To her beloved fans across the country, she is Aunty Nnenna of Nnenna and Friends fame. However, we were able to go behind the curtain and find out what really makes Mrs Olayinka Ademo tick. From an early start in modelling to her love for Paris, what stands out most is her passion for child development and how she has plunged herself wholly into maximising her resources to make the world a better place for children.
Read excerpts here:
Please tell us about yourself, starting from background to present day.
By marriage, I am Olayinka Ademo, I used to be Olayinka Olukunga and I am the first child of four children. I am married; I am a mother and I work with children. I finished from the Lagos State University, LASU, I studied marketing. I also did a post graduate course in education administration at the University of Lagos, UNILAG. I presently work with children.
What was growing up like? What fond memories do you hold dear?
Growing up was splendid, beautiful; my father was a disciplinarian. It was beautiful with my siblings, but you know with my dad being a disciplinarian, we had to be very cautious of everything we did at that time. And then for fun memories, I remember all the songs we sang back in the days, we don’t have those songs anymore.
My primary and secondary school days were beautiful, it was awesome. All the fun games we played back then, like ten-ten, suwe; I did a whole lot. You remember ‘who is in the garden’, it was beautiful, we used to dance in the rain, we cannot do that anymore. In fact, children don’t do that anymore. I hold those memories dear to my heart.
What are the major obstacles you overcame in the process of becoming the woman you are today?
Most of us race faster than our pace. God has a plan for us, but because we want it like asap, we get it going through our own means; we device other means to get it. For me, it was the major challenge, I wasn’t born with a silver spoon. At some point it was pretty tough, while I was growing up. We didn’t have all the luxuries a child would really want at that time.
I remember as at the time I left secondary school, it wasn’t easy to gain admission into the university. It affected me at some point because I kept thinking my mates were in school already – it wasn’t that I wasn’t passing, but it was because my father at that point really couldn’t do much for us. But I didn’t rush, eventually it came. It came while I had started working; I started modelling really early, at the age of sixteen. I didn’t lose focus, I still knew I needed education at all cost; I needed to get it. So I kept writing JAMB and I passed, eventually I started school. Obviously it was destiny working; God had a plan for me. I could have said: “You know what? I am already working, let me bone school, I get money every now and then, so what is the point of going to school?” But i didn’t do that, it took me time, but I eventually got it.
So it was pretty challenging for me growing up, but I was patient and I believed in God. I knew he had plans for me, so I waited for him to show me; this paid off for me. Here I am, grateful to God.
What brings you fulfilment as a person or a woman?
The smiles I see on the faces of the children that I actually impact. Above all, my children, I have a set of twins; girls, they are growing so fast, watching them brings me so much joy. I’ve been saying to God: “You must really love me to have given me these two beautiful girls.” I don’t know what I have done to deserve this, but I am thankful.
What are your personal values and how have they impacted on your marriage, career, and general way of doing things?
For personal values, I say to people, do unto others what you want people to do unto you, simple. If you want people to respect you, respect them, this has helped me a whole lot. I respect people a lot, including the youngest, and it has really paid off for me in life and in marriage as well. Also, be patient, at the right time, everything will fall in place. For me, patience has been my watchword; I just leave it to God.
I would like to say an adage in my local dialect, it says: “Ti asiko ati su ba ‘to, idi ma la.” This means, if its time for you to poo, it would happen naturally; you don’t have to force it. If you must use the toilet, you would use the toilet, you don’t have to struggle, God has wired you in such a way that your faeces has its own passage way and it opens up at that point.
When you want to deliver, your cervix doesn’t open up, but by the time the child starts to look for a way to come out it opens up. It is God, so for me I believe in patience. When it is time for you to get something, it will happen. When it is time for you to marry, to get into school, it will happen. As long as you don’t relent in prayers, it might just take time, be patient and keep praying, it will definitely happen.
What do you do to unwind and recharge your battery?
I dance, I love to dance salsa, and most times I am at home watching television.
What are your favourite holiday spots?
I love Paris, it’s a beautiful place. They say, “See Paris and die”, it is a city of romance; I love romance, I also love magical things. I can go to Paris ten thousand times.
Do you believe that, as a woman, you can have it all? Why?
Some believe you can’t but for me I think you can. Why? Why not! What you need to do is pray and believe in yourself, it would happen, just like I said earlier on. Pray, be patient, it will eventually happen.
Who says you can’t get that tall dark and handsome guy you want? Who says you can’t get that beautiful job you want? Who says you can’t have those children you want? Who says you can’t get everything? Why not? You can! Believe, when you believe in yourself and work towards it, it will happen.
What causes are you involved in and what impact has it made?
I work with children, I am a great lover of children. Right now what we do at Nnenna & Friends is that we create a platform to develop the children, to showcase the talents inherent in them. Nnenna & Friends is invlolved in an edutainment pogramme; that means we support education, and then we support entertainment. We encourage children to go to school, and we also encourage them to develop that special talent they have inside of them.
Every child has a special talent. So what we do at Nnenna & Friends is that we receive you, we discover that talent in you, we groom you and then we showcase you to the world. That is our major project at Nnenna & friends, and that what we do. So we have Nnenna & Friends Brain Pal Game which is educational, it supports education, supports the children. It basically encourages them to learn and then at the end of the day we give them intensives to encourage them. We give them gifts and all of that.
We also have the aspect of the Nnnena show, where we develop these talents. We do talent hunts, children come, they showcase themselves. We pick them up, we groom them up since we have dance instructors, music instructors, they work with these children and then we showcase them to the world. That’s what we do at Nnnena & Friends.
Right now, the new project at hand is the Nnena & Friends‘ cartoon magazine; it would be launched in a few months time. Trust me, it is clean fun for the family, it’s the brightest, biggest and best cartoon magazine you’ve ever seen in Africa. You’ve not seen anything like it, it is for the whole family; for children for parents, it will be fun. You have puzzle, games, trace the dots, it’s engaging. We have so many cartoon and animal stories, like the tortoise, the lion and all that.
We also have the travels and tour coming up pretty soon; that is the Nnena & Friends’ travels and tours. We take the children to places, basically educational tours, both in Nigeria, Africa and beyond. Our shows run for four times a year, we have the Easter, the Children’s day, October 1st, as well as the end of the year show; which is the Christmas show. I have no project outside children, for me it is all about Children! Children! Children!
With the benefit of hindsight, what would you have done better if you were to start your life all over again?
In another life, I will still work with children, some may find this boring; but really that’s what brings me joy.
How do you juggle all your numerous responsibilities and still maintain balance?
I thank God I have a very understanding husband, when it’s time to work, he allows me and he is very supportive. So basically, his support has been my strength really. He understands my schedule, from working with children, to rehearsals and running shows, he is always there to support me. God, and my husband’s support have been my backbone and strength.
How has marriage (particularly wifehood and/or motherhood) changed your person and affected your worldview?
As a mother, pregnancy for me was not easy; it was a difficult one for me. Right from the first day I knew I was pregnant, I was on absolute bed rest especially in my first trimester. For me, the major lesson from that experience is that I wouldn’t beat another person’s child unnecessarily, nor will I allow anybody beat mine unnecessarily. But then the Bible says, spare the rod and spoil the child; you still have to beat them. But now I’ve learnt to appreciate our mothers more. After going through that process, I appreciate my mum a whole lot, not that I didn’t appreciate my mum before childbirth; I would give it 90%, but now it is a 100% or a 150%. As a mother now, I appreciate my mum much more than the way I used to.
Motherhood has changed my life a whole lot, I no longer do the things I used to do anymore, right now I think more about my children. Before I do anything, I think about my children. I want to buy this; my children, I want to eat this; my children. Before I eat anything, I ask myself, is this good for your children? Remember you are breastfeeding. I see things differently now, my children come first for me now, before it was all about me, but now, I have to put them into consideration.
As a single, I had the freedom to take decision without consulting anyone, but this is no longer appplicable, I am married. Before marriage, I could leave the house without cooking but now, I can’t do that, In fact, cooking is my hobby, I love to cook now, I love to bake too; I just love the kitchen. A way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, being a wife, I know the essence of that now. You have to respect your husband, be submissive to him, and they love attention.
What about your parents? In what ways have they also contributed toward your becoming the woman you are today?
My parents have been very supportive, when I started modelling, they were very encouraging. My father is the type of man that would allow you do whatever you love to do, he would guide you. If he knows you are passionate about your dreams, he would support and guide you. My mum is my friend, we gist a lot, we are best of friends. This includes my mum’s twin, so my mum is a twin, and both of them are my pals.
For everything I have learnt till date, my parents taught me. They taught me to be patient, they taught me to be submissive to my husband, they taught me a whole lot of things.
What is your advice for single ladies, married women, and professional women?
My advice will be the same; be prayerful, be patient and let everything happen at the right time. Do not eagerly acquire things, let God play it out for you. This principle has worked for me, leaving it all to God, letting Him direct me, this has helped me so far, and I am willing to share this with people. Be patient, be prayerful and believe in yourself, it will happen.
What counsel do you have for women who have given up on their dreams?
Pick it up! Wherever it is you kept it, dust it! Don’t give up on your dreams, not for anything in the world. Pick it up, believe in it and achieve it.
What would you like to be remembered for after you have transited?
The lives I have impacted and the smiles on the faces of the children. I want them to say: “Oh Nnena, a great lover of children; Olayinka, a great lover of children; she touched so many lives. I want the children to say: “Auntie Nnenna touched my life, she did this, she did that. I want to see them prosper; I want to see them making it in life, achieving their dreams.”