Poor representation of black women in media and fashion industries has been a hot topic globally. But for Lola Maja-Okojevoh, the beauty and make-up expert who has built an enviable 27-year career, there is no such thing in Nigeria. She tells The Interview in a brief encounter.
Are you impressed by the changes in the beauty and make-up industry so far?
I’m very much impressed. Everything has just exploded in the last 10 years. It shows that people are really working and recognising the potential in the beauty industry.
I remember when I first came, people thought I was a bit strange because I focused on creative make-up and special effects for films.
It was not normal to them. Some doubted its longevity because according to them Nigerians don’t like such things or are ready for it.
But look at it now, people are coming to me for advice all the time that they want to be creative, they want to expand their base.
When you think of make-up more than a beauty tool, you will realise its true potential. A lot of fine artists are now coming into make-up and creating more abstract designs, beautiful work.
It’s just a picture. You don’t have to wear it out.
Something you can look at and call creative make-up. It’s creating an image that will last and is iconic. People have to feel more comfortable to explore and find different avenues because make-up does everything.
One of the vocal topics in the fashion industry globally is the non- availability of fashion products that cater to black women. Does the Nigerian beauty industry suffer the same fate?
It’s funny to me because I appreciate Nigeria more now than when I got back to London. When you are here, we talk about issues of colourism.
I have left London for over 10 years. I have gone back now and I realised how bad the situation is in terms of representation.
They are worse in addressing and providing for people of colour in the West than we are right here. We look at these celebrities on Instagram or TV and we get carried away.
The percentage of people that offer services to black or Asian people is very low. The white make-up artists still have issues understanding how to make make-up for black skin actors both for film and TV.
When I was in London, I used to do bridal make-up every weekend. In the last few years, people like Joy Adenuga have come up to provide make-up for people of colour in America and England but there are not many people doing it.
So when people are still complaining there’s no black make-up artist to work in Film and TV, I’m like I’m just coming from a black country.
We have experts there who could do that. We really don’t have a problem here. What we were fighting about is colourism.
Over there, there’s no one offering such services to people of colour. There’s still a lack of trained professionals to cater to women of colour.
It’s still a problem. I’m facing representation issues in England.
I’m going back there like a specialist in multiracial. I’m now portraying myself as a woman who provides services for women of colour. Really? In this age and day?
Has there been significant changes in that area recently?
I would like to think so. We have it so much better now. Back then in England, as light skinned as I am, I wasn’t able to buy make-up for my own skin except if I went to places like Mac.
We only have a few niche brands that catered to women of colour.
But in the last few years, all the top brands are manufacturing products for women of colour with all these different shades.
In Nigeria, everybody is providing make-up for women of colour because we are all the same colour. We don’t have a problem finding colour.
The problem of colourism does not stem from the beauty and makeup professionals but the Nigerian woman who wants to have light skin.
What about topics like eco-friendly fashion products, are we moving in that direction yet?
I don’t know whether or not it has become a thing in Nigeria yet.
I was discussing this with a friend recently and she pointed out that many African women are becoming eco-friendly.
I would like to think that we are making an effort to think about packaging but when you look at the great climate change and how we are responding to it, it shows how far away we are from such topics.
What are some of the feedback you received from your Eva Channel make-up tutorial on DStv?
I do get a lot of feedback from Kenya. People have problems with skin and eyelashes.
They are also concerned about eyebrows and how to shape them.
Because I’m an educator, I also teach everyday women on how to apply make-up.
It’s not about trends. I can show you what is in trend right now, but you also have to understand face shapes, eye shapes, undertones and colour.
When you have proper training, you will always understand how to look good no matter the trend.
A lot of problems people have is to take in every instruction but they failed to understand if it fits their face or not.
They don’t understand the difference.
Some will do one size fits all, and do the same thing for different face shapes. You have to understand what really fits you.