Ayo Akinwolere Exclusive: Reshaping the Narrative Around Black Representation in British Media

In this episode of Third Culture Africans, Zeze engages in a profound open hearted conversation with Ayo Akinwolere, a prominent figure in the UK’s media landscape. 

Born in Nigeria and later relocating to the UK, Ayo’s life underwent a dramatic transformation. Not only did he experience a harrowing robbery in Nigeria before moving to Birmingham, but he also grappled with the challenge of adapting to a new cultural and socioeconomic identity as a working-class British individual. 

His career trajectory spans diverse sectors, from the prestigious BBC to the evolving landscape of emerging streaming platforms โ€“ a testament to the power of versatility in the world of media, showcasing his ability to transcend boundaries and redefine success.

The concept of achievement takes center stage in this conversation, particularly the cultural emphasis on striving for excellence. In Nigeria, success was often attributed to a higher power, downplaying the role of hard work. Both Zeze and Ayo recognize the impact of this perspective and how it contrasts with societies where individuals openly acknowledge their efforts in achieving success. 

As for Ayo’s achievements, they came relatively late in his career. He emphasizes the importance of acknowledging positive events without projecting negative outcomes, embracing the joy of unfolding success. This shift in perspective took him two decades to achieve, highlighting the value of self-awareness and self-celebration.

Journeying in media, particularly as the first black Blue Peter presenter, was transformative. He aimed to reshape the narrative around black representation in British media, inspiring young viewers who might have never seen someone like him on their screens. This venture was driven by a desire to challenge stereotypes and create a more inclusive media landscape.

Akinwolere’s remarkable journey includes achieving two world records, a feat that prompts a discussion on goals and manifesting one’s desires. Ayo shares that he seldom sets explicit goals but has a family history of premonitions and a cultural connection that guides him subconsciously in unusual situations, seizing opportunities and taking risks. This discussion underscores the complexities of success and the need to appreciate the multifaceted journey.

Purpose is a loaded word everyone discusses nowadays but Ayo talks about mission. Ayo discusses his mission, one that has evolved from simply being the “first” in various domains to embracing authenticity. He strives to demystify the complexities of being “black” in a world where it is often categorized as a social construct. This newfound mission aligns with his emphasis on vulnerability as a powerful tool for fostering connection and understanding.

The conversation takes a poignant turn towards the role of fear in Ayo’s life. For quite some time he had the immense pressure he once placed on himself to be the “first” in various endeavors, which ultimately led to a debilitating mental breakdown. His recounting of battling anxiety and depression while working on the iconic “Blue Peter” show underscores the significance of authenticity in one’s professional life. He highlights how an authentic self clashed with scripted roles can result in inner turmoil.

There is also something to be said about police brutality and racism. Ayo, as the co-founder of Milk First Productions, delves into their inaugural documentary, which centers on these profound themes. He is driven by the awareness that their audience, including African listeners, can connect with shared issues despite different geographical contexts. Their project aims not only to raise cultural awareness but also to showcase the diversity within the UK’s black communities, emphasizing that they aren’t a monolithic group. This project reflects their commitment to deepening societal reflections on the nation’s history and recognizing the contributions of diverse populations in shaping the UK.

Money! This is another fascinating topic, one often veiled in secrecy, but not here. Ayo is refreshingly open about this theme, addressing firstly the misconception that working in television yields substantial wealth and secondly, shedding light on how he manages his finances. Contrary to the common belief that a BBC job guarantees substantial income, he explains that his earnings during his time at “Blue Peter” were rather modest. He underscores the importance of financial acumen, detailing how he accumulated savings by minimizing expenses and diversifying income streams in the creative industry, providing valuable insights for aspiring creatives.

Inquisitive about Ayo’s perspective on success, Zeze raises one final crucial question. Ayo’s evolving definition of success is a remarkable testament to his growth. No longer driven solely by the pursuit of fame or external validation, he now places a high value on equilibrium in his life. He seeks to understand his intrinsic worth, recognize his unique abilities, and actively cultivate a nurturing environment around him.

Dive in! You’ll embark on a captivating journey through Ayo Akinwolere’s versatile career, deeply rooted cultural influences, and the challenges of being a migrant. Explore the cultural emphasis on excellence and the contrasting reality of life’s journey, where hard work often goes uncelebrated. Discover how authenticity became a powerful driving force in Ayo’s career, and how his mission evolved from being a “first” to embracing authenticity and demystifying the complexities of identity. Gain insights into the financial realities of the creative industry. 

About Ayo Akinwolere:

Ayo is a  tele person, world record swimmer, passionate for culture and sport, host of The Athletic Football Podcast and co-founder of Milk First Productions.

Akinwolere, a former Blue Peter presenter, has transformed into a versatile BBC journalist, presenter, acclaimed speaker, and a multiple BAFTA nominee as well as a recipient of the RTS Award. In late 2020, he ventured into production with his own company, Milk First Productions, known for its documentary release, “Yorkshire Cop: Police Racism and Me” (2021).

During his five-year tenure as a Blue Peter presenter from 2006 to 2011, Ayo fearlessly embraced challenges, no matter how daring. His feats ranged from bungee jumping from a helicopter at an astounding 11,000 feet to conquering the deepest open-water swim at that time.

With his extensive screen presence and commendable track record, Ayo has become a sought-after host for private and corporate events and conferences. Event organizers find in him a dependable and enthusiastic professional with a wealth of experience.


  • ๐ŸŽ™๏ธ Welcome Ayo Akinwolere to Third Culture Africans!: (00:00)
  • ๐ŸŒ About Ayo (05:25) 
  • ๐Ÿ•ฐ๏ธ Ayoโ€™s Early Days: From Nigeria to UK (00:13:04) 
  • ๐Ÿž๏ธ The Impact of Growing Up in Nigeria on Their Lives (00:17:52) 
  • ๐ŸŒŸ From Misconceptions to Global Recognition (00:21:27) 
  • ๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ฌ Growing up with Nigerian Narrative: Creating and Showing Value (00:29:49) 
  • ๐ŸŒ Reshaping the Nigerian Narrative as Third Culture Africans (00:34:02) 
  • ๐Ÿ† Two World Records: Prompting a Discussion on Goals (00:45:31) 
  • ๐ŸŽฏ Ayo Deciding His Mission (00:52:10) 
  • ๐Ÿ˜จ From Being the First to Breakdown: The Role of Fear (00:55:45) 
  • ๐ŸŽฌ Catalyst for Milk Fast Productions’ First Documentary Focused on Racism and Police Brutality (01:02:03) 
  • ๐Ÿ’ฐ How Ayo Makes Money (01:06:38) 
  • ๐ŸŒŸ How Ayo Defines Success (01:20:21) 
  • โ“ What Does Ayo Wish He Knew (01:23:23) 

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