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Friday, 11 January 2019

MEETING BEYONCE'S DAD WAS A GLORIOUS MOMENT FOR ME

 —US-based Nigerian TV host VIVIANNE DIAMOND ELUMELU



Vivianne Diamond Elumelu is an America-based Nigerian TV host. She comes from a large family where the name Elumelu had already been popularised before she became an adult. A lawyer, Vivian wanted to take life head on. She refused to ride to stardom through the easy way by using her more popular family name. So she started a business after becoming a lawyer, by dropping her family name Elumelu.

“When I started my business, I started as ‘Vivianne Diamond’ because I felt the family name Elumelu was already popular and I wanted to be known for what I do and make my own mark not through riding on the family name. So I started my business with the name ‘Vivian Diamond’. Now, I am already popular as Vivianne Diamond because of what I do, and that is how I wanted it.”

Vivianne tells us more about her struggles in the United States of America, how she climbed the ladder to the top, and how she hopes to use her life to bless others. She spoke to PAUL UKPABIO in Lagos.

Are you related to the ex-Chairman of UBA Mr Tony Elumelu?
Yes, he is my cousin. There is also Joan Okorodudu, the CEO of Isis Models, House of Jola and and Nigeria’s Super Model. She is my direct sister. She is actually the first born and first daughter of my dad, while I am the 13th child of my dad.

How many children does your dad have?
We are 15 in number.

You have money in the family, why did you relocate abroad?
First, there were personal reasons. While I was here, I participated in some beauty things. I was the Face of the University of Benin at a time; my face was in magazines and posters, which made me popular but shy, so moving over to the United States of America, l was able to realise much of my passion. It is not like I didn’t realise my passion here, but I wasn’t able to build on it as I wanted to. So, getting to the US, for me, was an eye opener, which made me to discover myself. I am actually still discovering myself. But it was in the US that I started building on my brand.

Did you work in Nigeria before you left for the US?
No, I owned a business of my own. I use to own a gym. I used to be into fitness and health. Ironically, when I returned to Nigeria now, I have eaten and put on more weight because I have been a little less disciplined about what I have been eating. But I used to help people lose weight then before I left.

What was your gym called?
It was called Wonder Gym For Women. It was located along Lekki Expressway. Back then in Nigeria, I used to travel here and there. So at one point, that I was in the United States of America, I did a short programme on Nutrition and some nursing programmes here and there. I decided to help women lose weight because a lot of them really think that when they get to a certain age or after having given birth to some children, that they cannot come back to their former shape or get back their dream figure. That was the reason I started that and I was giving women counselling on how to keep their body shapes. I started small before I got a bigger place. However, when I was leaving for the United States, I sold the place. Surprisingly, that same gym is still there now 12years after I left. The people who got it from me still maintain the gym.

When you got abroad, what were you doing?
When I got there, I studied the system. I was a teacher for a while, then I became an independent sales contractor for Cellular Sales, which was one of the major distributors for Verizon Wireless in the US. It was then that I discovered that I was good at sales. I didn’t realise I was good at it until I started working for them. It was my mom who had all along been living in the US that introduced me to the sales business. Her friend was working there and they offered me a job. The pay was pretty good. I was like my own boss. I worked with them for about four years. I was the top person in the market for all over the US. At some point while on that job, I started discovering the entertainment aspect of me. I discovered my talk show and I started losing zeal for governance closer to the people and we will have this robust Shadow Minister thing that was common in those days; it puts the government on its toes.
Few days ago, I watched Theresa May come to report coming back from the Brexit negotiations with EU. It makes those in government more responsible. I will advocate for parliamentary system of government. I think that the presidential system is too elaborate and expensive for us and unfortunately, we don’t have a culture of selflessness as a people.


What is that about?
It is the home base for all other Vidia brand platforms. We have categories, talk show, television network, which is a station, we have a TV decoder that is portable and you can actually take it around with you on the go; as long as you have wifi, you can connect whereever you are. The decoder is Vidia Afrik. You can watch the station anywhere you are in the world. The challenges we have with that here is that it uses wifi, which is still expensive here in Nigeria unlike in Europe and America where wifi is cheap. So, we are still working on how to make it accessible here in Nigeria. Vidia Talk Show started in 2015. I got different offers; eventually, I got on to three different stations. It did so well but initially, all I wanted was just to get my talk show on television station. I didn’t plan to have my own television station. But I ended up having one.

What were the immediate challenges for you as a Nigerian in the US?
I am an a. I studied a Diploma course in Social Works at UNIBEN before going to Ambrose Alli University for five years before getting a Law degree. So, getting to the US, I wanted to start my Law office there. I attached myself to a family lawyer. I used to follow him to court  over there to see how it is done because their system is a little different from ours. So, when I started the entertainment aspect of my work, I started with the African Americans and they accepted me, even more than my own people because the first time I launched my TV show, I went to the first Nigerian television station in the US to showcase it. They looked at it but turned me down. I smiled and left. I then went to an African American TV station which was much bigger in size and name than the Nigerian television station, and more diverse with viewership cutting across Americans, British, Chinese, Africans and so on. They accepted my talk show, which became popular. That was when the Nigerian television station came pleading that I should air my talk show on their station. I had to accept because they are my people. As much as the African Americans accepted me first, I still knew that I am Nigerian and needed acceptance too from my people. And that also enabled me to mingle with my people in the US more than I was doing before.

You also did some acting back in the US. How did that come about?
I got into that when I needed the popularity before the television and hosting a talk show came on.

Where are you based in the US?
I am based in Houston, Texas.

Is the system over there different from the system over here and how favourable is it for a Nigerian, a foreigner to survive and rise? I don’t mean someone like you who was already loaded fund-wise before going?
Well, (laughs) I don’t know. But the truth is, wherever you are in the world, it is your zeal and ability to survive that will determine whether you get through or not. But there are some people over there who have everything but they are just lazy and they do not make much waves. It is even people from Africa that make the wave more. But don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that the whites or African Americans are not making waves and even the Nigerians there, but for each person, it is the individual determination that decides. For instance, not everyone who goes there is focused. It is a place of opportunity. It is easier to get discovered there. People watch you and if they see that you can do it, they come to you.

You have been in the United States for 12 years now, does that mean that you may eventually get to marry a white or an African American?
(Laughs) It doesn’t follow. There are Chinese and Indians there too. I used to live in Denver, Colorado, which is dominated by whites, before I moved to Houston, Texas, because my mom was there at that time. I didn’t regret it because Houston has people with diverse nationals. Right now, I am still focusing on the work at hand.

Who is your ideal man?
My ideal man would be someone who is loving, very caring, he would be my number one fan, my cheerleader, very supportive, someone that is focused, smart, intelligent, hardworking, and a go-getter. He will be someone who when I need someone to fall back on or lean on, he will be capable for me to fall on him or lean on him, if that happens at all. You know, once in a while, no mater how strong you are, you feel or you need to lean on someone, perhaps when you return home, and you need someone to take the stress of the day off you.

So you are in Nigeria, what will you be doing while you are here?
I will be launching my talk show soon. Though acting takes much of one’s time but if I can squeeze it in, I will do some acting too. The focus of my talk show is about touching lives from all spheres of life. I am also an Ambassador for Global iland Connect owned by Africans in technology space. They have apps that help to guide daily living. They are based in America but are also here in Nigeria.

How long are you going to stay in Nigeria?
Still working around that, but I will ensure that I do the necessary things that I need to do here before going back. But that at the same time does not mean that I won’t travel or shuttle between here and there, if anything over there needs my urgent attention.

You are also into charity, will you be doing that here too?
Of course, I will. I plan to visit orphanages, the less-privileged homes. The truth is, I am still learning how to get around over here. I have a team though that is putting all that together for me.

What was growing up like in a large family like yours?
I will not say that my dad loved the others less, but I was pampered by my dad. I was my dad’s favourite and I was close to him. He brought us up well and I still have that as a guide for me in life. He was an upright person, a writer; he fought the Nigeria-Biafra war. He was in the military and was well read. He studied at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland. He was a good father. He retired as a military officer and worked at Tin can Island, a royal father from our home place. So we are royalty, princes and princesses where we come from in Aniocha North of Delta State. I was called Oge-daddy. There was no one else that their names were added to daddy except me. It was quite interesting growing up in a large family. People have different personalities and you learn to live with them and by the end of the day, we are still one big family.

How many wives did your dad have?
He had three wives and my mom was the third wife.


You studied Law, did you planned it that way?
Yes i planned it. I wanted to be an attorney while I was growing up. My mom is an attorney too. My younger brother is an attorney, then there is also another brother of mine who is also an attorney. I am the only female attorney among the children.  

Are you still intending to practice Law in future?
That is one thing about lawyers, they are never too old to practice. Even if you are grey in hair, you can still practice.

You are a Tv host which comes with glamour fashion and style. Tell us about glamour, fashion and your style
I love glamour but when it comes to looks, I am not really much of a make up person. I am not saying it is bad, but if i must do make up, it is usually light. However, I love nice make up. I love fashion. I love the glam. I love designer clothing. I love Chanel, I love the new designs from Victoria Beckham, she just launched her new fashion line. I remember many years ago when Sharon Stone wore a gap t-shirt to one of the major awards in the US. She popularised that clothing style in the US. Meanwhile it was a kind of clothing that the Americans would not ordinarily wear until then. So I don't follow the crowd. I love the finest things around me. But with fashion I enjoy it when I turn something that is not valuable to something.

What fashion item do you not do without?
I can do without make up sometimes. I can do without lipsticks too.

So now that you are back in Nigeria, are you enjoying life here?

I am trying to (Laughs) though I am experiencing some culture shock. For a little brief time when I returned, I completely shut down except for getting my talk-show on from here. But after some meditation, i had to get myself out of it and start work. Right now I am also working on a reality show. I can assure you that it is going to be a major thing.


What fond memories of the US do you have so far?
I have many fond memories but I can recall when I got invited to motivate the girls in the new group that Beyonce was just putting together after Destiny Child. In the US, I am also a motivation speaker. So  I was invited on the day of the launch to inspire the girls. I met with the girls and also met Mr Knowles, Beyonce’s father. He also dropped some powerful words of knowledge to impact our lives too because he has been in the industry for a very longer time. That was a golden moment. That was in Houston where they have a studio. Mr Knowles had just released a book then.  So I planned an interview for him for my talk show.

Another good memory was when I was acting on set and I was called to come over to interview Mr. Godwin Obaseki who is now the Edo State Governor for my TV talk show. He was not a governor then but was campaigning and they needed me to host him on my programme so as to reach Nigerians in the US.

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