It’s a pleasure to welcome an icon to this section of Masscope magazine dedicated to exploring the thrills and spills of the Nigerian entertainment industry.
If you are a staunch fan of the Nigerian entertainment industry, then my subject needs no further introduction. However, there may be few people who may likely not know who she is and so a proper introduction will not be out of place.
Please, tell us a little about yourself
My name is Victoria Nkong. I am an African, a Nigerian. Professionally, I run a company called Qtaby Events and Entertainment. We are into event production, TV production, talent management, public relations for brands and SMEs – Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises. Also, I run an orphanage home called Life Fountain Orphanage Home. I am the administrator of the orphanage and one of the trustees for Life Fountain Orphanage Home and Jegede Paul Foundation. I write as well for the fun of it and perhaps, when the pay is good. So I have authored and co-authored about two to three books, and then I write features for magazines and blogs. I do public speaking too, centred around mentoring, and help people chart a path in life. I compere mostly for bilingual events; I am multilingual. Aside from English, I speak a few other languages including Spanish and French, and then I can pick individual words in different other languages. I’m the last child of a large family. I’m quite family-oriented as family goals are as important or even more important to me than work goals; or let’s say, they are equally important. I am not a religious person per se but a firm believer of Christ. I think one of my biggest secrets in life is God’s mercies alongside my relationship with God.
How and when did you start entertainment?
I think I was born an entertainer. I remember growing up, and having an opinion about everything, my parents thought that would lead me to studying Law. But by the time I matured a bit in the university, I would always be the one to anchor departmental events and things like that. I remember in secondary school, I used to lead a dance group. Interestingly enough, I could dance. So it has always been part of me. Then, I grew up to be more professional, the way family and friends thought I should. Of course, back in the day, entertainment wasn’t professional. After my first degree, entertainment came back and chose me again. In 2006 or thereabouts, both my first and second jobs were entertainment inclined. So somehow it was more like there was no hiding place for me. Originally, I didn’t go out there for a job in entertainment. I went in there because it was a multilingual role. Then I transitioned into production then talent management. so, yes, entertainment chose me from a very early age, as far back as when I was 18 years old. I have always been a talent even before I went into it professionally.
Tell us about the journey of growing your brand, Qtaby Events. Did you ever envisage this level of popularity?
The journey is still on because I have not yet got to where I want to be. The vision is a lot bigger than what it seems now, trust me. I am grateful for how far we have come. And I won’t pretend that I get very surprised at times whenever I go to places and people come up to me and say “Qtaby Events!”. They don’t even call my name anymore; they keep calling me “Qtaby! Qtaby!”. And then, I would be there wondering. Moreover, it got to a point where I began to feel like ‘since the brand name is now bigger than the contents, it’s high time we worked harder to improve services in order not to let expectations down.’ Honestly, it has been enjoyable but not completely a roller-coaster ride; there have been highs and lows. As a team, there have been moments when we are at our best, and then there have been moments when we feel like we need to go back to the drawing board and re-strategize so we can up our game. Funnily enough, at the beginning, I did not particularly set out saying ‘I want to get to this or that level.’ It was more like doing what I loved, so I wasn’t particularly intentional on a destination, not until much later the vision and the mission began to be clearer to me. Maybe that was what helped me. I wanted to stand out, no doubt. I wanted the brand to be a reference point, and I also wanted the brand to prove to young people that you can break free from the norm and still get to that destination. Sadly, there is a certain impression that has been upheld over the years about entertainment brands and companies, so what I wanted to do so badly from the beginning was to change that misconception and still be successful. And so far, yes, we have been able to do that. A few times, people have tried to spread fake narratives, I mean, it’s like the price you have to pay when you are in the public domain and are successful. People will always have different points of views about what you do. Gladly, we have been consistent in what we stand for in the process of our growth, and that has made it easy to tell who is lying or who is speaking from facts or substance.
As a young lady, how do you manage the position of the CEO and the admin in your orphanage, especially when you have subordinates who are older than you?
Professionally, we never look at age. I know this is Africa where people like to pay attention to age but professionally, experience and technical know-how are what count the most. Again, my early work-years did not exactly start in an African community. I started working in western company with a lot of foreign colleagues. Even though I was one of the youngest on the team back then, I held the role that would compel me to coordinate people that were far older, I was 18, I was running a team with professionals who were 60-65 years old. I respected them nonetheless. So I think leadership comes naturally to me. I know how to strike a balance. I was groomed from childhood to respect every human being, younger or older. That also helped in being successful in working with and managing people from different walks of life. You must respect people first, then also know how to call people to order when they are going off track. I don’t think I grew to become ‘CEO or BOSS’ over people that I’m younger than just because I’m the best or something spectacular about me. I will always attribute it to God’s favour and mercies, and consistency as well. This is because I started out working at a very young age. When my peers were embracing the groovy side of life, I was very focused on making an impact. Again, I didn’t start from the top; I started at the bottom of the ladder in my career. That’s why I tell my staff that I can fit into any of their roles comfortably because I have done it all from picking people up at the airport as a hostess to being a secretary, and then a personal assistant. In a nutshell, I have done the dirty jobs too and that is why it is easy for me to function effectively at the top because my perception of being the CEO is service, not rulership. A servant is to ensure that everything works well including to train and assist my staff.
How do you combine event production with the activities of your orphanage?
The orphanage (charity) is my life and event production is my job. I know it’s not easy to balance both but because I have embraced the orphanage as my life, it makes things easier. When people ask “how do you rest?”, I simply reply, ‘I rest with my family and my kids at the orphanage. The orphanage is my family. So I work when I’m out.’ There are times I feel like shutting out the whole world, nothing will go wrong, do this 24 hours solely for your kids. I don’t see my activities at the orphanage as work. I see them as my commitment to living my life, like an obligation or responsibility. However, there is a certain societal notion which is expected of Victoria who owns an orphanage and another which is expected of a CEO of Qtaby Events in terms of physical appearance, charisma etc. And that’s where the irony lies because I usually surprise curious people. Initially, these public images were difficult to manage but then again, I have been able to find a comfortable middle ground over the years. It has been 10 years of running the orphanage and 15 years of running my business. That is a lot of experience to help me cope.
What are the challenges of being a lady in the entertainment industry?
It is a whole lot. Every job has its own challenges; we can’t pretend that there are no unique challenges when you are a lady in the entertainment space. There is a general misconception about women in the industry and from the beginning, one of my goals was to change that stereotype. Although it is tough, I can’t lie to you. It is a male dominated industry where people are stereotyped to think that certain roles are meant for men alone. When a woman plays the said role in that field, it always seems like a challenge to the men, like “what effrontery; how dare she? How does she think she wants to succeed here? Let me see how she will pull through.” So you are battling against a whole lot of factors as a woman in the entertainment industry. You are competing against your male colleagues who feel entitled to the position that you are handling, and feel like it is almost an affront to do what you are doing. Some of them are very nice people, though. It is just that it is a subconscious reaction, and also an accustomed narrative that the industry has unconsciously imbibed. Check out some of the contents you watch, check out the female headline artistes. At least, there are several multi-talented female artistes but you are going to see just one female name among 15 male names. But then, they remember to tactfully add one female name to try to seem fair. They feel like ‘oh! let me add one female name so that people will not feel we are biased’. These are the sort of discrimination we deal with. The same scenario plays out when people are bidding for a job during production, trying to see who the cap will fit. A lot of male names will come up before your name and even when your name comes up, they will try to find a way to run you down consciously or unconsciously, simply because you are a female. That’s on the one side. There was this particular big project we used to work on in the past. I had done my three editions and in one of the production meetings for the 4th edition we were to work on, the executive producer spoke to me and a guy in the team “you know my worry is that there are certain details… when you leave them to women… you know women are emotional, they get carried away, they are going to go and give up your top secret to their male acquaintances once they are very comfortable with them”, he said. I felt so insulted. ‘It has been almost a decade and half that I have been running this job, you have known me professionally for at least 8 years, and there has never been an instance where we have had to argue or prove that such a thing has happened, so how dare you!?’, I reacted. ‘You have known me for this long, how much do you personally know me outside this job? Secondly, has there been a time in the last three editions that such a thing has happened?’, I continued with a frown. He was like “sorry, maybe not all but most women.” That is the stereotype in his statement, ‘most women’. Treat each case independently but no they won’t.
We also deal with sexual abuse. A lot of guys when they see you on a business round table, they don’t see a professional, they see a woman that could warm their bed. It is very sad but this is our reality. No matter how much you know at the beginning they are first trying to box you into that corner of “this is a pretty girl that will look nice in my bed” before considering the value you bring to the table. Fortunately, I have developed a tough skin, and I expect such obscene receptions but I pretend like I am not expecting it. So when I go out and meet these kinds of challenges at meetings, I already am skilled at handling such situations. I have always said to myself that ‘in the course of my career, what is mine will come to me’. If I have to compromise what I stand for and my principles simply because I want a project, then the project wasn’t for me in the first place. So I handle those tricky situations professionally but then, when they get too unbearable, I simply dump the project and move on. For ladies who may be reading this, what I have come to learn is that ‘if you know your onions, they (the projects) will always come back to you’ because as much as people want to play in the bedroom, people also want a value for their money, so they want people who can deliver on the job. At the beginning, they may try to dump you on the project if you don’t pander to their wishes. But eventually, if you prove your worth intellectually, after a while, they will get used to the fact that this woman is a professional. The entertainment industry has so many similar issues of gender discrimination to talk about. ‘Entertainment is a field in which there ought to be no gender’, they say. And so there are cases where organisers provide only one changing room for both male and female. I see it a lot but always insist on having separate changing rooms, and if there are women who do not mind changing in the same room with a man, that’s their personal problem. But for those who want to respect their privacy and feminine dignity, they should have a choice and not be overlooked. There are many challenges, frankly speaking, lots of challenges but it’s getting better because the feminist voice is becoming louder these days. However, there’s still so much work to be done. It could be really discouraging for those that are new in the industry. At times, you submit a budget for a project and are offered 50% of what a man is offered for the same services. I sent a message for a meeting to a colleague in the media this morning and his response was “this early morning, I have imagined you in my bed”. It was an insult, I quickly replaced him with someone else. There are lots of examples, if I go on and on, you will fill up your magazine but I hope the younger ladies coming up will be smart enough to navigate, find a way around it and know how to maintain a balance.
Do you ever regret choosing entertainment as a career?
Entertainment chose me, I didn’t choose it, and I’m very comfortable here because I don’t really see it as a job per se. There is a saying that goes ‘do what you love and you will never have to work for a day.’ When I’m doing my job, even at the high moment of pressure, I don’t see it as a job. I see it as a process and as part of my life so I think I’m a natural entertainer. I don’t think I have ever regretted it.
What have you learnt about leadership in the course of your career?
I’m a born leader. I am the last child in my family but somehow I have my elder ones consulting me to make decisions. However, in the course of work, I have taken several leadership training and courses that also help to mould me and hone my innate skill. When I work with people I consider as leaders, I also learn from them. My MBA (Master of Business Administration) was in leadership as well. I always tell people that when you are a leader, you are called to serve and as a leader never look down on anybody among your staff including the weakest person you consider as the least. It is he or she that could save your company. Learn how to respect and interact with everybody as a human being.
Tell us some of the artistes or celebrities you have managed as the CEO of Qtaby Events.
Qtaby Events, besides Talent Management 360, does talent management for other brands as well. So there’s a very long list. We have worked with almost everybody. In Africa, where do I start from? Okay, we have worked with Yvonne Chaka Chaka, and Master KG both from South Africa, Toofan from Togo, Stonebwoy from Ghana, Harrysong, Orezzi, 2baba, Tiwa savage, Davido, Wizkid etc. Look, we have literally worked with everybody, because like I said, there are those we manage directly and there are those we manage based on projects. We have also worked with a few Americans like 50 Cent, I did some touring with Akon at some point, and aside music brands, we have also worked with other talents like actors/actresses including Patience Ozokwor, Kenneth Okolie, Jennifer Eliogu, Alex Okoroji, Bimbo Manuel, Thapelo Mokoena (from South Africa), Omotunde Adebowale a.k.a Lolo 1, Grace Amah, Samantha Jansen (from Big Brother Africa 9) etc. Some models I’ve worked with include Olajumoke Orisaguna (the bread seller), Lord Maine (the kid model; Toyin Lawani’s son) etc.
How do you relate with your male artistes?
I don’t see them as male or female artistes, I see them as clients. Of course, for each client there are certain idiosyncrasies that come with them and I know how to go along with them. But basically, a client is a client.
What is next for Qtaby Events?
More wins, by God’s grace, bigger projects, training a lot of young talented people of this generation. It has been my vision to be able to leave a position for a successor. So the kind of projects we were doing a few years ago are not the kind of projects we are doing today. We want to keep honing the skills so we can pass them to those that are coming behind us. Also, we want to leave footprints for them to walk on. The projects that are already coming up are huge, I must confess. I feel humbled, excited by the challenges. We recently signed a contract with another heavyweight in the entertainment industry in Africa. So the dream has actually grown much bigger than it was when we started.
What is your greatest fear?
Fear? The word fear doesn’t exist in my dictionary.
Who and what are most dear to you?
Oh! My children, absolutely. And then, my brands, of course. Yes, my brands because they cost me sweat, tears and blood to bring them to where they are today.
What do you do for recreation or relaxation?
I think it is work and work again. I always spend time with my kids when I want to relax. They are so loving, so cute and often make me reminisce on what it felt like being a child. They help me learn how to take life more simply. Again, I love to travel a lot. I love to see new places. I didn’t mention that earlier. I do a bit of travel blogging, and travel writing. My job actually gives me that opportunity to travel so if I say I do any vacation trip, I would be lying. Each time I travel, there’s a job for me. I think my job is fun and if I am not working, I will be with my children.
What is your criteria for working with an artiste?
It is like a job recruitment process for a staff member in my company. If I wanted to hire a staff member, what are the criteria for him/her? I will have to check their background history, qualifications, experience etc., but because it is entertainment, which should be flexible, we will need to check how talented he or she is, their attitude (either winning or losing attitude) because the right attitude will get you where your talent will not get you. So the whole process is just like an interview process. We want to thick all the boxes to be sure that we can work together. And then, my clients mostly pay retainership because when people are committed financially, they take their jobs more seriously.
Do you have any talent under you presently that we should look forward to?
There are quite a number of them, mostly already renowned names but the one I will say you should look forward to is Egbon Cass. He’s the youngest, very talented and we know he is heading for the skies.
A word to your fans, artistes and everyone out there trying to make a name for themselves!
Believe in the process, there is no such thing like overnight success, there is no such thing as ‘hammer’, it is deceitful. You need to go through the process with a strong character. If you follow the process, at each point you meet challenges it will be easy for you to trace your steps back to how you got to where you are and find a way to boomerang. Overnight success is like building a house without a foundation, it is going to collapse someday. Perfection is a myth, it doesn’t exist. As long as you try to be better than you were yesterday, keep working at it. Keep your eyes on the goal. The difference between you and your mentor is time. As long as you keep working hard, the sky is your starting point. There is nothing like impossibility, it is also a myth. Nothing is impossible. Never look at where you are today and use it to measure where you will be tomorrow. Let that vision be bigger than your imagination. Let people think you are crazy when you tell them about your vision. only then have you started to live. I’m not giving you idle motivational speech here; this is just a story of my life. I wish everyone well. Keep it real with yourself, never get carried with the things you see around you.
Can you give your fans your Instagram handle?
Alright, it is @qtabyevnts
Thank you for your time.
It’s my pleasure, you’re welcome.