YNaija recently sat down in a quiet restaurant with the brilliantly zany bundle of energy that is Tosyn Bucknor and we had a lengthy conversation covering a broad range of issues. An artiste, broadcaster, actress, content creator and business executive, Bucknor is a woman of many parts, living her dreams every single day.
Enjoy excerpts from the conversation.
You appear to be a jack of all trades. Isn’t there a fear of getting lost somehow in the myriad of activities that you do?
No. I don’t worry at all about that because I do not think that human beings need to be defined.
If someone were to ask you to describe yourself with one word, what would that be?
Two words. Human being. I am first and foremost a human being, I just happen to do a lot of things that are my passion. I am on this journey through life and I am having fun as I go along, doing all these interesting things. I feel like there is always a desperate need to classify people and put them in boxes but I am happy to just live my life and do all of the things that I enjoy doing.
I suppose everything that you do gives you some form of happiness. Which of them have you found, makes you the happiest?
Honestly that question is always difficult to answer because everything I am doing at every point in time makes me happy. I am just as happy being on radio as I am recording a song, being on set or writing a column. There is none that feels like I am being forced to do because these are things that I genuinely enjoy.
Why do you think there is a need for you to do so much and have a finger in all these pies?
First of all, in the parable of talents from the Bible, everyone was given different talents and the person who had the most went ahead and used all of their talents and the master was pleased. If you have all these talents, it is left for you as an individual to decide what you are getting from each one.
What is the typical day like for you?
There is no typical day as such. My weekdays consists of the radio show. That is pretty much guaranteed from 6:30- 11am. After that it varies; business meetings for The Tosyn Bucknor Company, I could go on set, head to the studios to record, work on my website. I try to plan my week ahead of time so the only typical things I do every day are sleep, eat, go to Top Radio, everything else can change.
What is the deal with The Tosyn Bucknor Company?
My company is basically a media and entertainment company that creates content about Nigeria and Africa and gets them out there through different platforms; podcasts, radio, television, YouTube, social media. Digital media is huge now so I and my company have been able to work with different brands to get their message out there. It became the Tosyn Bucknor Company this year in terms of structure but for as long as I can remember, there has been an idea of a company in terms of me separating it from my personal brand.
What is the Tosyn Bucknor brand all about?
The Tosyn Bucknor brand projects everything fresh, everything alternative. I live fresh music, ideas and thoughts. If I see anything new happening somewhere, I want to find out about it and help put the word out. I do New Music Mondays on my radio show to let people know the new sounds and artistes that are out there. Alternative in this context means, because society is telling you the way to think and gives you the direction to follow, you may not discover other routes. So it is about telling people it is okay to feel like this, it is okay to be different. You can be glamourous and beautiful with your own style. I would rather make people laugh and be on the positive side of things, hence my Monday motivations which try to let people understand that though there is a lot of things to be sad about, my job is to put a smile on your face. I like to put a smile on peoples’ faces.
Are you always successful, getting people to smile that is?
I think it does. Someone asked me once how I can see only the positives and I said to them you need someone who can break down these things for people and let them see the hidden joy. Look at the job of comedians. It isn’t about pretending the riots in Ferguson or Ebola do not exist, but giving that voice of hope because things will indeed get better. One Mic Naija which I run with my partners is about the same positivity ideals.
How much of Tosyn Bucknor is reflected in the brand? Are they two divergent entities?
No, they are not. I am comfortable in my own skin but it doesn’t mean I put myself completely out there. I like to talk about things that I have been through and these are expressed in the brand. I think you always start with your passion and you grow from there.
You have been around for a while now
What is a while? Been around where?
You have been Tosyn Bucknor for a couple of years now
I have been Tosyn Bucknor since I was born.
What I mean is the name has been a familiar one for years now, I remember I started reading your Guardian Life column way back. I feel like a new set of stars are on the scene now, having displaced some of the old guard and you have managed to adapt.
I have been working since my university days and for me, it is about the work. I have never for once seen myself as a star. I was just a regular girl in school who had a column. Someone once said they have been listening to me for 10 years and I haven’t been on radio for that long. I can tell you people I used to listen to on radio who are still working so I don’t know how it has come to seem like I have been around a while. There is no grand plan that I drew up at home. I am just a girl who wrote her first job application letter while in secondary school. I got a reply, it was a writing job and they asked me to stop by for an interview.
Did you get the job?
I did but you see the company was in Okota and I was only in secondary school so unless my dad was ready to be driving me there every day, then there was no way to make it work. I am the kind of person that if I wasn’t doing anything I would still be famous and people would probably be asking, “what does this Tosyn do sef?” I wanted to always be able to express myself and to give people that opportunity. That is all I have done actively in my life. Everything else has come by God’s grace.
So you are just a girl following a passion, a rolling stone?
I watched the film Yes Man with Jim Carey and while I have never actually gone a whole day saying yes to everything. That is sort of how I see myself. Sometimes I just let life take control and try not to force it. I just try to enjoy it. Now that I have a business, sadly you have to think some things through; business plans, 5 year plans, etc. in the past I was a gypsy but when you realise that you want a legacy, something that is real and you look at people like Oprah who have built solid structures out of their talent, then you start to rethink stuff. There is that desire to leave something and so it comes with getting an office, making plans, reading business books and so forth. But I am still not brave enough to do 5-year plans, I am still sticking with 3-month plans.
Do you think that it is a sign of you growing up?
Probably but I think it is a little bit more than that. Mark Zuckerberg could have cashed out on Facebook and travelled around the world but he learned to do the corporate lifestyle to an extent. When you realise that the business side of things is as important as the creative. It is more of me becoming a business creative and realising that business has different rules, so I try to find a meeting point for both. I have to go to meetings now and defend stuff. I need to be able to go into that world.
You talked about your legacy. What would you want that legacy to be?
I want to go through life without being mean to people, put a smile on peoples’ faces and scale through whatever challenge you are presented with. I want to have books, movies, music. I want there to be things read, felt, said. I want people to feel like they can express themselves. One of the acronyms I developed was SHARE. Souls have a right to express because I feel like that is at the core of what I am.
Do you think the worst thing that could happen to you would be you not being able to share?
I think so. It is right up there. I don’t tell anyone my worst physical fear because I am that superstitious. Money is great but not being able to express yourself? That would slay me. You know how they say the grave has the best ideas because most people die with a lot of their ideas? That would just kill me.
Is that part of what drives you to do stuff, the knowledge that your mortality is perhaps imminent?
No. I have been writing since my primary school days. I have never been scared of my mortality and truthfully, that is the least of my worries. They say everybody dies but not everybody lives. I don’t want to be 90 and say I wish I had done his. I need to do all I want to do.
How much have you done?
I have done quite a lot.
Do you have a bucket list?
You know what, every time I try to do a list, I am like what is the point? I have learnt how to play an instrument, how to speak another language; Italian, I taught myself German, I have practised 4 different religions before settling on my current faith. What is left now is the second or third hunger. I have the most random ideas; novels I need to finish and publish, record a second album, television, movies.
You are one of the most popular OAPs presently but you still maintain this girl next door vibe. How do you do that?
It is not deliberate, I don’t know how to be anyone apart from myself. I wish I could be a diva though but that would probably require a team turning me into one which would take more effort than it is worth. A lot of this doesn’t connect to me, I mean I know that it is there, that my morning show is one of the top 3 morning shows in Lagos but I come to work with the same urgency to do my job and do it well. Maybe it is not yet clicking, I don’t know. I have a sister, Funke and if you observe her, you will notice that in my family we don’t have airs around us. For a lot of these artistes who come to my morning show, I am first and foremost a fan and I am as awestruck as any other person.
You mentioned practising 4 different religions. Which do you practice now?
So I am a Bible believing, holy spirit-filled, tongue speaking Christian.
Sounds like a Pentecostal
I don’t know what that is. I am a Christian.
Your music is quite alternative, soft rock. You think there is a market here?
Yes I do and I am glad that there are people like Ese Peters, Ruby Gyang, Aramide, Bez out there doing it. Sadly when I started recording in university, my confidence got broken by people who told me otherwise and I wasn’t strong enough to own my sound and be stubborn about it so I am glad to see people who do. To answer your earlier question, I am probably least confident about my music. So I try to do the alternative hour on my show to promote these kinds of music.
Wilfred Okiche is a medic, reader, writer, journalist, culture critic, and occasional ruffler of feathers. One of the most influential critics working in the Nigerian culture space, his writing has appeared extensively in platforms like YNaija.com and 360nobs.com. Okiche has provided editorial assistance to the UK Guardian and has had his work published in African Arguments, Africa is a Country and South Africa’s City Press. He has received trainings and acquired experience in multimedia and online journalism. He also appears on the culture television show, Africana Literati. He has participated at critic programs in Lagos, Durban and Rotterdam.