a way of giving back. People help us in different ways, and if you can bring that sunshine to someone else, why not?”
• “I was a late-bloomer. I remember in secondary school when all my mates where already wearing bras, I was still very flat-chested. It was terrible.”
• “I love my own company most times. People think I’m very loud and always out there. But on some days I can be very into myself.”