#LLAInterview: ”I see mistakes as opportunities to uncover and learn something new” LLA Meets Ibijoke Maxwell, Founder- The Jo Maxwell Show

Ibijoke Maxwell’s story is one of grit, resilience and courage. Having found herself in a community where a single narrative of Black people was been told repeatedly, she decided to bridge the gap. She started her show, the Jo Maxwell show which aside being a positive alternative to mainstream Media in the UK, is also solving the problem of representation and allows a wide spectrum of people listen to and watch Inspiring Black stories told by Black people. She tells us more about her journey and why impacting lives is important for her.

 

Hello Jo, It’s Great to have you on LLA. So, tell us, who is Jo Maxwell?

A massive thank you, for having me on LLA, It’s a real honour to be interviewed. You guys are doing an amazing Job.

I am like an onion with many layers, and each layers represents an aspect of my personal and professional life. I reveal myself peel by peel and there is no end to the layers in me. I am a Wife, a Mother to 3 amazing legends, a Talk-Show Host, TV Presenter, an IT Consultant, a Podcaster and the Founder of the ‘PEP Network’ UK. My close circle would consider me as a loyal friend, a high achiever, the life of the party and the girl you always need in your corner. I am also very passionate about the things I love and I don’t give much room for the things that adds no value to my existence… Basically, I believe I am the girl that God has called into this world for such a time as our present time.

Awesome! So, what was growing up like and how has it impacted the woman you have become today?

Growing up as a little girl (2nd of 4 children) was tough with not having both parents present in my life, especially during the early years. I had an absent father therefore my mother had to raise my siblings and I alone with the help of our grand parents. Growing up without a father or should I say with both parents not present at the crucial stage of my early years meant that I had to figure a lot of things out and learn fast especially during my teenage years. This also meant that I had to make some important decisions and I tell you, I did make some good and NOT so good choices. Some had domino effect but I always seem to find ways to combat things when they don’t go as planned. I was a very calculating child growing up. I was also a rebellious child because not having my parents around made me tough, determined and driven as most children around us had both parents present in their lives and seemed like they had it all. I was age 8 when my mother travelled to the United Kingdom. One of the toughest things she had to do ever was to leave her 4 children behind. My mum left us with my grandparents, she wanted to ensure she secured our future- the bright future she wanted to give us. 

She worked multiple hours, slaved and did multiple jobs. I remember going for months without speaking to her. Back then phones were not what they are now, so she will have to send a message to us through someone that she will call at a particular date and time, so we can be available and close to the phone to pick her calls. Those were the moments I lived for as a child. I am talking about once every 3-6months phone call on analogue land lines. This was back in the early 90s.

You see, I had enough time to think, overthink, dream, talk to myself and desire many things as well as a life that seemed unrealistic back then. I always desired a wealthy life. I wanted it all and I still do. Seeing my mum work so hard, and not seeing her children for almost 13 years, meant I had to be that strong, goal-getter person and a high achiever regardless of what life threw at me. I felt I owed it to her to be the best I could be and make her proud. I also ‘lowkey’ wanted my very absent father to see me successful without his input. Remember I did say earlier that I was a rebellious child growing up, I was also a very caring and giving person, I learnt that from my grandmother and my mother who always sent goodies to us and family members despite the fact that she had to work multiple odd jobs abroad. I gave of myself where I could to people around me. I wanted everyone around me to have the best of opportunities they could have, so I will share the things my mum sent to me with friends and cousins around. I was dependable, everyone could count on that one friend they had in me. My siblings always felt safe having me around. I always wanted a life where my impact can be felt.

So, tell us your story. How did you set out in the media industry and how has the journey been so far?

I believe I mentioned previously that I always wanted to impactful. I really just wanted to extend that to people who won’t necessarily have access to me and my journey into media world has availed me that opportunity.

In truth, it really just started with a little seed sown in me, when I reached out to my cousin. I thought about bringing together, some of the amazing and inspiring women around me to celebrate them as we discuss real life issues that affects us as black women living in the diaspora. {You know black people don’t really like to discuss private issues} I felt that creating a TV show, especially as there isn’t any programme that showcases black community in a good light on a consistent basis here in the UK, would be a great way to tap into that GAP in the market and create a solution. 

So here we are, 16 months down the line, after starting off as a YouTube channel in September 2017, we are now on multiple Televisions here in the UK.

You are a woman of multiple aspirations and you do quite a LOT! How do you define balance especially as it relates to navigating what you do, family and other secular obligations? 

This is one question I am often asked and my answer in all honesty, is that it is by Grace!! I believe that God’s grace is sufficient. All we need to do is tap into that grace as often as we need. I am a firm believer of one thing- If God gave you the idea, He will always provide and make ways for you to fulfil it. After all, he never gives us more than we can handle…!!! 

I have an amazing husband who is very much of a family man. He is very present in the home front and he allows and supports all of my plans and visions. I call him my enabler. Trust me on this, without a supportive husband, it will be difficult to run with your vision. Also, with the help of my long-standing Nanny and my mum living 20 mins away from us, it’s easier for me to juggle my many hats. I must also give credit to my children, who fully understand and are very supportive. They give me the time I need when its work time. This is because I am consistently explaining everything, I do to them. I want to carry them along with me on my journey and hopefully help shape their own future in a positive way!  (Although they would rather have mummy to themselves the entire them {smiles})

Great! Let’s talk briefly about your educational background. What role did it play in preparing you for what you do now?

So, I studied Accounting and Finance at the University of Greenwich, London and weirdly enough, Accounting is not part of the things I currently do. I would say that (besides being a girl from Ijebu-Ode…you know we don’t play with money and are often prudent and calculating), studying Accounting has helped to be more frugal and focused when it comes to money management. It has also helped me in investment making wise investment decisions. So, in reference to your question about my studies preparing me for what I do now, it’s all relative and of course, has played a part, but I can’t really say that it’s had a lot to do with my current situation and career path. I believe who I am today is more as a result of me intensely pursuing the things I am passionate about.

Moving on, why did you start the JO MAXWELL show and what has been the highlight of your career so far?

The Jo Maxwell show started from identifying the lack of good representation of the black community on the mainstream TV here in the UK. We often only hear about Africans when things are not going so well, so creating a TV Show that allows me to showcase some of the amazing and inspiring women in the UK is very refreshing and fulfilling. The fact that I can make thousands of households stop whatever they are doing to watch and listen to these amazing women is enough highlight. That is what I call POWER. Power to change the mindset of people. Now through my TV show, many can see us and relate to us and the challenges we face. Yes we have our struggles, but we are a very much driven and successful people here in the UK and abroad. 

The response and support from people in the countries I have presence in has been amazing and encouraging. Getting the show on to three major African channels here in the UK within the 1st year of us going live to the public online was very humbling and for sure the biggest achievement so far.

And the downsides- can you share some mistakes you have made in the course of running the show and what you have learnt from it?

I don’t see mistakes as “mistakes”, but I see them as an opportunity to learn and uncover something new. Every step I have taken has always turned out to be a blessing in a way. It is tough self-funding a TV show with no support whatsoever, but I know that it is all the seed I need to sow for now to get us to where we need to be. It is a huge GAP that I am confident that I will fill.

What advice do you have for a 25-year-old looking to build a career in the media industry as a TV talk show host especially in the diaspora?

That’s a pretty tough one to say, reason being that the cost of production here in the UK is huge especially at the level I started. However, with the help of good smartphones now, you can start from where you are. Be sure you are very clear of the impact you want to make and add to peoples lives, don’t just jump at the idea of fame or having a talk-show. The journey is about impact not fame. I’m still saying this to myself till this day; be intentional, relevant and consistent. The journey is pretty rough, but once you set out to impact lives, quitting isn’t an option.

Digressing a bit, what is your take on feminism? Are you a feminist? How has your feminist thinking shaped your outlook of the world?

Oh My Goodness… There was I thinking we won’t go there but you just had to right? (Laughs hard)
I believe in equality and I am an advocate for women’s rights on the grounds of equality of the sexes, but I believe the world is starting to misconstrue this ideology. Yes we now have a voice that can be heard; and we are starting to earn higher pay like the men, although there is still a mile to go especially when it comes to boards of directors in organizations, where you rarely see women in that hierarchy. However, I still like to be traditional, so I love some traditional roles to continue as they are! For example; the man can continue to be the head of the family and provide for his family whilst the woman should be allowed to work and earn her keep too. Is it too much to ask for? That’s my opinion and I should be allowed that. This is a whole conversation we can have on another day.

From your experience and interactions with women, what do you think are the core reasons women shrink themselves from pursuing their dreams? Can you share some recommendations for tackling these limiting beliefs? 

I saw a quote recently shared on The PEP network (@thepepnetwork) Instagram page and it said: “Stop letting your ideas and talent go to waste because you think motherhood is the way.” How profound is that? Some women often think being married and or motherhood is the be all and end all, forgetting that they were someone before the children came. As women, we must be willing to take bold steps, take chances, be willing to make mistakes and learn from them and also not worry too much about what people will say. As women, we need to live our full potential – not in the shadow of anyone.

Can you share the greatest limiting belief you had to fight?

I am still fighting it – its “Overthinking and over processing things”. It is a limiting factor to greatness and I know that. It has led me to make some wrong decisions. Sometimes the first idea or thought is the solution you need. Stop thinking too much as you then leave room for doubt and self-belief or sometimes you give room for wrong solutions and ideas. 

Let me know when you have a solution to this big problem of mine lol

Let’s talk about recreation, what does it for you when it comes to have fun?

A glass of wine! As simple as that! 
Hmmm…now that I think of it, maybe also eating out with my girlfriends, traveling and to be honest, anything that takes me away from mummy and wife duty for a few hours is good.

3 Make up kits you cannot do without?

A red lipstick, A nude lipstick, A burgundy lipstick…. Is all I need on a regular day, I don’t do heavy make up on a regular day.

3 African movie recommendations?

I have seen a handful and I am really bad with names. I think Wedding Party part 1 was fun and stuck in my head till this day, Sola Sobowale is life and yes, I have seen the part 2, but part 1 was more fun.

3 TV show recommendations?

  1. Ellen Degeneres Show
  2. The Real
  3. The View

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; an initiative that seeks to effectively mentor and inspire women, with particular emphasis on the African continent.

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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