INTERVIEW RESPONSES BY GLADYS OTONO ATSENOKHAI.
NWD: Who is Gladys Otomo Atsenokhai
Ans: In Omawunmi’s voice “if you ask me, na who I go ask”. Lol. For some reason this question throws me all the time because I’m a bundle of stuffs plus one but let’s see which cap suits today. I’m a natural born and trained broadcast journalist. You might say I was born for the microphone and camera, a comedienne, mental health advocate, mother, lazy writer, t.v addict reluctant cook, ARDENT FOOD LOVER (I love food in every language in fact I SPEAK FOOD). So, you see my predicament…lol. I’m just a simple sister aiming to touch lives one smile at a time.
NWD: You had a major life altering accident. Can you tell us about what let to it & how it has affected you personally & career wise
Ans: 2003 is forever etched in my mind and I carry both emotional and physical scars as reminder. It was the year my colleagues and I were involved in a ghastly motor accident in which over sixty people died including my camera man. I was working as a news reporter for AIT and we were returning to Lagos after monitoring the elections in Plateau state. That incident remains the most traumatic experience of my life. I can still vividly recall the dead bodies spawn all over the place and hear the tormented cries of the wounded. I remember seeing my mangled hand after I regained consciousness but could only sing praises to God in the light of the horror around me. I could not cry not because of shock but was grateful to be alive. That night I experienced first-hand the patriotic and humane side of Nigerians as ordinary people and rescue agencies were on hand to help the survivors. Right there on the ground I started making plans for my future, the topmost agenda was to impact lives. Three days later in the hospital I requested for pen and paper and started practicing how to write with my left hand as I was naturally right handed before the accident. I jokingly tell my friends that as long as I was alive, there was money to be made and I needed to perfect my signature. My faith and sense of humour helped cushion the pain of loss. Most times I was out of my bed visiting other patients, making them laugh and encouraging them. I considered myself the “humour doctor”. I believed when you share a smile, you save a life! A month after the accident I was back anchoring the news with a bandage on my hand. Many thanks to my boss Chief Raymond Dokpesi who stood like a father to me throughout the ordeal and never allowed me to wallow in self-pity. Always visiting and ensuring I had the best care available. The day he heard I cried and the hospital staff were worried, he immediately flew from Lagos to Abuja because he knew I’d been strong since the accident. He was such a huge support, in fact, he broke the news of the plans to amputate my fingers to me after every medical intervention failed
Aside the challenge of writing, work went on as normal. I adjusted and so did everybody around me. At home, I learnt to do what I could within my abilities, ask for help when necessary and leave out what I couldn’t. I learnt to drive and do most basic things by myself. But sometimes not being able to do some simple things hurt.
NWD: Tell us about your life after the accident & what inspired your healing
Ans: Having an education and a brilliant career helped a lot especially in the environment where I found myself. I had amazing support from family friends and colleagues. Moreover, it was my hand that was affected not my mind nor my mouth according to my friends and my sense of humour was intact. I could still think, report and present the news. I would have died if that was taken away from me because I dreamed and lived TV. Television was my passion. On the plus side, I had a personality that did not leave room for self-pity. I had a knack for making a joke about everything and anything including my “disability” to the dismay of everyone around me. If I wanted anything from anybody even if it’s a glass of water I would remind them of my disability…lol. Above all, my faith helped tremendously.
NWD: You were a journalist & now a Master of ceremony/ Comedienne. At what point did you decide to switch career & why?
Ans: I am always and would forever be a journalist as everything I do even in my new-found career exudes my flare for presentation and the dramatic. So, I have not really switched rather morphed my passions into one. As a compere, my passion for public speaking started from secondary school (my friends would joke that it’s because I didn’t get attention as a child.lol). I was the go to person to anchor school events. I just come alive before a crowd hence the stage name Shakara which means show off. However, I became a professional comedienne by accident. I have a natural sense of humour and people tend to laugh every time I compered event. I sprouted officially from a monthly praise program organised by my church where I functioned as compere. From there people would call me to host birthdays before I was “discovered” by an events promoter at a friend’s wedding and Shakara is now a growing brand. In the long run, comedy is just a conduit to a larger aim, my goal is to promote positive mental wellbeing through entertainment. I organize an annual charity comedy show called Laugh Out Loud to promote positive mental health through information and comedy. A lot of people are battling mental health issues and are ashamed to speak out or even seek necessary intervention for fear of stigmatization. LOL was three in 2016 and every proceeds from the event goes to charity. Having a sense of humour has helped me overcome many challenging situations and that’s a gift I’m glad to share with the world. The goal is to get people smiling again no matter what they are going through.
NWD: Why did you leave the shores of Nigeria, you lost faith in the country Why did you leave the shores of Nigeria, you lost faith in the country
Ans: Absolutely Not! Nigeria matter never reach to troway…lol. Where else will I get my monthly supply of fufu from? Abeg oh! I am adventurous by nature and wanted to explore the world and experience different cultures. Ireland caught my heart at first sight.
NWD: Are you looking to relocate back anytime soon?
Ans: Right now, I am enjoying the best of both worlds and blessed to have a home away from home.
NWD: What’s your greatest fear & how do you manage it?
Ans: I try not to focus on fears but rather look at situations as challenges because fear constrains while challenges motivates. I have learnt to face every challenge with a smile and a winning attitude. It might take a while for me to navigate a daunting situation but I won’t give up either.
NWD: What inspired your bald hair cut?
Ans: My first ever bald cut was in 1996 and it was to protest the system (my father). I was in university then and had returned home late (of course a boy was involved) and had received the beating of my life because I was not contrite about my escapade. In annoyance, my dad took a scissors and cut my hair (in his mind he was trying to clip my wings.lol) the next day I went to the barbers and requested a bald clean look. My poor father almost had a heart attack when he saw me. I got to school and everybody loved the look and I felt like a big girl.lol). Over the years, it became a fashion statement and my brand look but more so it’s convenient for me because of my hand. I also got tired of visiting salons and brushing my hair. Moreover, I don’t have to deal with angry spirits because of wearing Brazilian hair.
NWD: what three pieces of advice would you give to young women who wants to venture into entertainment?
Ans: Let passion be your driving force not money. Money will follow suit. Get a mentor and invest in yourself (it’s a very competitive market) let every performance be your best and don’t be carried away the applause or absence thereof.
NWD: If you had the opportunity to start your career over again, what will you differently?
Ans: I will have a mentor. You can never go wrong with the right person guiding, supporting, and teaching you how to navigate avoidable pitfalls in the profession