Isabella Akinseye is a media entrepreneur who educates and entertains people with her African-content radio, television and online shows.
A Cambridge University graduate, art lover and writer, she is the founder of Yellow Tamarind Productions, a media and public relations firm based in Lagos. In this interview by KINGSLEY ALUMONA, she speaks about her shows and media business, films and books, and her Cambridge experience.
You worked with Nestle Nigeria (2011 – 2015) before setting up your own company, Yellow Tamarind Productions (YTP). What inspired you to make this career decision?
I knew I was always going to go back into the media at some point and put my education degree to use.
I did get comfortable with the safety of the 9-to-5 life, monthly salaries, and travel and training perks that came with the job for a while. But as a creative, there were some personal projects that were demanding more of my time.
You can’t serve two masters. So, eventually, I had to choose my heart and give my dreams a chance.
Tell us more about YTP. How does it help to “tell” and “share” people’s and corporate organisations’ stories?
The ‘telling’ aspect of our services focuses on content creation for our clients while the ‘sharing’ aspect refers to the PR work we do to put their stories out there in the media.
This includes newsletters, radio shows, newspaper articles, documentaries and voiceovers. We have also put our clients on TV, radio, online and in the newspapers.
You studied Education with English and Drama. How come you manage to know so much about television, radio and film?
In my first year, I took a course in film studies. In my second year, I opted for a dissertation on film. This involved me watching films, reading about films and visiting the British Film Institute.
It was during one of such visits that I was disappointed by the glaring lack of scholarly materials on Nollywood. This made me want to do something. I started by writing reviews of Nollywood films.
When I returned to Nigeria, I did more freelance work—writing on Nollywood and red-carpet hosting for TV Nolly and DStv.com. During my gap year, I hosted a weekly book review segment ‘Bookaholic with Bella’ on Today on STV, the breakfast show on Silverbird Television.
I also took part and was a finalist (Top 4) in the first edition of Inspiration 92.3 FM Radio Superstar. And, even while I worked full time, I managed to start my own online magazine (Nolly Silver Screen) and Youtube show, Video review in 180 seconds.
From being a guest on Rubbin Minds to talk about film, I went on to hosting a live radio show, The FrontPage, on the then Radio Continental 102.3 FM for almost a year. I have also been invited to host Rubbin Minds when the show’s host, Ebuka is unavailable.
Tell us about your “The Movie Buff Show,” “Africana Literati”, “Nolly Silver Screen” and “Politico Politica with Isabella Akinseye” shows.
“The Movie Buff Show” was a collaboration between Yellow Tamarind Productions and G-Cue Studios. We created a quiz show that tested the knowledge of contestants about their African movie crush.
By the end of the season, the contestant who had the highest score had a date with their crush. The show has aired on Africa Magic Showcase and on Africa Today TV. “Africana Literati” is an art, book and culture TV show which aims to promote reading with a focus on African text.
I host it alongside Dr Wilfred Okiche who handles the book reviews and Harri Obi who does the vox pop segment. I enjoy teaching spelling, pronunciation, recommending books and interviewing guests on the show.
We have done three seasons and the show has aired on Africa Magic Family, Africa Magic World, Mindset, Air Cote d’Ivoire’s inflight entertainment, Africa Today TV and IATV. “Nolly Silver Screen” is a show that I created to educate and entertain viewers about Nollywood.
We recommend Nollywood movies, profile rising talent, interview actors and celebrate the memory of fallen Nollywood stars. It is currently showing on Views Channel.
“Politico Politica with Isabella Akinseye” is a talk show that focuses on political issues, current affairs and features interviews with politicians.
Currently in season 2, I have interviewed candidates from different political parties contesting for different offices—State House of Assembly, Governorship, Federal House of Representatives, Senate and President. The show airs on YouTube and on Views Channel.
“Correct Student” is a weekly radio show that aims to inform, educate and entertain you on your journey to success.
I believe that we are all students of life because we keep learning every day. The first episode aired in March 2017 and it airs every Thursday at 3 PM on City 105.1 FM.
As president of Cambridge University Nigerian Society (2010-2011), what did you do to better the lots of Nigerian students in Cambridge?
I tried to bring more of the younger students in. The tradition was to have Masters and PhD students as Presidents.
So, many of the undergrads felt left out. I also partnered with other societies in organising events. Then we kept our members informed of opportunities via the newsletter.
Do you still miss your usual bicycle ride at Cambridge? And, what do you like doing at your leisure?
Yes. A hundred times, yes. I rode to my graduation in my gown when there was traffic. I read, hang out with friends, go to the movies, travel and attend events. I also love going to the beach.
Where do you see yourself and YTP ten years from now?
Where God wants me to be. I want to keep doing more of the things He has put in my heart. I want YTP to be established and grounded. We want to keep delivering excellent service and value to our clients.
I have learnt that while it is great to have plans, you have to remain adaptable so you don’t plan yourself out of the market.
What advice do you have for young people, especially the female ones, who are aspiring to be like you?
You owe it to yourself to try and give your dreams a chance. If you don’t, you will never know.