Brave Women: The rise and rise of Linda Ikeji

Linda Ikeji YNaija

Linda Ikeji, 36, is Nigeria’s highest paid blogger who took to the medium as a pastime in 2006. In this entry, Festus Iyorah profiles her rise to stardom from little beginnings.

Following the emergence of web 2.0, an interactive form of website in 2004, International media such as BBC, CNN had started making use of this new form of web to generate content.

During the this period of transformation from the rigid web 1.0 to a more flexible web 2.0, the vast majority of Nigerians had not started making use of this opportunity except a young fresh graduate who started blogging as a hobby then.

She’s Linda Ikeji, a former model who has made millions from posting news and gossip on her blog.

Born and raised by a catholic family from Nkwerre, Imo state, Linda Ifeoma Ikeji a second child in a family of nine studied English Language at the University of Lagos. During her stay at the University, Linda took part-time job as a model and waitress—to support herself in school and to support her parents who were financially incapacitated.

At that time, civilization had snaked its way into the fabric of Nigerian society, the telecommunication industry had experienced a boom but mobile journalism, news blogs, vlogs were not recognized by the vast majority of Nigerian youths. But Ikeji took an advantage of it to post news, events and gossips online.

A bumpy road to stardom

Upon graduation from the University of Lagos in 2004, Ikeji continued as a waitress and a model with a modeling agency and event management outfit media company Black Dove Communications. She started blogging as a hobby in November 2006, despite the fact that internet still at its rudimentary stage in Nigeria then.

“I liked it (blogging) and I wanted to start my own blog post,” Linda Ikeji said after she came across a blog post about herself as a model.  

“I wanted something more interesting. I wanted to do gossip and news and I gave them something. It was like a celebrity blog; people knew who I was and were very interested in what I had to say,”

At the outset, she used to borrow money sometimes to buy airtime to blog at the cybercafé. Within a short space of time, the diva became an active blogger in 2007 using a blogger sub-domain and later obtained her custom domain www.lindaikejisblog.com and that marked the turning point of her journey to stardom.

“I started struggling since I was 17 to support my family. I said the day I sell my body to a man for money, may God strike me dead,” she said in an interview.

“I was determined to make it on my own, never let any man take my dignity. Now I have more money than I even know what to do with it. I make millions of Naira from what I love doing…blogging.”

Linda Ikeji’s blog has grown to become the centerpiece of entertainment covering news ranging from news and events around Africa and beyond. Dominant issues covered by her blog includes: gossips, news, entertainment, celebrity gist among others.

However, the journey to stardom hasn’t been an easy one for Linda Ikeji. She has faced wave of discrimination from her critics and competitors.  In October 8, 2014, she was in the eye of the storm over allegations of plagiarism, which led to Google temporarily taking her blog offline for 24 hours.  

Today, with a staggering 1.49 million followers on Twitter, her blog has around 7 million page visit per day and is especially popular with Nigerians living abroad in countries such as United Kingdom and the U.S. Her blog is currently ranked 26th most searched sites on Alexa ranking in Nigeria.

As at March 2016, she was reportedly worth 3,2 billion naira ($16million) and makes over 59 million naira per month from her blog.

In August 2012, she was among Forbes Africa’s Africa’s 20 Most Prominent Women. A publication dedicated to celebrating African women. In 2014, she continued blazing the trail scooping the biggest Google Search with the name Linda Ikeji was the most searched item by users of Google in Nigeria.

More than a blogger

Beyond blogging, Linda Ikeji is an astute entrepreneur who believes in innovation and staying relevant as a brand or as a business woman. Few years after she started blogging, many Nigerians have turned to blogging—which is a bit saturated now. In order to remain relevant, Linda Ikeji launched her own version of social network, Linda Ikeji Social.

The platform which is a bit similar to Facebook hit 50,000 sign-up on the first day she launched the platform. Since then, Ikeji says “About 30-40 million Nigerians are now online, and they go through many sites”

“They go to Facebook for connecting with friends. They come to my blog to read news. They buy and sell things and go to places like Nairaland where they exchanged opinions,” she told CNN

Linda Ikeji Socials works more like Facebook: Users get to sign up, set up their own profile and post news or interesting topics online.

However, Linda Ikeji Social is pretty different from Facebook in one aspect: She pays people who gain a lot of followers on the site.

“Once they have 50,000 followers on their page, we will automatically start monetizing it. That means we will put our client’s banners on the page and pay you a commission from what they pay us,” she told CNN in an interview, adding that she pays out a weekly share of her advertising revenue.  

“Next week we are putting N20,000 ($63) each into 50 people’s wallets, she told CNN.

The cash incentives are paid through ‘wallet’ a section on the network where people add their bank account details.

Moreover, the network also plans to pay users N8,000 (around $25) for original news content.

“Being on social networking sites make the site owners billionaires. You being on our site will make us money, but at the same time we will share some of that money with you,” she said, adding that her aim is to give back to the online community.

Aside her giant strides, she has put in place scheme for encouraging and assisting young girls aged 16-25 with top-notched business ideas and strong penchant for entrepreneurship through a non-profit project tagged “I’d rather be self made; No Thanks.” She gave out the sum of NGN10, 000,000($31, 746) in the Phase 1 of the project.

“To all the young girls out there you can make it on your own. You don’t need to spread your legs for men; you don’t need these old married men who just take your glory.”

You’re strong, you’re beautiful, there’s nothing you can’t achieve on your own. God has given you something no one else has,” Linda Ikeji told young girls  

In one of her video message online, she told young ladies to  “Find what it is and build yourself. Don’t worry about what other girls around you have. Dignity is far more valuable than a range rover. Make it in life on your own terms and as your own woman, so that you can look back one day and be proud of who you were and who you are.”

Brave Women is YNaija.com’s citizenship series for the month of March. Find more stories in the series here.

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