The name Joy Tongo may not ring a bell but those in Showbiz will definitely remember her as the former manager of Cynthia Morgan and Rhetta. Tongo who has worked with top Nigerian artistes in this interview with glamtush talks about entertainment, why she stopped artiste management among other interesting issues.
Who really is Joy Tongo?
I’m a media person; I’m into entertainment, a US visa agent as well as a TV producer. Basically, I will say I do a lot of stuff when it comes to entertainment; I do legal paper work for people. Most of the artiste who comes to the States on tour in Canada, I do their visa and stuffs, so I’m into legal paper work for Canadian and American visa. Last year, I did Yemi Alade’s tour in the States and this year I’m going to be doing her Canadian tour. Also, I have been PSquare’s US agent from 2010 till they broke up. I used to be Cynthia Morgan’s manager, I brought her from the scratch way back, took her to the States, came back to Nigeria and I stopped working with her in 2016. I also used to be Rhetta’s manager. And I was the co-founder of Nigeria Entertainment Award (NEA), I was the president. And the first time BET decided to come to Africa, I was one of the pioneers to bring them to Nigeria and we did a whole lot of shows when they were launching in Africa/Nigeria, we did spotlight and cypher. I did everything for them. So basically I do all round entertainment.
How long have you been in the entertainment industry?
The first Nigeria Entertainment Award (NEA) was 2006 or 2007. So NEA is what launched me into entertainment.
How do you combine being a consultant, motivational speaker, management personality and owning a production company to stand out in the showbiz industry?
When you do your passion, I believe it is just something that comes easily. Although it sounds like it’s a lot but it is not a lot but it is a passion. And everything also boils down to entertainment. They are all intertwined together. I have an MBA in Finance; masters in business in New York. So I believe everything is business to me. All my schooling and college was in New York. I was born in the states and I would say partly raised in Nigeria and the states, so I had the best of both worlds. And I went to high school in Nigeria but my university was in New York.
How many artiste have you managed so far?
Well I don’t manage artiste anymore, so not so far. I’m done with artiste management. Basically, it’s Retta and Cynthia Morgan for artiste management but when it comes to being agent, I still do that in the State. So mostly when it comes to being an agent, the bulk of the work comes in the summer time but I’m very picky when it comes to being an agent of an artiste. I’m picky because it’s a lot of work. I want to work with the right artiste that will bring money to me too. So, one is the right artiste because when you are on tour it’s a lot of work. So basically I have only worked with Yemi Alade and PSquare.
I did a tour last year in US with Yemi Alade and she’s touring Canada and some part of the States this year. The love for her was massive. African music is doing great and it’s growing, so it can only get better.
What challenge did you experience during Yemi Alade’s tour?
African music is still new fertile ground so it can’t be like American music. There is a whole lot of work that we have put through to get it done right, so there is challenges everyday
So why did you stop artiste management?
Well, it was a lot of work, drama. It comes to a stage in your life when you outgrow some certain things and I would say artiste management is one of that. I don’t think I can ever manage an artiste even for $10 billion dollars because there is a lot of stress and I can’t even live in Nigeria anymore but I can come for business. I have passed through that phase already.
So are you indirectly saying that there is a lot of stress managing artiste in Nigeria?
There is stress everywhere. But I think you have to be a tough person to live in Nigeria and I think I’m tough, I’m strong but I have passed that phase.
How would you evaluate the entertainment industry in Nigeria even though you don’t live here?
It is great! Nigeria is my country. I love Nigeria, there is a lot going on over here. I would say the entertainment industry is growing and it’s great. Again, I was still one of the person in America that kind of brought the afro music to America and starting with NEA; starting with bringing artiste touring in the State. Right now, African music, Nigeria music is booming in the States with the likes of Wizkid, Davido, and all other artiste. Years ago, they don’t play Nigerian music in the radio stations or at the clubs too but now when you tune to radio stations, they play Nigeria music even the gospel music. Sinach is doing very well in the States. I’m likely going to be working with her this summer. African music is really doing well in the States and I just think it just started and it’s going to get better.
Who are some of those Nigerian artistes you would love to work with?
I would love to work with Wizkid. I have had history with him years ago, his first US visa I did it for him. I believe Wizkid is very talented; I would love to work with him. But there are a whole lot of artistes doing very well right now.
How do you see Nigerians going outside to shoot their videos instead of shooting it in Nigeria?
There is nothing wrong with shooting your music video outside the country. Shoot your video wherever you want because at the end of the day, it’s still African music as long as you know the vision and story you want to tell. I like videos made in Africa especially Nigeria but it doesn’t matter where you shoot your video because at the end of the day it is a story you are trying to tell.
What motivates you in life?
I would say God motivates me. God is number one because without Him I don’t think I will be able to go through the day. Right now, that is my only motivation knowing that of course when I have God, I have life and good health; without life and good health in the Lord, you can’t do nothing as every other thing to me is like extra. So what motivates me is having the Lord Jesus in my life.
What is the secret behind your success in showbiz industry?
Well, I’m still growing. I don’t know your definition of success but I believe that I’m still growing. Success is a journey. To me, I’m just passing through the phase of the journey. If you are coming into the entertainment industry with no passion, you are going to lose it. If I don’t have the passion for the entertainment industry, I don’t think I’m going to be here because at the beginning, there is no money, you are just working. I think it is the passion and the love for what you do that will get you to where you want to get to. It’s just like the artiste when they start, there is no money but they keep working and hoping that one day they will make it. If all they see is the money, they are going to quit very easily. But when you have the passion, keep making music and not thinking of where the next meal will come from, at the end of the day, before you know it, you are all over the place and people are talking about you. So, the passion is number one. When you have the passion for what you do and you have God, the sky is just your starting point.
So how passionate is passion?
I think I’m very passionate. If I’m not passionate, I would have been long gone. I think it’s my passion that made me stay long in Nigeria managing artiste. But the passion for artiste management I’ve lost it, so that’s what I’m trying to tell you. If I don’t have the passion anymore, there is nothing you can tell me because I have lost the passion for management. When you have lost it, that’s it.
What is your advice for upcoming artiste?
Number one is to have a passion. Some artistes’ think that they are talented, and that is all, but no. Talent is not everything. I used to say talent is 10% but Yemi Alade’s manager, Taiye says talent is just 2% or 5%, so it’s not the talent. I still believe talent is 10% while the business is 90%. You have to have the business intact. You can be so talented and not get ahead or know where you are going to. And you can also be so talented that people don’t even know about you.
How have you been able to remain relevant?
Well I’m trying. I have realized that in the entertainment industry you have to interviews and other stuffs, so I’m trying to start doing it. I did my first major one some weeks ago. I care about the business, but I realized that for the passion of the business and everything, you have to put your face out there. But being still relevant again is having a passion and just keep working.
Can you tell us about the greatest problem you have faced in Nigeria?
Everywhere in the world being a lady in a male dominated industry is very hard. When I first came to this country, things were very hard; I remember I used to break down and cry. I will go to the back and shed some tears and later people will be like that girl is mean and tough but I wasn’t like that when I first came to Nigeria. I was a soft person, tender but Nigeria broke me. So I will say my biggest achievement ever is leaving Nigeria because Nigeria made me strong. I learnt business wise in Nigeria and one of the persons that taught me how to be tough was Jude Okoye. So I remember one time he called, gave me a cheque and told me “Joy you are ready for this business. You are tough; I hear about you out there.” Then I became the person that people see as tough and mean but that’s not me. But they say wherever you find yourself; you’ve got to change up. So, I had to create a different image for myself, be tough. It was hard when I first moved away, like I said I used to cry. I’m still learning everyday though but I know that I’m a better person now. People ride on you in this country, a lot of stuff happen. I give it up to people living in this country I must admit. Nigeria raise me, it gave me a different way to see life.
You are a Jesus lover, how does that apply to success in showbiz because some people believe as a Christian you shouldn’t be in the entertainment industry. What’s your take?
I have heard that a lot. The answer I have always given to them is this: my brother is a doctor and he works in a hospital, the owner of the hospital might not be a Christian but you are working there, so you are shining right in the industry wherever you find yourself, that’s the way I put it.
If you are a lawyer, your client might not be a Christian but you took that job. Yeah, I’m a light in the industry that’s what I tell people and I have been in this industry for years especially when I lived in Nigeria but I’m different. People that know me know that I’m different. If I’m not working you can’t even catch me out clubbing except I’m working. So I’m a light in the industry, I’m different.
Are you working on any project right now?
Right now I’m going into production because I’m working on a talk show and documentary. Basically, I just want to spotlight Africa in the States; letting them know Africa is beautiful, talented. I’m spotlighting Africa in a better way; there is no better time than now. Right now when you say you are an African in America, it is cool unlike before. Now it’s cool to have an accent and wear African attire.
What advice do you have for young ladies that use the present economic situation as an excuse to depend on men for sustenance?
Well, when you have a goal and a dream nothing can stop you. Wherever you find yourself, just get the best of it. When you have a dream, goal and vision I don’t think the economy can stop you, it can be a hindrance definitely, I understand that but it cannot stop you. I have heard about stories of people that started from nothing and they are very successful today in the same Nigeria that we all say is hard and everything. So, a goal, vision and a dream with God you are unstoppable.
Who is your role model?
I like Oprah. She is just hard working. In Nigeria, I like Mo Abudu. I just like strong female doing great things, fearless because it’s not easy being a female.
Are you single or married?
Well, as long as I’m not married, I am single that’s the way I see it even if I’m dating somebody. As long as I have not said I do at the altar, I’m single.
How do you relax?
Well, I love vacation. I love travelling to all the countries. I love travelling at the same time I don’t love travelling because I travel a lot especially when I’m on tour during the summer time. But when it comes to going on a destination for vacation, I love travelling. People say travelling is like an education, you will get to see different culture, food, see how people talk, relate and it just makes you a different kind of person. Travelling makes me happy.
How would you describe your fashion sense?
Well, I love fashion a lot. Whatever makes a lady feel beautiful and comfortable is good. I like looking elegant. I love to look good.
Who is your crush?
I don’t have a crush in Nigeria. But in America I like Tyler Perry but he is taken. I just like a God fearing person.