Mo Abudu Biography and Profile
Born 11 September 1964, UK to Nigerian parents, Mo Abudu moved to Lagos in 1993 and spent more than a decade in the corporate world, where she launched a consulting firm and, later, a hotel.
Mo Abudu, Nigerian media entrepreneur and talk show host, is the founder of Ebony Life TV, a fast-growing black African multi-broadcast entertainment network, which showcases informative and entertaining programmes that portray Africa at its best.
Abudu, who has been described by international news outlets as ‘Africa’s Africa’, is keen in her resolve to rewrite Africa’s story. And it’s time you took notice.
Mo Abudu would indulge in black and white musical classics starring Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly. Back then as a Nigerian child growing up in the mostly white suburb of Tunbridge Wells in London, “You didn’t have much to call your own,” says Mo Abudu.
“Sammy Davis Jr was about the only actor on TV that you could see on those films and that you could actually identify with as someone of color.”
Mo Abudu Media Entrepreneur Journey
My passion to help change the narrative about Africa began to grow as far back as when I was a teenager living in the UK, schooling in Tunbridge Wells in Kent, a town that had just a few blacks at the time.
As I have said many times in the past, here, I had to learn to stand up for myself, to defend my identity and my race in an environment where you continually got asked the most ridiculous and mind-boggling questions like “Do you guys live in trees and holes in Africa?” “Do you guys dance around fires?”
“What do you eat for breakfast?” Very ignorant questions. Those sort of questions could either make or break your spirit but I was very determined that I was going to stay strong.
This kind of afro-pessimism simply fuelled a burning, deep-seated desire in my subconscious to one day help to rewrite the African story; to get people to talk about the issues that affect our society and to tell the African narrative in a contemporary and interesting way; to change the perception the world had of us; to let the world know that in spite of our challenges as a developing continent, Africans are not a bunch of savages but mostly a breed of gifted and remarkable people.
So, after my education and a flourishing modelling career in the UK, I returned to Nigeria in my late twenties. My children had reached their teens; I had begun enjoying a successful career as Head of Human Resources and Administration for oil giant, Esso Exploration and Production Nigeria Limited (ExxonMobil).
I always say that this experience at ExxonMobil was the best thing that happened to me at that time because the job gave me an invaluable understanding of corporate structure and business discipline, which would eventually prove very useful in my future business endeavours, to include the Protea Hotel Oakwood Park, of which I remain a shareholder and director; Vic Lawrence & Associates, now one of Nigeria’s leading outsourcing firms, where I also remain founder, and so on.
However, as successful as all these business ventures have thankfully been, nothing perhaps has given me the most fulfilment as the prospect of exploiting the media as a tool to affect global perceptions about Africa.
So, with no TV experience whatsoever, I had approached DStv back then with the Moments with Mo proposal which I had hoped would persuade them to see that it was time Africans had a talk show that projected all that was positive, progressive and celebratory about the continent.
I had seen a gap in the market for talk shows that were quintessentially African on the DStv bouquet. I had observed that there were talk shows on NTA, and other Nigerian channels but there wasn’t a single Pan-African talk show at the time.
I did not get a positive response from DStv as I was told they were not looking for a Pan-African talk show on the platform at the time. But interestingly, in response to the need for local content on the platform, the window of opportunity soonopened for us and that was how, in 2006, Moments with Mo was born out of the vision to build and project a new, stronger, more independent and more confident Africa; an Africa that speaks for itself; that celebrates its people and achievements and solves its own problems.
I had taken about 5 pilots of my talk show to them back then but they were all rejected and eventually, one was accepted.
And even at that point, I was told they were not going to commission, that they were only going to license, which means they would buy the content from you at an agreed price.
So I was told to go and look for sponsors, which I did, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Mo Abudu Lesson in Business
I have learned that information is power. The media business in Nigeria and indeed, Africa is grossly underestimated and the windows of opportunity need to be further explored. A lot of people do not understand the power of the information.
One needs to be armed with information in order to successfully navigate any venture. Information is your compass. If you know better, you will do better.
Before deciding to enter into any venture, one must, to the best of their ability have explored possibilities for growth, foreseen challenges, made projections, thought exhaustively through every inch and breadth of the venture and researched what other people have done to succeed and where they failed.
EbonyLife Media, headed by CEO Mo Abudu, is Nigeria’s premium media conglomerate comprising EbonyLife TV, EbonyLife Films, EbonyLife Studios and EbonyLife Place (a luxury entertainment resort). EbonyLife Media believes in creating original and inspiring content that showcases a pioneering and progressive Africa.
The content is strongly rooted in Africa and connected to a global audience, through a shared identity and common values. EbonyLife Media’s vision is to be the most influential storyteller of a new Africa.
EbonyLife Studios is Nigeria’s foremost media group, dedicated to creating world-class and authentic African stories, through a range of co-production deals with international studios.
As a TV and feature film producer, EbonyLife has created over 5 000 hours of original programming across a variety of genres as well as seven feature films, three of which are the highest-grossing movies of all time at the Nigerian box office.
EbonyLife Studios believes in elevating Africa’s media image by showcasing an inspired, progressive and uplifted view of the continent.
EbonyLife Films has ushered in a movement that revolutionises the trends in African filmmaking with seven films to date. The company’s debut film, ’Fifty’ was Nigeria’s highest-grossing drama in 2015 and in 2016 and ‘The Wedding Party’ became the highest-grossing title of all time in the Nigerian film industry (Nollywood).
Following this success, is the company’s latest feature film, ‘‘Òlòturé, a Netflix Original. All feature films from EbonyLife Films are now streaming on Netflix.
Africa’s first Global Black Entertainment & Lifestyle network is available across Africa on StarTimes, channel 191. EbonyLife TV believes in creating content that is representative of a progressive and burgeoning Africa.
Since deciding to change the narrative, the company has created more than 5 000 hours of original premium programming. EbonyLife TV’s continued mission is to create original and inspiring content with an African soul that showcases the best of Africa for a Global audience.
EbonyLife Place is the premium event space in Lagos for the most elegant and exclusive events, conferences and exhibitions. Each venue guarantees the safety of you and your guests.
To allow for maximum flexibility, event planners and organisers are now allowed to appoint their own chef, culinary team, mixologists and waiting staff, all of whom can work out of our world-class facilities behind the scenes.
EbonyLife Creative Academy
EbonyLife Creative Academy is supported by the Lagos State Government through Lagos State Creative Industries Initiative (LACI), under the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture.
ELCA offers Lagosians specialist vocational training courses applicable to aspiring film and television professionals as well as refresher workshops and masterclasses for industry professionals.
These courses are specifically designed to service the growing needs of the Nigerian television and film industry with the aim to expertly produce African stories for the global market.
The Post House Lagos
The Lagos Post House, Nigeria’s first state-of-the-art independent post-production facility, will supply the industry with editing, colour grading, mastering, visual effects and sound post-production services to meet the technical needs of an entertainment industry that is growing in demand, internationally.
Mo Abudu to Upcoming Young Entrepreneurs
Anyone who wishes to be an entrepreneur must know that bright ideas are great, however, they are not even half of the work; execution is everything. Yes, as the saying goes, ‘there is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come’, but when that time comes, you must be prepared to bleed sweat, tears and blood to bring your ideas to life.
For women, never ever see your gender as a handicap. Never think yourself inferior. Be ready to do twice the work for half the usual reward. When the door isn’t opened, kick down the door. Take the regular harassment and other obstacles women face in stride.
“Women have dreams, but we tend to hold ourselves back and are our own worst enemy at times. We place ourselves last and put our dreams on hold out of fear and the belief that we can’t do it. We also tend to put other women down; it’s unfortunately a global thing. We need to learn to support each other and celebrate our success.”
She may be a high-flyer in the media industry but Abudu is first and foremost a woman. She believes women have a responsibility to maintain balance in their lives.
“I work extremely hard daily but I believe in looking good and nice. I make sure that I find the time to focus on myself, to feel confident and articulate in business,” she says firmly.
In fact, be prepared for them. Be prepared to be told off, to be told you are not good enough, to go unrewarded for even doing the same work your male counterpart has done. Work with your passion, let it consume and drive you. Do not be distracted.
On down days, it will keep you going. Also, surround yourself with like minds. In fact, you should exhaustively curate those who will go along with you on your journey. I can’t say that enough.
A Different Africa
At a glamorous launch of her Ebony Life TV channel in Lagos, Nigeria, in July, Forbes recognized Abudu as the first woman on the continent to own a pan-African TV channel. With Ebony Life, Abudu hopes to change perceptions of Africa, by showcasing the diversity of the continent and celebrating Africans who are making their mark.
“We believe it’s time to present a different Africa, one never seen before,” she explains.
Mo Abudu Family
Abudu lights up when she mentions her children.
“Without them, I have nothing. Balancing my role as a working mother is not easy, but they are good children, which has allowed me to progress as far as I have.”
After losing her father when she was a young, Abudu says her mother plays an important role in her life.
“My source of inspiration is my mother; she is indeed my biggest motivator and gives me strength. When I don’t believe in myself, she believes in me.”
Mo Abudu Mission
It’s all in keeping with a philosophy, since Mo Abudu became a household name with the debut of her talk show “Moments With Mo.”
“There are so many African stories that are yet to be told,” Abudu said. “Let’s take these stories to the world now. That’s the journey we’re on.”