Hi Chinasa, tell us about yourself.
Hi. It’s so funny that this is the first question because it’s your quintessential date question, and I’m here talking about my dating show. I’m a stand-up comedian, writer, actor, host, director, and producer. Like I love to say, Jack of all trades, a master of maintaining beauty. I also consider myself a chief lover and supporter of pounded yam, women’s rights, African creatives & young Africans.
How did you get started in hosting your own shows? What inspired you to start your own show?
When the pandemic struck, I was living in New York, where I had just earned a spot in a prestigious comedy competition organized by a reputable media company. Additionally, I had been awarded a scholarship to pursue studies in a renowned theater arts program. Unfortunately, both of these incredible opportunities vanished right in front of me. I was actively engaged in drama school and regularly performing stand-up comedy, but the pandemic brought a sudden halt to both of these pursuits. It was a significant loss of opportunity that forced me to take a step back and carefully consider how I could adapt and rebuild my path forward.
At the time, I was not really sure where to start, so I began hosting a talk show called “Conversations with Friends” on Instagram Live. Simultaneously, I started focusing on content creation; filming and sharing comedic videos three times a week on TikTok and Instagram. By engaging in these activities, I was able to keep my mind occupied and maintain a creative outlet. It was a way for me to continue nurturing my passion and prevent my thoughts from idling at the time.
It was in the process of creating content that the idea for ‘Is This Seat Taken’ came to me, and I decided that when I was back in Nigeria for my sister’s wedding in December 2020, I would try and shoot one episode to see what comes of it. That one episode turned into a full season, and from that point on, there was no turning back. In a broader sense, I have been hosting events since my secondary school days. I was the Vice President of the ACS at my University. I took charge of producing and hosting numerous events. I have always been comfortable with engaging in conversations. It’s a natural inclination of mine, and I’ve never been one to shy away from talking.
Could you tell us about your show’s main focus or theme? What topics do you cover, and why did you choose those subjects?
I think the show has two primary objectives; Firstly, it serves as a refreshing escape, something that’s de-stressing. Living in Nigeria can feel heavy at times with the hectic news cycles and daily challenges. With the show, my intention was to provide the viewers with a much-needed escape, a source of joy and entertainment where they can laugh and simply unwind.
Secondly, I noticed a gap in the interview landscape within the Nigerian entertainment industry. Many interviews tend to focus solely on an artist’s work, failing to delve into their humanity and who they are beyond their work. So it offers the audience content that is not just funny and entertaining but well researched and insightful. This informal approach to interviewing also allows us to showcase a side of the artists you don’t get to see often. This allows the audience to connect to these artists on a much more intimate level. I wanted to create something that was enjoyable for and respectful of everyone involved: the artist, myself and the audience. As for topics, absolutely nothing is off limits when you’re trying to get a full picture of someone’s humanity, someone’s essence, and who they are at their core.
How do you approach the process of researching and preparing for your show episodes? Do you have any specific techniques or strategies?
One of the aspects I truly enjoy about the show is surprising my guests with information they weren’t expecting me to know about them. I put in a great deal of effort in conducting thorough research because very often, information about these artists isn’t easily accessible. Some of the sources I focus on aside from articles are, their close network, previous interviews, social media pages, their previous work- albums, films etc. The aim is to go beyond the surface and uncover aspects of their lives and experiences that haven’t been widely discussed before. It’s about presenting them with fresh, relatable and engaging content.
Can you share any memorable moments or experiences you’ve had as a Host? Is there a particular episode or guest that stands out to you?
The first episode of the show holds a special place in my heart because it was a leap of faith for everyone involved. It was my first time working with our entire production team, filming anything professionally in Nigeria and directing, so we were venturing into uncharted territory in more ways than one. Since I had never done anything like this before, I had no idea how it would turn out. It required a great deal of trust, and I am immensely grateful to Falz for being an amazing partner for that episode.
Falz was someone I knew I wanted on the show from the moment I conceptualized it because he has great comedic sensibilities and timing. The shoot itself was incredibly fun although I was (understandably) slightly anxious. We filmed that episode in one take (without any cuts), which is insane and practically unheard of in this line of work. It really set the pace for future episodes in a great way and played a crucial role in convincing the crew that they were working on something worthwhile. At the beginning, nobody, including myself, was entirely sure what the end result of the shoot would be (because the show is unscripted). I obviously had an idea of the general shape/ concept and discussed this with Falz prior but it was really just a situation where we rolled the cameras and waited to see where we would land and to the glory of God, we landed beautifully.
What are some of the challenges you’ve faced, and how have you overcome them? Are there any lessons you’ve learned along the way that you’d like to share?
One of the main challenges we face with the production of the show is securing sponsorship. We live in an ecosystem where clout and numbers, such as Instagram followers, are often prioritized over quality of the work. Consequently, securing funding becomes difficult because people are more focused on those numbers rather than the content itself.
During the first season, it was a significant hurdle to obtain funding, and I ended up having to self-fund the project- I used my savings from when I was a teacher in America a while back. Investing in your work is essential because now you have proof of concept, proof of the quality of work you can put out and proof that there is hunger for said work.
Another major challenge I continue to encounter is scheduling shoots with artists. Artists have very busy and unpredictable schedules that require you to have multiple contingency plans in place to ensure you are adequately prepared for multiple outcomes, while maintaining professionalism. Collaborating with artists often means finding ways to accommodate their availability without disrupting our own production schedule, as we are often working within a limited time frame ourselves. You quite literally have to have plan A-Z.
What advice would you give to young women who are thinking of starting their own show? Are there any key lessons or insights you’ve gained from your own experience that you believe would be valuable to new presenters?
The best advice I can give is to simply start. Don’t wait for the perfect moment or for all the answers to fall into place. We often want to arrive “arrived” and there’s no such thing. Seeking perfection in that way can be a massive obstacle to growth. Nothing comes from nothing, and clarity will only come from the process itself. It’s important to become comfortable being a beginner and embrace the journey of learning. Putting yourself out there, even without having all the answers or being perfectly polished, is crucial because your work will speak for you more than anything else. It is important to showcase your skills in order to attract & connect with the individuals you aspire to collaborate with and ultimately get where you’re trying to go.
It is also vital to protect your mind, body, and spirit. Starting something new can be exhilarating but it will be challenging and sometimes draining. It’s important to take care of yourself throughout the process. Don’t be afraid of failure, instead embrace it as a necessary part of any worthwhile journey and an opportunity to learn and grow.
For presenters, seek ways to uniquely position yourself. Find something fresh and original that sets you apart from everyone else. It’s that unique angle that will propel you forward and make you stand out. Lastly, never compromise on the quality of your work. It is the defining factor that will shape your brand and business. Strive for excellence and deliver the best possible work you can, always.