Lola Ogunnaike, a renowned journalist has interviewed several dignitaries including and not limited to Oprah Winfrey, Chinua Achebe, former White Secretary of State and now the current first lady Michelle Obama. In this exclusive interview with Gist Express, Lola Ogunnaike talks about her recent interview with first lady Michelle Obama that took place during her trip to South Africa. “Interviewing Mrs Obama was “one of the highlights of my professional career”, says the former CNN correspondent.
Gist Express: TELL US MORE ABOUT YOURSELF AND YOUR CAREER
Lola: I’ve been a journalist living and working in New York City for well over a decade. Before making the transition to television, I was a print reporter. I started at the New York Daily News as an editorial assistant and worked my way up to a Features Reporter. After three years at the Daily News, The New York Times recruited me. I spent 5 ½ years at the Times as a reporter for the Arts&Leisure and Style sections. I left the Times for CNN, where I spent two years as an on-air correspondent. I’m now a Today Show contributor and I continue to write long-form articles for dozens of magazines, including Rolling Stone, Elle, Vibe, Harper’s Bazaar, Essence, Ebony and Glamour. When I’m not working, I’m usually at the movies with my husband or sister.
Gist Express: RECENTLY YOU INTERVIEWED MICHELLE OBAMA DURING HER TRIP TO SOUTH AFRICA AND BOTSWANA. WHAT WAS THAT EXPERIENCE LIKE?
Lola: Interviewing Mrs. Obama was definitely one of the highlights of my professional career. Over the years, I’ve interviewed everyone from Oprah Winfrey and Sting to Jay-Z and Chinua Achebe. I even had the opportunity to interview White House Social Secretary Desiree Rogers for CNN. Sitting in the East Wing at the White House interviewing Ms. Rogers was amazing and I really didn’t think it’d get much better than that. But being in Africa with the first black first lady was absolutely incredible. The aim of her weeklong, goodwill mission to South Africa and Botswana in late June was to instill young people with the belief that they can make a difference in the world and that the success of the continent depends on them, as well as the education and empowerment of young women. Her schedule was crammed with museum and memorial visits, meetings with heads of state and the downtrodden, trips to community centers and local restaurants. Her speech before a crowd of nearly 2,000 at Regina Mundi, South Africa’s largest Catholic Church, left many in the audience so inspired they were moved to tears. Traveling with her motorcade took a bit of getting used to. Secret service men searched us every morning, giant security dogs sniffed through our bags and we were constantly running from event to event. I made the colossal mistake of only bringing high heels and no sneakers. My advice: always wear sensible shoes when you’re rolling with the First Lady.
Gist Express: WHAT DID YOU THINK OF FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA?
Lola: Since my interview with Mrs. Obama, many people have asked me about her height, her look and her arms. Well, she hovers around 6ft tall, has flawless skin and it’s clear she works out regularly. At a soccer event in South Africa, she and Desmond Tutu did several push-ups. Mrs. Obama didn’t break a sweat, which explains why she has those impressive biceps. I found the First Lady to be gracious, down to earth and quite funny. She also complimented my dress and my arms, which I, of course, didn’t mind at all.
Gist Express: WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR YOUNG AFRICANS HERE AND ABROAD?
Lola: “Face your studies.” My parents, who hail from Nigeria, have always stressed the importance and power of an education. Like many immigrants, they worked tirelessly and sacrificed tremendously so they could afford to send me, and my two siblings, to the best schools and universities in the country. Mrs. Obama has often credited a quality education with catapulting her from the South Side of Chicago to the White House. Well, I too know that I wouldn’t be where I am today without an education.
Gist Express: IS THERE ANY WAY FOR INDIVIDUALS OR ORGANIZATIONS TO SUPPORT AND PARTNER WITH YOU ON THIS PROJECT?
Lola: Tune in! Tune in! Tune in! Sunday August 28th. BET 7:30 pm and 11pm. Ratings are king in the world of television. The more eyeballs watching the better.
Gist Express: WHAT’S THE BEST WAY TO FOLLOW YOU AND YOUR PROJECTS?
Lola: You can always find me on Facebook (Lola Ogunnaike), twitter (@lolaogunnaike) and on my website (www.hellolola.com).