Francess Olisa-Ogbonnaya aka Tabitha wears many hats. She is a popular OAP, broadcast journalist, former model and brand ambassador for Dr Henry and Rosy Wipes. The native of Anambra State is also executive producer, Orugo TV.
In this chat, the mother of two opens up on her career, marriage and reasons desperate wannabes may end up being sexually abused. Enjoy it.
Tell us about your growing up, were you born with a silver spoon?
I was not born with a silver spoon, but along the line, dad began to pick up so much so that we could afford everything we needed, including state-of-the-art cars of the day.
At what point did you discover you were cut out for the entertainment world?
Growing up, I always loved music and that was because I was close to dad. I watched a lot of television, news and music videos. I guess it took its toll on me, so all I wanted was to be on TV. Providence also played a role. My Igbo name is Adaora, which implicitly means fame. I have always known I would be popular. So, when modeling opportunities came as a teenager, my father could relate easily and I never hesitated picking up the baton.
Tell us about your foray into modeling and why did you quit?
My foray into modeling was accidental. I was idle and jobless at the time because of ASUU strike. I was 18 and running a Diploma programme in Archeology and Tourism at University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN), so I came back to Lagos. My friend, Tina, asked me to accompany her to a modeling audition in Ikeja. On getting there, I found out it was an audition for the annual Nigerian Fashion Show. One of the photographers saw me and asked if I was there for audition, and I quickly said ‘no’. He said that couldn’t be true, so he took me to one of the designers, and the rest is history.
What was your greatest challenge as a model and how did you overcome it?
That was convincing my mother about being a model. She feared that I might not be able to settle down as a model, I mean getting married, and then stay married. As an Anambra woman, marriage for her was the ultimate. Consequently, that robbed me of many great jobs, as she forced me to turn down offers and opportunities. Another challenge was that models, especially runway models are grossly underpaid in this part of the world. Our faces adorn fashion magazines and we are at fashion shows, but with little to show for it. I would not say I overcame the challenges because I later quit following pressure from my late mother, to go back to school and subsequently get married. Thank God, I satisfied her desires.
People often say there is sexual abuse in the modeling industry, including lesbianism. What was your experience?
Sexual harassment? It abounds in every industry and it’s not peculiar to modeling alone, but I was able to pull through due to my bridled ambition. I was never desperate for anything, and even now, I am still very ambitious, but it is tempered with modesty and moderation. You see; desperation makes you fall for anything, including sexual harassment. Talking about lesbianism, back then it wasn’t common unlike now. So, I really never got such advances.
How did you come into broadcasting and what inspired Orugo TV?
I returned to Nigeria after my studies in South Africa, picked up jobs at leading automobile companies, but I was not getting the needed satisfaction. So, I had to quit and find my way into the media and broadcast industry, and I have been happy ever since. It is just five years now and I have been learning on the job.
Tell us about Orugo TV?
Orugo TV is my brainchild. It is a 21st Century Igbo lifestyle TV. As a content person, I thought of ways of bringing quality lifestyle and event programmes to my Igbo people and in turn immortalize the Igbo Language and lifestyle, so I came up with Orugo TV. It has not been easy because of the challenges involved in indigenous content production, especially in terms of funding and getting investors to see that our indigenous TV content is a goldmine. But we are doing well and will surely get to where we are going.
How did you meet your husband and how did he pop the question?
I met him while I was in the university through his sister who lived in the same hostel with me. He had come to visit her on this day that I was playing very loud music. I remember vividly that I was playing D’banj’s Suddenly and I had put it on repeat. The music was so loud that neighbours were worried, and my neighbour who is now my sister-in-law came to knock on my door with my future husband in tow. He later told me he came out with her just to see the girl who was bringing down the entire building with extremely loud music. That was how he saw me and liked me, and today the rest is history. Since then, 11 years have rolled by and we thank God.
Tell us about motherhood?
Motherhood is a sweet experience, one of the best things that have happened to me. It shaped my life and outlook and made me more compassionate, and I wish to have more children, including by adoption. I named my daughter Ụsọnwa, which means ‘joy of motherhood’ and I have been enjoying it. And I pray Almighty God gives every woman who wishes the same joy of motherhood He has given me.
How is your husband coping with your late working hours as a broadcast journalist?
Like they say, you find time for anything you love. So, even when I have no time, I create time. Mazi, my husband understands my job perfectly and he supports. But I try as much as I can to strike a balance, so I rarely keep late except when it’s so inevitable. But my greatest challenge is having to travel around most times leaving my family behind. Thank God for COVID-19, meetings and conferences can now be done virtually without one necessarily having to travel around.
What has been your happiest time as a broadcaster?
It’s when I land gigs and endorsements. It feels good that you are given huge sums just for your name and your job. Getting paid for what you love doing is the greatest thrill.
What is your take on rape and what do you have to say to those who say women get raped because of the way they dress?
Rape is one topic that has never been discussed in details in Nigeria, Most discussants scratch the surface, but one thing is undeniable, it is hydra-headed and it has eaten deep into our society from church to schools, homes and offices. But one argument that is so flawed is that people get raped for their dressing. How then do you describe those who rape toddlers? Were they seducing them with their dressing too? There is need for legislative action; laws backed by actions. That is why I call on women to join politics and run for legislative and governorship positions so we can be in position to make and implement laws that affect us directly.
Tell us about life as a political analyst?
It’s been fulfilling. Politics and news are what I have loved as a child being close to my dad. I have a first degree in Political Science and majored in Political Science and Methodology. But then, there is this bias when people see a fine girl analysing politics on TV. Most people wonder, why not fashion or entertainment? But when you are good, you win followers regardless of your gender. I thank God I am one of the most sought after political analysts around.
You still look hot after 11 years in marriage. Are men still running after you?
Of course, men will still crush on a woman whether single or married, but I personally resolved to honour my marriage with fidelity.
Tell us about your initiative, ‘Women Standing for Women in Politics’?
The Women Standing for Women in Politics project is so dear to me. And like the name implies, it’s a convention of women especially those with interest in politics supporting each other. The 35 per cent can’t come by mere wishes. Women bodies need to come together, galvanize these points and push it to make sure women get the needed representation in government. That’s exactly what Women Standing 4 Women in Politics hopes to achieve and more.