Tewa Onasanya – Inspiring Every Woman
By Yemisi Suleiman
As the 8th edition of the annual ‘ELOY Awards’ holds on Sunday, November 27, Tewa Onasanya, Founder/Editor-in-Chief of ‘Exquisite Magazine’, organisers of EMAC Walk and ELOY Awards, speaks on the project that is aimed at celebrating women from all walks of life; women who have excelled in their chosen endeavours whilst contributing their quota to the development of the society. Tewa who has also succeeded in the murky waters of publishing for thirteen years with the women-focused ‘Exquisite Magazine’, opens up on her success story, challenges of publishing, amongst other issues…
It’s about eight years of celebrating women with ELOY awards. How has it been so far? Would you say that it has achieved the aim for which it was set up?
It has been an unbelievable eight years, thanks to God. It has been a roller-coaster journey. We set out to just celebrate women and we soon quickly realised that it was not just about celebrating women alone but also encouraging, motivating and inspiring every woman. Our aim was and still is to be able to use our platform to encourage women, appreciate them while showing them to other women and, indeed, the world, that anything is attainable.
The ELOY Award is a life time project so our aim was and still is being achieved. Every year, we add a little more to the objectives of ELOY Awards; as the years go by, things change and so do people so, we move with the times – reinvent and bring ourselves up to date.
What were the challenges you faced when you first started the awards and how were you able to overcome them?
There have been different challenges. From trying to work with the best model to choose our nominees to also working on value for our potential sponsors, it’s been a bit challenging but we overcome them every time by focusing not on the problem or issue but visualising the result we want, which is the best case scenario and nothing else. We keep doing our work the best way possible. We are very glad that ELOY Awards has gotten to a point where people recognise it’s the biggest awards ceremony in Nigeria that celebrates women and a credible platform too.
Who are the nominees this year and what were the criteria for selection?
There are 68 nominees in the 13 categories and we are also giving away some recognition awards which we call the ‘Ladies Who Inspire Awards’. The criteria for ELOY Awards focus on the character of the individual, her ability and achievements, how her work impacts the Nigerian society and her level of commitment – showing a level of dedication to her goals and ability to achieve them amongst others.
In your opinion, would you say women are being given enough recognition, considering their contributions to the development of the country?
In my opinion, I don’t think they are being given enough recognition. That is one of the reasons ELOY Awards was established in the first place. A lot of women are doing exceptionally well in different fields, even in male-dominated fields, and they are not being celebrated, encouraged or recognised. It’s quite sad.
I was having a conversation about law firms in Nigeria being largely owned by men and I asked a young lawyer what she thought about that; I asked her if there are no female lawyers that can mentor her and why we don’t know about law firms that are owned by women. She made a comment that shocked me. She said she feels female lawyers downplay their success and don’t want to be out there. I felt sad that she thought that.
In as much as it might have a tiny bit of truth to it, it’s high time women show exactly what they are made of; showcase the intelligence and talent to be able to do anything they set their minds to do so that other women, especially the younger ones, can be motivated. We contribute a great deal to this economy and it goes largely unrecognised. It doesn’t have to be recognised every minute but being celebrated and recognised brings about some form of good feeling that you are doing something right.
What was your path to Exquisite Magazine like?
My path to Exquisite Magazine has been quite interesting. There have been great days, good days and bad days. I learn from the bad days to build a greater day and that is how I have been doing it for thirteen years now. I realised early on in the publishing career that nothing comes easy but with great belief in yourself, your brand, being persistent and consistent, the sky is the limit.
How is it possible to do your own distribution?
In this business environment, it is a bit challenging but we are wading through the waters and making the best of it.
Who are the women whose work you admire?
I admire a lot of women, one of which is my mum. She had all girls and made sure that each of us grew up with the mind-set that we could do anything. She always said to us ‘your education is your property which no one can take from you’. That has stayed with me till now. She is so passionate about what she does and believes anything worth doing is worth doing well.
Can you share a bit of your journey as a writer?
My journey has been fun, actually. I started writing when I was about 8 years old, writing different short kiddies’ stories and then graduated to writing booklets of stories; all of which I still have and haven’t published yet. My friends and I used to write and exchange novels for reading in school. It was fun. Without blowing my own horn or anything, I am quite good at researching and writing about my findings.
During my A’Levels, I got an exclusive prize for my writing skills. Now, I do some writing; not as much as I would love actually, but still do.
Fun memories of your growing up years?
I am the first of a lot of sisters. I grew up in a very loving and liberal home where we were allowed to express ourselves and respect each other. My dad is so easy but when you cross him, you will be in for it; same with my mum. My dad used to make us write letters if we did anything wrong, explaining why we did what we did and why we should be punished or not. Growing up was fun although a bit overwhelming at times, with all the oestrogen bouncing about the place, taking each other’s clothes without asking and all sorts.
What are the challenges of being a magazine publisher in Nigeria?
There are different challenges with different stages of the publishing world in Nigeria. One big one for me is dedicated staff, staff who are truly passionate about their roles and want to understand and run with your vision.
How do you stay relevant in the market?
We stay relevant by being innovative. We take stock and reinvent ourselves when the need arises. We are in an age where everything changes almost immediately it starts; we go with the motion, re-evaluate ourselves and do what is best for our readers and the brand.
When you are not working, how do you spend your ‘me’ time?
I go to the cinema a lot. In fact, because of that, I also write the movie review for one of the cinemas in Nigeria. If I am not having my ‘me time’ at the cinema, I’m reading a book or hanging out with my family.
How do you stay healthy and fit?
I think my work keeps me fit. I do not do a lot of exercising but I try to swim or go on power walks when I can. I also try to eat healthy and clean.
What does style mean to you and how would you describe your style?
To me, style is self. You interpret your style how you want it to be. My style is simple, elegant and chic.
Is there any time you thought of giving up on publishing a magazine?
Yes. That was in 2006 and when I was over that hurdle, I knew I could do this really well and be the best at it for a long time.
What has life thought you as a person?
At this stage in my life, life has taught me to be kind to myself, love myself so I can give that love back to another human being or to something I love. Life has taught me to treat others the way I would like to be treated. Life has taught me that everything that happens to you is as a result of your thoughts, so choose your thoughts wisely. Think thoughts that uplift you and not thoughts that limit you. Life has taught me that there is no competition apart from the one that exists in your mind because, the world or the sky is big enough for us all; there is enough abundance. Life has taught me to be myself, to be the best version of myself.