This is a man’s world. This notion is held by both men and women, though not everyone. But some argue that though a man’s world, it is controlled by women. However, women like Mosunmola Abudu disagree with the long-held myth. With her prowess in the media and entertainment world, Mo Abudu has given a new meaning to the modern world and a new strength to every girl to the hope the future holds for her.
Despite the patriarchal structure in the African society, women from different spheres of life are also effecting change in the best of their abilities. From politics to activism, traditional rulership and the entertainment industry, these women stand their ground to carve a niche, especially in the people’s minds..Is it the Ashanti matrilineal tribe of Ghana, who determines its clan and inheritance from the female line or Miriam Makeba, a South African, who lived the better part of her life in the United States of America? Makeba and stood as a major critic to the South African government and even testified against it at a United Nations session in the height of Apartheid.
A vibrant Yoruba traditional women leader, Efunsetan Aniwura, commanded lots of slaves during her lifetime, acting in same capacity as men of her time. Abike Pelewura became a popular woman activist during her lifetime in the 1940s, although against all odds. Formally neducated, Pelewura, as was called, charged the Lagos market women not to pay taxes at some point, and revolted against the British colonialrule.
Just as these women is Abudu in her entertainment empire. With less than two decades in the media and entertainment world, she has ensured that the Nigerian image looms large, especially in the entertainment industry. Forbes Entertainment had listed her among the top 25 most influential women across the globe.
Abudu’s EbonyLife TV, contracted with Sony Pictures Television to co-produce The Dahomey Warriors, a movie series based on the Amazons who stood up to the French colonialists in the 19th-century
“The Dahomey Warriors movie series talks about the strength of African women, what they’ve done, what they’ve achieved, what they’re going through and what they can be,” she says.
Mo Abudu was born in London on September 11, 1964, to the family of Lawrence Akintunde from Ondo State, Nigeria. She spent most of her early life in the United Kingdom. Educated at Ridgeway School, MidKent College, West Kent College and Westminster, she holds a Master’s degree in Human Resources Management.
Despite growing up in the UK, Mo was sent to Nigeria by her parents at the age of seven to learn the African path. But this did not come without various forms of abuses.
“Being born in England, going to Nigeria at seven, going back to England at 11 totally gave me the best of both worlds. I have a great understanding of what it’s like to be brought up in England and having the opportunity to return to Ondo to be brought up by my grandparents. You face inequality and racism for being black. You face it for being an African. You face it for being a woman.
“I found myself defending who I was, at any point in time against ordinary people that would ask you whether you can speak African? Do you live under a bridge? Do you live under a hut? Do you eat banana for breakfast?” she said.
Switching to the media and entertainment industry in 2006 when she launched the EbonyLife Media. Abudu, started with the programme Inspire Africa, after she had worked as human resources manager for notable companies like Esso Exploration and Production Nigeria Limited, which later later became ExxonMobil.
In 2013, she began her TV series, Moments with Mo. The TV show has hosted lots of notable personalities in different areas of life, including President Muhammadu Buhari, former President Goodluck Jonathan, and Fela Durotoye, a public speaker and 2019 presidential candidate.
“We are rich in culture and talents, and our success stories have always been relegated to the background, while the ugly stories are magnified. Moments with Mo came to change that.”
Abudu has great respect for Oprah Winfrey, an American talk show host, producer, actress and author.
But she said in interview with BBC, “The West always finds a reference point in the West as something that goes back to Africa. Therefore, I must be the Oprah Winfrey. I must be the equivalent of what’s from the West to represent something in Africa. We have some things in common, but I would like to be called Mo.”
As a female, she keeps her lights burning to project the image of Africa and Nigeria; hence, she sees herself as a Brand Ambassador for Nigeria.
To find a way and give prominence to the African story is her desire and major push. She said during a media session that Africans, having got tired of the Western contents, now need their local contents.
“To share stories about things that are happening in our world, we need contents that we can relate to, that tells my journey, that tells your journey,” she added.
On her deal with Netflix, the entrepreneur said, “We are now talking about Black Lives Matter; and black stories matter. A lot of the broadcasters are saying it’s time to have more black stories on television screens and more black creatives involved in the process. But I’m happy to say that we started our journey with Netflix before then.”
The mother of two, who clocked 57 this year, is one of the biggest brands in Africa’s media and entertainment industry. She premiered her first movie, Fifty, on December 13, 2015 at The Eko Hotels and Suites and started at the cinemas three days after.
On July 1, 2013, EbonyLife TV had its first broadcast transmitted on Multichoice’s DSTV Channel 165.
Popular movies she has produced under EbonyLife Films, which was launched in 2014, include: Your Excellency, Oloture, The Wedding Party, and Castle and Castle, a television series which began in 2018.
The Wedding Party was a landmark in terms of profit for EbonyLife Films, as the second part of the movie set a new record of revenue generated by African movie by Box Office with an income of N500m.
In 2020, a global online streaming platform, Netflix, signed a deal with EbonyLife Films to stream its movies, starting with Oloture, a story based on a true event of an investigated human trafficking story by Premium Times.
The private screening of Oloture was co-hosted with the Creative Artistes Agency at its Los Angeles headquarters in June 2019. The second season of the series Castle & Castle will also be aired by Netflix, Financial Street gathered.
Slight black shadow
As there is no perfect white sky, after the premiere of Oloture in 2020, a Premium Times reporter, Tobore Ovuori, accused Abudu of copyright infringement on her story, and demanded $5m as compensation. Abudu defended her side of the story in a January 2021 broadcast and eventually won the case, as she had earlier obtained permission from Premium Times.
EbonyLife Films currently holds deals with AMC Networks, U.S.A., Sony Pictures Television, Netflix, UpperRoom Films owned by British-Nigerian, John Boyega.
She says, “We would, one day, have a block-buster that is as big as Black Panther.
“EbonyLife is by chance, but hardwork and dedication are secrets to realising a dream.”
With EbonyLife Academy, Abudu is building another generation to build the woman’s world.
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