People think I'm one short, fat old woman – Matse

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To radio listeners in Lagos State and its environ, the name Matse Uwatse is synonymous with hearty laughter. Within three years of being on air wit Wazobia FM, the multi-talented lady has risen to dizzying heights on the ladder of fame. Her pidgin-English programme – ColeleZone – with

segments like, Eko how una see am? Amebo Zone and No vex, is a crowd puller. Many believe that she must be one short, fat, old and snobbish woman, but contrary to these, ESTHER IJALANA found in her a nice, brainy, humble, slim, tall and young beauty. She spoke in an impeccable English and answered questions that many have been itching to know.

Your early years were across two countries, right?

I am from Warri, I am an Itsekiri. I schooled both in Nigeria and Togo. I went to Delta State University, Abraka for my degree and went to Village Du Benin, Togo but I grew up in Warri.

What was your growing up like?

It was the normal growing up level. I was a very curious child, I have always wanted to know. I am adventurous and investigative, even though in a subtle form. Basically, I was just a very weird kid that everybody was like, 'what is in her head all the time?' Because, I was always thinking. I was the kind of child that would sit down and think of how to travel to the moon. I was always painting and writing poems. I used to tear my note books and turn them into leaflets of story books.

Your parents were not together when you were growing up?

Yes. I grew up with my dad

What was it like growing up without your mum?

It was fantastic, because I had the best of stepmother you can think of and I still have it. Though, you will always love your mother and everything. I really did not miss my mother because I had a fantastic stepmother who was always there for me. So, I had the best of both. I had a beautiful stepmum, and I had a mother too who cared. My mother was always showing her love from afar.

You are from a family of what number?

If I want to put it in total, eight from my dad's side, and two from my mum's side, which is 10. So I have nine siblings and myself. I am the first child

What did you study in school?

I studied Languages and Linguistics.

How did you get into the media?

It was by chance and by the grace of God. I have answered this question again and again. It was a phone call from a friend. I applied for the job. I told myself, 'let me try if I can do it. So I came and had the audition where my voice was recorded. I later came for the interview, they just liked me instantly and I knew I was going to get the job.

Was working in the media your dream as a child?

No, no, no, no. I told you, I was highly imaginative. I wanted to be an astronaut. I wanted to be a pilot, fly to the moon and I have always loved the aviation. I have always wanted to do something out of the normal. I have always wanted to be an under water diver. I think about a lot of things, like going into the submarine and all those kinds of things. Those were the things I was thinking about and if I have the opportunity and the money, I will do them. It is an experience you do not get everyday, it will be fantastic to go under water

Have you ever done that?

Never, except when I swim. Well, I did something, I crossed River Ethiope in Delta State. I swam to the end, I crossed it from one end to the other. Though I only did it once. I love challenges

When did you join Wazobia FM?

That was about three years ago, because Wazobia is almost three. I started working from inception, I am a pioneer presenter of Wazobia FM

What motivated you into being a presenter?

I just wanted to be free. I love to let my head down. I love to jump and play and call it work. It is fantastic. I think that was what attracted me because I had a very good job before coming here. I worked with a luxury company as an Administrative Executive. We were into audio and visual gadgets, communication and musical gadgets that were very expensive and top of the range in the world. It was, basically, luxury goods. I was just like, 'oh! I don't like this paper thing.' I wanted I place I could let go and play. That was how I got here

Being a presenter on WazobiaFM comes with a lot of hype. How do you manage this?

I tell you I am hardly down. Being a presenter has helped me become a better and stronger person. It has helped me to control my emotions, even when I am sad. If you are going to be a very good presenter, you have to know how to control your own psychology. I have found out that if you know how to control your emotions, it makes things very easy for you. So, it is not as if I am problem-free, but I know how to manage myself. That is what broadcasting does for you, it will help you learn how to manage your emotions, it makes you optimistic.

Do you have a role model in the media?

Strong women, but no media role model for me.

And they are?

My mother.

What is her name and why is she your role model?

Her name is Pat Bucheli. She is a very strong and determined woman.

You seem to love this job?

Yes, I do. I do because it is so beautiful. Do you know what it feels doing what you love? It becomes easy and it becomes a way of life. You will just be living the day having fun and somebody is paying you for doing that. That is the beauty of the job. Though I do not know of other presenters, but I believe most of the presenters you meet will tell you the nature of the job is to just play. When I play, play on the air, I get most of everybody wherever they are, playing. They call, send text messages and I make them happy. People love light-heartedness.

What else do you do apart from this?

I do interior decorating. I love to turn boring ugly places into very beautiful places, like office environment, having a lot of pictures. I love to make things beautiful out of anything.

How did you conceive the idea of Coolele Zone?

I don't know. It just came like that. I needed an afternoon show and studying every show you should know how it works. The morning show, people are getting up so they have to be energetic. In the afternoon which is lunch hour, people don't want gbim, gbim, gbim again. People want something subtle and cool, because by that time if you listen to something too strong and loud, you might have headache and all that. I was like since we need something cool and subtle for the afternoon, before 3,4,5 that people will be going back home, I then called it CooleleZone because its cool. That was how the name came about

What about Eko, how una see am?

Eko, how una see am is actually the problem of Eko. I wanted an opportunity to speak with people and hear what the people are thinking and how they feel and see things. I thought about different names for the programme, but came up with Eko, how una see am. Initially, I wanted to call it how una see am but my boss was with me and we talked about it. He was like, 'why don't you add 'eko' to it since you are talking about Lagos? And that was how the name came up, Eko, how una see am.

How do you balance your work life and your social life?

I read a lot, I think that is my social life. I am always on my blackberry twitter, facebook, chatting with people. I am not really the outdoor type. I love my own space. I love to read and think deeply. That is what I do basically, and when I have the time to go out, it is not really the event kind of going out. I love to go by the sea side, beach, maybe a place where you have animals and have fun. I love very serene environments, that is me.Yes, I love water.

Do you have a phobia?

Yes, I have a phobia for height. When you go high, high, high, when I look down, I am scared of it.

Is there any misconception people have about you?

Yes. People see Matse as a snob, because I am very strict. I must say I am a very strict person, I am quite straight. So, they misinterpret being disciplined for being snobbish. Imagine somebody walk up to you and says, 'hello, honey, how you dey? I might not answer that greeting. You don't know me from eve and you are coming to say, 'hello honey, how you dey'. No, no, no, you should have some measure of respect for any woman you see. You can say, or 'hello madam' and if you can not call me madam, you can say, 'hello Matse', its fine. But when you just come and say, 'hello sweetie', 'hello baby', 'hello love', and all that, I may ignore it. I also hate it when people tell me 'hi' or 'how far?', I don't like it. Everybody here knows, I don't respond to such greetings because I will not greet you like that. I believe when you see somebody in the morning you should say, 'good morning', when you see somebody in the afternoon say, 'good afternoon', and the same goes for the evening. That was how I was brought up, to acknowledge and respect people. So if you now say a 'hi' or 'whatsup' to me and I don't answer, you might call me a snob and say 'what does she think she is? But you should learn that this is Africa and you must learn how to greet people properly, don't take the Western civilization and be “whatz-upping” people. Though 'how far' is pidgin, but we should know where to bring in respect.

There is also this misconception about your age, because of the way you sound on radio?

Yes, everybody thinks I'm old, I get it everyday, I even got it yesterday. Each time people see me, they will be like, 'ahh! It's a lie. I thought you were one fat, short 50-something old woman'. But, for God's sake, I am in my 20s. It is the way I think, because I read a lot and I research a lot. When I talk, I talk with a lot authority because I have facts-based on authoritative figures, I know what I am talking about. I grew up with a lot of older people around me, so when people hear the strength in your voice, how you can convince, how you can talk about any subject matter with so much indepth and knowledge, it is always attributed to maturity, not necessarily my voice. My voice is calm, I am a calm speaker, I don't know how to rush words. I am relatively calm, so when you are relatively calm and talking concisely about any subject with enough information, people automatically attribute maturity to you. It is something I appreciate.

How old are you?

I don't talk about my age but I am in my 20s.

Are you in a relationship?

I never talk about that, it's personal. But I am not available.

What is your ideal man?

Intelligent, tall, Godly, that's it. I love a man that is very intelligent, I love somebody who can match me up mentally.

Some people think there is this beefing thing between you and Omotunde?

Honestly, this is the first time I'm hearing it, it's shocking. It's funny in the sense that, Omotunde is a person of her own, she is a presenter and I don't think there should be any form of beefing between the two of us. She trained under me, I am among the people that trained her, because this place was started by Yaw and myself. So, any other presenter that is working here all went through Yaw and myself, so where will the beefing be? I can not beef somebody that I trained, that is how it is, so it's quite funny. On my side, there is really nothing like that.

What was your most embarrassing moment?

Embarrassing moments come everyday. What I tell people is that, any embarrassment that comes your way, handle it with grace. When you handle it with grace, then people can look at it and be like, 'it's not really that embarrassing'. Just be graceful in everything you do.

So no situation has ever made you feel very embarrassed?

Not one I can recall. Even when I am on air and I make a mistake, like pronouncing something wrongly, I have a way of laughing at myself and be like, 'please, please, please, if I didn't pronounce this well, everybody please forgive me', and it's gone.

How do you handle male admirers who ask you out or ask for you hand in marriage on air?

I laugh, I just laugh. I just play play play.

What are the major challenges you have faced?

Not really. For now I can not pin-point the challenges. They just come when you don't expect it, everybody's prayer is that when challenges come, you handle them and overcome them. I don't have any for now.

Why did you brand Matse. Why didn't you coin out a name for your self as others do?

When I came here, I initially wanted to use 'Lala', and I was like 'Lala' is an Indian name. I just wanted to play with a name, and I was like, 'okay, no problem, I am not using any stage name, I am using my name. Afterall, Dan Forster is Dan Forster, Gbemi Olateru-Olagbegi is Gbemi Olateru-Olagbegi. So why shouldn't I be Matse? That was how it came, I decided to use my real name.

Do you think you have done the right thing by crossing over to media?

Of course, it is fantastic. One of the best decisions I ever took in my life was crossing to the media. It has made me more confident and a stronger person. I told you broadcasting makes you positive. I tell them everyday on air that what you don't put in the sack, you can not bring out of it. I see people with positivity, when you send out positivity, people feel it.

How do you get inspiration?

People around, people I see. Struggles of life and everything. They all inspire me to work harder, to help people, to talk to people and to encourage people.

What are your plans on going forward?

I don't even talk about that. It will come and unfold itself, beat by beat. It's a parcel, it will unwrap beat by beat until you know what is there.

Look at our media content today, it is mostly dominated by the foreign programmes. Do you think this has had any adverse effect on our culture?

Well, the effect of foreign media on our culture I will say is not bad. Some people may have their own thoughts, but I will say it is not bad. We are in the 21st century, we can not remain here, we will continue moving forward because we have generations approaching, and they will grow up. What I think we should do is this: We should know what they call 'checks and balances'. We should know what to take and know what we ought not to take. You don't have to say foreign, foreign, you will lose your identity. And you don't have to say local, local, and forget what is out there; strike a balance. To every Nigerian out there, strike a balance and it will make you a better person. For you to be a visionary and move forward, you have to know what is happening out there, so you can have a rapport with external nation and people to forge ahead. But at the same time not to lose your identity, that is what I appreciate from the Chinese. They still have their identity, but they are at the forefront of technology. We should do the same in Nigeria.

Is there anything you can not stand?

I have learnt to stand so many thing. I have learnt to tolerate. You have to learn tolerance, when you do this job. What happens is that when you see certain things, you just shun them and move on.

What is your favourite food?

Banga soup and starch. Authentic periwincle and fresh fish.

What is your favourite colour?

I don't have a favourite colour. I work with what suits my skin. When I was small, I used to love green but when I grew up I found out that some neutral colours like, colours in tan, shades of brown. I have learnt to appreciate shades but I am not into a particular colour now. I am like a butterfly, I keep finding every shades so good on your skin. But if it's looking around, I love green, I am a nature person, green is calm and pure. I have learnt to appreciate all colours.

Are you a fashionable person?

Yes, very, very, I love fashion.

What is your favourite fashion accessory?

Wristwatches. I am a wristwatch freak. I have too many of them, I am crazy about wristwatches.

What advice do you have for this generation young women on maintaining a virtuous life, while getting the best out of life?

Many women have lost their integrities while searching for luxury. For every woman out there; what I have to tell them is that, work hard and struggle and be yourself, always appreciate and respect the person you are. If you love yourself and you are patient with yourself as a human being, and as a woman, you will have integrity and a sense of discipline. A lot of people have lost it in their quest for fame and so many things. At the end of the day, as a struggling woman, you might not have everything but I can guarantee you will have peace of mind, you will have self respect, and you will have the respect of those who are watching you. I implore all ladies to be virtuous and keep their integrities. This is what life has taught me.

What is your philosophy of life?

My philosophy of life is that there is possibility everywhere, there is so much to do. The world is filled with ideas that have not been exploited, explored and utilised.