Arit Okpo is one of the most recognisable and most beloved faces on Ebony Life TV, where she has worked as a producer and presenter on a variety of shows including EL Reports, The Crunch, and Destination Africa. This self-described multi-contextual writer and avid reader recently unveiled a side of her viewers would never have guessed existed: she loves cooking, as foodies all over Africa discovered on Chefrican, ELTV’s food show that features the preparation of traditional dishes from all over Africa, with a modern twist.
Joy Ehonwa had 10 questions for Arit, who is also ELTV’s Senior State House Correspondent.
How did your Television career begin; is it what you’ve always wanted to do, or did it take you by surprise?
It’s actually a mixture of both. In 2013, I put together a life plan where I had decided to go to film school in 2018 to study Producing and Directing. In a very interesting turn of events, barely 3 months after I wrote that plan, I got a call from my now CEO Mo Abudu inviting me to join the team. I just knew that God had leapfrogged and totally rearranged my plan and so I said yes. So for me the surprise would be how things worked out in a way I couldn’t possibly have seen coming.
Did you have to do a course for this, or did you learn the ropes on the job?
I learned on the job o! I had spent some time as an Associate Producer for an independent docu maker Deji Arosho but this was my first time producing in a structured environment. I started work in August, was told that my show was premiering in November and spent 3 months of almost no sleep putting it together. However, I work in an extremely supportive environment, and whenever I had a question, there were people willing to answer and guide me.
What do you consider to be the best career decision you have ever made?
The fact that I always said yes! I have worked as a school administrator, trainer for former militants, Business Development Associate for a PR firm, an organiser for a conference and much, much more. Each opportunity always came just as I was pondering my next step, and even though I worked in a variety of fields, I found myself always using the same skill set. So saying yes, no matter how out of the way each offer initially seemed, was my best decision; it gave me amazing career and skill versatility.
What inspires you?
Getting better; I am conscious of the fact that I am one of those human beings who truly has no limits. So trying something new, getting better, getting excellent and mastering it, is the finish line that always keeps me going. I am also inspired by people who are living their dreams; seeing other young people taking giant strides reminds me that I also can do whatever is in my heart to do.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
The complete unpredictability; I can be in Lagos today, in Mauritius next week and in Abuja the week after. I can host a cooking show today, produce a political show tomorrow and interview a world class businessman the day after. Literally, anything can happen!
What have been your biggest career milestones?
Every show I have produced is a milestone for me, because of the work put in – seeing your sweat, work and sleepless nights on the screen is always a proud moment. Meeting and interviewing most of the people I have had the privilege to meet is also a big deal.
What are your favourite Nigerian foods?
Amala and ewedu with stew; pounded yam with either afang or afia efere.
What is your favourite travel destination?
Let me see… I loved Zanzibar, it was a very restful place. I enjoyed Ethiopia as well because it literally felt like being in a different world. Actually, I should say Dakar; I have been there twice and often feel like I haven’t spent as much time as I would like – the mixture of French, Arabic and African influences make it very special and the fact that it is surrounded by the sea makes it even more fantastic.
What’s the one piece of advice every career woman needs to hear?
Put in the work, give it all you’ve got and then when the spotlight finally shines on you, don’t shrink or hesitate; own your space and let the world record your presence.
Which book(s) you are reading now?
Guardians of the Seals by Tunde Leye. It is a very unexpected and extremely enjoyable book.