In this interview granted during the launch of Linda Ikeji Media in Lagos State, she speaks on her controversial life, among other issues.
How will you describe your journey from a hustling model to a popular blogger?
It has been definitely amazing; I didn’t expect to be here today, because I didn’t have an idea that this kind of business really exists when I started hustling. Much later, the first thing I came across on social media was blogging before twitter or Instagram and the rest. To be honest, the last thing that came to my mind when I started my blog in November 26, 2006 was that it was going to change my life as much as it could and a platform for me to be creative because I love to write. It is really amazing for me because it is not something I envisioned to become a reality in last five years. I am extremely grateful to God for the divine help because there are many bloggers out there, but I found grace to have come this far and how it has transformed my life for good. Though I still have regret not making headway in modeling, I have always been a hustler I went for several modeling competitions and beauty pageants. I went for Miss Nigeria in 2003 and that was one of my worst days because I already made it to top 10. I felt so bad because I had already planned my life around it and the project I would do with it if I won without knowing that God had better plans for me.Yes, I will say is still regret not winning Miss Nigeria.
Blogging was not popular when you started in 2006. What really attracted you to it then?
As I said earlier, I didn’t know that anything was called blogging because I never heard of it. Then, I was already becoming a little popular in some quarters with modeling which made Bella Naija and a friend in the United Kingdom wrote about me. I guess Nigeria in diaspora were familiar with (my work). She sent me the link to the story and I felt ‘what is it?’ when it is not a magazine or newspaper. I went online to read and that was my first encounter with blogging or to do anything of such online except checking my emails. I am bold to say it anywhere that Bella Naija was the first person to write about me and I was amazed with the comments. I would say that it was a beautiful experience for me. I went there the next day to read more comments and other stories. I kept visiting the site for about four months and through that I discovered other blogs. I enjoyed the whole experience because writing and sharing stories and experiences had always been my passion because I have always wanted to be a journalist. At a point, I felt that I can start my own blog which I did and this is where we are today.
At what point did you discover the turnaround in the blogging business?
The secret is that when you are passionate about something just ensure to put your all in it. Immediately I started blogging in 2006, I was passionate about it and very consistent till 2010 and it didn’t occur to me that I have built a very big followership in that line and brands were watching. I have already had thousands of people following me as of 2010, which impressed me but I didn’t know that it could translate to money. I found it very strange when I was paid. I didn’t even know that others were charging then. I later got an advert rate and thing started to forming shape.
You must have experienced many challenges as a successful blogger. Could you recall your worst day ever in this business?
I have had a lot of challenges as a blogger, but I have not allowed that to kill my passion because this has always been my dream while growing up and, above all, I have found fortune in it. The worst challenge I can remember was on September 19, 2010; on my 30th birthday. I was broke, angry and frustrated owning to the fact that I have been blogging for very long time and was still struggling and borrowing money. I was really depressed and angry with myself. Despite all complaints and cries I still open my laptop to do my thing, not knowing that was where God was leading me to and after my 30th birthday, my life turned around for good.
Linda Ikeji have become a household name through negative and positive and even controversial news you have published in recent times, especially with artistes, could you share your relationship with them, mostly with Wizkid?
I don’t want to talk about Wizkid. To be honest, I have a cordial relationship with a lot of entertainers. In fact, I keep good relationship with a few of them until recently that I was careless with the stories I wrote and apart from him, I have not had any big issue in the last few years. The only person that threatened was he, but it doesn’t scare me because I do more good for them than bad and some of them acknowledged the fact that I have been able to help them through my platform. But the negativity that comes with blogging is fine because it comes in a mixed reaction. I have been doing this for 10 years and if by now I am not used to the system or backlash, I think I should get out of it. This is one of the reasons I don’t want to be necessarily friendly with celebrities because it will be so hard to write about them. See, I would have been in the hiding if I choose to write negative things about people. I make more money writing positive stories than the negative ones that will, at the end of the day, come with petitions.
Would you accept the claim that you are the richest blogger in Nigeria?
Yes. The feedback I get from many clients also confirmed that. In all modesty, I make more money than other regular bloggers because 98 per cent prefers me compared to others. Statistics of the online appraisals also give a clue to this.
What have you learnt so far in terms of news reporting?
It has thought me to be really careful and professional in reporting because as much as you know, there are some people that have in-depth knowledge of stories. Sometimes I have to change some things when I go through comments. There are people who actually experienced it and have full detail of what actually happened. I also learnt the importance to verify stories or quote the source I got the stories from so as not to lose trust and credibility, especially for those that rely on our news judgements.
Do you feel loved or hated from the feedback you get?
I would say that it is a combination of both; I get a lot of hate and love, but I try as much as possible to hold on to the love because I know that the hate is coming from a different place. Initially, I wonder why people who have not seen or met me would make comments about me, but I have grown a thick skin that I don’t get offended with negative comments about me. I understand why Wizkid or Olamide are lashing out at me because I wrote something about them. I understand the place where some negative comments are coming from, but it is not my fault, especially when reporting a situation or people’s experiences, especially when they are frustrated. But I want people to also understand that I have been through frustrations too.
10 years after, you are transforming from a blogger to full media personnel, don’t you think you would be distracted?
The truth is that I have been blogging for 10 years and I am bored, so, it came as a result to the fact that I wanted to do something else. I am 36 and this is the time I have the energy to engage in a lot of things as well as diversify. At present, I have about 30 staff and I have delegated responsibilities. I am blessed, surrounded with dedicated and creative people. I have refused to limit myself in a particular box; this could be one of the reasons I hardly get six hours of sleep. What brought about Linda Ikeji Social (LIS) was the fact that I want people to have a different experience on social media because people engage a lot on social media platforms and I have created a medium that is encompassing. With LIS one can fuse news reporting and network socially; there are a lot of benefits on the platform. I believe we all have a responsibility to share things we witness that we feel could bring about change in our society. We will now buy stories inasmuch as it is exclusive and authentic. Meanwhile, it will not clash with my regular blog.
Could you shed more light on what really influenced the video you posted recently online revealing some personal things about yourself?
That was on my last birthday and I was thinking that I wish I had known that I am married. Unknown to many people, it has always been my wish to marry not earlier, but now. Though I am getting quite a lot of proposals from men, the the claim that men run away when you are successful is a lie. This is when they chase you the more, but unfortunately I have not seen what I am looking for in a man. To be honest, it is not that men are scarce, but the type of man that we women are looking for is scarce. I want a man that I can look up to: a person that can inspire and motivate me, someone who has success in his own career and a person I can learn from. No, I cannot marry a poor guy. He doesn’t have to be rich but he must be successful in his own way and I have not come across the person. My standard was extremely high when I was 30 and I was so focused on my work and very ambitious. I decided not to concentrate on marriage because I felt it will draw me back until recently I told myself that ‘Linda, you are 36 and you are very close to 40; what are you doing about it?’. Now, the three things that I will what in a man are: successful, good man, who has to be very supportive, but if he tries to stifle me I am out and lastly, you know that some men are too troublesome, especially those that like to eat groceries well; I like that.
Why do you choose to be controversial?
I don’t need to be told that I am seen as a controversial person and I don’t have any problem with that. The truth is that I don’t go out of my way to look for controversy. I think that I am being misunderstood. Now, there is Linda the blogger and Linda as a person. Personally, I would not have paid attention to anything if I was not a blogger because I don’t care. But as a blogger, I have to pay attention to gossips. I want people to have a clear understanding of me as the blogger and a woman.
Some of the controversies that trailed you were the allegation about your involvement in the Dasukigate saga and you were linked with some politicians. How would you react to this?
I have already denied the Dasuki issue on my blog and the reason I have refused to talk about any longer it is that it is becoming overwhelming, especially with the fact I got a house of half of a billion naira in Banana Island. In fact, up until the case surfaced, I have never had of the man and I have never collected any money from anybody. The only money I got was that of the advertisement charges from the PDP and APC. I am confident that I am not guilty of anything, if not the EFCC must have carried me by now. I realised where all these are coming from and why people cannot understand it. They thought I have other ways of making money because they don’t understand how online business works not knowing that I cannot only buy that house, but I can afford two of it.
Would you leave your mansion if you eventually got married?
(Laughs…) I will move with him to his house and my parents would occupy the mansion. Day I received the keys to my house was the happiest day of my life because I could remember where I was coming from. I lived Mushin, precisely at Idioro for 15 years and I used to trek to school. I later moved to Surulere and as God will have it I eventually achieved my dream to own a house in Banana Island. Initially, I was advised to get a place at Lekki, but I refused because I have a high taste and I believe that one only have one life to live and one must enjoy it to the fullest. My dream has always been to live in a luxurious house.