‘To be successful, surround yourself with supportive people who push you to be better’
Ibijoke “Jo” Maxwell is the face behind the Jo Maxwell Show, a show that gives a platform to African women so that their voices can be heard and their unique cultural experiences can be shared with the world. Launched last year with the first season covering a range of topics that speak to the female black experience, the show is gearing to premier its second season. Birthed as a result of the consistent lack of representation of black women on mainstream British screens, Maxwell is passionate about seeing African women succeed in all areas of their lives. Speaking with TOBI AWODIPE, Ijebu-Ode born and raised Maxwell dishes on her show, her PEP Network and her passion to help Nigerian women from all spheres of life.
What is the Jo Maxwell Show all about?
The Jo Maxwell Show is a talk show that showcases inspiring and amazing African women, living and working all over the world.
Currently making waves in the UK, the aim of the show is to provide an avenue or platform, where women can discuss and (maybe) find solutions to various challenging life topics that range from self/personal issues, family life, politics, business, marriage, children, work, health and so much more.
However, it is very important to note that this show isn’t just about ‘talking’ these issues out, but is about breaking them down into small relatable chunks for the woman at home to identify with, for the woman in the market place to know she’s included in the conversation, for the literate and non-literate woman to be able to have a common ground when talking because they both understand and relate to the subject matter on the table.
This is because the show aims to demystify certain controversial topics which women are usually very reluctant to talk about, sometimes due to lack of an appropriate channel, fear of stigmatisation or cultural beliefs.
The show is a liberal-minded show, where women can talk without fear of judgment or ostracism, where we can hopefully find solutions to universal issues together and break down barriers. It is time for women to soar.
There are several shows on TV and online discussing myriad topics and specifically targeted at women. How does this intend to stand out?
What is truly unique about the Jo Maxwell show is that the women who are invited to join the conversations are women who have actually experienced the subject matter being discussed; they are not random people who are merely giving their opinions on the topics.
We sometimes bring in subject matter experts, too (depending on the topic being discussed) to help provide expert answers or advise as we speak.
This is an element that isn’t present in most mainstream talk shows today. Another aspect of the show that is unique is that I’m not your typical TV host.
Although I serve as Executive Producer and host of the show, my vision when starting out, was to create an online and offline platform to unite women to celebrate one another, as well as discussing real-life issues that are relatable to African women both in Africa and in the diaspora.
To this end, and in addition to the show which is currently showing its first season, I am also the Visionary and Founder of Passionate Empowered Professional (PEP) Network.
PEP is a network that brings together black career women living and working all over the UK and from around the world.
It is first and foremost, a connective and inspiring network, as well as an avenue to sell your brand, receive advice or ideas and be inspired and motivated by like-minded business/career women. I am all about the growth of women and I hope you begin to see that the more you follow my works.
You started your show in the U.K, showcasing black women there. How do you intend to make the transition talking about the peculiarities of Nigerian women?
The truth is that there is need to make the transition as you put it, because frankly speaking, as African women, whether we live in the UK or Nigeria or any other part of the world, we all face similar, if not the same challenges.
Let me give you an example. One of the most talked about topics that we discussed on the show was; “Should a woman downplay her success to keep a man?”
I don’t know why it hit nerves, but believe me when I tell you that, that topic is the one women still refer to when they meet me.
Now I believe that is because the said topic is what I call, a very ‘black’ issue topic, since my experiment with questions so far have found that our white female counterparts hardly think of this as an issue. Why is that?
The other ‘black’ topics that resonated with our viewers was, “Why do black women struggle more with domestic violence?” and “Child sexual abuse – when is the right time to tell your child about it?”
As you can see, these are all subject matter that affect us all in one way or the other, regardless of our geographical locations. So for The Jo Maxwell Show and I, it’s not about transitioning, but about hearing, understanding and ‘actioning’ on these issues.
You have said you are passionate about sexual abuse especially in children. What are you doing to fight this problem?
Yes I am extremely passionate about this topic because as African women, this culture of silence is killing our families and us. We need to learn to openly and candidly communicate with ourselves and our children about sexual health issues.
This is something I’m constantly doing at home with my children first and foremost, because as they say, charity begins at home.
I have three kids who are aged eight and under and in the digitalised world of today, our children are so much more susceptible to falling victims to sexual abuse.
So I make sure I educate mine about their private parts, and emphasize that the reason it is “private” is because no one else is supposed to have access to it.
It is their own property, not property of family members, friends, or strangers. I also advise them to speak openly with their dad or me if they feel uncomfortable about the way someone may have spoken to them or touched them.
I believe that as mothers, these are conversations we should continue to have with our children.
I speak about these issues amongst women in PEP Network, on The Jo Maxwell Show, and via all media platforms I have access to.
As they say, knowledge is power. The more we share this knowledge, the more empowered we will be, to fight against child sexual abuse.
You wear so many caps- mother, talk show host, youtuber, presenter and so on. How do you create a balance with all these?
(Laughs) You left out the fact that I still work my 9-5 job as an IT analyst at a financial institution. (I’m not bragging, just being real.) Honestly? I can’t take all the credit for this really.
I have an amazing support system I depend on to help me work smart in all my endeavours. I have an amazing husband who supports my ambitions and does everything he can to ensure I have a healthy work-life balance.
Fortunately, my mom lives not too far from us and is always happy to assist me with looking after the children whenever I have out-of-town work commitments.
I also have a nanny who has been super helpful as well. Most importantly, I put God first in all I do, and this gives me the confidence and peace of mind to pursue my goals, just knowing that He will make everything work out somehow.
Having lived in both Nigeria and the U.K, how would you say Nigerian women are faring in the global scheme of things?
I feel that right now the Nigerian woman is faring better than we ever have in all areas of our lives. The world is now beginning to accept that we will no longer just be seen but heard too.
I’m inspired by all the women I come across on a daily basis who are taking charge of their destinies and pursuing their various endeavours fearlessly. We are career women. We are politicians.
We are moms. We are activists. We are visionaries. But, most importantly, we are individuals with a mind of our own. It is so inspiring to see.
There are several issues that the Nigerian woman battles with daily, will your show be addressing these issues asides the usual subject matters you discuss?
Oh yes, definitely. That is exactly why we are doing this. We are currently preparing to shoot Season 2 of the show and we are going to delve even deeper into issues faced by the Nigerian woman both at home and abroad.
I also want to use this opportunity to invite women who have any issues or topics they would like us to look into or talk about on the show, to please get in touch and let us know what they are, because quite frankly, issues vary from one individual to another.
What ails me may not even be on your radar as an issue or it may be something you’ve already dealt with in the past. We are open to ideas and issues that can affect us all at some point.
What is your secret to staying successful and how will you try to encourage women to be successful as well?
Having an incredible support system. I can’t emphasize this enough. Having the right mix of friends, families, and mentors who support you in all areas of your life, as you strive to pursue your dreams is very important.
This is priceless, I tell you. So find and surround yourself with supportive people who push you to be better. While you’re at it, try to be someone else’s support system too. As women, I believe we do better together.
What advice would you give anyone looking up to you?
I would say you should strive to be the best version of yourself. Everyone’s road to success will not be the same. Don’t compare your journey to mine, or anyone else’s. Do the best you can, forge your own path, and do it your way.
Be willing to put in the hard work it takes to achieve your dreams and the success you seek will be achieved eventually.
Who do you look up to and what keeps you going?
I look up to all my fellow women who are achieving milestones everyday, notwithstanding the cultural, racial or gender restrictions placed upon them.
The women who refuse to accept “No” for an answer; the ones who break barriers and emerge as warriors. And I’m not talking huge accomplishments.
I’m talking about that woman who wakes up and says, ‘I’m starting to write that book I’ve been meaning to, today.’ I’m talking about the woman that starts that business she’s been wanting to, when the conditions aren’t perfect.
I’m talking about the one that goes back to school after four kids to reclaim her life. I’m talking about the young widow that says I won’t give up.
I’m talking about my fellow everyday woman. They are so many of them. They are all very inspiring and amazing.
I call them “phenomenal” women and I see them all around me everyday. This is truly, what keeps me going.