“I have seen many women make grave mistakes or sell themselves short because they have undervalued themselves” #LLAInterview with Award Winning Media Personality- Ayo Mairo-Ese.

There is something very soothing and endearing about Ayo Mairo-Ese. Her calmness, her wisdom, the way she analyses her experiences without exalting it as the standard for measuring wisdom. Ayo is what we call the #LLAWoman Cool, Calm, Collected and Wise. In this fun interview, Ayo tell us what informed her decision to choose the career path she did, mentoring, feminism&female empowerment and then lots more. Enjoy!

Hello Ayo. It’s great to have you on LLA. Who is Ayo Mairo-Ese (you can tell us the goofy stuffs too lol)
Hiya! Thank you so much LLA for having me. Honestly, I was surprised and felt very honored to have received the invitation to do this. I admire your work with women and salute every member of the team. *Thank you Ayo*

So, who is Ayo Mairo-Ese?! (Lol). I am a young woman, a Christian who loves God (my relationship with Him is the essence of who I am). I am married to a very wonderful man, Mairo Ese. I come from a very loving family and I thank God for my them. My mum is my biggest encourager and role model. I am a Broadcaster or you could say Media Personality. TV and Radio are my forte, in addition to hosting live events. I am a Teacher at heart and I facilitate training sessions as well as share knowledge and experience at seminars and conferences,. Also, I serve as a mentor to some young people. I love people! I love food (my scale is not happy about this), I love cakes a lot, I LOVE love I am an unapologetic romantic), I love reading, I love dancing and singing (my voice is work in progress haha). What else? I’ll stop here for now..

Awwww that’s cool! So tell us, what was growing up like and how did your childhood experiences, impact on the woman you have become today?
Great question! I thank God for the family He put me in. I was a ‘safe’ but particular child lol. Safe in the sense that I was probably ‘goody two shoes’ / Teacher’s pet but I could be very annoying because I wanted things done in a particular way. I remember my Aunties nicknamed me ‘buckle no 4’ because when they wore my school shoes, the buckle had to be in the fourth hole. I would throw a massive tantrum if it wasn’t, like literally cry till I got to school! (Very annoying!)
I grew up in a family where my mum was particular about raising us up to believe in ourselves, promoting a healthy self-confidence, and empowering us to be independent to a reasonable extent. I was raised by a very strong woman with an excellent spirit. She always encouraged us to be more, and to do more. She also led by example as she excelled at whatever task or responsibility she was given. I remember once, she sent an article to my younger sister and I on a feature of some powerful and inspirational women, using them as an example for us and asking us who we wanted to be in future. I found that really powerful.
My siblings are amazing and I am close to my immediate and extended family. My immediate younger sister is my best-friend and closest confidant (well, now after my husband lol)

Great! Can you share some experiences that you consider really life defining for you?
Hmmmm….. When we became Christians and consequently, the day I made the decision to give my life to Christ would definitely be number 1. Just to give more context, I was born into a Muslim family and became a Christian at the age of 9. Like I mentioned earlier, my relationship with God is the foundation of my life’s existence. I have found strength in this walk, found purpose, grace and favour. At the risk of sounding cliché, I can’t imagine what my life would have been if I hadn’t taken that decision.
Next would be fulfilling my dream of working in media; the opportunity to start my career in radio and TV on the same day. Also, the day I won The Future Awards Africa Prize of On-Air-Personality (Radio) in 2016. This was important to me as it was a dream or shall I say desire come true. I remember saying (and I still maintain) that your dreams are valid. Dream as BIG as possible, work hard and watch God make it unfold.
Another life defining experience or moment would be the day I got married. As the days have passed, I am grateful to God to say that He really blessed me with a great man and marriage. Early days yet but I am grateful. This is one of the proofs of God’s faithfulness and love to me.
There are other moments but I’ll share these three for now.

Did you choose this career path? And what challenges have you faced so far?
I studied International Relations in University. Taking it back, I wanted to be a Doctor when I finished Secondary School so you can imagine that I have gone in a different direction from what I assumed.This career path became a desire when I realized that I had a natural flair for hosting events and engaging with people. I also had a healthy confidence facing a crowd. I am really glad that I am able to walk this path, I LOVE this career path and I really enjoy what I do.
Challenges – I was told when I started on radio that I wasn’t cut out for it, that my voice wasn’t quite the conventional radio voice! Well, thank God I didn’t give up. I researched, practised a lot on own, learnt from others and 2 years after I won an award in that category (see one of the reasons that award was special for me? I was recognized in the same field I was told wasn’t for me). I learnt a lesson there that passion, diligence and the grace of God can make you do the impossible!

Would you say there are specific challenges women in the media face? If yes, how?
Oh yes! I’m sure my colleagues can confirm that unfortunately, there are still some prejudices and pressures for women in media. I’ll mention two personal instances.
One, I remember when I first started in radio and there was some restructuring at the time, my boss at the time (whose style is revolutionary) wanted to have an all-female line-up for the morning belt (which is prime time), with a core political and current affairs theme.

After our first outing, the complaints included that we were all women and we would sound (or sounded) like market women chattering away and that the Nigerian audience would feel more comfortable with a man in the mix, perhaps to make it/us sound more serious. Isn’t that funny? At the time, a team of women on radio in the morning wouldn’t seem intelligent enough until a baritone voice is heard. There’s nothing wrong with a mixed team (it actually works really good), however it was discouraging to imagine that my (or our) level of intelligence was judged based on the fact that we were female.

A second experience would be one that I encountered more frequently a few years back. I would go to host an event and they’d be looking for the ‘MC’. Why? Because the idea of a female compere was quite unusual! Lol
I have had times where I wouldn’t get a solo job as MC because I was female and it would only be fine if I were co-compering with a man (this wouldn’t be the case if it were a man). Sometimes, I would be the more experienced MC of the two of us but the organisers would rather consult with the man to pass information as the main host as women were seen to play the supporting role.

Sometimes, we have to prove ourselves a bit more for them to take us seriously or accord one due respect.

It would be great for more women to be given the opportunity to work in formal as well as informal settings based on merit (and not for their good looks alone lol).
Thankfully many competent female journalists, media personalities and comperes are changing that narrative. Kudos to organizations who also support this.

You run “Praying Women Circle”. What is the inspiration behind that and how has the reception been so far?
Praying Women Circle (PWC as we fondly like to refer to it), started without intention lol. I like to refer to it as God’s idea because I didn’t set out to start anything permanent.
I had been given a 3-in-1 book written by Stormie Omartian (Prayer of a Praying Woman, Prayer of a Praying Wife and Prayer of a Praying Parent) and I was struggling to read it so I asked a few of my friends to go on a 3month challenge to read the book, taking a chapter per day. The idea was for us was to pray each day (there was a prayer focus for each chapter), and hold ourselves to account by talking about it each evening. Well a group of women grew organically by the initial participants inviting their friends and so on.

3 months has turned to 3 years today and still growing strong by God’s grace. We are a family of praying women striving to grow in Christ, learning, sharing, loving one another and being all that God created us to be as women, wives, mothers, business moguls, experts, professionals, philanthropists – all round women!

Female empowerment and feminism has become a global movement. Africa especially, has witnessed a new crop of women who are moving past gender limitations, succeeding in their field of endeavours and opening the door for other women to come in. Do you think the impact of feminism is being felt in Nigeria?
Certainly! I mentioned earlier that a lot has changed in only 4years in media! We are not yet what we hope to achieve in terms of achieving equal opportunities for men and women but we are progressively working towards it – through education, awareness and empowering women to believing in their capacity to be and do more.
In recent times, we have seen women emerge in Nigeria more than we have in many years previously. Young Nigerian females can identify women who are Nigerians breaking the mould. When I think of a media mogul, I don’t have to refer to Oprah alone, I can look up to Mo Abudu, Biola Alabi, Kemi Adetiba, Colette Otusheso. I am really proud of this!

Mention three things you would say to your 25 year old younger self?
Don’t give up just yet, all these things will add up. Be diligent, give your best, don’t compromise, it would all pay off. It might look like it will never happen but don’t quit. It will all be worth it in the end.

Was mentoring a part of your journey? How has it shaped the woman you are today?
Yes, definitely! I am a mentored woman lol. I have had amazing mentors and I continue to ‘acquire’ as I go along this journey. I have career mentors just as I have marriage mentors and spiritual mentors. Some, I have a personal relationship with, while others I gain by following closely, their lives and principles from afar.

I have deep respect, honour and regard for women who have poured out themselves so much to enriching my life over the years. They have made me a better woman all round. I continue to remain open to direction and instructions from women that have gone ahead of me (irrespective of age), women who have wisdom and knowledge in a particular area and women who have (for some reason) taken an interest in me and others.
Let me use this opportunity to thank them very much.

Can you share three things you look out for before mentoring women? A woman who is hungry / desirous of more and would like to achieve her full potential.
A woman who is willing to put in the work that is required – ready to go over and beyond.
A woman with a good attitude / good character.

From your experience, what would you say is a woman’s greatest challenge and in what specific ways would you advise her to deal with this challenge?
I would say Self-confidence and knowing who she is / finding her identity and self-worth I see many women who underestimate the value of who they are. It’s a very sad thing. Sometimes I want to shake them up and say “Do you know who you are? Do you know the treasure that you are? Do you know who God has made you to be and how much He has deposited in you? If only you knew your capacity!”
Unfortunately, many women do not grasp the magnitude of who they are and what they are capable of doing. Many women have believed a lie as to their identity or life has caused them to despise the priceless gift that they are. I have seen many women make grave mistakes or sell themselves short because they have undervalued themselves, not realizing how precious they are.

I have seen women aiming for less because they don’t truly believe that they are deserving of more. I have seen women living far below their potential because they just don’t know who they are or perhaps something / someone / life has eroded their self-confidence.It’s a huge challenge to many women.

A few things I would say – Deliberately surround yourself with people who affirm you and who build you up (mind, body and spirit). Believe in yourself enough to work hard in achieving the best (you deserve to work hard to make your dreams come true). Seek a relationship with the one who made you – He has the best answer as to what He intended when He created you. Fly with that knowledge – You are limitless!! Be the best woman you can be.

3 books you would recommend for any woman looking to lead a fruitful/productive life?
Out of many, I’ll pick:
Power of a Praying Woman / Wife / Mother by Stormie Omartian
Battlefield of the Mind by Joyce Meyer
Redeeming Love (A powerful novel by Francine Rivers)

Pizza or Chocolates?
I’m sorry, both! (Don’t make me choose lol)

What is your greatest pet peeve?

What is your advice to women who want to build a career in the media industry?
Be passionate about it. Be willing to serve and give of yourself (even without pay initially), be true to yourself, research and read widely – be current on a variety of issues and trends, find a mentor (you could know them personally or just study them closely), be tenacious (it’s a very competitive market), relate with people, be deliberate about growing your network – attend events where possible and build good relationships, be kind and considerate (good character and attitude help a lot in life generally), don’t feel intimidated by the status quo, be bold to push for me, work on your diction (you don’t need to have a foreign accent to succeed, speak well and confidently), be social (engage on social media effectively), believe in yourself and don’t even think of quitting!

The Leading Ladies Africa Series is a weekly interview series that focuses on women of African descent, showcases their experiences across all socio-economic sectors, highlights their personal and professional achievements and offers useful advice on how to make life more satisfying for women. It is an off-shoot of Leading Ladies Africa, a non-profit that promotes women empowerment and gender inclusion for women of African descent.

Do you know any woman of African descent doing phenomenal things? Send an email to lead@leadingladiesafrica.org and we just might feature her.

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