Toke Makinwa is every bit a charmer. With her confident and sexy voice, great looks and wonderful stage presence, she warms her way into the hearts of her listeners, viewers and audience earning her an enviable reputation as an on air personality, TV Presenter and event host.
She started out her career as a radio presenter on Cool Fm as a teenager back in 1999. Although her stay there was short lived, she cherished the experience and for several years, nursed her dream of returning back to the Radio.
Now an On Air Personality with Rhythm 93.7Fm, she captures her listeners’ attention on her morning show, the Morning Drive, where she gives her listeners a healthy dose of information and inspiration to start the day alongside her co-host. She is also the co-host of the soon to be launched TV show – ‘3 Live Chicks’ where she discusses a wide range of topics with other presenters – Oreka Godis & Tosyn Bucknor.
Toke is also a host on the popular Flytime TV show and was the co-host of the 2012 edition of Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria (MBGN) beauty contest.
She speaks about her career journey, passions and more in this exclusive interview with Adeola Adeyemo.
Many people know you as an On Air Personality and TV Presenter. But I’d like to know more. Tell me more about the real you.
Toke Makinwa is a regular everyday girl. I’ve got sisters and a brother. I love making friends, I love being heard ‘attention seeker’ and I guess that’s what makes me good at what I do.
How old are you?
I’d be 28 in November.
What was your growing up like and educational background?
Growing up was fun-tastic as I like to stay. I was born in Abuja so I started schooling in Abuja before my parents moved down to Lagos. I had my secondary school in Federal Government Girls College, Oyo and I studied English Language at University of Lagos.
Toke’s Career Life
You host shows on Radio and TV and I must say you do both quite well. Which one came first – Radio or TV?
Radio is my first love.
How and when did you get on to Radio?
In 1999, Cool Fm had just opened and there was this teenage program that showcased the life of teenagers and topics that interest them like sex education, being good at home, being good in school and it was broadcast every Saturday morning. It was short lived because my parents didn’t think it was a career then, they didn’t even think it was cool being on radio.
So you had some resistance from your parents initially…
I got the job and I didn’t tell anyone at home. My Mum was driving in the car one day and she heard my voice on radio and that was it. She didn’t even let me resign formally because she didn’t allow me go back there. I just stopped. Sometimes I wonder how I was on the radio for four months without my Mum hearing of it. But one fateful day she heard and that was the last time I ever went into the studio of Cool Fm.
What did you do afterwards?
I went to the University but somewhere deep down inside of me, I always wanted to go back to radio. I loved how you could express yourself and have people listen to you so I thought of giving it another try but it didn’t come quite as I planned because when I was done with University, I packed my bags and moved to London. I wanted to pursue the entertainment career before I came back home but that wasn’t successful.
Tell me about your comeback into the industry. How did you get on to presenting the Morning Drive on Rhythm 93.7Fm.
Let’s fast forward to 2010. My sister told me Rhythm was rebranding and looking for On Air Personalities and she suggested that I try it out. I auditioned in Rhythm and other radio stations but Rhythm got back to me first.
You’ve successfully crossed over from Radio to TV with your shows on Flytime TV which is mostly broadcast online. Tell me more about Flytime and how you got on the show.
Flytime TV is a production company. It was Cecil Hammond’s goal to have his own network. We met up and talked about the ideas he had for Flytime TV as a TV station and I said ‘Why not?’ let me try out for that. Our relationship started with 3 Live Chicks. There are a lot of TV presenters out there but he wanted radio presenters on a show together because somehow, people take the words of radio presenters as bond. So he thought to himself, let’s cast 3 radio presenters.
3 Live Chicks – There has been considerable anticipation building up to the debut of the show. Tell me more about the show and what you feel about it?
We decided to start working on this show where we could talk about lifestyle, politics, we’d have celebrity guests and talk about things that are happening. Just 3 women chatting on and on and also we’d have a guest to talk with. We have finished the first season and it’s absolutely beautiful. I’ve seen a couple of episodes and I can’t wait for the world to watch it. I host it with Tosyn Bucknor and Oreka Godis.
I’d like to know, what is the relationship between Rhythm 93.7 Fm and Flytime TV?
There like sister companies. Cecil Hammond is Ben Bruce’s nephew but Flytime is Flytime, Rhythm is Rhythm.
How do you balance your roles on Radio and TV well and still excel in both?
It’s quite hectic but I’m the first person to say if you love what you do, you’d never have to work a day in your life. For me, the energy comes from just loving the concept. Even when I try to relax, I’m always thinking of new ideas. That is my passion; I don’t see it as work.
On your wake up show, the Morning Drive, you bring up a number of interesting topics for listeners to talk about. What has been the most memorable topic you’ve discussed on the show in recent times?
I would say recently, the Dana Plane Crash, God rest the souls of the people that we lost. Unfortunately a friend of mine was on that flight so having to read out the manifest, I broke down on air.
Please do accept my condolences. On a lighter note, what is the most embarrassing moment you’ve ever had while on air?
Not turning off the mic and just chatting. It’s happened to me one too many times and it hasn’t been pretty. It’s so funny how you think no one is listening but they never miss that. Sometimes it gets on Twitter and someone Tweets that the people on Rhythm have forgotten to turn off their microphone, tune in now to hear. I might just be saying something I don’t want people listening in to hear and before you know it, it’s out in the open.
For those who admire what you do and have aspirations to follow in a similar path, how fulfilling is your career as a TV & Radio personality.
150% if there is anything like that. It’s OK to think about the gains or what it has to offer you but the first thing is you must love what you do. David Beckham gets paid so much money for tapping football which is probably one of his hobbies. You must see it as something you cannot live without. The fulfillment has to come from you chasing that dream and it’s quite amazing what you get back from it as well.
That leads me to my next question. How financially rewarding is your career?
A radio presenter would tell you that apart from your monthly salary, the job comes with a lot of perks. You have hype, jingles, you have companies listening to your voice and saying ‘oh, I want that person to represent my brand’. In a month you could make so much more than your regular income. But with TV, we are getting there.
Fashion, Romance & Controversies
As a TV Personality, your appearance at public events is usually something a lot of people take note of. How would you describe your fashion style and how have you been able to cope with the spotlight?
I love fashion, I breathe fashion, I eat fashion. I could be very occupied reading a fashion magazine. For me, fashion evolves, it’s an everyday thing. I like what I feel comfortable in, what makes me feel young, what interprets who I am. If the public would see that I’m fashionable I’d say thank you for that.
Do you have a stylist who picks out your clothes and accessories for social events?
I have a couple of stylists actually and I have become friends with a number of Nigerian designers as well. It’s OK to have a stylist but I would advice everyone to have a personal relationship with designers too. I’d have to give it to them, Nigerian designers work really hard but sometimes the stylist who puts clothes together gets more recognition than the designer. I use Tianah’s Place, Lucy Love, Bolaji Animashaun and the designers that over the years I’ve become good friends with- April by Kunbi, I really love her; Phunk Afrique, Moofa.
Would you rather not have a stylist and just have the freedom to pick out your clothes yourself?
Because of the nature of my job, I would because sometimes I might think this is right but a professional’s eye would look at it and say this is not appropriate for that event. Of course I cannot say I would not use a stylist, I would always use a stylist. Even when you get clothes off designers, it’s always good to have someone that you can run it by.
I’m used to seeing you in this particular hair style, long weaves with a side or center parting. When are you going to try out something different?
I like to grow my hair to start with. When you’re approaching 30 or 35, you do not want to wake up one morning and find out that because of regular perming, your hair is all gone. Sometimes when I do not want to perm my hair, I close the parting up and I think the side parting suits me. I’ve got a big forehead which I love. I’m an Ondo girl. If Tyra Banks was a Nigerian, she’d be an Ondo girl. Bangs fit me as well but maybe I’d change it soon. I’m willing to try new things as long as I don’t have to bleach my hair.
Would you be willing to try out a short hair do for instance?
Because I’m so short and tiny, I think I would disappear under the hair.
You came under the media spotlight some weeks ago when you were quoted by several blogs and websites saying that you called popular blogger, Linda Ikeji a gossip and not a role model. However, you didn’t give much of a response when it happened. Why?
It’s been a while and I didn’t respond when it all happened. I’m someone who likes to take the high road. Someone said to me, when there is a hundred percent negativity, ignore 99% and that 1% you rise up to, make sure it’s worth it. I didn’t think it was worth it, I didn’t think there was anything to say.
Most people only got to read a few lines of what you supposedly said on your show that morning. Were you quoted out of context?
Anyone who listened to the radio that morning would testify to what really happened. I have a Radio Show, she has a Blog and we are both responsible for passing out information. I respect what she does; lots of people go there even from outside the country to stay in touch with what is happening in Nigeria. This is my Radio show, my space and I believe it’s also my duty to educate people out there.
We were talking about Nigeria and how the reading culture is declining. I’m guilty as well, I said it on the show that I can’t remember the last time that I really read a book and we were trying to recall days when we had books like Animal Farm, The Gods Are Not To Blame. It’s so heart breaking when a 12 year-old girl might sit in here and Wole Soyinka would walk past and she’d probably not know who he is. We were talking about why people find it easier to read the average website and not a book. I think if she had heard it, she’d probably have been proud of the fact that she was rated among the people that I mentioned like Perez Hilton, TMZ, Media Take Out. I read them, I’m a radio presenter I should read them but I would not encourage the average 15 year-old to go on Media Take Out or TMZ or Linda Ikeji’s Blog. It’s not a personal attack on her person because her blog is a brand. For instance, if you sell cigarettes for a living and someone says cigarettes is bad for the health, why would you think that the person is trying to disrespect you as a person?
The name of her blog is Linda Ikeji’s Blog. It’s a brand. I don’t know her as a person, I don’t know her doctrines, I don’t know who she is so why would I attack her personality?
She gave quite a response on her blog to your comment. How do you feel about her response?
She’s a business woman and I could see business written all over it and as far as I’m concerned, if she felt that was an avenue to tell a story to the world, I can’t knock her hustle. It’s business.
You attended the same University and studied the same course with Linda but graduated about two years apart. Didn’t you know her back then?
This is the first time I’m actually hearing that. A lot of people didn’t like me back in University, maybe I was just one of those girls that she didn’t like.
Would you call yourself a role model?
It’s relative. I think who you think is a role model would be different from who another person would think is a role model. I’m not trying to be Mother Theresa, I’m trying to reach out to people as best as I can. It’s an individual thing. I love The Kardashians, most people don’t. But I see business. I think that they are hard working.
Let’s talk about some mushy stuff now. Are you a big fan of romantic marriage proposals?
I’m a lover of love, I wrote the book called love. I’ve been dreaming about my wedding since I was 5. Yes, I believe in fairy tales, I believe in happy ever-afters. I don’t plan what is going to happen after the happy ever after but just give me that.
What is your ideal marriage proposal?
Growing up, I did dream that I would get proposed to on Oprah Winfrey Show. I dreamt that the guy would have all the rings out at Oprah and would tell me he is taking me to lunch, leave me in a hotel room, send my dress up and I’d wear this lovely dress. Then he’d send a chauffeur to pick me up to come and meet him at work and somehow we’d be parked at the back corner of Harper Studios, and I’d walk in through the back door not knowing where I am and the next thing is I’d find myself on set with Oprah. Then she’d ask me “do you know where you are” and I’d say “I was supposed to meet my fiancé somewhere”. Then I’d see all my family members in the audience and my fiancé comes out, gets on his knees and there are people carrying the rings and he says “take any ring of your choice. Marry me.”
You sound very dreamy. Let’s come back to earth now. It’s all over the news that you recently got engaged. Tell me, how did he propose?
It was romantic, that’s all I’d say. Not Oprah Winfrey Show kind of romantic but maybe when I have my own talk show, we’d renew our vows on my show.
How soon are you going to walk down the aisle with your fiancé?
I’ve been planning my wedding since I was 5 and I want everything to be perfect so I’m still planning and when I’m ready I would let you know.
It was great chatting with Toke Makinwa and from Bellanaija.com, we wish her the very best!
She would be giving some of her time to respond to questions and comments from readers. So if you want to pass any message across to her or ask her a question, drop it in the comment box and she will respond to your question.
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