Tony Payne, the ex-wife of Alexander Abolore Akande, the Gongo Aso crooner, famous for his stage name 9ice, has been around in the entertainment industry. She has seen the industry grow as a publicist and an online publisher of entertainment news. She talks with Adedayo Showemimo about her new plans for the industry and her marriage
You’ve been quiet lately, what have you been up to?
I wouldn’t say I have been quiet. I have only reduced my public engagement and social outings because I have been busy with my rebranding project. I wanted to make sure that the rebranding process get to a point where there is nothing left out before getting out there. If anyone is looking for me, I am easy to find via my official website.
So, what is to be expected from the new Toni Payne brand?
Well, if you can recall, my career started in the entertainment industry as a publisher of the first online entertainment magazine called Nigerian Entertainment. The creation stemmed from my passion, so I have decided to retrace my steps back to what I love doing, which is creative writing. The new Toni Payne brand is all about poetry. I also write articles where I express my opinion about pop culture, lifestyle and entertainment events. I also get involved in product, movie and event review. It’s like viewing different topics from my perspective and sharing my views with the world.
You were seen reading some of your poems at events. Are you really taking poetry as a career?
Poetry for me is a passion. I enjoy writing, reading and doing role play of my poems. If it takes me somewhere good career wise, I am well prepared. I keep busy developing my craft so I see good things happening.
Why poetry and not music?
Well, may be because I don’t think I have that sweet voice. Of course, poetry is also what I am good at so I didn’t want to overdo it.
What’s the focus of the new website?
I have decided to rebrand my website tonipayneonline.com to fit in the general scope of things. It isn’t exactly what my online magazine was. I wanted to do something different. I know I am very opinionated, so I decided to apply that into what the site is all about. So I write my views on things I see, from Beyonce and JayZ to Chris Brown. Anything I find interesting, I talk about. You can call it traditional blogging, even though in Nigeria we misuse the term blogging severally. I do food reviews and if I try a product, I talk about it also.
It also has a weekly audio podcast that I record and that one is free on itunes and my website. I discuss a variety of topics like how to lose belly fat, relationship talk, pop culture and so much more. I share updates on my twitter handle and facebook page but anyone can visit the site daily or sign up for the newsletter for updates. It’s a fun concept. My style of writing is “real”. Something people enjoy, because I discuss a variety of topics.
You’ve been away in the United States for a while, does it mean you have relocated?
I’m in-between. I wouldn’t say I have relocated and I wouldn’t say I haven’t. I have been doing the back and forth thing for as long as I have known so I could decide to chill in Nigeria for months and just visit the US or chill in the US for months and just visit Nigeria, it all depends.
How did your journey into entertainment begin?
It started in 1999. Back then I noticed that our entertainment industry was blossoming but for us that lived in the US we did not have easy access to it. So I did my research and decided I would start an online magazine where you can read about the Nigerian entertainment industry. I was one of the first to do online interviews for people like 2face Idibia. I would travel back to Nigeria to bring CDs to sell. It was fun and motivating for me. Funny enough it was quite easy. I know how to work hard, I built contacts, did my research and knew how to apply it so when I work, I get results and results attract people to want to work with you.
You worked with 9ice, Olamide, Tuface and others, how would you describe the experience?
One thing they have in common is their unique talents. There is a misconception that 2face and I have a working relationship, we are just good friends. I talk about 2face’s music a lot, because I like it, so it comes off like I’m promoting him. That is not the case. However I have had a professional working relationship with Now Music, his management company, styling a set for one for his concerts. All have been wonderful experiences. I learned a lot through the process.
Olamide said in a recent interview that gossipers came between the two of you and that’s what caused his fallout with you, what’s your take on it?
From my perspective, that wasn’t the issue. The issue was never with him. We never had a fall out. My agreement then was with coded tunes and I opted out for personal reasons. I hear things about my artistes all the time, I will ask you and we can sit and talk but hearsay is not enough to make me walk away.
So how would you describe your relationship with him now?
We are cool. That’s one of my sons. That hasn’t changed.
How would you describe the present state of Nigerian entertainment indusrty?
It has really grown over the years. There is room for improvement and a better structure is needed, but we shall get there.
As a child growing up, what profession fascinated you the most?
I really wanted to be a lawyer.
So what happened to that dream?
I opted for creative arts so I changed my major from psychology as a pre-law to video digital art. I found it fascinating. The older I got the more I figured out who I am and what made me happy. I just felt I enjoyed it more and went for it.
What was your childhood like?
My childhood was beautiful. I am blessed with a wonderful family who really love and support each other. I shuttled between America and Nigeria. As kids we did a lot of travelling with my grandmother during holidays. We had lovely birthday parties and during summer vacations we would all be at my grannys place, including all of my cousins. It was like having big parties for the kids and if we spend it in America, we would go fishing, Disney land, Sea World and others. I have a lot of lovely memories from my childhood.
Looking at your career now, would you say you are fulfilled?
Oh wow! I think I have managed to establish myself as a hard working lady who has explored and enjoyed whatever her heart wants career wise while it lasts.
What’s the biggest risk you’ve had to take in your career?
Believing in others and dedicating 100 per cent of myself to their cause.
Do you have any regrets?
No regrets, just life lessons
What’s been your lowest moment in life?
It has to be reading so many wicked lies about me in papers. It really over shadowed all the hard work I had put in over the years. It was hurtful but at the same time, I later realised God was preparing me for something greater. It made me stronger and wiser and today I am even more focused because I am determined that forward ever, backward never.
How about your happiest moment?
It was when I finally got to see my son face to face. I was like, so it’s you that has been kicking my tummy all these months. With him, every day is a new kind of joy.
Recently, you came online to speak about your relationship with 9ice, what’s status of your relationship with him now?
I’d rather not discuss him.
There’s also news of finalising the divorce process with him?
That is one topic I’d rather move on from
How do you cope as a single mum, taking care of your son alone?
My son is fine. He has an excellent support system around him. Lots of love and care and I am grateful to God for his blessings.
Would you consider re-marrying anytime in the future?
Yes of course.
Are you in a relationship at the moment?
I have always joked that no one will know if I am in a serious relationship till after years together. There is an element of truth in that joke. I may change my mind as my spirit moves me but for now, I’ll keep that to myself
So that implies that you are in a relationship?
No, it implies I am not ready to share that information.
Is the person in the entertainment industry as well?
I don’t know oh! If he is short, tall, fair, dark, cute or ok I don’t know.
Since you said you’ll surely re-marry, what qualities do you look out for in a man?
The beautiful thing about growth is it helps you further learn what you want from life or in this case a partner. Top qualities for me would be compassion, care, love, ambition, hard working and honesty. Someone who loves me and everything that is mine genuinely and to a certain degree unselfishly. I am so romantic so he has to be too.
What’s your relationship with Lola Omotayo, because you stood up for her recently?
She is a friend and a very nice person but it wasn’t so much about her as much as it was about people attacking a woman based on hearsay. We hear of jungle justice but their own was verbal jungle justice. It was about how some people like to condemn women without hearing facts, if something happens, it must be the woman’s fault. Why? they did not even wait to hear from her hubby or his bros. They were sold a notion by someone who I am not sure what her intention or gain was but they bought it hook, line and sinker, ran with it, and then went for the jugular.
It was painful to watch. She was being called all sorts of names based on speculation and I just couldn’t take it. It got me so angry and I decided to air my views, irrespective of what anyone else thinks. I was also irritated, because I saw how other women in the industry kept quiet. I know some of them will carry placard talking about stop this violence against women and all that, if it is a public event, but none would risk putting his/her name on the line to say what people are doing to Lola is very bad. It is not until you only stand up for a cause just for publicity or carry placard to look good in the press.
Stuff like this has to come from the heart or it is meaningless. If speaking up against what they saw was trending or Oprah defended her, you will now see them follow and do the same. When the elder bro came out and finally said, free her o, it’s not about her, I wondered how those who were attacking her felt. I wish I had that luxury during my time. I had to defend myself vehemently. I am sure they all felt very foolish for attacking a lady without hearing from the source.
Would you call yourself a feminist?
I am not a feminist per say but I guess when you have faced certain challenges, you wouldn’t wish to see someone you know face it. If it was a