Emem Ema is the CEO at ONE management Nigeria, an artiste management company. She is also one of the members of KUSH, the now rested all female singing group that made waves in the late 90’s.In this interview with Yetunde Oladeinde, she talked about her experience in music, why she studied Law, motivation and more.
AS a former artiste yourself, you are into artiste management, what’s the biggest leanings for you in your trajectory between both worlds?
It is has been an interesting process in my trajectory and what I call a fortunate advantage; as it has helped me appreciate and be more empathic when need be, to both sides. The experience truly helps in a matter of speaking, as you are aware of each sides leanings and how to approach certain situations either from the angle of a talent or representation. The experience is gold for me, one I am thankful for.
Take us through the talents under One Management and what makes them tick?
Do you have all day? (laughs), whilst we are very fortunate to represent and work with some of the finest talent in this part of the world and beyond; we aren’t oblivious to the fact that not only are they very talented, they are committed to their craft and driven!
Those are some of the things that attract us to a talent and I believe that is also evident in their body of work so whether it is Peter Okoye and his dynamic talent or Theresa Edem bringing any character given to her to life or even the multi-talented Rico Swavey, not forgetting the equally very talent Ms. Ayjay who is a mixture of an eloquent and vivacious presenter but also a producer. What they all have in common are the elements I mentioned earlier all of which and more make our jobs easier at ONE!
We hear that ego and emotional management is an important part of the job, what has been your own experience?
It isn’t peculiar to our industry alone, ours just happens to be the one that is more often seen because the subjects are constantly under the public’s microscope. I think the job teaches you quickly, the need to acquire and utilise emotional intelligence. Often times what some may perceive as ego may just be a cry for help, attention or a need to be heard well. Over the years, we have dealt with multiple personality types and still do. So, we have learnt to look out for certain attributes, triggers, read body language and unspoken communication.
Of course, we have to talk about Kush, what are the fond memories of your role as a Rapper in the group and the milestone moments that you will never forget?
Kush was a decade and half ago or more but the memories I do cherish about being a part of it is the fact that we created several firsts for the music industry at that time. We introduced innovation and made people take the industry a lot more seriously thus paving the way for a lot of the cats kicking it right now. What is even more unforgettable is that people didn’t see us (girls) coming and ripping off whatever glass ceiling had been placed over us (girl power!)
Post-Kush, did you know immediately what you wanted to do next? How did you move on from that curve?
Kush was an intentional endeavor, we knew we wanted to make a difference with music and we did. So for me at the time was, what
next? How else can I bring value to the industry? I knew I would like to be involved in the creative industry ecosystem and Nigerian talent was growing at an accelerated rate, but its support system was almost non-existent; I saw an opportunity for creative talent representation and embarked on it with a close friend who is now a politician.
Aside talent management, what other things are you unto and what good stuff are you planning this year?
Our sister company, Vzhun Films has a couple of movies being released this year (our first major production whilst the others are co-productions), so look out for those. We also have productions driven by some of our clients who will be taking more active roles in front of and behind the camera. We have strategic partnerships and live events that we are looking to launch this year as well.
You also studied Law, what inspired you to go into the sector?
The desire to represent the voiceless and I was always (apparently) good with words.
What are some of the things that you treasure most in life? Also tell us the things that keep you going?
I treasure peace of mind and my faith and loved ones come to mind topmost. The promise of tomorrow and the fact that nothing can stop your dreams from coming true; make this journey called life worth it.
What are some of your challenges as an entrepreneur and generally?
Asides the lack of a system that works, most probably the fact that you constantly have to explain your vision; it has gotten a lot better these days but a lot of people don’t understand what we do or its importance.
You were celebrated by your friend, TY Bello and others for turning 40 in March, how does it feel and has this change your worldview and reflections about life?
Forty has given me more perspective, when you lose a couple of loved ones or battles in life, you begin to see things from a different perspective and appreciate the little things. You no longer chase money per se but start thinking legacy. I no longer sweat the small stuff, I’m thankful to God for life.
What’s your idea of relaxation and refueling?
Relaxation for me is sharing a good laugh with family and friends in some of your favourite places (which includes home most of the time), great company (mentors included), good food, a good book and some of the most beautiful places in the world.
We have to talk about your style and fashion, what are you comfortable in and why?
I better be comfortable in whatever I wear. Comfort comes first for me and you have to be neat or presentable (I got that from my mother).
Tell us about the people you admire?
Aha! That’s a tall ask. I admire quite a number of people and I happen to be mentored by some of the most prolific, creative, intelligent and giving (knowledge mostly) people in the world; my parent included.
If you had to advise young people, what would you tell them?
Be the best version of you there can ever be! Whatever it is you are passionate about, do it and do it excellently.
Where do you hope to be in the next five years? What direction do you think your industry should be moving to?
I hope to be in a position to continue to contribute value in the world in whatever
it is I am doing. Right now, the industry should be lapping up the opportunities at their feet, the world is looking at Nigerian creative right now, we need to keep creating and harness the opportunities out there.
How would you assess the performance of women in the creative sector both behind the scene and in the spotlight?
Women are killing it! You only have to look at the successful movies, fashion, theatre production and even music released last year alone, and you see the excellence of female contribution in them. Need I say more, we are doing the dang thing and I am super proud that there are no more boundaries.
Let’s talk about some of your recognition on the job?
I don’t know about that, how about you telling me (Laughs).
What did winning the Music entrepreneur award in 2006 mean to you?
That brings up a lot of memories that is very important to me because the inspiration came from late Tosyn Bucknor. She encouraged me to put something together and make a presentation because she like Tayo Omotunde believed that these were things I had done overtime. It was at a time when the industry was just burgeoning, the industry was just picking up.
The focus was to show how we could cross pollinate the industry and there I met people like Obi Asika and Edi Lawani. I didn’t think anything about it because there lots of people who were big in the industry, I won’t mention names in the competition. Surprisingly, I got a call the next day and I was told that I won. The next stage of the completion was getting to meet nine other people in the world in UK and the experience was really wonderful and inspiring.
TY Bello, one of you band mates recently celebrated you during your 40th birthday on social media. What is the relationship between the two of you?
She is my sister and best friend. I have spent three decades of life with her and we are blessed to have met one another. She inspires me in different ways and vice versa. We are part of each other’s success and motivation. I love her for her kind heart, she loves God and she is very creative. I am thankful for her.
What dreams did you have while growing up?
I would say that I had the best examples in my parents while I was growing up. They were both in the media and creative industry. The inspiration was in different ways, whether to study law and the desire to represent people, the underdog, those who didn’t have advantage like the others. Music is my life, it is my love. I love to pitch music with pictures. I always love to tell stories and help other people.
Do you believe in Mentoring? Do you also have young people that you are mentoring?
Absolutely! I am for mentoring. It is one of the steps that have gotten me to where I am today. I have many in different fields and I have also helped many too .It is actually circle that helps to boost your experience, inspire and motivate other people also in the process. In life, we learn through hard knocks or from the lessons from other people’s experience. You are likely to learn more from other people’s experience instead of having to pass through the hard way yourself.