I wrote here a while back that I would do a post on the amazing people who inspire me, so in the spirit of sharing, here goes! So I decided to do a series of posts because putting them all in one post would result in one very long post that well, the length might chase y’all away. I am going to be drawing from my personal experience/ encounters with them and the virtues deposited in me. Note: This is not a biography. Why am I doing this? Other than to share these awesome people with you, I also want to celebrate the people who have (and are still) inspiring me to be and do better and also to remind myself that I too can aspire to greatness. So without further ado, let us begin…
For the longest time, right from my days in Secondary school, I always had people tell me I look like Adesuwa Onyenokwe (I’m serious, don’t roll your eyes). I’m not sure exactly what it is, but different people at different times have said it, even up until Law school. A friend of mine even went as far as to say that we have similar mannerisms too. And recently, I still met someone who mentioned it. Quite frankly, I’m not sure what they saw or what they see but I secretly love the fact people associate me with someone who is as graceful, beautiful and timeless as she is.
My first encounter with her was in 2014. I was in law school at the time, and I had gotten wind of some Women In Journalism conference that was happening at Civic centre which was a stone throw away from law school. It was a free event, it was on a weekend, AO was going to be there, why was I going to miss this? I registered and feverishly walked into the hall that day. At the end of the event, I went over to talk to her to tell her how much I am inspired by her. Then she asked:
“What’s your name?”
“Yemisi”, I said, rather timidly, if I’m to say so myself.
And she said: “When you say your name, say it with confidence. When I introduce myself, I make sure I do that confidently. ‘My name is ADESUWA ONYENOKWE’ I say. It speaks a lot about a person.”
Then she posed for a picture with me, gave me her card and told me that she usually takes interns from time to time. I kept that piece of information in mind for when the time was right. I couldn’t believe how warm she was and how easy it was to talk to her. I was touched by her humility. All my friends knew I had met ‘The Adesuwa’!. It’s not everyday you get to meet the people who inspire you.
A week after bar finals (I know, I was an eager beaver) I sent a mail to her indicating my interest in applying for an internship position while I waited for service year. She asked me to come in for an interview and that began my sojourn at Today’s Woman (TW), a women’s lifestyle magazine committed to building women up; body, soul and spirit.
One of my most memorable experiences working with her was the day a young woman walked into her office with her and she called me in to bring a recording device because I was going to write her interview. Classic me, I was already shaking in my shoes. A whole interview? How was I going to do it? I came in and then she introduced the woman as Ada Igonoh, the woman who had survived the Ebola virus that had attacked Nigeria in 2014. It was such an honour to be sat before a woman whose strength and absolute trust in God I had read so much about and admired. That heightened my agitation because this was such an important story and I did not want to mess it up.
The interview was done and she asked to see my first draft at the end of the day. I went back to my seat and I wasn’t sure how to proceed so I just wrote it based on how I felt during the interview, staying true to her story and trying as much as I could, to capture the essence of who she was in the story. When I showed it to her, I was so nervous, I could feel sweat dripping from my back and pooling at my feet (okay, that was a bit of an exaggeration but you get the point) she read it and said: “This is actually good. Right from the first paragraph, I liked where you were going with it. This is good.”
Then she looked up at me and said: “Why do you have such little confidence in yourself?” All the nervousness evaporated, but that sentence struck me. I did have very little confidence. My self-confidence had taken several bad hits and I was just recovering from that, so I went into that internship with a recovering self-confidence and after the 3 months of working with her, my confidence had received several boosts. I wasn’t totally healed, but I made progress. And it wasn’t because I did everything right. There were other articles I had written which she didn’t think were good enough. I was sad initially, but I realised that it had nothing to do with me, as a person, but the work. I was learning and she wanted me to get better.
AO is an amazing woman with a heart of gold. She gives you opportunities to grow and better your skills. She’s highly disciplined and won’t mince words when she thinks you have messed up or haven’t delivered to expectation. One of the things I admire about her is how she has remained timeless. It seems to me like she transcends time. She has had an amazing career spanning over 30 years in the media industry. She keeps evolving, doing more, giving more and inspiring countless people and she does it with so much grace and panache.
At times when I want to just crawl under the bed and give up, I remember her and I ask myself, what do you want your life to look like when you are 50? I don’t have the answer to that question…yet, but I know I won’t find it under the bed.
I aspire to be a woman of virtue. A woman who is confident in her femininity, not letting it slow her down but actually using it as a stepping stone to achieving her dreams. A woman who gives other women around her the freedom to aspire to greatness. A woman who is confident and self-aware. A woman unabashed. A woman who walks in grace and speaks with wisdom, because aunty Adesuwa is all of these and more and I am eternally grateful to walk the earth at the same time she does.
Featured Image: tw magazine