Betty Irabor: Impacting next generation
Renowned publisher, Betty Irabor needs little or no introduction. Fondly called Aunt Betty, as she approaches 60, the amiable publisher of Genevieve Magazine is taking a walk down memory lane to share her life’s experiences with others. She tells NIKE SOTADE about her upcoming event, Life Lessons, billed for the Radisson Blu Hotel next Tuesday
Kindly tell us the story of Genevieve Magazine, your career path and how it all started
In 2003, I saw a gap in publishing and decided to fill that gap with a niche magazine that TELLS the success stories of Nigerian women in a colourful way while showcasing their sense of style. Genevieve is inspirational and aspirational. Our vision: “To be a lifestyle guide and best friend, inspiring wholesomeness in all women globally” very seriously. It is the core of the magazine. Fourteen years on, the vision burns brightly.
Looking back, would you say the magazine has achieved what it set out to accomplish?
Genevieve paved the way for many more lifestyle publications with similar vision. I don’t remember too many female publishers when I started but, look around and you will see that we are more now. I think we have all proven that success in publishing, as what we were made to believe is that it was for the boys only. That was a lie they wanted us to believe. We crashed into the boys’ club. Have we achieved what we se out to achieve at Genevieve? Yes we have but we have set even bigger goals for ourselves. We are pleased that so far we have impacted lives- women and the youth and society at large- through real life stories that are relatable and our empowering content. We have shaped lives and influenced thoughts and we’ve set trends in lifestyle and fashion. The women who have graced our covers have positively influenced hundreds not to be anything less than phenomenal. There are very few successful women who haven’t graced our covers and that says much about our brand. Genevieve is not just a magazine; it is a lifestyle. Many have embraced that lifestyle. Genevieve has provided the platform for different life changing narratives to begin.
Have we fully accomplished what we set out to do? I would say we are still trying to break our own record in terms of accomplishments; we are moving with the time and setting newer goals and tweaking our vision to embrace the various changes happening in publishing. We still have our challenges but we journey on, regardless.
You also established the Pink Ball Foundation. How many women have benefitted from it? Has it achieved its set objectives?
The Genevieve Pink ball has grown from a simple quest to create a much needed awareness on breast cancer by my team and I, to a Foundation that offers treatment to those who cannot otherwise afford the exorbitant costs of treatment although our performance in this regard is hindered by funding. In terms of impact on breast cancer awareness, I would say we have achieved quite a lot since we started that convoy on breast cancer in 2005. More women are more breast- aware and understand the benefit of prevention as against treating cancers that have reached more advanced malignant stages. We have, in the last one year, provided treatment (surgery, chemotherapy and radio therapy) to about 10 women and we continue to try to raise funds to be able to help more women live.
We are handicapped most times by lack of functional radiotherapy equipment. It is sad that sometimes in the whole of Nigeria there isn’t even one hospital that has working radiotherapy equipment and patients have to wait indefinitely. We have sent some of our patients as far as Benin for radiotherapy until we are told that even that one has broken down. It’s often a sad story when one needs to proceed with treatments but nowhere to go. But we continue to do our little best under the circumstances. I feel discouraged and just want to stop sometimes.
We need a functional modern day Cancer Care centre in all the states of the federation. It’s ridiculous the way things are now. Last year, Genevieve Pink Ball and October awareness events did not hold because really “what’s the point when you are so handicapped?” There is this young man, Runcie, who is doing amazing things with cancer awareness and charity. He is the founder of Project Pink Blue. He inspires me. God bless him.
Intimate us about your upcoming event, Life’s Lessons With Betty. What is it all about?
Having built an aspirational brand spanning over 14 years and positioned myself as everyone’s Aunty Betty, I decided to start an informal hangout where I share with women, and men of course, the lessons I have learnt on my journey through life and building a sustainable brand through the years. And believe me it’s been quite the journey. Everyone who has ventured into business in Nigeria knows how tumultuous that journey is and being able to navigate those waters and stand as the leading lifestyle magazine is something I often don’t pat myself on the back enough for. I have learnt many lessons along the way and it’s about time I impacted the next generation with the lessons that helped me on my way up. Life’s lessons with Betty will hold three times a year and each one will have a different theme. We plan to take it to Abuja, Port Harcourt and we are already working on another in Ghana.
Who are your target audience and what lessons do you want them to take home?
My target audience is everyone who believes my life’s lesson can impact them in any way, as I will be sharing nuggets on various life’s lessons and subject matter.
Kindly mention some of the lessons life has taught you?
As I journeyed on in life, I realized that everything I’ve ever needed to succeed in life was already imbued in me. All I just needed to do was take a moment and plug into the source for answers. In life our lessons, good or bad, are meant to shape us. There is a lesson to be learnt from every experience or encounter. One vital lesson I learnt a long time ago is that humility is not a sign of weakness neither is arrogance a sign of strength.
I am happy to be starting these series of life’s lessons because there’s so much to share. It’s amazing how hungry people are for real life lessons shared from the heart. I am a story teller and really excited about these upcoming life lessons on career, relationship, love, marriage, parenting, infertility, insecurities and low self-worth, wellbeing, turning 60, depression, menopause (women don’t talk about this) failure and success, God and spirituality, and more.
Was there any time you had felt like giving in, wrapping up the magazine and moving on?
Many times I wanted to pack it in and I am sure everyone who has ever run a business in Nigeria especially can relate. But I didn’t come this far to give it up and regret that decision the rest of my life. I may look frail but believe me there’s a warrior woman inside of me. I am a fighter. I don’t give up that easily and besides, too many people are looking up to me and I can’t disappoint them.
You’ve been married for over three decades. What has been your secret to holding together both career and marriage?
There is no big secret to a successful marriage other than having a common vision with the person you marry. It’s important to marry someone who adds value to your life; what you define as value. Marriage is one of the biggest decisions any one will make in a lifetime and it is very important that one makes the right decision. I married my friend and that is very important when it comes to settling down. I married someone who knows that I am not perfect just the same way that he is not perfect. We accept each other ‘s flaws and work together to make our marriage successful. We face our challenges as a team and are there for each other. When one is down, the other uplifts. We know also when one of us needs her/his space and have mutual respect for each other.
Life is not perfect and we do not make unnecessary demands of each other. We are each other’s biggest cheerleaders. Just as you cannot clap with one hand you cannot be in a marriage by yourself; you need a partner who is as committed as you are. Soni and I laugh together and behave as if we got married last year. We are authentic as much behind closed doors as in public. We are living for us and not for some spectators. We are both Aries, of course we do spark but we’ve never needed to call in the fire department. Most importantly, we have God on our side.
Who really is Betty Irabor?
Who is Betty Irabor? What you see is what you get.
You will turn 60 in a few months time, looking back, what are the things you feel you could have done better?
Yes looking forward to the big 60…but all I know is how to be young at heart (even though there are days my body reminds me of how old I truly am.) Most times I don’t know how to be 60, I just know how to be Betty. But I thank God I got good genes from mama. She is 83 and looks great.
You’re looking younger than your age. Tell us the secret.
There’s no big secret to looking good at 60… just be you! Don’t take yourself too seriously…Eat well, Exercise, love, Laugh more (that’s why I have those laughter lines), don’t over- analyse everything. It will cause you to be depressed. Accept that you are only human and accept that its okay not to have all the answers. Be at peace with yourself, others and your God. Be your Classic self. Love the age you’re in. Embrace you. Be you. Do you. OWN your season of life. Bring summer into your winter years any way you know how to do it. Find joy in little things. Don’t go overboard trying to hold on to the fountain of youth.Above all walk with God even more than you ever did.
Two places I would love to travel to are Jerusalem and the Vatican on pilgrimage. Those are on my bucket list.
You’ve always had celebrities revealing the contents of their designer handbags, tell us what’s inside yours, too?
Inside my handbag is a jungle.
Who are your role models?
Richard Branson, Virgin Group Founder. He is an exceptional entrepreneur…he makes entrepreneurship seem like crazy fun. I am enthralled by him. Then of course Mother Theresa whose sense of sacrifice remains unprecedented. She lived and died for the poor. The list is not complete without my Soni who is my all time cheerleader, my husband, friend and best motivator.