I don’t give fans my phone number– Broadcaster Gbemi Olateru-Olagbegi
Gbemi lives in her own world. Just like the lead act in the movie, Inception she creates her own walls, doors, exit and entry. If you are not invited you are denied; luckily she opened her door to us and made our day.
How do you cope with running around Lagos?
I just have to find a way around it. I have to get things done, there is no one to do it for me so I have to get things done. If I have a meeting, I wake up early, do what I have to do and be at the meeting. You just have to get things done, you have to move around, that's just the way it is.
But I thought women are supposed to do less?
Culture and norms…
Well, culture changes, tradition changes and I think Nigerian women have realized that they can do so many things. They can do whatever they want to. By now, there should be a bunch of women running for presidency in Nigeria. I don't know what they are doing, I don't know what they are waiting for. I believe this is a free world, you can do whatever you want to do. A lot of women have realized that you don't have to sit down and just be a mother or wife when you can be a mother and wife and still be a business woman, caterer, beautician and the likes. Everybody has a dream and so I believe it is a good thing that women are actively involved in the economy of our country.
Do you enjoy yourself?
Yes, I like to relax. I know how to enjoy myself and do nothing but when the time to work comes, I have to work. I love watching movies, or just hanging out with friends.
When you hang out, what do you drink?
Has your name made a positive or negative impact on you?
A lot of people know me as Gbemi. I think the last time I mentioned my last name on radio was when I was reading the news. I think it's required to mention your last name when you are reading the news but normally, if we are chatting or gisting on radio, it's always Gbemi. I didn't choose the family into which I was born. It just happened that my surname is Olateru-Olagbegi. I just take it as it is, but if I don't have reasons to mention my last name for maybe recognition, I don't. When I say recognition, I mean, when you go to a place and they ask for your last name, then I will have to tell them.
You are so many in your family, do you know yourselves?
I know some cousins, aunts, and uncles, but I don't know everybody. I meet new relatives everyday. It's interesting though.
They just come and say we are related?
Yes, and I ask, your dad is whom and your mom is whom and that's how you link it.
Do you go home (Owo) once in a while?
Do they know you are a 'Lagos big girl'?
I don't know if I'm Lagos big girl. Most times when I go, I stay with my grandmother.
Is it deliberate that Beat FM plays foreign songs more than local songs?
No. I think we also play Nigerian music as well as speaking about the Nigerian music industry and the entertainment industry. If I hear that Banky W is doing something or whoever is doing something, I mention it. I'm always very interested in what's happening in this industry of ours , because I want to see it expand and grow and also get a better structure.
It might seem like we have a lot of foreign contents, but the issue is that I try to let people know what's happening outside the country, because they have a bigger industry than ours. If there is something in our industry to talk about, we do and if there is none, we create something. We ask people different questions, we call up artistes and interview them.
Is this all you want to do?
I want to do a lot more. I have so many things I want to do. Right now I'm working on different things. Like I told you, one of these things is my company. Other things and other deals might come up.
It seems you have your hands in everything. Why?
It's good. It keeps me busy and on my feet. I'm always looking for new opportunities as well. It's another way to let people know you can do other things, whether you are a radio or TV personality. You can do some many other things. I have done some endorsements here and there. I did some things with Close-up and so many different stuffs. I think it's a good thing, because you get to meet so many different people creating new opportunities.
From Cool FM to Beat FM. What informed the change?
When I was leaving Cool FM, I was completing my master's degree and at that time, I needed a focus. So I turned in my resignation, because I had already spent four years there and it has been a wonderful experience. At that time, I was contemplating whether to go into corporate communications or do I just continue? While I was finishing-up my final exams, writing my project and all that, I got an offer from Beat FM, so I decided to go there.
Why didn't you combine your Master's Degree with your work at Cool FM?
It was quite difficult. It was a tough program. Their program was no joke, no messing around type-of-program and it was already tough enough. Doing my full time job, managing my company, so I said this time, for my finals, I am just going to do my very best and I didn't want anything to affect what I was doing.
Tell me about school
Well, I got my first degree in 2004 in the US. I had a BA communication .Going back to school was a tough one. I won't say I'm particularly enthusiastic about writing assignments and all that but I knew I wanted to get a master's degree in something that has to do with media. It was a one year program, full time. It was quite interesting.
We learnt so many things, not just the creative aspect of media, but also the business aspect of media. They taught us how to write a business plan, they taught us how to go about research, they taught us so many different things and they also brought in experts to teach us and interact with us. It was a very conducive environment to learn, and I met so many people, discovered new opportunities and stuffs like that.
When you are on air you seem to gist a lot, is that deliberate?
It's quite deliberate. People should be interested when they listen to you. I just be myself and act like I'm talking to my friends and we are just gisting. The only difference is that I have a mic in front of me. It helps in bringing the listener closer to you. They feel like they can relate with you, they feel like they know you and that was my strategy.
Did you experience character carry over to reality?
I'm not playing a character on radio. Gbemi on air is Gbemi off air. That's just the way I am. There is no acting at all.
I think there is a bit of acting in every radio personality. Isn't there?
Well, I can only speak for myself. The way I speak is the way I speak. I'm talking to Nigerians not Americans. So I speak the way I speak because that is just the kind of person I am. Maybe when I just came back , I sounded somehow not Nigerian but living in Nigeria for quite sometime, it has been diluted.
Can you switch to the accent mode?
Of course I can, if I want to.
Give me five experiences you've had with a stalker?
I don't know about five but I can remember during my days at Cool FM, there was a program I was handling when people will call and say whatever they want to say. There was this girl that called me everyday. She'll say, Gbemi, I like the jeans you are wearing, can I have them? The next, she'll call, Gbemi you are wearing a red shirt today and it's really nice, can I have it ? It was really funny.
I was always wondering how this person got to see me everyday. Perhaps, she lived around, or she works at Cool FM, or probably she's a girl down the road. There was another who would call me and argue about who the real Gbemi was. I think it is not dangerous here in Nigeria compared to stalkers abroad who follow you to your house and stuffs like that.
Has a guy stalked you?
Eh now. Some of them will call and just say a lot of stuff and you just laugh it off.
Have you ever genuinely fallen for any of your male fans, especially the callers?
Never. My work is my work. People are speaking with you and they are smiling at you. I just laugh it off. I ensure that it doesn't go beyond that. You won't get my number, you won't get any thing. The only thing you can get is an email address which is all over the internet and Facebook . That is the only thing. I don't make friends from my listeners.
Okay what about those who will say, “I want to take this beyond the listener-talker level and I want something else”?
Nobody has ever done that.
You are deliberately being hard, aren't you?
It's not about being hard. It's a way of relating with my listeners. Why not meet the person the normal way than over the phone. It's all about “Hello, hello, hi, you want to contribute to my program and we laugh about it.The phone call ends.
So to all your fans there is a limit?
Yes now, you need a limit. You do.
You might be missing-out in meeting Mr Right you know?
Eh, if it is meant to be, it will be, that's the way I see things.
Somebody once posted something on Twitter and I laughed about it. It says “between Gbemi and Toolz who is more endowed?
I saw that and I laughed about it.
So, who is more endowed?
I dont know. you can ask people out there.
How close are you to your other girls on radio?
I try to keep a friendly atmosphere when I see other girls. Even if you don't know me, I will walk up to you and say hello, my name is so, so and so. I listened to you sometime ago , how are you? You know just to say hi and if I don't hear from them in a while I send them text messages. None of them is like my best friend or something. I just try and keep a friendly atmosphere.
Do you hang out with them?
I used to organise something about one or two years ago where once a month we all gather. Radio and TV women only . We just chatted , drink and just chatting. We did it about three or four times and it was fun and it should start again I guess.
When will Gbemi get married?
When God says so.
You should have a time limit , shouldn't you ?
No, no. I think giving myself some time limit on a thing like marriage could be dangerous. While rushing to make the time limit, I could meet the wrong person, God forbid. So, I don't think it's something that bothers me right now. If it's going to happen, it will happen sometime.
But motivational speakers say we should plan for tomorrow?
You must plan for tomorrow. I apply that to business; not to personal stuffs, because that motivational speaker will not be there if there are issues about it. It's something that will happen in its own time.
Are you ever scared concerning matters of the heart like marriage, love, and relationship because of who you are and the things you do?
Definitely, there are fake people out there. People who will want to date you because of who you are or what you do. That's why I am very careful, I'm so careful about who gets close to me. Even for friendship, there was this female friend who said to me “before we became friends, I tried to become your friend for like three years. Did you know that? I said I didn't know? She said “you have this wall around you…”.
That's the way I am, I am very cautious. I am , because I kind of stick to myself . I am not the kind of person who for example can't go see a movie alone . If I want to go see a movie and none of my friends is available, I go alone. If I feel like going to a restaurant by myself, I do it alone. I don't see anything wrong with it. I'm not a person who needs to move in a crowd so to say. That is just me.
What does it take to break down the wall?
Ah, grace of God, the grace of God.
What is the weirdest thing you have ever done?
Maybe in traffic. Maybe somebody did something ridiculous, drove any how and blocked him.
And you will abuse the person?
No o, I have actually blocked somebody up before and I was like why did you drive like that? Where are you going? Why the rush?
What kind of person do you allow to get close to you?
That's interesting. I don't know what to call it. I think I got it from my mum. My spirit dictates. There are some people , when I meet them, they haven't said one word to me and they haven't insulted me in any way but I just don't connect. In Nigeria they say your sprit rejects the person and most of the time, I am not wrong.
For relationship or dating do you also follow your heart?
And my head, common sense. Apart from following your heart, you also have to use your common sense. You don't just follow your heart, because matters of the heart, if you think about them , sometimes don't make sense. Everybody says “God-fearing”. Yes of course, you don't want him to be a devil worshipper. A hard working person who is open-minded.
What is really important, is for a person to be open-minded and be able to accommodate, accept or consider different things because technology and so many things are bringing so many things our way: good and bad. You can't be close-minded. If you are , you will be left behind. So, I would appreciate somebody who would understand the world I am in. This is an industry and it is different from the banking industry, from the insurance sector and so many other things. You see one of the main things is that you have to be open-minded. You have to be willing to learn, because you learn as you grow. I don't care if you went to Harvard or not, you still learn as you grow.
Have you ever got your finger burnt in the game of love before?
I am 26. Yes, end of story! (laughs)
I didn't get that and I'm sure my readers didn't?
Yes, of course and when you say you got your fingers burnt, it could be anything. It could be a friend who has betrayed you, it could be a co-worker or a worker, somebody who has betrayed your trust.
Let's assume that it's a friend or a boyfriend who you gave your heart and you are like my fingers are burnt now?
Can you tell me one experience?
No! Okay let me give you the experience of a friend who was really like a close friend. I found out that the things she was doing over the years was to protect herself, to make things better for herself. She was only looking out for the good of herself more like I guess the more time you spend with a person, the more you know a person so all those things started revealing themselves as the years were going by.
You are talking in parables…
Don't let me give you any example now. Okay say we were both looking for jobs, maybe she finds out before me that I am going to get the job before her. She finds a way to convince me not to take that job, so that we will both be jobless. Do you understand what I am saying now?
I will pretend to understand. How many children would Gbemi love to have?
I want a small family not more than two.
Two? You are not talking like you are an Olateru-Olagbegi?
Yes, that may be my surname, but I'm my own person.