It is OK to ask for help! Often too afraid to show that I didn’t know how something was done, I struggled with quickly having to learn on the job. The environment was so fast paced and everyone was always so busy, it felt I couldn’t pause to ask “can you help me?”
I had the pleasure of interviewing Anita Erskine. Now making appearances on international television and expanding her media profile in North America, Anita has risen to the forefront of the African broadcast industry to become a powerful Award Winning voice seasoned by experience as well as talent, and aimed at uplifting and inspiring women around the world. She has almost two decades in the broadcast industry focusing on Music, Lifestyle, Maternal Health, Social Impact, Education, Entrepreneurship and Empowerment. She hosted The One Show; +233 Discovery; and is the host for the female edition of Making of a Mogul. Anita is also the Executive Producer and host of Sheroes of Our Time and Host /Advisor of the 2020 edition of the Africa Netpreneur Prize Initiative. Named one of the 100 Most Influential Women in Africa, the
100 Most Inspirational Women in Ghana and 100 Most Influential People in Ghana, Anita truly is a global powerhouse.
Thank you so much for joining us! What is your “backstory”?
Thank you for having me! What a big question…I grew up in a large family. Being the last of 8 kids, I have to say that by the time I felt I was old enough to make “friends” with my siblings, most of them had left for boarding school or university. This gave me a chunk of time by myself…and that is where the process of creative thinking began — what was designed to keep me engaged and happy in my loneliness evolved into the artist I am today.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your acting career?
I never set out to act. I knew I loved the camera so I poured all that passion into talk shows and I did it successfully for many years. My first acting role was a cameo — to act as “myself”. So for me, that wasn’t acting. It was just showing up and doing what I would normally do… speak to the camera. At the end of that shoot, the director and his crew refused to call it a wrap. I didn’t realize that the whole time they had been planning how great I would be in their next film. They held me hostage till I committed to an actual role in the next film and then the next. Here I am now.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
Luckily or maybe fortunately, majority of the roles I have played so far speak to my soul! A big sister to a group of Women in trouble, a powerful business woman who has to save her company from crumbling. Now I am filming a TV series about a powerful female politician who builds a shelter for group of teenaged girls who have escaped child marriage. The story line moved me because of my commitment to the fight for Girls to get an education.
When I saw the script I knew I could tell the story in a way that would allow my audience to not only be entertained, but to feel that it is real and more attention and help needs to be brought to the issue.
Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?
The people on the “ground” — receptionists, drivers, cleaners, cooks” are the most interesting people I have interacted with. When I began my career in acting, one of the major things I promised myself was to learn from real people — essentially the people that make various functions around us work! Along the way I discovered the power of conversation and how my curiosity brought me to the most interesting and knowledgeable people. At every job or with every opportunity, I love to engage with them because they always KNOW what was going on EVERYWHERE!
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- Be Yourself! As a young professional in a space hugely competitive space, I thought and felt I always had to be “like someone else” to draw on the audience nostalgia so they would embrace me quicker!
- It is OK to ask for help! Often too afraid to show that I didn’t know how something was done, I struggled with quickly having to learn on the job. The environment was so fast paced and everyone was always so busy, it felt I couldn’t pause to ask “can you help me?”
- Say No if You Are Not Comfortable — When I would be asked to play a particular role that didn’t sit well with me. I was often too afraid to say “No”….so I would do it and live with worry and regret! It took me a while to learn the power of NO!
- Enjoy the Challenges and Use them to tell your story — In a highly competitive space like Film and Television, every failure or challenge just seems to swallow and consume you! I was rejected many times and I often felt like a failure! I wish someone had told me that rejection is the part of the journey that strengthens and heightens your resolved! I would have smiled at every one of them!
- Be selfish with your dreams! — I used to fear being too ambitious — that I would disappoint myself by not achieving certain goals. So I became very comfortable with just being good at what I did. One day I knew I wanted more and needed to do more. Some people around said doing or becoming too much would be a set up for disappointment. I listened and got extremely frustrated when I wouldn’t push hard enough! So I stopped telling people about my dreams and began to live with intention.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Oprah Winfrey: “You can have it all. Just not all at once.” I have seen a plethora of phases in my career and indeed in my personal life! I remember the major hit my career took when I went on hiatus from Television. I always say if you think silence is loud “try a male dominated community dealing with a pregnant woman!” The jobs stopped. The bookings stopped. The requests stopped. The invitations stopped! It was as if pregnancy was a key indicator of a Woman’s ability or lack thereof! I came across Oprah’s quote on a friend’s timeline on social media. The words bore a hole in my heart. I think almost immediately I embraced the silence that laced my impending motherhood. I immediately understood the value in making time for different things in different phases of my life. The quote instantly calmed me. I became a very different and happier person.
Who do you consider to be your role model for the way in which you have molded your career? What can you share about that person?
My role model is Oprah Winfrey (please make sure she sees this!) My reason is simple — Oprah taught me about authenticity, originality and self-worth. These elements helped me carve my unique identity. One day at an event, I was introduced as “Africa’s Oprah Winfrey!” The minute I got a hold of the mic, I said “No…I am the World’s Anita Erskine!”
That confidence came from Oprah!
Where were you in your career 5 years ago? What do you believe has changed in that time frame (personal, with the world, and/or with your profession)?
5 years ago, I was an excitable Radio Personality. But it was far from enough…I felt I was missing out on making impact. What has changed is my resolve to use my voice to change the world. What has changed is the World’s call to action for many more of us to be more intentional about our fight to achieve the sustainable goals. I am one of those people who believes it is not enough to be famous. Fame must be used to do great things.
We always hear about the best advice we have been given. Tell our readers the worst advice you ever received.
“Don’t push or work too hard. People don’t like aggressive Women.”
What are you currently reading that might be something I should try to read as well? Why?
Larissa Grunig’s Women in Public Relations: How Gender Influences Practice, will make you start thinking broadly about how Women are treated in the Communications space, what is usually taken for granted and the importance for Women to be aggressive with their ambition and career planning.
When you have the time, what do you binge watch?
How to Get Away With Murder!!!!!
Where have you travelled that has given you inspiration personally or professionally?
Two work trips across parts of Asia and the parts of Africa taught me the beauty of culture, tradition and individuality. I was producing a documentary on how culture affects Women on these two continents. In every country I visited I learn about perspective, acceptance, fear and pride. The exploration gave me a deep respect for our global individuality and brought me closer to conversations around culture and impact. I became both a different woman and a very informed professional. The experience also further deepened my resolve to encourage Women from all walks of life to understand each other better and elevate each other more.
What would you say we need to know as a society to “move forward”?
We need to know that Women are our best Human Resource….Give us a chance!
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My mother grew up in an era in which a woman’s dreams and aspirations were pretty much buried underneath her duty to her family. There is a silent strength that she holds which comes from knowing that her daughters are out there truly living their dream. I remember her asking me to “try harder”…whenever I would come home exhausted or frustrated she would say “try harder”….and now I say it to my daughter and son — Marley and Nesta — Try Harder!
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
@TheAnitaErskine on all platforms!