Talk show host, Ifeoma Arinze is unique in her trade, driven by passion. Her TV show, Celebrating Icons With Ify, CIWI is fast becoming the platform to highlight personalities, who are shaping the world with their exploits. She shares her journey in broadcasting with NGOZI EMEDOLIBE.
Kindly tell us about yourself? Origin, education and your journey in the broadcast industry?
My name is Ifeoma Arinze, fondly called Icon Queen. A broadcaster per excellence. Doged philanthropist and host of the popular TV show “Celebrating Icons With Ify” (CIWI) for short. A native of Imo State in Nigeria. My first degree was accounting because I was influenced by my eldest brother, who is a chartered accountant. I studied at the Lagos State University, owing to my passion for broadcasting, I went further to acquire another degree in Mass Communication which is my area of specialization, coupled with the fact that this is what gives me joy. I went further to seal it up with a professional course in Advanced Broadcasting. My passion for broadcasting is simply divine and a pure gift from God.
I make bold to say this because I started presenting officially on TV and radio at a very young age of 12. Can you beat that? Absolutely divine I must say. It was an Imo Broadcasting Corporation production directed by Stella Maris Opara, known as the “Kiddies World Show” then I was the moderator/ presenter. Absolutely nothing influenced my choice of being a broadcaster. I dreamt of being in front of the TV all my life. So, it’s a dream realized for me. It was time to choose a fearless child presenter from the numerous children visibly present at the audition venue and the job I have absolute flair for came to play and I was chosen!
Tell us how Celebrating Icons with Ify began?
Having graduation from a broadcasting school, I was so eager to have my own TV show but decided to give other TV stations a shot. So I proceeded to Channels TV for my IT. Later, I worked at NTA 2 in VI, Lagos prior to the time of posting for our IT. I thought of a TV show’s name that will be a hit! So I remembered ‘Chat with Personalities, One on One with ify on TV, and a colleague right there said, it will be boring.
Then I devised another means of having these personalities. I thought deeply on getting home on how to be a solution or problem solver, through getting these great personalities come on the show to lay bare their success stories from grass to grace, just to edify the down-trodden. Through this medium, we celebrate their achievements on the show. Boom…Celebrating Icons with Ify came to mind.
Which TV talk show hosts do you admire both locally and internationally?
Talk show host I admire locally and internationally are Mo Abudu, Oprah Winfrey and Christy Amanpour. These are great women, I must say.
What criteria form your choice of people classified as icons for your show?
The criteria that form my choice of people classified as icons for the show are purely their success stories; if you have a grass to grace story, believe me, we would like to hear you and share it just to keep hope alive; he or she has to be a successful person in order to know a success story.
How much in terms of Naira is committed to producing a show of this magnitude?
There’s a saying that nothing good comes easy and you use money to get money. Honestly, without a strong financial commitment/backing we may likely achieve nothing in this production. Millions have been are doled out to achieve the desired result. In CIWI productions, no money, no show.
A great financial backing is of essence, because of the equipment used, logistics and payment of our cast and crew. Talk about the post production, that is the editing and so on. The travels to shoot detailed documentaries of these icons, which air alongside their episodes is money-consuming.
Your team is currently looking beyond Africa for guests on your show, how do you intend to coordinate all these?
Definitely, our target is beyond Africa. Because icons are not only existent in Africa. They are in all nooks and crannies of this world. We have partners abroad so coordination is never a problem.
Could you share some unique moments you have had doing this show so far, the ones that gave you tears and joy?
My unique moments on the show are so numerous to mention. I will start by saying that most of these icons are people I never ever imagined I would come in contact with but most times I’m moved to tears when I make these top personalities well known all over the world sit face to face with me and tell their success stories even to the extent of dishing out their innermost secrets of how they made it big in different areas of their endeavours, it makes me quite emotional. Every moment with an icon is special to me. In all honesty, I don’t just feature anybody. We do a thorough background check on them before bringing them on the Icon’s Seat. We make sure a particular icon is really worth our time.
Those are my joyful moments while the moment of tears on the show are when you see a physically challenged person on the icons seat. Oh my world! When a personality you feel should have been standing on the streets, begging to feed made it so big in life and you begin to imagine the patience, endurance and hard work put into his/her life endeavours to succeed, I’m swept off my feet and I cry like a baby. There was a time I gave up on the show because it was really draining the living day light out of me! No money to continue, no helper absolutely nothing on sight to keep up and proceed! I cried severally because I saw my dream in life being taken away by circumstances beyond my control!
But then, more than you could imagine, I bounced back with the little cash I could lay my hands on and by His grace I succeeded! I failed severally and I rose severally to be here right now. I didn’t give up. Another moment of tears was when I was booked to interview a president of an African country, they were earnestly waiting for our arrival. Lo and behold our flight was cancelled! It looked like the world was crumbling right about that time. We eventually travelled by road. It’s an experience I never want a repeat of! We pleaded for a time to interview him the next day and my request was finally granted after much pleas. It’s a lesson learnt in a hard way. Those are moments of tears for me.
A lot of female talk show hosts tend to be gender sensitive by showcasing more of women. What is it like in your show?
It’s not about me but every presenter would feel elated having a woman do what or much more than a man can do. We feel happy having female icons on the seat. Just imagine having the likes of Ngozi Okonjo Iwuala, Oprah Winfrey, Folorunsho alakija, Hilary Clinton etc on your show. You would be ‘waoed’ by their success stories and the position in a male dominated society. The joy that flows through me when I meet these great women is immeasurable. Anyway, I feature both genders and their success stories are of utmost priority to me and the team.
After all the labour put into this production, what does relaxation mean to you?
All work and no play makes Ify a dull babe. Relaxation means a lot to me. During the early stages of this show, relaxation was a problem to me, because I worked round the clock, to see it to fruition, but these days I just take a leave abroad and relax. Most times, I’m busy shooting advert for companies/documentaries recording interviews, or recording one event or the order for our CIWI international magazine and representing brands as a brand ambassador. Not so easy but in between I create time to relax.
Could you share the names of 6 world class icons you would love to showcase on CIWI show?
I would like to feature the former President of America, Barak Obama. His success story is quite inspiring, though plans are concluded on his appearance on the show by our foreign partners. Others I look forward to having on the show are Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, Oprah Winfrey, Bill Gates, Stevie Wonder, Queen Latifa, Denzel Washington, Eddie Muphy, just to mention a few. New episodes of the show will hit the screens sooner than you think on DSTV, GOTV and other TV stations/cable networks around the world. Plans are in place to have this show go global by our foreign partners. We stream online on YouTube too.
Tell us about the publishing arm of CIWI?
The publishing arm is progressively doing great! This is because our magazine is in a class of its own, very unique I must say. I decided to satisfy the yearnings of the people who are eager to see great cultural events, parties, tourism, fashion and style, health talk, food and nutrition, interviews of icons, businesses. It will interest you to know that CIWI international magazine is now an inflight magazine. We have successfully sealed a deal to keep producing for some airlines in Nigeria and beyond. This has actually kept us on our toes, trying to meet up with our monthly productions for the airlines, thereby creating contents through travels and tours.
Finally what’s your relationship with Nollywood?
I have a very good relationship with most directors, producers, actors etc in Nnollywood, males and females. Another part of my desire to be on TV is to also be an actress. This I have successfully achieved overtime because I acted in a few movies in Nollywood and the last movie I acted in was More Than Gold, directed by Frank Rajah. I featured alongside A list actors and actresses like Rita Dominic, Dakore Egbuson Akande, Shan George…many others.