Mo Abudu’s transformative journey in media reflects her resilience and innovative spirit. From her early life in London and Nigeria to pioneering Africa’s first syndicated talk show, “Moments with Mo,” and founding EbonyLife TV, Mo has become a formidable force in global entertainment. Her ventures include groundbreaking collaborations with Netflix and championing African narratives through film and television. Mo’s work transcends mere success; it’s about impactful storytelling and empowering future generations. Her ethos? Leveraging power for a purposeful life and creating a lasting global impact.

Mo Abudu - Marie Claire Nigeria - Power Issue

Mo Abudu: A Chronicle of Power, Persistence, and Purpose

At 2:30 p.m. on a luminous Thursday, nestled within the cool embrace of Jinja restaurant’s state-of-the-art air conditioning, I find myself far away from the swelter of the sun. This culinary haven sits within the opulent EbonyLife Place, one of Nigeria’s finest premium destinations. This grand six-storey tower also houses the sky-high Turaka rooftop eatery, an avant-garde cinema, and the chic boutique hotel, The White Orchid.


Today, the ambience is unusual, far removed from the typical hustle and bustle. The restaurant hosts just us – a 15-member production crew, complemented by a few diligent waiters and waitresses, in the absence of diners.


Our collective anticipation hangs in the air as we await the arrival of the visionary whose magnetic pull brought us together from across the nation. She is celebrated not only as the dynamic force behind EbonyLife Group, Nigeria’s leading media, lifestyle, and entertainment empire, and the trailblazer of African reality TV but also as one of the continent’s most illustrious media and entertainment titans, adorned with countless accolades and honorary distinctions.


Yet, in my eyes, she embodies the quintessence of a dream chaser, a woman who pursued her vision with unwavering passion and tenacity, undeterred by the hurdles that lay in her path.

This is Mosunmola “Mo” Abudu’s journey to power.

Mo Abudu - Marie Claire Nigeria - Power Issue

The Beginning

Mo’s journey began far from Nigeria, in her birthplace of London, a city situated 2,900 miles away. At the tender age of seven, she embarked on a significant chapter of her life when her parents decided to send her to Nigeria, where she would reside with her grandparents in Ondo City, located in Ondo State.

Reflecting on her early years during our conversation, she warmly reminisces about the time spent on the cocoa farm alongside her grandparents. “I’ve plucked cocoa pods, I’ve spread them in the sun, I had to chase goats from eating our cocoa, as they had to be packaged and taken to the cooperative stores to be manufactured as chocolate bars.”

Reflecting on her cherished moments in Ondo, Mo fondly remembered her grandmother’s stories, which made her time there truly unforgettable. Tragically, at the tender age of 11, Mo lost her father and had to return to England. It was there she transitioned from her carefree life in Ondo to confront a harsh reality she hadn’t faced before—experiencing racism as a Black woman.

“I don’t really like Black people, but I like you.”

One experience that profoundly impacted Mo was when, at 16, her friend of Caucasian background introduced her to her parents. During this meeting, her friend’s mother made a remark that was intended as a compliment but came across as deeply offensive: “I don’t really like Black people, but I like you. You seem different.”

This comment left a lasting impact on Mo, prompting her to introspect about her identity and the broader societal perceptions of Blackness. Her personal experiences were compounded by the negative stereotypes she saw portrayed in the media, where Black individuals were often cast as gangsters, robbers, and criminals. However, her perspective began to shift when she discovered the drama series, “Fame,” which showcased Black talent in a positive light.

“Fame was a revelation for me,” Mo shares. “It initially inspired me to become a dancer, but it wasn’t just about that. It also showed me how powerful the media is in portraying narratives about people and how what we consume affects our mindsets.”

Mo Abudu - Marie Claire Nigeria - Power Issue

As an HR practitioner, I envisioned a facility on the outskirts of Lagos explicitly designed for such purposes. Executing this vision involved thorough planning, identifying the right location, designing the facilities for optimal functionality, and building a team capable of bringing the concept to life.

A period of career transitions

Before Mo became known as the media, entertainment, and lifestyle guru we admire today, she had a fascinating journey of exploration, trying her hand at dancing, modelling, and working as the Head of HR and Admin at ExxonMobil.

Yet, those paths weren’t her true calling. Reflecting on the reactions she received when she decided to leave her job, she shares the disbelief many felt. 

“People were stunned. I was with ExxonMobil, where oil and gas were the golden tickets. Leaving a lucrative job like that? Everyone thought I had lost my mind.”

Yet Mo didn’t entirely abandon her human resource aspirations. She founded Vic Lawrence, a human resources firm that continues to thrive under the guidance of dedicated staff. Her vision also led to the creation of some of Africa’s most renowned hotels, Oakwood and Protea, driven by her passion for creating spaces that foster training and development.

As an HR practitioner, I envisioned a facility on the outskirts of Lagos explicitly designed for such purposes. Executing this vision involved thorough planning, identifying the right location, designing the facilities for optimal functionality, and building a team capable of bringing the concept to life.

But as she kissed goodbye to one dream, this is where we cue in one of Mo’s biggest and most successful dreams –  her hit talk show, “Moments with Mo.”

Moments with Mo: A rocky start to Africa’s first syndicated talk show

At 40, Mo embarked on a new adventure she had never considered before—becoming a TV presenter. This wasn’t just a career change but a leap into a realm requiring determination, elegance, and a whole new set of skills.

But how did this newcomer rise to become a leading figure in African television? Let’s dive into the journey in her own words:

“I was running a HR training company, and one of the consultants helped train me to understand what it takes to become a TV presenter. I’d spend time with them each weekend, absorbing every detail about presenting. I even collected Oprah Winfrey’s DVDs and CDs to practice relentlessly.”

Despite her preparation, launching her TV show took a lot of work. When she secured a deal with MultiChoice for the initial episodes of “Moments with Mo,” the first syndicated talk show in Africa, her encounter with Professor Wole Soyinka was less than perfect. “Our first recording with Prof was a disaster,” she recalled. “I had to go back to Prof and plead with him to redo the episode all over again.”

This scenario repeated for the initial episodes, leading MultiChoice to reject her first attempts. It took Mo some time to reshoot the episodes, find a sponsor, and tackle all production and technical issues. “Finding a suitable venue in Lagos was a challenge; we ended up in a City Mall space in Onikan, intended for a cinema. I bought the backdrop myself and kicked off the shooting process.”

Through sheer perseverance and a willingness to learn from scratch, Mo turned her vision into a celebrated reality, earning her place as a television icon. Mo finally launched Moments with Mo in 2006, and she fondly remembers her decade-long journey on the show, interviewing global personalities such as Hillary Clinton and Christine Lagarde and even past presidents such as Olusegun Obasanjo and the current president of Rwanda, Paul Kagame. It then grew to air in 49 African countries and on cable TV in the United Kingdom.

In 2011, “Moments with Mo” evolved into “Moments,” ushering in a new era with hosts Dolapo Oni, Bolanle Olukanni, Toke Makinwa, and others at the helm, continuing the legacy Mo began. The expansion didn’t stop there; “Moments Z” brought the conversation to a pan-African audience, with hosts from Kenya and South Africa joining the mix.

Yet, Mo had her sights set even further, embracing the vastness of her dreams. She ventured into the world of linear TV, launching her TV channel, marking another bold step in her journey to redefine media.

The birth of EbonyLife TV

Mo Abudu’s journey is a testament to her belief that ignorance is never a barrier to achieving one’s dreams. In 2012, she embarked on the ambitious venture of launching EbonyLife TV, embracing the challenges that came with it head-on. 

“We managed to secure a studio in Calabar for the channel, which required relocating nearly 150 people for the operations. It pushed me out of my comfort zone, making me face the unknown with open arms – and it turned out to be an enriching experience,” she reflects.

The kindness of Liyel Imoke, the then-governor of Cross River State, played a pivotal role in this chapter of her life. His support facilitated a partnership with the Cross River State government, a gesture Mo holds in high regard. However, the logistics of travelling back and forth soon proved to be both inconvenient and costly, prompting the move to a studio in Ilupeju, Lagos, to continue their groundbreaking work.

Kicking down doors to bring African TV into Hollywood

In 2016, Mo Abudu, always ahead of the curve, transformed her career path once again, this time venturing into the world of film production with an international outlook. Since then, she has achieved remarkable success, captivating audiences both in Nigeria and around the globe.

Since that pivotal year, she has been the force behind several blockbuster Nigerian film industry hits, including ‘Fifty’, ‘The Wedding Party’, ‘Your Excellency’, and ‘Chief Daddy’.

Mo Abudu’s desire to bring the rich and varied stories of Africa to the forefront has driven her to focus her film projects within four distinct realms:

  • Afro-history (true stories, oral histories, myths and legends from the continent’s rich past)
  •  Afro-futurism (“sci-fi such as Nigeria 2099”)
  • Afropolitan (“focusing on contemporary life in African cities and the extraordinary drama of ordinary lives, as in Castle & Castle”)
  • Afro-impact (“hard-hitting dramas and current events such as Blood Sisters”).

Despite the diversity of these themes, Mo emphasises the undeniable value and universal appeal of comedy within her expansive genre repertoire.

Mo Abudu - Marie Claire Nigeria - Power Issue

While we delve into impactful stories addressing critical issues, we also recognise the importance of comedy in providing entertainment and light-hearted moments for audiences.

Mo Abudu isn’t just making waves in Nigeria; she’s become the first Nigerian to ink a multi-title agreement with Netflix, bringing stories like “Oloture,” “Death and the King’s Horseman,” and “The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives” to a global audience. Beyond Netflix, she’s working on projects with big names like the BBC, AMC, Idris Elba, and Sony, among other titans of Hollywood.

So, how does Mo manage to clinch these international collaborations? The answer lies in one word: relationships.

“Most of these deals stem from relationships I’ve nurtured over time, stepping out of my comfort zone to connect with these organisations and individuals. Sure, there’s always the fear of rejection, but I’ve come to realise the worst they can say is no,” Mo shares.

Not every project hits the mark with audiences, though; Mo is open about that. “Chief Daddy 2,” for instance, didn’t quite capture hearts, sparking candid feedback from viewers.

But for Mo, these moments aren’t setbacks; they’re opportunities to learn and grow, ensuring she remains undeterred in her quest to produce compelling cinema.

While every project holds significance, I cherish each one for the unique experiences and lessons they bring. We continue to learn valuable lessons along the way on all our projects.

Another trick in Mo’s book for acquiring international partnerships is to reach out to multiple people. “I have reached out to way more people than the opportunities we have, which has earned us this success rate,” she shares.

Dreaming of becoming a media powerhouse like Mo Abudu? Here’s a condensed guide straight from Mo’s experience:

  • Prioritise strategic planning: Envision your future so you can smartly navigate your present.
  • Embrace risks: The path to significant achievements is paved with bold leaps into the unknown.
  • Foster teamwork: Surround yourself with a dedicated team that shares your vision and passion.
  • Promote gender diversity and empowerment: Recognize and utilise the unique strengths of all genders to become a true leader in your field.

What does power mean for Mo Abudu?

Approaching 60, Mo Abudu stands as a titan in global entertainment. Recognised not just by us but by the prestigious Forbes magazine—where she has been featured nearly six times—she rubs shoulders with the likes of Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and many distinguished individuals as one of the most influential women on the global stage. Her crowning achievement came on March 9, 2024, when she was honoured with the Forbes 2024 Businesswoman of the Year Award in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Yet, for Mo Abudu, real power isn’t found in accolades. For her, it’s about bringing her dreams to life in a way that respects others, positively influences lives, and embodies success.

Her work, which she pursues with relentless focus and passion, is where she finds her greatest joy—each project a dream brought to life. “For me, power is about realising my dreams in a manner that uplifts and respects the well-being of others,” she explains.

Beyond her achievements, Mo Abudu has made significant strides in nurturing the next generation of film talents. In 2021, she launched the Ebony Life Creative Academy in collaboration with the Lagos State Government, a cradle of creativity and learning for young filmmakers. Its alums, including Genoveva Umeh and Uzoamaka Onuoha, have gone on to make remarkable contributions to the film industry both in Nigeria and across the globe.

The dynamics of being a woman in power

Thriving in the entertainment industry for three decades, especially in a space where men often take the lead, has been nothing short of challenging. Mo Abudu has faced her fair share of stereotypes, gender biases, and the relentless quest to find harmony between her professional and personal life. Yet, her mother has been her rock and spiritual anchor through it all. “When I have a major problem, my mum is my prayer warrior. I always run to her because I know she will pray for me, and pray hard.”

Mo embraces every hurdle with open arms, viewing each one as an opportunity to dream bigger and solve problems more creatively.“Whenever God is throwing me one of those curveballs, I know it’s because he’s taking me somewhere. So actually, I find that I get excited, really excited.”

Balancing her roles as a mother of two and a grandmother, Mo has mastered the art of setting boundaries, delegating tasks, and leaning on her support network to ensure her family life thrives alongside her career.

I prioritise establishing boundaries, delegating responsibilities, and seeking support from family and colleagues to maintain a healthy equilibrium in my family life.

Mo also firmly believes in the theory of dream makers and dream killers. In her words, dream makers are those “who believe in and support your dreams,” while dream killers discourage you from believing that “your dreams can’t go far.” She sees them as equal and opposing forces needed in a person’s career growth. “When I hear words of discouragement from a dream killer, I take all that information, sit back, and absorb everything. It helps me to look back at the drawing board to see what works and what doesn’t, and most importantly, it makes me more prepared for my dream maker when they come.”

For fellow women entrepreneurs navigating their paths, Mo emphasises the power of mentorship, advocating for gender diversity, and fostering inclusive workplaces. She encourages actions that promote work-life balance and tackle inherent biases, paving the way for transformative progress.

Promote policies that support work-life balance and address systemic biases. This can drive meaningful change.

What’s next for Mo Abudu?

For Mo, retirement is simply not on the horizon—her journey is just beginning! She’s diving back into the talk show arena with “Black, Brilliant, and Bold,” embarking on the Oloture sequel and launching the Echoes of Africa series, which debuted at the prestigious Academy Museum of Motion Pictures.

Mo’s story is a testament to the essence of true power: courage, the ability to reinvent oneself, the pursuit of success, and a profound impact on the world. She exemplifies what it means to wield power not for personal gain but to enrich the lives of others.

Reflecting on her intentions, Mo shares a powerful perspective:

Mo Abudu - Marie Claire Nigeria - Power Issue