These days it’s a rare occasion when you scroll lazily down your social media timeline on the Nigerian cyberspace without being jolted by sound of a stinging slap dealt by a Nigerian mom clad up to her chest in a print wrapper, a pair of eye-glasses and a loosely tied ‘gele’, to her ever grumbling daughter who we wonder why she is yet to run away from that dreaded smack in that critical household in 2021. If you’re Nigerian (or African anywhere in the world for that matter) that might sound like your mom or ours. Only, if it’s a video skit cracking you up on Twitter on Instagram while reminding you of your own real life experiences, you’re most likely watching Taaooma, both on the giving and receiving ends of those unforgettable slaps.
We can’t tell you for certain if she attended training workshops or bagged a diploma in the Art of Slaps at some point in her life, but we do know that the beloved “Tao”, born Maryam Adedoyin Apaokagi to a Muslim family and raised in the North-Central Nigerian city of Ilorin, is a Kwara State University graduate who holds a Bachelors’ Degree in Tourism, Hospitality and Event Management.
Although quite likely but unconfirmed if she ever attended slapping classes as elective courses, Taaooma did acquire video editing skills in Adobe Premiere and After Effects and started releasing short comedy skits via Instagram in 2015 after being discovered and encouraged by her boyfriend. Her themes lean heavily on the comic depictions of the household antics of typical, strict and oftentimes over-critical Nigerian mothers and their reactions to the activities of their children and husbands. By default, Taaooma plays all different characters in cleverly edited videos which include the daughter (a lot of times engaged in some activities the mother disapproves of, like laziness), sometimes the father (who largely just chips in on the action and gets snapped on, much to the pity of the audience) and most notably, the mother, who is ever quick to dish out a sharp reprimand swiftly followed by the signature loud slap and a most hilarious reaction from the daughter.
Years down the line, Taaooma, through her mastery of the motherly smack, has gone on to become an entertainment staple on the Nigerian social media space and even television, amassing a massive following and representing a growing number of corporate brands and products through clever advertising creatively infused into her comedy skits.
We very recently caught up with her, borrowed a bit of quality time from her ever-busy schedule and had a nice chat about her come-up, her creative growth, the entertainment industry and more.
Let’s get to it, tell us about your childhood, family, education and faith?
I was born into a Muslim family in Kwara State; my secondary school was in Namibia before I came to Nigeria for my University Education. I am a graduate of Kwara State University where I studied Tourism, Hospitality and Hotel Management.
When did you get the inspiration to create the Taaooma Brand and who or what inspired it?
The whole Taaooma brand started 5years ago and my Fiancée Abula inspired me.
How did you learn your art? School or apprenticeship or just pure talent?
Is there any university offering Content creation? Lol, mine is just a pure talent from God Almighty.
Taaooma is a very rare name. How did you create the name?
Taaooma is the abbreviation of all my names, if you know my entire name you will get all the meaning of all the letters. TAAOOMA with double A and O.
How does your family relate to your choice of career and fame?
They are indifferent about it, I was told not to allow it affect my schooling which I obliged then.
How would you describe your style?
I portray the real African home in my skits.
Most people who have seen your skits know your characters as the funny, slap-giving/receiving, mouth running, dynamic multi-character. What does your characters represent to you?
My characters represent a whole lot, funny we all can relate how African parents always want to command alone, how you have one of your siblings trying to go with his or her preferred career but daddy or mummy is saying be a Doctor or a Pilot etc.
Your slaps are so hilarious and real, one could almost feel it in real life, what gave you the idea for the slaps?
Laughing. Thank God I am slapping myself in the skits. I was thinking of a signature to add to my skits then the slap came.
We’ve seen you in an acting role on stage, are you very comfortable with adding stand-up comedy to your arsenal?
Stand-Up what? I have said it times without numbers I am not considering stand up comedy.
Asides the writing the scripts and acting different roles, are you fully involved in the cinematography and editing?
I write myself, I shoot myself and I edit myself. All under The Greenade Company.
Without giving anything away, what’s your favorite character from all your characters?
I love all the characters. Even my Igbo side; Iya Chidinma and Chidinma.
Been a creator is mentally tasking, do you ever at any point, feel like you’re not doing enough? If yes, how do you deal with it?
Yes there are times like that, but I thank God for my team, we keep pushing and Allah has always been there.
Do you do a stick-to-script dialogue/monologue or flow in the moment?
Flow in the moment but trust me it’s what is in the script but I make it sweeter.
What are the biggest challenges you face creating contents?
Some of your colleagues have admitted to shyness, Do you ever feel shy?
I am a very shy person.
Whose work has influenced you most in the entertainment industry?
Abula, he has influenced me a million times and he’ll continue to.
Which of your skits would you say gave you your breakthrough?
When your mum drives you to school.
You’re very qualified for a Nollywood role, would you take the chance if it came calling?
Yes I will.
Who’s on your “would love to shoot” list?
They are so many actors I’d like to shoot with if God permits me to
But my first on the list is Omotola Jolade (I’ve loved her ever since) then Najwa Nimiri, Alba Flores (they’re like my do or die new favorites) and so many more people.
Are you used to being a celebrity already?
I am getting used to it, it’s hard and feels strange though.
If you weren’t famous, what would you be up to right now?
My food business that I am currently running Chop Tao (strictly finger foods).
What’s the weirdest question you’ve been asked?
People asking if I was pregnant.
Do you face cyber bully? If yes, how do you deal with it?
My team will not allow me see the bully
You run advert with your skills, how do you connect with difficult clients?
Clients are clients you have to give them what they want and the only way to do that is to be patient with them.
Let’s go a little personal here, how do you deal with opposite sex?
I think everyone knows I have a fiancée already, it’s boldly written on my forehead so opposite sex are just fans.
What would you like remembered for?
Most important tip you’ll give to aspiring actors/ cinematographers/ video editors?
Always learn as learning never ends. Keep bricking yourself up and keep pushing.
Words: Collins Dada
Interview: Edun Adedamola
Photography: Felix Crown
Creative Design: Rayo Kasali