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Ruth Osime. 60 and Still Making Waves – THISDAY Style



Ruth Osime. 60 and Still Making Waves – THISDAY Style

Not a stranger to anyone reading this feature, Ruth Osime’s ascent to prominence began long before her editorial leadership here at THISDAY Style. Her insightful contributions to the Sunday publication of the newspaper through her column, “Truth by Ruth,” garnered widespread acclaim at the time, already establishing her as a trusted voice in the media industry.

Fast-forward to her remarkable 19-year tenure at THISDAY Style, Ruth’s editorial prowess, among other wins, will go a long way towards reshaping the Nigerian fashion landscape. Widely regarded as one of the most influential figures in the industry, she not only discovered new talents but also provided a global platform for established ones to shine. Her keen eye for talent and unwavering commitment to excellence elevated the magazine to unparalleled heights.

Beyond the pages of THISDAY Style, Ruth’s impact extended far and wide. Her distinctive reporting style inspired the emergence of numerous fashion and lifestyle magazine platforms, each influenced by her visionary work. Under her stewardship, the magazine’s cover became the epitome of prestige, with socialites and celebrities clamouring for the coveted cover spot.

To date, her legacy remains undeniable, and in recognition of her immense contributions, she was rightfully named one of the most powerful women in Nigerian journalism in 2020.

As she celebrates her 60th birthday, her media journey continues evolving. She currently co-hosts the acclaimed show “Perspectives” on Arise TV, where she brings her trademark insight and wisdom to discussions on societal issues, cementing her status as a thought leader beyond the fashion industry.

In this exclusive with our erstwhile editor, we delve into her remarkable journey, exploring the milestones, challenges, and triumphs that have defined her illustrious career while also celebrating the legacy of a true trailblazer and icon at 60!

Photography: Kelechi Amadi-Obi

Make-up: Bimpe Onakoya

Congratulations on your 60th birthday. What’s the first thing you’re going to do? Thanksgiving, personal quiet time, or party all night?

I had a Thanksgiving service at Pastor Ituah’s Church, Trinity House. It was a small service, which I thoroughly enjoyed because he and I go a very long way back. I also took on some charitable ventures. My ‘ride or die sisters’, Nkiru Anumudu and Mo Abudu,’ also had a party for me. It was a lovely evening of great fun, joy, and laughter at EbonyLife Place. Ladies Night with a touch of pink. Amazing evening. Then, as you well know, my MET gala (Metallics) 60th birthday party is taking place in a few days. Initially, I wasn’t even going to do anything. Then I decided to, and the event has taken on a life of its own, leaving me totally overwhelmed and bewildered by the show of love and support!

I have never paid much attention to the impact I might have had on people. What people are showing me, saying to me, writing to me—how they have bent over backwards to make my day special—has left me speechless.

I almost want to pinch myself and wonder if this wave of love and attention is for just little me, Ruth. I have always said that a party is always a reflection of the host. Those who turn up for you. Those who stand by you in public and, more importantly, have your back in private. I also feel that for every human being, it gets to a stage in your life where it’s not about how much you have or how much you need but about the impact that you have made in people’s lives, and the behaviour around me at this point in time only makes me appreciate this more.

There are many milestones in a girl’s life, from Sweet16 to 21, 40, the big 5-0 and now 60. What’s the one that you will never forget?

There are too many to mention, but I think most of my significant milestones have been in my career. We were the first to take fashion to a global level and had fashion shows worldwide. The majority of the older designers today got their first big break through our platform. We broke frontiers and pushed the envelope until our narrative was finally heard globally. With this, you cannot help but feel a sense of validation and some sense of accomplishment. Personally, I think all my birthdays have been significant milestones. My 21st was a milestone; my 30th, 40th, and 50th were the same, but the most significant milestone will be my 60th, which I would have had by the time this interview is published. I don’t know which one I will most cherish. I would have to compare notes.

As a pioneer in Nigerian style journalism, it couldn’t have been easy making your mark at the beginning. Take us into your thought process at the beginning of that journey.

As you know, Konye, if you have worked with Prince Nduka Obaigbena, you know he will take you through the reins. He will push you to your limit, and if you cannot swim, you will sink. Simple. You learn the hard knocks, pick up the pieces, rechannel, and reboot. 

There are no shortcuts to success. You must put in the blood and sweat until you see the light at the end of the tunnel instead of the train coming the other way. I went through my teething stages, looking for good photographers, planning pages, coming up with ideas, developing concepts, creating waves, and making sure I made my mark in the fashion industry.

It hasn’t been a straightforward trajectory, but it’s something that I thank God for. It was a difficult journey, but we sailed through.

You, Latasha, Azuka, Ono, and Funke went through me, and when I see how successfully you all have forged your own paths, I feel validated.

What advice would you give to young professionals, especially women, navigating the balance between personal and professional life?

I’ve never been one to put my personal life out there per se. In fact, I’m terrible at updating information on my Instagram page. I’m not on Facebook. Some people believe that I don’t “brand myself enough,” but I’ve always felt that, even though my professional and personal lives are intertwined, there must be some part of my personal life that remains just so. In today’s times, you see all sorts of characters on social media, and you wonder if they will have staying power. The whole world doesn’t need to know you have a headache today or ate toast for breakfast. The whole world doesn’t need to know that you fought with your best friend, sacked your driver, or lost your purse in Paris!

Back to your journalism career, you have interacted with influential figures and newsmakers for decades. How did you navigate the industry while maintaining editorial integrity?

That’s a funny question because I believe in social currency.

The social currency you earn over the years. I wasn’t just a journalist who interviewed people. I built relationships during the course of my career, and it’s those relationships that have now helped me transcend to the second phase of my career. I’ve always had goodwill, and I hope that continues and transcends till the end of time. I have friends from all walks of life. Editorial integrity is also part of building a relationship. I have never abused the power of the pen. 

Everybody cannot talk about “boiling water at the right temperature” all the time. Sometimes, you “shake the bottle to wake up the taste”; you rattle the cage! When the cage is rattled, some might want to shoot the messenger, but regardless, the meat in the message remains.

There’s hardly any public event that you can go to without being recognised. How do you handle the pressure of public scrutiny and expectations from being a public figure?

One, I don’t really see myself as a public figure. When people come to me and greet me, I keep a smile on my face. Even when I am attacked in the media space, I move on—part of life.

As for public scrutiny, I don’t feel scrutinised in public. Most times, I’m with my posse, and to them, I’m just Ruth. Nothing special. People are free to make assumptions. At this age, positive impact on people far outweighs opinions, both solicited and otherwise. Being a known face comes with its own pluses and minuses. I embrace the pluses and manage the minuses.

How has transitioning from print journalism to TV been for you? What do you enjoy the most about your current role?

It has been relatively easy for me to transition. I’m still learning the ropes, though. I like to explore, and I love to ask questions. I probe and probe and probe. Even in my role as the anchor of Perspectives, my guests vary from the most conservative to the most controversial. Some might frown at my choices, but in life, you have the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Everybody cannot talk about “boiling water at the right temperature” all the time. Sometimes, you “shake the bottle to wake up the taste”; you rattle the cage! When the cage is rattled, some might want to shoot the messenger, but regardless, the meat in the message remains.

Loud and clear. For me, TV is just a vocal version of what I used to do as Style Editor of THISDAY Style.

Can you share some behind-the-scenes stories and any stories from your time at Style that we might find intriguing?

Konye, have you forgotten how we sometimes planned pages until 6 a.m.? How we would work 24 hours? How we would show our work to Publisher, and he would tell us to start all over again? Have you forgotten the long international trips accompanied by sleepless nights to attend one event or another? Is it the drama behind-the-scenes of our fashion shows? There are too many to mention.

I remember an incident where we had a Chris Aire dress made of diamonds, which was worth $52 million! We had to leave Abuja in the middle of the night because the Publisher had gotten us a plane. And this dress was put in the luggage section of the bus that took us to the airport! I cannot tell you what level my panic button was on! We all had our hearts in our mouths till we landed in Lagos.

Or is it the times I will break down from having not slept for days because I have barely slept for days, organising one event or the other? There were ups and downs that took us up the hill and down the valley. It’s been an exciting experience that I would not change for anything!

What are your thoughts on ageing gracefully, especially as a woman who might feel pressure from being in the limelight?

For my 60th birthday, I was supposed to go on a diet. I was supposed to sculpt my face. I was supposed to be exercising. I was going to run a marathon, but guess what? I’m still a size 16.

Am I going to look beautiful on my birthday? Yes, I would, because beauty comes from within. I haven’t done my breasts—no BBL or Botox—and I don’t plan to. I am happy to age gracefully. I don’t need any augmentations.

The other day, I was looking at pictures from my 50th birthday. Not everyone who celebrated that birthday with me is alive today. As I get closer to my evening, I try to enjoy the little gifts life offers. It’s not about what I am wearing, what car I am driving, who I am seen with, or who I cannot be seen with. I do not feel the need to impress, and I’ve also owned my shortcomings. My goal is to continue positively impacting the lives of those I love and appreciate, and vice versa. I’ve come to my comfort zone, and I’m living with it happily.

Can you share some life lessons you’ve learned that you wish you knew when you were younger?

There were certain things I wish I had done when I was younger. I would tell my younger self now: do not sweat the small stuff; believe in yourself; have confidence; and try to be what you want to be. Go the unconventional path if that will take you to your destination. Focus less on what people say about you and more on what you think of yourself, and, most importantly, develop a very strong relationship with God.

God is not beyond our reach. You can talk to Him daily. You don’t have to pray for ten hours, fifty hours, or fast for thirteen months, no. Access to him is easy. I believe everybody has some spiritual strength. It could be visions; it could be speaking in tongues; it could even be prophesying. What we call ‘gut instinct’ is God-given. Harness it because it will help you as you get older. As far as I’m concerned, walking without a spiritual cover is like walking with an open sore. You must be able to protect yourself and your loved ones spiritually, no matter what your chosen faith is, because there’s much more to life than what our naked eye can see.

People don’t know you’re also passionate about the arts and tourism. Do you see yourself contributing to this industry in the future?

I’ve always loved the arts and tourism. I believe that the sector has a lot to offer. Some parastatal heads have just been appointed in that sector, and hopefully, their impact will go a long way towards improving it.

What advice would you give to your younger self if you could go back in time and restart your career?

If I were to start my career again, I wouldn’t do anything differently because I grew organically. Put in the sweat and reap your rewards later. ‘Staying power’ can take you far. Do not be frazzled by overnight success. Stay in your lane. Focus, and do you. Find your inner strength, and do not underestimate your abilities.

In what ways have the benefits of six decades empowered you in your personal life and career?

I’m much wiser and calmer, more confident, less focused on outside influences, and more focused on my inner self. I have built relationships over the years, and the show of support as I turn 60 is a living testimony to that. Money can’t buy that. I remain eternally grateful to Him for His mercy upon my life.

I believe in social currency. The social currency you earn over the years. I wasn’t just a journalist who interviewed people. I built relationships during the course of my career, and it’s those relationships that have now helped me transcend to the second phase of my career. I’ve always had goodwill, and I hope that continues and transcends till the end of time

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