My Father Taught Me to Be Humble But I Learnt Tenacity From My Mother

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Tewa Onasanya

Convivial, calm and collected, she is an embodiment of passion. Over the years she has demonstrated patience, diligence and intelligence as a publisher and selfless entrepreneur. Petite and amicable, she is always looking for ways to fill a need. Committed to women’s health, she initiated the EMAC Walk to support women in the fight against cancer. Successful herself, she finds fulfillment celebrating other women through her ELOY Awards. As a passionate entrepreneur, she strives hard at empowering people. That’s Tewa Onasanya –the Editor-in-Chief of Exquisite Magazine and Chief Executive Officer of Exquisite Magazine Services Limited. She is a graduate of Pharmacology at the University of Portsmouth. A mother, wife, daughter and publisher, Onasanya’s life is filled with what can be described as dizzying activities –little wonder she says she can’t stand two-faced people. Drawing inner strength from her father and mother, she’s learnt never to give up on doing the best she can. In an ever-changing technology-driven world, Onasanya spends an evening with Azuka Ogujiuba sharing her exciting experiences in the publishing world, her fear of death, her hilarious six sisters and that unforgettable moment when her Prince Charming proposed to marry her    

For years now you’ve successfully published Exquisite Magazine; what has kept you going?


his has been achieved with God on our side; being diligent and consistent. I would say another thing though; being passionate about my line of work has worked tremendously well for me. When the challenges come, it’s the passion that drives one to achieve what one wants to achieve. Although being passionate alone will not bring the businesses in, but it will go a long way in comforting one when things are not going as planned.
The publishing industry can be very challenging –how have you been able to evolve and stay relevant?

The passion to succeed is unbelievable and that I feel is what has helped me not to focus on the challenges or negativity but focus on the positive and the potential of reaching a lot of people through Exquisite Magazine. Being a media company, we have to always find ways to stay relevant. The world is changing; technological advances are unbelievable and we have to keep with the times and still remain relevant. We are constantly learning new ways to appeal to both our readers and our advertisers. So I would say by educating ourselves and moving with the time.
Why did you choose to go into publishing and how did you start?

It started with the thought of me wanting to fill a need in the society where at the time when Exquisite started, there was only one lifestyle magazine for women in colour in the UK. I thought to myself that instead of complaining about it, do something and now we have Exquisite Magazine. I have a friend whose husband was a graphic artist. We had several meetings and he advised on the best way forward. Not too long after, Exquisite Magazine was launched and here we are 11 years later.
You’re also involved in other initiatives like the ELOY Awards, the Exquisite Walk for Cancer. Since publishing itself is a challenging enterprise why are you into these other activities?

We do these events to celebrate women and more importantly, to encourage, inspire and motivate other women. The EMAC Walk was created to help raise awareness as best as possible and also offer free screening for a cancer (or cancers) that is killing people in Nigeria at an alarming rate. We thought to go one step further than just awareness by actually encouraging people to get screened regularly. The ELOY Awards is an avenue to celebrate the exceptional works of women in different fields, who ordinarily might not be recognised for their role in Nigeria. These are women who have been able to go against the odds to be the best or one of the best at what they do. At the ELOY awards, we celebrate being a woman; we celebrate being a woman on a mission to succeed. We celebrate women who are making an impact, we celebrate women who in one way or the other inspire and motivate other women be it through direct leadership or indirect leadership. Our Exquisite lifestyle seminars are aimed at empowering people through different workshops that will be of great benefit to them: from growing to be an entrepreneur, to how to change how they are perceived and more.
Do you ever feel overwhelmed, like there is too much on your plate?

Sometimes I do, but with God on my side and my Exquisite team, we forge ahead and do what we need to do. I have a very understanding family as well that makes it all worth it. When I do get overwhelmed, I try to take a step back, relax a bit and then start again.
The media is a powerful tool that can be used to change society. How does Exquisite Magazine do this?

We do this by giving people true and concise information as often as possible. Yes we are a fashion magazine, but there is the lifestyle bit to it, which includes motivation, health, fitness and many more. As a medium of information, we report different lifestyle issues as accurately as possible so as not to mislead people who have put their trust in us to deliver.
What are some of the lessons you’ve learned in being an entrepreneur?

It is to be patient and consistent. I have also learned some extra stuff like book keeping and accounts. A big one for me I think will be that one’s passion alone can’t grow the business. One needs to be business savvy and one should not give all of one’s stuff away for free. Being an entrepreneur is about being able to take some risks and making sure all the figures add up. I’m not saying it’s easy, but one must try his or her best.
What future plans do you have for yourself and the business?

For me, to continue to deliver the best both for myself, family and friends and for Exquisite Magazine and its associated events –the EMAC walk and the ELOY awards.


What’s your advice for budding publishers and upcoming entrepreneurs?

They have to be passionate about whatever it is they want to publish and know their stuff. They should study and read books if they don’t know about it and learn from those who have been there and work well.

What’s your greatest fear?

It’s the fear of losing anyone dear to me. Not a good feeling as I have lost a friend in the past and it wasn’t and still isn’t an easy road to go on.

Which living person do you most admire?

I admire my mother for her tenacity and drive; and my dad for his positive energy. My dad also taught me the meaning of being a humble person. He is truly remarkable.

What is the trait you deplore most in yourself?

I think I procrastinate a lot. This is a trait i am working hard at getting rid of. I am still working at it. I have realised or should I say, I think I now know the trick to tricking myself (so to speak) not to procrastinate.

What is your greatest extravagance?

Ah! (Covers face) Shoes, shoes and more shoes. Funny, now I’m seeing some interesting bag collections I might indulge in some day.

What is your favourite journey?

My favourite journey in life will be the journey of motherhood. It’s a different ball game having to raise children and not just children but well grounded children. I am enjoying that journey and pray that it can only get better.

What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

It’s truth. I believe some truths are best left unsaid. They might do more harm than good. A lot of people say they want to know the truth all the time and that the truth sets one free. But then again, does one really want to know the truth? Truth hurts and most times the person at the receiving end might not be ready for the truth they crave to be told. That’s my opinion.

What kind of people do you despise?

I detest two-faced people; hugging you at one point and then hating you at the other. I believe in being true to one and others. There is no middle point; I mean what is the point of that? If you have a problem with anyone, I believe in talking about it and airing it out, instead of bottling it all in and being two-faced about it.

Which word or phrase do you most overuse?

Alrighty. I say ‘alrighty’ to almost everything –I can’t help myself. My overused phrase will be ‘Let’s make it happen’ or ‘I’m the best at what I do.’

What is your greatest regret?

My greatest regret is not studying something related to publishing or journalism at the university. I now know I would have scored A’s in all my courses. There are some things that people are just good at and will excel doing them. I always encourage people to find what it is they are passionate about. When they find it, they would discover that they are unique in their own way and can be the best they can be. In saying that, I am still learning.

What are some of your happy memories?

I have so many happy memories. One big one would be when I had my daughter. I kept thinking ‘Oh gosh, I have my own personal baby.’ This was in 2004. Actually, another big happy one was when I got engaged in 2001. My husband went through the trouble of getting us to Paris to propose to me. Definitely, the happiest moment!

What are your talents?

I am very good at writing stories and compiling reports. I love it. Funny enough, I am also good at hair braiding and fixing on weaves. Seriously, I am very good at that.

What is your current state of mind?

I’m in the ELOY Awards state of mind. No kidding. Right now it’s all about the ELOY awards, where we celebrate women of excellence in different fields. That’s my state of mind and it’s being made fabulously stylish by Baileys.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

Nothing. I love the way I have been created by God.

If you could change one thing about your family, what would it be?

About my family –absolutely nothing. I love them the way they are. I have lots of sisters and they are all unique and unbelievable in different ways. Imagine living in a house with six girls, and I am the oldest of them all. If it’s not cloths being ‘tiffed’ as we call it, it’s shoes or accessories. One of us can go out to a party, bump into one of the other sisters and trust me you would find a ‘contraband’ (something she borrowed without asking) on that sister. My family is hilarious.

What is your most treasured possession?

My mind.

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?

Loss of a child; God forbid it ever happens to anyone.

Where would you like to live?

I would love to live in a beautiful Nigeria.

What are your characteristics?

I always say I’m actually boring in real life but one characteristic I think stands out is the fact that underneath it all, I am quite reserved and one could say I am an introvert to an extent, but then again, different scenarios bring out the different characters of Tewa.

What do you value most in your friends?

Genuine friendship and honesty. I like people who call themselves my friend to be honest and open about things. I mean like I said some truths are best left unsaid but then again if you think I’m veering on the wrong path, please throw some advice my way.

Who are your favourite writers?

Danielle Steel and Jacky Collins.

What is it that you most dislike?

Falseness: a lot of people try to be false to show off to other people when really and truly, it’s about being true to yourself. Who cares what others think or say, they have an opinion anyway. As long as you are happy and doing the right thing by everyone. Be true.

Can you tell us about your growing up?

Growing up was an exciting period for me. I’m the first of seven girls, so you can imagine a home filled with ladies. Actually, I didn’t get to know the youngest ones too well until later in life as I was shipped to England immediately after my GCSE’s. But hey, it was fun and my parents were fun; always cracking us up especially on April fool’s day. But when it was serious time, they were serious. They taught me to be the best I can be and always strive to be the best. My sisters are like my best friends. I am miles (I mean years) apart from most of them but we hang out like good friends and crack jokes like crazy. They are like my soldiers filled with so much love for one another.

What are your views about marriage and are you married?

Yes, I am married. I’ve been married for over 12 years. My hubby is an IT guru. My views on marriage have been different over the course of my journey in marriage. I think marriage means different things to different people and people also want different things from a marriage. It’s a great institution though that requires a lot of patience and love. Both parties must be willing to make the sacrifices to build a sane home with well grounded children.

What is your greatest motivation when you are working or about to start work?

My greatest motivation is my bambinis (kids) as I call them. One thought of them just jumpstarts my day. They are my best assets (my dad calls us that) and they have to be taken care of. Another thing that motivates me is the drive to want to make an impact in my world in whatever way I can.


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