CLARA OKORO: IT’S TRAGIC THAT SOCIETY DEFINES A WOMAN’S SUCCESS BY HER MARITAL STATUS
By Bolatito Adebayo
You have been on television for about fifteen years now. How has it been?
Well, I would say very challenging and rewarding because that is what I had always wanted to do. It’s been challenging because some brands lost focus about what they were meant to do, that is their responsibilities to consumers and I’m championing the cause of refocusing them on my television programme, so that consumers can make better decisions when shopping . A lot of brands are more interested in putting money in music programmes and the likes. This defeats the process of making sure that brands told their stories beyond just advertisements. It’s a deeper engagement that we wanted but we needed funds and we were not discouraged and we kept on with fate and we’re doing what we can.
You also own a magazine. Are you still publishing?
Yes, but it’s targeted at youth and branding. It’s about how young people begin to follow a brand and if the brand has done well to appeal to the youth market. Essentially, we feel the youth market is the biggest market in the advertising pyramid, so we decided to focus on it.
Can you share some of your challenges?
There are a lot of misplaced priorities in the industry and a lot of times brand managers are not even qualified to sit on their seats, because they don’t go for training and they don’t know the dynamics of what a brand represents. They don’t even understand who the brand is targeting in terms of in-depth research and how to connect with these people on the primal level. Consequently, they miss out on a lot of things, because there are a lot of things happening globally.
These are things we wanted to address and give them on a platter of gold on this programme , so that they can become better managers, marketers and salespeople but they felt this was too intellectual, this was too deep for them. Ad copies on the bill boards are written in pidgin English and you wonder whether this is where we have descended to. Truly, the thing about advertising is that it has to be inspirational.
When advertisers use pidgin English in jingles, don’t you think it’s because they have a target audience they are trying to reach?
Yes, that’s what I am saying, a target audience, but don’t they want that audience to grow? Don’t they want their audience to aspire to be better? Let’s take this scenario, students now walk into exam halls and come out with mass failures and you are wondering what happened. All these are all connected, because if adverts were focused on making them aspire to be what brands want them to become, the story could have been different.
But selling to targets is their priority and not educating them, not so?
Back in the days when ads were properly executed in the early 90s and late 90s, we used to aspire to become what brands wanted us to be.
Right now, everyone one wants to speak the street language and so advertisers want to do the same, so they can grab their market segment’s attention. Correct?
Well, it’s because that’s the level we’ve descended to and we can’t run away from it. If the stakeholders of the economy, the custodians of the values of the society should accept this, then I am sorry.This is what communication does and I feel these are the challenges we are facing,because it’s like you are shooting yourself in the foot. You hold the bargaining power in terms of funds, so you can’t keep the conversations going that way. You have the power to lead the conversation rather than beginning to think that society should be dictating to you.
By the time you change the dynamics and the rhetoric of the conversation, they will come after you. These were the challenges we were facing, because money was being spent on the wrong people and these were like the ripple effects coupled with poor power supply in the country. When I was fully on about three channels running the programme, I knew the dynamics of how the industry was changing and rapidly,because we were learning new things and all these things were workable things. By the time they went for their management meetings, they just tendered it, executed it and they could see the results. Now, even the brands are jittery and worried because the earning power of those buying their products is diminishing by the day, but they are a contributing factor to that.
Was there a time you were overwhelmed by these challenges that you wanted to discontinue the programme? We know what it takes to sustain a television programme for years.
Well, I never reached that point because like I said earlier, it’s in my DNA, it’s something I feel so compelled to do because I’m passionate about it. So, what I always looked for was that in the end some people benefited because in the long run, that’s also going to affect me. If I am fighting the cause, it’s also because I am involved. I will like to see a better economy, I will like to see great minds being raised from Nigeria that I gladly supported. Yes, there were times when things were so challenging,but I just realized that I just had to start taking things gradually and just keep going and I knew that one day, I’ll arrive at my destination. Yes, there have been challenges but I always looked at creative ways to handle them.
You also have a fashion label, what’s the name and how long have you been doing that?
Yes, I do. The label is called My beautiful Africa and it’s been existing for two years. It came into being in 2014 while I was on a trip to Gambia and I also found out that building brands from Africa could be challenging, of course and it’s because we rely so much from outside the shores that they need to validate us before we can actually realize that we live and breathe.
You see, I said to myself, we go and buy labels outside the country and sometimes these are not even the original labels by the original designers but because owners have spent so much energy to build theirs, they have become models to us. I like to wear the Ralph Lauren brand because of the horse and a man logo and Gucci because it supports my personality.
So, I wanted to build something out of Africa, so that even on the streets of New York, you can wear it on a summer afternoon with all the accessories and you’ll feel perfectly comfortable that you are wearing something beautiful. So, I wanted to build a brand that will tell the African story. That’s why My beautiful Africa was conceived . You know there’s a lot of beauty around us that we’ve refused to see but other people actually come in here, see it, take it back and make money out of it.
Can you share your beauty routine with us?
Funny enough, I am not so fixated on beauty, I just feel the simpler it is, the better. First and foremost, I don’t use chemicals on my body because I react very badly to them.
So, I stick a lot to hypoallergenic products that don’t contain chemicals. I prefer organic products and with that, I know that even when I go out, I will be confident I won’t react to them. In terms of clothing, I like a lot of classic cuts that are timeless and this is where my designs come in from. I do a lot of Kaftans and Bohemian clothing, so that if I wear them years down the line after I have made them, they’ll still be relevant and stylish. I think the accessories I use make me come out looking nice.
You are a pretty television personality and definitely many men will be swooning and having a crush on you. So, how do you handle men?
Honestly, like I always tell myself, we are just two genders on the surface of the earth. Male and female, but I tell myself that I am not someone that is extremely fascinated by reactions. If I am in a relationship and I am making all the efforts that it works and it’s not working, God is my witness, I will let it go. If I’m not attracted to you and if you keep crushing on me, I don’t just see it going anywhere. Of course, I will treat you with some respect and tell you my mind.
Are you married?
No , not yet.
Are you in relationship?
I am and hopefully I am going to get married to him. I keep saying, I am an individual and I am also building my life and committing my talent in building my society while I am also managing my talent at the same time.
There is this stereotype that defines a woman by her marital status. If a woman is not married in our society, she’s seen as unsuccessful and as a result of this, many women who are not married feel a little withdrawn and sometimes depressed. What’s your take on this?
It’s a very terrible tragedy because you cannot be defined by an institution because you built the institution. If you were in the wrong marriage, obviously, that society has failed you, because you went ahead to marry for the sake of marrying and not taking the personality of the person into consideration. You are in a wrong marriage and living in that bondage because society told you to. You should be married to your soulmate, someone you will wake up with and you wish that person well. You see, I have decided to build up myself and I have accepted myself for who I am, so I shouldn’t let society define me and whatever they say stops at the door. I have much more capacity for making this world a better place than saying that because I am not married I am not relevant. That’s totally outrageous and why the rate of divorce is going up and it’s not only here, it’s everywhere. Some people get married for the wrong reasons and if you focus more on yourself by building yourself, some guy, somewhere, who doesn’t feel threatened will walk up to you .
It seems so many men are easily intimidated by successful women, aren’t they?
Who caused it? It’s women who brought them up to live the same lie that “because I have brought you up like a gentleman, to see you as a human being, you would have taken out that stereotype and to see me as a human being and not a threat to your masculinity, knowing that I can hold forth for you when you are away.” Knowing that I have some form of intelligence to utilize when something is happening, without me being a threat to you and the second half of who you are. That is what it means to be together in a marriage. Come hell or high-water, nothing will break that marriage,because there’s a bond holding the two of you together.
What’s your take on the bill on gender equality that was thrown out of the House?
It’s still the same challenges that women are facing. I don’t even think these things should become law for us to understand the dynamics because society has failed and that’s why we are now substituting laws for it. If women trained their sons well, they wouldn’t be acting in the same manner they are acting now as they only see women as mere objects that should be seen and not heard. You see , society encourages all these. Women sometimes don’t help the issues , because they don’t understand that sometimes we can also help the society, we will supposedly see ourselves as objects to just accompany men live their own dreams. That’s why in many women, that portion of the brain that should be used to create innovative solutions in society is dormant.
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