“THE DAY I TRENDED FOR ALL THE WRONG REASONS WAS A TURNING POINT FOR ME”
Entertainers/ Celebrities are humans too; they feel pain when people throw hurtful words at them, judge them without knowing the effort it takes to get to where they are. Waje, the amiable singer with the powerful and melodious voice recently visited Genevieve and opened up about the joy that comes from doing what she loves. She also talked about coming into her own, living life on her own terms and of course rising above all negativity
Let’s go back to the day you trended for all the wrong reasons and how you rose above that negativity.
That was after my performance at th Guinness Colourful world event in October 2013. I trended on twitter but not for the right reasons. I did not trend because of my performance, instead I trended because people were uncomfortable with my body size. They had an opinion about how I looked. The things people were comparing me to were hideous. Someone took a picture of a remote control and said I looked like that. That made me say to myself, ‘you know what Waje, music isn’t for you’. I had come out with an album, but when that happened, I said you know what, I can’t deal with this. I cried for hours that day at Eko Hotel. And interestingly, I started feeling the way they said I looked. So, I started drinking. I became bitter. I told myself I’m done with music. I’m going to find something else to do. I didn’t eat for days. I became angry with every family member who came to talk to me. I had no reasons to smile or be happy and decided to sign out of all my social media accounts.
That must have been a difficult period for you. How did you rise above the negativity and bounce back?
I started working with Uzikwendu of Uzi’s Burnout. And Uzi did not just work on my body, he worked on my mind, also. Through that, I separated myself from the negativity and focused on what I wanted to hear. I started to create an environment where the only thing I heard about myself is positive and great. So if you are my friend and you don’t compliment me, I’ll never call you. I edited my friendship. I then became more outspoken because initially I used to implode. I started telling it as it is. If I don’t like it, I say it. I had to tell myself, you are over thirty, if you don’t start telling people how you feel about their behavior, when will you start? That change made some people uncomfortable but that was the only way I could deal with it. You know, I used to think that my biggest fear in the world was failure, but I got to find out that my biggest fear was validation. As an artiste I wanted so much to be accepted. But now, I don’t care. Someone can say I do not like your song and I’ll say thank you; because my brand is not just about putting out good music but selling aspiration to women as well. But it gets difficult sometimes when people tell me that I am not a typical Nigerian woman because I am a single mother. So there are certain things I shouldn’t talk about, because I don’t have authority to talk about it. Even in the corporate world there are some jobs I can’t get because I am not married.
You do not care, anymore? You know you have competition, don’t you?
I’m aware of my competition but I don’t feel threatened by it.Initially, when I first started, I felt threatened, but now I don’t feel it anymore, because I understand diversity and the power in numbers.
Would you say your new song is commercial
It is not the number of airplays a song gets that make it commercial or not. Sometimes, people quietly buy songs that appeal or ministers to them without making news of it. That’s why Asa has a market.
How is your planned collaboration with Asa going?
We are working on it. You know she can be busy, sometimes. I am currently working on an album with Cobhams, only: I chose to work with him alone because I want the songs to marry each other. I don’t want to have different sounds going on. I want an album that has symmetry from start to finish. So, I’m hoping that Asa will be one of the people I will work with on that album. I’m definitely going to work with Timi Dakolo as well. Timi is such an amazing singer and he’s one person who has stayed true to his art and a lot of people are beginning to appreciate him. Younger people have now embraced that genre of music in Nigeria because Timi and a few others stuck to it.
To a certain degree, you’ve also managed to stay on your lane.
There was a time I paid too much attention to what people were saying about my work, such that when God gives me a song, I’ll end up questioning it till I change it into something different from what I was given. But when I got certain results, I decided to stay true to my vision.
How do you feel about the non-passage of the Gender and equal opportunity bill?
The core problem we have in this country is knowledge. So, a lot of people misunderstand the reason behind the things we do. A lot of people believe asking for gender equality means trying to lord it over men or struggling with men. But a lot of successful women understand how difficult it is to succeed in any economic endeavor in this male dominated world. That is why they speak and make demands that will make it easier for other women to succeed in their economic endeavours too, even with the peculiarities of feminity. I believe that poverty is sexist and the only way we can eradicate poverty is by creating opportunities for women. My core passion is in the education of girls. When we start with education we are making sure that people have the ability to ask the right questions, approach issues from the position of strength and make the right decision. Most times the problem women have is information; you hear a woman say I know that the reason he beats me is because he loves me. That is why I came up with my African Woman platform where I can invest in the young African woman by sending her to school. If women themselves can start helping each other then we’ll be better for it. For instance, a neighbor who hears her fellow woman going through domestic abuse can do something about it by reporting to the police! We have women in the police, don’t we?
Such neighbour might be called a nosy neighbour!
The change must start from within with every woman doing something about it until a culture is formed without there not necessarily being a law made. If women themselves cannot do something about their situation men will not pay us much attention. When I spoke about this bill, it was women who insulted me. One told me, “Waje you have never been married, so please shut up.”
It looks like we are still our own enemy.
Women do not support each other enough. We feed too much on negativity.That’s why there are more blogs who make money from bashing and critiquing others than those who focus on telling inspiring stories of people’s successes.I didn’t know how appreciated I was as an artist until I travelled to Tanzania in 2014. I performed there to a crowd of 70,000 and they sang along to all my songs from start to finish. Because of the response from the crowd, I became a Queen to the organisers. I feel like I’m appreciated outside Nigeria than in Nigeria.
Your daughter recently turned 17 and you’ve mentioned to us about her admission to a University in England. You must have had quite an experience raising her?
I did. There were many times I really prayed that The One will quicken his steps to make things easier. It did get too much when it is time to pay rent, school fees, and other miscellaneous expenses. I had my own share of pillow cries and made sure she doesn’t see it. Sometimes she could come asking, “Why didn’t you and my Dad stay together?” And, when I first moved to Lagos, I couldn’t afford to have my daughter with me because I didn’t have a house; I was squatting with someone. There was a time I saw her like twice a year. There were times she cried, mummy I want to come and live with you, but I couldn’t afford it till 2011. Yet looking at my daughter, I will be honest that she is a blessing. And the blessing outweighs the challenges. I have learnt to be patient, more accommodating and to pay attention to details as a mom. I have also learnt to map out my priorities, because there are some things I simply cannot do as a mom.
Are you a strict mom?
I’m a mother (pronounced, murder) but I know where to draw the line.
Is it because you are a single parent?
It is becauseI don’t want her to make the same mistakes I made. I feel like some of the decisions I made was because I was raised differently. Our parents taught us what they knew as the truth, but what you know as the truth might not be the truth. Another thing is that parents do not tell their children why certain behaviours should be avoided. For example, parents say,“don’t drink because I said so” not,“don’t drink because it is bad for your health”. But I’m learning that for the children of this age, you have to tell them all the reasons why they should not do certain things. While my daughter was growing up, I took up the reward method; you do good, you get good. There was a consequence for every action.
Have you been dating? How different is the dating experience of a single mom?
Yes I’ve been dating. And there’s definitely a difference. One, you can never come to my house. I’ll never introduce you to my daughter. Because you don’t want to bring up a child in an environment where she thinks that it is okay to have men come in and go out of your life. So it’s a rule. I don’t care how close you are to me, you can’t come to my house. After her father, since I started dating, my daughter has only seen one person and after that person she’s never met another person again. But I try and give her a father figure. So I create role models around her. I’ll have her go and spend time with my pastor’s family so she can have a “family” orientation.
Have you ever spoken to her about what really happened between you and her dad?
Oh yes I have.
Well, he wasn’t ready. I was young. He was young.
Has he always been a part of her life?
He wasn’tuntil recently. He met her last year. When she was quite young he showed interest but my fear was that he won’t be consistent. I didn’t want a situation where he would come in this year and leave the next. So I had to wait till I was sure that he would be there.
What’s the relationship between you two like?
We are very cordial. We respect each other.
Aside from your upcoming album, what else do you have in the works?
I’ve been called to open for Lauryn hill in Brooklyn. I’m also doing the SABC live show in Johannesburg.