Salma Phillips is a writer, talk show host, presenter and TV producer from the North Eastern part of Nigeria. The wife and mother was born to a Fulani Shuwa father and a Calabari mother.
Her dream of being on Television, since she was a child, came into reality on February 7, 2016, when she debuted as the host of her talk show, The Salma Show shown on Africa Magic Urban. In this interview, Salma Phillips shares with Guardian Woman her journey into TV production and her life as northern showbiz personality.
I’m a Fulani girl from Borno State. I have a diploma in Law from the University of Jos, after which I moved to Port Harcourt with my parents, where I studied for LL.B. in Law at the University of Science and Technology, Port Harcourt. I am a writer and Talk show personality and a family woman.
As a child, you dreamt of being a correspondent with CNN. Do you still harbour such dream? If not, does it mean the dream was a fantasy or you have something more fulfilling?
Femi Oke was the first Nigerian-British correspondent I ever watched on CNN in my formative years, and that just made me believe that working for CNN was attainable! Since then, I started nurturing that dream. I would say those years have played an integral part in my career choices and have shaped me into becoming the woman I am today. If given the opportunity to work for CNN, I will gladly take it.
You have been described as the new face of northern Nigeria television. Does this put you under pressure?
I would say that title is an enormous one and I say this with all humility (laughs). Now, being on such a public platform as the Salma Show would put anyone under pressure, because as the face of the brand, you cannot afford to play the mediocre card anymore. I have to keep shooting for the stars and be the best I can be, knowing I have an audience and a lot of young women looking up to me. As with everything in life- a contractor would want to get a bigger contract! A musician would want to churn out one hit album after the other, so also is the case with a TV producer, who would want to live up to their season 1 and produce a season 2 that would be an improvement on their season 1! This platform, I would say, has made me an achiever of goals, as I am constantly setting high standards for The Salma Show.
You ran a facility management company for a couple of years before starting your media production outfit. How do the businesses compare? What are the challenges you face in your new business, which you did not envisage when starting?
Running a facility management company had its challenges, but TV production is a totally different ballgame! There is absolutely no comparison. I was coming from a place of no experience, just armed with my dreams and aspiration. After being rejected three times in four years, I kept pushing through and had to return to school to major in media broadcast (I wanted this and would not be discouraged). It was then I discovered it was a whole new technical terrain. TV production is not as easy as it looks!
I actually went into it thinking ‘I’ve got this on lockdown’ (Laughs).
Other challenges I faced were battling with my fears, dealing with rejection, getting a totally professional team together, and scheduling meetings with personalities, deadlines and timelines. All these were so challenging and I was ready to battle through and make a success of it.
How have you fared, being a female entrepreneur?
So far, it’s been a wonderful journey from switching profession to taking up new roles, which is something I learn from daily. Being a female entrepreneur also sees you exercising your motherly character beyond the home front, as you are constantly reaching out, sharing values and impacting lives.
What’s the reception of The Salma Show like?
So far, it has been awesome with a lot of positive feedback. It was so well received that we were given yet another platform and this happened just after our Season 1. That tells me we are on the right path, and it gives us so much joy.
How were you able to overcome the initial setbacks you experienced, when you started the show?
It was a tough one, I must say. I had to go back to not just the drawing board, but to get trained and certified in Media Broadcast from the BBC Academy. I also overcame those times with the support of family and dear friends.
Being in the media could be time-consuming. How have you been able to balance your career with being a wife and mother?
Media work is really time-consuming, unpredictable yet with numerous deadlines. But I have been able to balance work; by ensuring I meet deadlines even on sick days. Women are said to be “multi-taskers” by nature, so when it comes to work and family, I lean on my husband’s support, as well as the professionalism of my great team. So, that eases the tension of my multiple roles, as a talk show personality to being mummy and wife (laughs). I must say that balancing parenthood and career can be a tightrope of responsibility.
What are the lessons motherhood has taught that you find relevant to your life, as a media entrepreneur?
Motherhood is a sure shot mantra to shed away laziness from your life! For me, that’s the first lesson right there! If you want to succeed, you cannot afford to be lazy and be in this industry. Motherhood is also complicated, yet amazing, and that is lesson two. This has made me more compassionate and patient, when it comes to my work.
With you being branded the face of northern Nigeria television, don’t you feel a bit limited in terms of reach?
Honestly, I don’t see myself as the face of Northern Nigeria television; rather I see myself as a Northern woman, who wants to make a difference in her own little way. In doing so, there are no limits, as to my reach; rather every new terrain is seen as an opportunity to reaching the next. The world is a global village, there are numerous northerners spread around the globe and The Salma Show is one of the platforms that connect them back home.
Any plans to make the Salma Phillips brand a crossover appeal?
The Salma Show brand cuts across the entire country, and is aired on the global platform of African Magic Urban on DStv. It is our unique niche that stands us out and sets us apart. This has worked for us thus far, so why change it? If you watch our first season, five out of the 13 episodes aired, were dedicated to the North. So, we are not restricted by any means.