Title: On Becoming
Author: Toke Makinwa
Year Published: 2016
There are always three sides to every story… yours, mine and the truth. This quote couldn’t be more apt as I dug into the scintillating memoir of Toke Makinwa, a successful media personality based in Nigeria but gradually growing her reach internationally.
Without a doubt, Toke is one of the most talked about celebrities in Africa. In recent years, she has been in the public eye for a range of reasons, some good and others rather bad, but through it all she stayed silent on her side of the story. Until the 27th of November, 2016 when she released a “must tell” memoir that promised to bare all and document her journey to becoming the woman she is today.
“On Becoming” was an interesting read for me in more ways than one. Firstly, this book tells an individual’s version of a true life story. I feel that’s significant with respect to how I share my opinion and review this book, as at the end of the day this is real and not fiction.
Secondly, I have actually been following Toke Makinwa’s story for years now. I read the media articles, blog posts and viewer comments that chronicled the various stages of her relationship with Maje Ayida. And yes, more than once I wondered if she was reading them too and wished I could see what was running through her mind when she did. So reading the book was going to be an opportunity for me to pull back the curtain and see what was happening on the inside.
Thirdly, I’ve been intrigued by her rise to fame. She has created a brand for herself, has a vast fan base and is paid millions for brand endorsements. In June 2016, she was profiled on the Channel 4 UK programme “Lagos to London: Britain’s new super rich” where she featured alongside other young adults from billionaire families. How did a young lady from an average family create such a strong global brand?
These were the questions that I hoped to answer as I opened up the first page of her book.
Her story begins with sharing her early days. Growing up in Abuja she lived a happy childhood until the tragic loss of her parents led to her life taking a huge turn. I was both shocked and saddened as I read through that chapter. I don’t consider myself an emotional person but I was deeply moved by the loss.
It’s easy to draw a connection between how this loss affected her and eventually led into her teenage and young adult years where there was a strong desire for stability and the need to be loved. Eventually this led to the crux of the story, her relationship with Maje. She gave insider details of the key moments that made news in the media – her surprise wedding and the news of Maje’s baby with the ‘other woman’.
In all of this, I loved that Toke was vulnerable and honest enough not to sugar coat her short comings. She was fully aware of the fact that Maje was a serial cheat from the early days of the relationship, and so could have walked out at any time prior to the marriage. But she didn’t and there lies where most people get conflicted about why she has written this book. On one hand it could be seen as a story she began working on to help her get through the hurt and pain and move beyond the crumbling relationship. On the other hand, it could be viewed by some as a strategic attack on her ex-husband to spill his dark secrets (alleged STDs, serial cheating and sex tapes) and mask it as a redemption story. I choose to believe the former.
Did the book answer all the questions I had? No, it didn’t. I feel there was quite a bit of detail missing on how Toke grew her career. I would have loved if the book touched on how she made the decisions to move into TV, how she got signed with EbonyLife and the challenges of growing her Youtube blog. But I believe that that wasn’t the story she wanted to tell. She wanted to reveal the real Toke, the person behind the brand. She tried to reveal the flawed Toke with fears and emotions and that side of her is influenced primarily by her love life, so this is what the book was about.
Despite not answering all my questions, I learnt from her story. A good book always helps me see things from a different perspective, and this one did. A good book also inspires me in some way, and this book definitely did. Toke turned the “marriage-media mess” she found herself embroiled in, into a “motivational message”. I see “On Becoming” as a story of hope for the broken woman, not for the perfect lady. If she can get through that with the help of God, then women out there can turn their stories around too. I look forward to the next chapter of her life.
“In the beginning you’ll be mad, you’ll feel disrespected. Hatred is your fuel and Revenge becomes the mission. But as time progresses, so will your numbness, and then you’ll realise, the hurt you feel has blessed you tremendously”
– Toke Makinwa
Let’s Discuss –
What are your thoughts on Toke’s story if you’ve read it? Did it resonate with you?