US based Gender and Development advocate and lifestyle empowerment motivator, Dr Queen Blessing Itua is definitely a woman of many sides. However, her major concern is to bring about a sustainable development to Africa especially Nigeria through her NGO, Blessings of Africa and Empowerment Foundation.
In this interview with Glamtush, the President Obama Lifetime Achievement Award recipient, inspirational author and speaker talks about her childhood, career and bringing a change in Nigeria amongst others.
Who Queen Blessing Itua is
I’m Dr. Queen Blessing Itua and I’m based in the United States. I’m very passionate about so many different things. I’m privileged to have been honoured by the former president of the United States, President Barack Obama. I have received different awards but that award to me is the highest that any civilian can receive in the Unites States. After I was honoured, anytime I wear my pin or take the letter he wrote with all of those beautiful things in it, what I see is all the efforts I have put in serving the people passionately. Also, I received award from Georgia State, my state from the Secretary of State and many others.
Bringing a change to Africa especially my Nigeria
Having received different awards for my humanitarian works and services, there was actually no way, I couldn’t think about home. Home is where the heart is. I have an NGO in America called Global Empowerment Movement (501c3) and for the Africans I have Blessings of Africa Empowerment Foundation. The reason for that is because it takes us Nigerians to be the ones to actually spearhead this development and that is because our motherland is beautiful, rich and we are blessed.
So, I was looking for different ways to actually put this vision God has given to me into actions, so I started writing books. But I realised that in other for me to actually have a significant impact in my motherland. It’s not just about the book but the action. So, I had to put my books on hold a little bit so that I can actually do the work.
Beginning of making impact
For me to actually have that maximum impact, I realised that just talking about the message wasn’t sufficient so I started looking for ways to make the impact. And one of the best ways to making the impact was using my connection as an International Chief Adviser to an American senator. I used that platform to first of all, impact our people back in the US, having them understand that we have a voice and our voices do matter, I’m talking about those of us in America especially and those in the diaspora. However, if home is where the heart is and we have a lot of us in the diaspora who desire to come back home but when they look at the structure and the way things are in the country especially security and other issues, they don’t want to come.
Last year, I took it to the next level with the inclusion of about 15 countries including Haiti and Jamaica represented. The goal for that is when people start to know that where they are, their voices matter, they can truly impact the political process there and work with their own people. And it is then; we all can come together and breach the gap between those of us in the diaspora and those of us at home.
My ultimate goal
My goal is to spearhead and actually have this sustainable development for our motherland. And in doing that, I have to be focused; it’s not about making noise as I don’t need all of that. I have already gotten that being in my position. But I understand that people still need to know, appreciate and support what you are doing.
I’m on this journey because of my true passion to being the Blessings of Africa to my community, Edo State and Nigeria as a whole. And Blessings of Africa is not about individuals but all of us together, collectively because you must first of all understand that you are here with a vision and God created you for a purpose and He has given you the talent to be able to impact wherever your community is.
So it is in the understanding of who you are and your role in the world that pushes you. If you understand it that way, if you understand your critical role in the system, then, you don’t look at someone else to make the change for you, you know that you are the change. You be the change that you want to see in your community.
Purpose of Visit to Nigeria
I’m in Nigeria to make an impact and not ask for something. I’m here because I have a vision for the people; a lot of our people are truly in need. We cannot close our eyes or turn deaf ears to all these things.
My state governor is doing a lot and I am proud of what he is doing but of course there is still room for improvement. There are still ways that we can support him. I’m not in Nigeria to ask for what I can put in my pocket, I’m here to ask for ways we can collaborate to make sure the people they are representing get what they truly deserve.
Nigerians want to come back home, they want to support what we are doing. But who is going to take the lead? Who is going to give them the opportunity to come together? This is one of the reasons Africans in the diaspora work very well on African Day. I am constantly looking for willing investors to come partner with me and my organisation and my team to come to Nigeria and other African countries.
I was in Nigeria last year August when the acting president, Prof Yemi Osibanjo was at the helms of affair and he welcomed me and my team. In November I came back to Nigeria and that was when I partly shot the Blessings of Africa movie and now I’m back again.
The vision is so broad because it includes the children especially those abused and abandoned.
Areas of development interested in
The area of development is broad, however, one thing I want see happen with this my quest hopefully is poverty eradication. First of all, it starts with a passion. And if God truly gave you the vision, He will provide all the resources and people at the appropriate time. I’m able to make all these impromptu trips because of God’s grace so I’m not complaining.
Something about following your vision is that at the beginning many people will not want to support you because they feel your vision is too big. I have my own challenges but instead I see myself constantly going forward because I want to support someone. I see my own issues in another person’s face; I don’t see it in me. Anything I’m going through, I’m remembering that young girl and that woman that I left in the village.
My childhood and seeing my son in me
In 1984, as a young girl in former Bendel state, I had the best written state-wide essay and I left my village, Iruekpen to be honoured by the then governor, Cornel J T Ogbeha. I went to Iruekpen Girls secondary school. The governor shook my hands and presented me my award with other important guest present. They celebrated me and gave me scholarship. But I never saw myself on TV. Since then I saw myself as that little girl in the farm who will always look up and say, “One day I’m going to enter the plane.” When I was writing one of my books, it suddenly dawned on me that my son Ansel, who I call my Blessed Prince was first in the State National Geographic Bee and he represented Georgia at the National Geographic 8 finalists on national TV. He received first in the Nation Award in the National Academic Championships with his team. He is also on TV for High Q where his team remained undefeated last year in the first position in Georgia State. He has been honoured by the Georgia State governor, board of education amongst others. He received the youth award from the vice president of Nigeria, Professor Yemi Osibanjo in Houston, Texas. He has been doing that since he was 9-years-old when I too received the award for writing the best essay in Edo State, then I knew this was very significant.
I’m blessed with two boys and two girls and I know our own challenges. But we must learn to empower our own people, to look beyond our own personal issues because when you see yourself as the blessing in whatever situation you see yourself and then add God to that blessing, your attitude change.
Romance with African stars and acting
When I hosted the Nollywood Europe Golden Award (NEGA) in Germany, I decided that I want to be able to work with our African stars. . I didn’t know who was coming, but I told my colleague that when I get there, I will be working with Nigerian stars. I realised that many people didn’t have the platform I have to support my people.
When it comes to acting, I have never portrayed myself as an actor per se because of the other things that I was doing. So acting wasn’t something I needed to claim per se because I had to use wisdom too to focus on a particular thing at a point in time. The overall vision is not the acting but creating the platform to helping people.
I left Nigeria as a graduate of Biochemist from the University of Benin but in the US I’m a Public Health Practitioner specialist in fitness, nutrition and wellness. I’m the one who help women get healthy especially women after babies. I help people because my area of speciality academically is preventive wellness/preventive medicine. This is one of the reasons why I focus on women because when a woman knows her role, even at home, she’s able to know what to do and how to feed her herself, children, husband and then the community benefits, so it trickles down like that.
Putting my passions together
The vision like I said is in different forms but we can actually do this together. So in that capacity, my passion of putting all of these things together is through using my books as well as movies to address the critical issues. So this is how everything is tied together.
My focus right now is to be the face, the voice and empowering others. Wellness is key because wellness in health, thinking, perception, finances, nation and community building is necessary for us to be part and parcel of a sustainable development because we have to be healthy in these areas to be able to truly impact our motherland.
Support from government and individuals
For Nigeria per se, I know that I have to learn the system. I have to meet people that can actually support in getting the work done. I know that there is a process, people want what is in it now but it is not supposed to be like that. They have got to understand what I’m bringing first and it’s a process, you have to work things out.
In Nigeria, I have been given the opportunity to meet the people that matters. For example, when I came last year August, the acting president welcomed us but don’t forget there were governors, ministers and managing directors of organisations present as well. At the event I met Mr Segun Awolowo who hosted my delegation after we left the presidential villa and a host of others. But if you want to have a true impact, this thing is not overnight, it is a gradual process. In that particular visit, I also met the governor of Ogun State, and the Ooni of Ife as well. I have met with different people that matter in different areas strategically.
Not just another photo-op
For me it’s not just another photo op meaning it’s not about these people but about you, it is about the change that you can bring, it’s about who you are and how your voice matters. It is about our perception and orientation. We must spearhead the changing of our own narratives because we know that the way people perceive us is not actually supposed to be and we are not making it easy because a lot of the news that is coming out now is not healthy.
Before I came to Nigeria, they were talking about the Fulani’s herdsmen. We presented a project to the first lady at the presidential villa that is the solution to the issues with the Fulani herdsman. So if the first lady can spearhead this with us, we can hopefully change what is on ground. I look at everything from the public health point of view. With what is going on, the herdsmen are in danger, the cattle are in danger, the people that they are meet are in danger and the environment is in danger. In fact everybody is in danger.
They have no choice because those cattle have to feed and that’s their business. But no human has the right to kill another human. I’m not blaming anyone par se but unfortunately life’s has been lost and it’s not just right. But in other for us to have solution, we have to start to think for everyone involved because we are not partial. My heart bleeds for people who have lost their lives. But for how long can we continue like this?
We have cattle’s in other countries but do we see them in the streets roaming around and destroying people’s lives? No. In a nutshell, the security is an issue that we all must address because if that continuously be in the news, a lot of investors will have it difficult to come here to invest. And we need to work with them as we need the funding that they are bringing.
Working with investors
My own goal is that when these investors come, we will train our own people to work in various endeavours. This is where the vision about the NGO gets more meaning. In as much as we are talking about it in a business form, don’t forget that there is an NGO driving this which means as we are making that money even the foreigners that are coming with us to help train our people will also have an impact in the motherland. So, it’s a very big picture but it’s a structure too where we need talent, expertise and the money to come in.
So we all should be part of the development. So when we create jobs for people who are at home, whatever money that is being made, we cannot let them take it away like that. Our NGOs is set up so that we can reach people who ordinarily will be left behind. For poverty eradication, no one should be left behind. Everyone’s issue have to be addressed. So this is why the vision is so big but there are structures in place to make sure that even the little ones are not left behind because you cannot eradicate poverty without addressing the villagers, people in the village who has no voice and people with disability who cannot speak for themselves. So we all have to be their voice that is my goal.
Using acting to solve critical social issues
There is time for everything. And when God has a plan for you, you might not know how everything is going to unfold. But I also know that people want to see you focused. So, I had to learn to figure out what is the focus with that high level position. So now, I have to be able to defend why I’m acting so that people on the high level position that I’m working with will not see that I’m just acting but I’m acting to address a social issue.
But the vision and passion that drives this acting is that because as a public health practitioner who has seen this big vision, I know that I have to be the voice, using my movies and books to address critical social and health issues.
Roles played so far
So in the roles I have done so far, majority of the roles have always being me coming to be the expert of what I am talking about. That is how I could defend my passion for acting.
For example, I was in the movie Anchorman 2 with Will Ferrell, Kanye West, Will Smith and a host others. Though I was in other Independent movies before Anchorman 2, however, that particular movie is the major movie that is Hollywood. I was picked to partner with Will Ferrell for that particular role because of my height, shape, fit and I was very well-toned. I couldn’t say no because it is a big Hollywood movie.
I was also on a reality tv show called, Nigeria Housewives of Atlanta. I just felt that it wasn’t really time for me to unfold my acting stuff until I’m in charge of what I’m allowing myself to do and being the face of what I want to do. So, what happened is I ended up doing ‘Skinned’ movie. It is a Hollywood movie but I’m the co-executive producer of Skinned movie. In the ‘Skinned’ movie, I also played my real life role as the inspirational wellness expert.
When I did the Skinned movie, which is about skin bleaching, my focus was now more meaningful as the expert in that area of skin.
About Skinned movie
Skinned movie is about self-image. So you can now see how that movie is tied with my personal goals today. First of all, I am a Biochemist, a Public health Practitioner then specialist in fitness, wellness and other stuff. So, when I did the Skinned movie, I did it because that story needs to be told of who I am. The movie is addressing a social issue. It deals with skin bleaching and I’m the expert in the field and also the life representation of who truly has used the skin lighting cream. Hence, I’m a biochemist and public health practitioner who is using my movies and books to send messages. That was how that movie came about and it is a Hollywood movie which has Van Vicker as our African star. After that movie, I realised that there is still even more work to be done, so rather than trying to do it over there, I decided to take it home. That was where the vision of going to Europe and working with our stars came about. I have been there, tested Hollywood but my true calling with the vision that I have is to support and work with my people back home because I use my movies to promote issues that I believe in.
Blessings of Africa movie
Now I can speak about my movie, Mrs Adams – an anti-trafficking movie. Mrs Adams was shot in choice locations in Frankfurt, Germany and Nigeria. The storyline is an entertaining and educational masterpiece that has a bull eye on Human Trafficking. The movie is set to change the narratives against human trafficking. It is full of intrigues, hatred, deceit, romance and above all comedy to keep you relaxed.
I cannot be in any movie that is just entertainment; I am not an actress like that. I’m the one who wants to address a social issue that we truly have right now.
I’m shooting a movie now also by Blessings of Africa, a movie to support women to step up not competing with the men rather supporting the men because together we are stronger. It’s a political/women empowerment story aimed at educating, informing, empowering and entertaining the public.
Room for politics
I don’t know to be honest with you. Anything is open right now because when God is leading you, you must be open. If anybody had told me that I will leave my four young children and my mother who is 84 years-old in America and travel back and forth countries like Zimbabwe, South Africa and Nigeria, I wouldn’t have agreed with them. That is why I said when you have a vision, don’t think about yourself, remove yourself from it and let God’s will be done. He himself will give you the strength and the resources you need. Sometimes you have to start with your own resources until people see that this vision is true vision, then, they will support you.
When God is taking you somewhere, people around you will not understand, they think you are doing too much; they will question you and discourage you as well. At the end, by the time you are done, people will be surprised. Then nobody can even duplicate what you are doing. So you have to remain focused and not allow anything distract you. Limitations distract you.
I’m still learning. Life has taught me that it is not smooth sailing and that challenges are meant to take you to the next level. You are supposed to use the challenges that you go through in life as a stepping stone to the next level. When you go through challenges with your own kids and you feel like the whole world is coming to an end, it’s not coming to an end. There is something that you must learn from that experience that will take you to the next level. And if it is an experience that has not being tested, it is not real because you can only be a good teacher when you yourself have gone through that experience. The experience may be a painful one but the power comes when you know that this is not just a pain to punish you but a pain to teach you a life lesson.