From a start in sports journalism, Funmi Iyanda went on to become one of Nigeria’s most-watched and revered TV personalities. Being on-screen is not a popularity stunt for Iyanda, even though her intelligent interview-style easily achieves that for her. But what has made her most loved by the people is her consistency in using media to advocate for the vulnerable and less privileged over the last two decades.
Olufunmilola Aduke Iyanda was born to the family of Gabriel and Yetunde Iyanda on July 22, 1971, in Lagos. She lost her mother at the age of 7 and so grew up with her father and brothers. She attended the African Church Princess Primary School, Akoka and Herbert Macaulay School in Lagos, for her primary education; the International School Ibadan for secondary education and wrapped it up with a Bachelor of Science degree in Geography from the University of Ibadan.
After graduating, Iyanda forayed into sports journalism. She first anchored MITV Live, a sports show produced by Segun Odegbami and Tunde Kelani. She was a member of the Nigerian Football Association between the years 1995 and 2003. She covered the 1999 female Football World Cup, the All Africa Games in Zimbabwe, as well as the 2000 and 2004 Olympic Games in Sydney and Athens. In 2006, she worked on a documentary for the 2006 Africa Cup of Nations.
Television production for Funmi started with producing and presenting Good Morning Nigeria, a breakfast magazine television show syndicated on national television. The human interest angle of the show was a strong pull because it was unlike many other shows at the time. The show had a “Heroes” segment as well as the “Street Life” segment which sought to celebrate people and show compelling angles to the human hustle.
“When my father told me as he walked down our street every morning, he could hear my voice coming from every house, that’s when I knew I was famous,” she said in an interview.
As a journalist, Funmi Iyanda is well-rounded. She has done her part in writing as well, writing a regular column in Tempo Magazine. She has written for PM NEWS, The Punch, Daily Trust, Vanguard Newspapers and as a guest columnist for Farafina Magazine.
In the year 2000, Iyanda started the New Dawn with Funmi, a daily show which would later become the longest-running independently produced show on NTA 10 Lagos. Typical with Iyanda, the show was another advocacy move for vulnerable members of the society, with emphasis on women, youth and children. Through this program, a social intervention project “Change-A-Life” was birthed, and over the years, the project has touched lives by providing scholarships, healthcare, counselling and micro-finance intervention scheme for hundreds.
“There was one with a little boy with a hole in his heart. At some point we were calling someone on the set and the person started crying and the mother started crying and the father started crying and the boy started crying and I started crying and we were all crying. We raised enough money but sadly, he died,” she said recounting one peculiar experience.
In 2008, Funmi took a two-year break from the screen, returning in 2010 with “Talk with Funmi (TWF)”, a television show that captures conversations with people around the country. The show was directed by Chris Dada. The duo also worked on and released Chopcassava.com, a web series covering the January 2012 fuel subsidy protests in Lagos. The web series was a hit, and got nominated in the non-fiction web series category at the 2012 BANFF World Media Festival, in Alberta, Canada.
Funmi Iyanda’s 2010 production on My Country: Nigeria, a three-part documentary to celebrate Nigeria’s 50th anniversary of her independence, was aired on the BBC World Service. The episode titled Lagos Stories was later nominated in the category for “Best News Documentary” at the 2011 Monte Carlo Television Festival in Monaco.
In 2020, Funmi premiered another talk show Public Eye, but this time the show would screen on Instagram Live instead of on television. The show has hosted several notable voices across different sectors, as it continues to spot the light on socio-political issues others dread to talk about.
Boards served and recognitions
The award-winning broadcaster, journalist, columnist, and blogger, Funmi Iyanda is a member of the African Leadership Institute, a Tutu Fellow, and a participant of the ASPEN Institute’s Forum for Communications and Society. She served on the Board of Farafina Trust and Positive Impact Youth Network. She is the CEO of Ignite Media now OYA Media.
Funmi Iyanda’s accomplishments and advocacy at different levels have not gone unnoticed. In 2012, Lagos State Governor, Babatunde Raji Fashola honoured her for her commitment to gender advocacy as she returned from a five-day UN advocacy trek up Mount Kilimanjaro to raise global awareness on its campaign to End Violence against Women and Girls.
In 2011, Funmi received the award for Young Global Leader (YGL) by World Economic Forum, and was also honoured for her web series. Forbes also listed her among the “20 Youngest Powerful Women in Africa”.