Office LivesPeople & Money

Alaga Iduro Who Went to Cambridge: Isabella Adedeji

Office Lives with Isabella Adedeji, Alaga Iduro and Media Entrepreneur

“People usually check my Instagram page. I don’t have a separate page for being an Alaga Iduro; it’s all on my personal page, Isabella Adedeji. By the time they go through my page, they see that I am more than just an Alaga Iduro. I am a writer, producer, presenter, and more. My branding is “Alaga Sisi Bella,” “Alaga Oloyinbo,” or “Alaga to lo Cambridge,” meaning the traditional or Yoruba wedding compere attended Cambridge University”. 

 

What did you study in university?

I studied Education with English and Drama at the University of Cambridge.

As a child, what did you aspire to become?

Different things; it kept changing. I’m sure I wanted to be the usual: doctor, lawyer, market woman, trader, teacher, actress, TV presenter, journalist, musician, rapper. I wanted to be many, many things.

How did your career in the media industry begin?

My interest in media began in secondary school when I participated in various competitions that were recorded at TV stations, like quiz competitions. These experiences, along with school outings and excursions to places like Ray Power, sparked an early interest in media. I also wrote for the school yearbook, which contributed to my passion for writing.

At university, I further explored this interest by working at the university’s radio station, gathering and casting news. I also contributed to the university newspaper. During a gap year, I returned to Nigeria and worked for a publishing house, where I hosted a book reading session for one of our authors in December 2008. This event led to my first TV opportunity, where I started reviewing books weekly on Silverbird’s breakfast show from January 2009 to January 2010.

Around the same time, Inspiration FM launched a competition called Inspiration FM Radio Superstar, which I participated in, making it to the top four. Although I didn’t win, it provided valuable experience. I co-hosted with Dan Foster and Oscar on Inspiration FM, which marked the beginning of my radio presenting career.

I also took my writing more seriously, contributing to various magazines and newspapers like True Love magazine, W magazine, Next newspaper, and This Day Style. I eventually got a column in the Next newspaper, where I wrote book reviews.

What inspired the creation of Yellow Tamarind Productions?

After graduating in 2011, I worked in Corporate Communication at a multinational company and continued to pursue my media interests. I hosted events within the company, did red carpet hosting, and wrote for an online magazine on Nollywood. I also appeared as a guest and guest host on TV and radio shows.

By 2015, I realized I needed to choose between my 9-to-5 job and my passion for media. I decided to pursue my passion and set up Yellow Tamarind Productions. I registered the company before resigning from my job in October 2019. By January 2020, I had started shooting my first TV show, which aired in March or April. Yellow Tamarind Productions became the vehicle for my creative projects in media, allowing me to work as a presenter, producer, writer, editor, MC, voiceover artist, and compere.

Is hosting and anchoring events, which one can assume led you venture into Alaga Iduro, a very  specialised kind of events hosting , something you have always been interested in, or did you develop it along the way?

I have always been interested in hosting and anchoring events. Even while working my 9-to-5 job, I would anchor company events. Before that, I hosted kids’ parties in the UK and participated in drama, choir, debates, and other activities that required public speaking. My experience in publishing, where I anchored book reading sessions, also helped develop my hosting skills. These various experiences naturally led to my interest in hosting and anchoring events professionally. But it didn’t have to lead to compering traditional weddings (Alaga Iduro).

Also Read: A Yoruba Wedding: Culture Meets Economics

In what ways has your university education prepared you for your current role, and are there any specific skills or experiences from your studies that you’ve found particularly useful in your media career?

I studied Education in English and Drama at the University of Cambridge. Let’s start with education. I’ve worked as a part-time teacher in two schools and created various educational contents, such as videos like Africana Literati and radio shows like Correct Student. I’ve also created content for Yellow Tamarind Productions and other organizations. My educational background has allowed me to engage in traditional teaching, TV and radio teaching, and educational entertainment.

Regarding the English aspect, my degree underpins much of my work as a writer, editor, and content creator. Although my focus was on English literature, I’ve worked in publishing and the media as a columnist, writer, editor, proofreader, and blogger. I’ve contributed to social media content, newspapers, and magazines and won prizes for my essays. My TV show, Africana Literati, focuses on literature by African authors. Additionally, I’ve done acting in a TV series, a feature film, and a commercial. The drama component of my degree is evident in my work as a compere, where I incorporate theatrical performance into events.

As for production, I’ve worked on documentaries and in journalism as a reporter and producer for Daria Media Productions, where I also hosted radio shows. The combination of Education, English, and Drama has significantly contributed to my career in media, creative arts, and corporate communications. Even my dissertation on reading habits in Nigerian secondary schools has informed my work in promoting literacy.

What challenges have you faced as a media entrepreneur, and how have you overcome them?

One major challenge is funding. I have many ideas for TV series, radio shows, magazines, and books, but execution requires money. The media system here often takes advantage of independent producers who need advertisement revenue. This results in discounted ad rates and the need to pay for airtime, making it difficult to sustain TV and radio programs.

Another challenge is the lack of regulation and structured systems. Unlike in more developed media markets, independent producers here wear multiple hats—marketer, producer, scriptwriter—due to funding issues. For instance, as an MC or moderator, popularity and social media following can impact opportunities, making it harder to secure gigs without a robust marketing budget.

The production environment is also challenging. High costs for studio time, diesel for generators, and other logistical issues add to the burden. Abroad, better structures, accessible ratings, and year-round productions create an ecosystem that supports consistent work for specialized roles.

Alaga Iduro compering a corporate function
The Alaga Iduro compering a corporate function

How has being a woman in business presented unique challenges for you?

Being a woman in a patriarchal society brings its own set of challenges. Women are often expected to fulfill certain roles, and this can conflict with career aspirations. In my case, offering production, PR, and media services while also being a talent means my physical presence is crucial. Like a football player who must be on the field, I need to be available for hosting events or presenting shows.

Pregnancy and motherhood can significantly impact my availability and revenue. Clients may assume I’m unavailable due to pregnancy or family commitments, leading to missed opportunities. Additionally, societal biases can affect career prospects, such as preferences for certain physical attributes or marital status in the entertainment industry.

Support for women in business, especially during pregnancy and early motherhood, is lacking. The expectation for women to handle caregiving and domestic duties adds to the challenge. Despite these hurdles, I’ve managed to continue working, even producing and presenting a radio show the day I gave birth. However, this isn’t always feasible for everyone, and the lack of support impacts women’s career progression.

These challenges highlight the need for better support systems and policies to enable women to balance career and family responsibilities effectively.

 

Also Read: Does the Yoruba Demon Really Exist?

With your background in drama, do you have plans to focus more on acting and film?

I definitely want to do more acting, but I always tell producers that I cannot kiss anyone who is not my husband. So, if you’re not ready to cast me and my husband for your kissing scene, just forget about it. You can cast me in roles like a mummy, principal, or auntie, but if it’s a love interest role, I can’t do it. Maybe if I was already doing that before I got married, it would be different.

I would like to do more acting, producing, and presenting on TV and radio. I also see the drama aspect coming back into the educational content I want to start creating. This time, I’m looking at leveraging technology to make language learning, particularly English and African languages, enjoyable for early years. Instead of playing only foreign content that teaches English, why not have content that teaches English alongside Yoruba, Igbo, or Hausa from a young age?

How do you  incorporate drama into educational content for children?

For example, if I’m doing a radio drama to teach a topic like family, the drama component is useful. I might not be acting in it, but I could be doing voice acting, narrating the part of the mother in English, and having it translated to Yoruba. There are many aspects where we can use drama—acting, voice acting, and collaborations in the space between film and education, radio and education.

What was your experience studying at Cambridge  University like?

I enjoyed it. It was very fulfilling. I liked riding my bicycle and exploring the city of Cambridge. It’s a pretty idyllic, nice, cute university town. I liked the traditions, going to formal events, looking at other colleges, meeting people from different countries, the high level of teaching, the opportunities, and giving back by working within the university as a Cambassador.

I was involved in different activities like the debate society, the Cambridge Union, and running for an elective position as president of the Cambridge University Nigeria Society. During my tenure, Chinua Achebe came to visit, and I got to have dinner with him and take pictures. I also edited a magazine for a client I met in Cambridge. Even my first job was a result of an MD seeing my work in that magazine and offering me a chat when I was back in Nigeria.

I look back at Cambridge with a lot of fond memories. I met really great people, some of whom I’m still friends with today. There were also many opportunities to work and explore different things—modeling in a fashion show, singing in a choral choir, and trying my hand at painting. No regrets.

How do you get invitations for Alaga Iduro assignments given that you are busy with so many things?

People usually check my Instagram page. I don’t have a separate page for being an Alaga Iduro; it’s all on my personal page, Isabella Adedeji. By the time they go through my page, they see that I am more than just an Alaga Iduro. I am a writer, producer, presenter, and more. My branding is “Alaga Sisi Bella,” “Alaga Oloyinbo,” or “Alaga to lo Cambridge,” meaning the traditional or Yoruba wedding compere attended Cambridge University.

Sometimes clients prefer my style because the groom might not be Yoruba. For example, I once introduced myself, and the person asked if I could speak Yoruba. When I explained that I mix Yoruba with English, they found it suitable because the groom was American and didn’t speak Yoruba. So, I was the Alaga for the groom’s side.

People who know my work through other means or personal connections also reach out. It’s about preference. If my style appeals to them, they book me; if not, there are many other Alaga Iduro to choose from. I don’t see it as something to make millions of naira or dollars from; the appeal is in the long career span. I can do this for the next 30 years, and as I get better with my Yoruba, more opportunities will come.

Throughout your journey in the media industry, which event or accomplishment stands out the most to you?

That’s a hard one because I often feel like I’m just scratching the surface and not yet accomplished. There are several big accomplishments across different spheres of my career. As an Alaga, getting my first job was huge for me. As a media person, having my first show, which I wrote, produced, and presented, and seeing it on air was significant.

There’s always a great sense of accomplishment when something that started as an idea becomes a reality. Whether it’s a TV show, a radio show, or even an idea to become an Alaga, it starts in my mind, and when it happens, it’s fulfilling. So, I can’t pinpoint one exact thing as my greatest accomplishment, but there’s always joy in those first moments—seeing your name in print, in the credits of a series, or hosting a live show.

Can you provide some insight into upcoming shows that Yellow Tamarind Productions will be working on?

At the moment, I’m not actively working on any new shows. Due to the nature of the advertising landscape and the challenges of securing sponsorship, I’ve taken a break from producing our own shows. However, we do take on projects when clients approach us, like with the Teacher Nigeria radio show.

I foresee us creating marketing content related to our current focus: bilingual language learning through stories, music, and lessons. While I can’t say if it will be a full-blown 30-minute show, there will certainly be creative content, perhaps in the form of 10-minute radio segments or 5-minute YouTube videos. When our solution is ready, we’ll produce a lot of engaging content around it. The content itself is a form of edutainment, so some bits might be repurposed for a broader audience.

The Alaga Iduro in studio
Isabella the Alaga Iduro ready to go into a studio

Also Read: Working Lives: The Super Confident OAP Who Wants to Own A Radio Station Someday

What is your favorite part of your work?

It’s like asking a mother to pick her favorite child! I love many aspects of what I do. At the heart of it all, I create—taking an idea from its initial stage to reality. This can be through talking, writing, acting, hosting, or producing shows.

I enjoy the creative process in all its forms. Whether I’m on stage, using my voice in a voiceover, or teaching, I find joy in different elements at different times. It’s like enjoying a buffet with various dishes; I love the variety.

How do you stay up-to-date with industry trends and developments in the media landscape?

I’ve been in the media industry for a while, so I know people, and people know me. I often get invited to events as a speaker, panelist, or moderator. My network also keeps me informed, as many of my contacts have moved into influential positions.

I’m a lifelong learner, so I read newsletters, articles, and attend industry events—both in person and virtually. I also stay updated through WhatsApp groups and word-of-mouth from colleagues. For example, when hosting events for companies like MultiChoice or ShowMax, I need to stay informed about their latest developments, which further educates me as an industry practitioner.

How do you balance creative vision with commercial viability in your productions?

Balancing creative vision with commercial viability is challenging. While money is important, my primary focus is on impact, value, and fulfilling my purpose. Sometimes, this means investing my resources into new ideas that I believe will create significant value, even if it comes at a personal cost.

I prioritize making money to fund projects that create impact. It’s not always an equal balance. There are times when work takes precedence because it needs to be done and money needs to be made. Over time, I get back to more passion-driven work. It’s a seasonal approach; sometimes, there’s a lot on my plate, and other times, I have more freedom to explore other areas of my life.

How do you handle  criticism, especially in the Alaga Iduro line of your work? 

Criticism is a part of the job. What I do isn’t for everyone, and being self-aware is crucial. Sometimes, the criticism comes from myself when I watch my performances and identify areas for improvement. Family feedback also plays a role; for instance, they might point out if I seemed unemotional in an interview, which could be due to external distractions like earpiece instructions from the director.

It’s important to check my own biases, especially when influencing opinions as a journalist or broadcaster. Clients also provide feedback, which is essential for growth. I welcome feedback, whether it’s about missing a cue or improving my language skills.

I started doing Alaga Iduro jobs in 2022, and I can’t expect to be as proficient as those who’ve been doing it for decades. I allow myself room to grow, make mistakes, and learn from them. If feedback conflicts with my brand, I have the option to walk away from a client. It’s all part of the process of improving and evolving in my career.

How do you select talents to work for you? What do you look out for?

I often rely on my network and recommendations when selecting talent. Many times, it’s people I’ve known from previous work experiences or industry events. If I know someone well and trust their work ethic, that’s a big plus. Recommendations also play a significant role; colleagues might suggest cameramen, editors, or other professionals they’ve worked with successfully.

I’m also passionate about supporting young and female talent, knowing the challenges they face in the industry. Sometimes, client demands dictate the team composition, and I have to work with whoever they recommend. However, when given the choice, I prefer working with established professionals with whom I have a good rapport, especially in productions where continuity and trust are crucial.

People usually check my Instagram page. I don't have a separate page for being an Alaga Iduro; it's all on my personal page, Isabella Adedeji. By the time they go through my page, they see that I am more than just an Alaga Iduro. I am a writer, producer, presenter, and more. My branding is "Alaga Sisi Bella," "Alaga Oloyinbo," or "Alaga to lo Cambridge," meaning the traditional or Yoruba wedding compere attended Cambridge University.
Isabella on Alaga Iduro duty

How do you measure the success of your productions and events and Alaga Iduro outings?

For me, success in production is all about feedback and growth. When viewers or clients send positive messages about a show or event, it’s a clear indicator of success. Personally, I gauge success by comparing our current performance to previous ones—seeing improvements in hosting, production value, and audience engagement.

When a client publicly acknowledges our work or personally praises our efforts, it validates our success. Meeting personal standards like flawless delivery, engaging messaging, and overall production quality also define success for me. Ultimately, client recommendations and positive feedback serve as benchmarks for measuring our achievements.

What advice would you give to someone starting out in the media industry?

Research and preparation are key. Before diving in, understand the industry dynamics by reading, networking, and staying updated with various media channels—from newspapers to podcasts. Knowing what you’re getting into and preparing for the sacrifices ahead are crucial because media careers, despite their glamour, often start with low pay and high competition.

Seek mentors or role models who can offer guidance and open doors to opportunities. Learning from their experiences through books, podcasts, or direct mentorship can provide invaluable insights. Be authentic in your approach—avoid copying others because each journey in media is unique. Focus on building your own path rather than chasing someone else’s success.

Stay grounded amid the hype of media success. Celebrate small victories and appreciate growth, even if your progress seems slow. Remember, success in media is a journey marked by hard work, persistence, and learning from setbacks. Surround yourself with honest friends who knew you before your fame, as they can keep you grounded and provide valuable perspective throughout your career.

 

Moyin Arowolo

Moyinoluwa Arowolo studied Communication and Media Studies at Ajayi Crowther University. Before joining Arbiterz, she worked at radio and television stations such as Unilag FM and Trybe TV. She has experience in radio production, television production, digital marketing, and social media management.

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