My mum always encouraged us to be ourselves. She used to say ‘don’t put anything on, be yourself first’ when talking about make up. If you look at my face, you’ll see I’ve got dark patches that have been with me since I was born. People always used to bring things to my mum. They used to say ‘oh if you put this one her, she’ll be fair and her face will look nice and she'll have one tone’. She would respond and say ‘no, leave her alone, that’s how she was born’. So I grew up knowing that all we needed to use was palm kennel (palm nut oil). That’s also the oil we used [for our hair], because we didn’t use any other thing, as we didn’t know about it.
I was in my twenties when I started to perm my hair. My mum didn’t like it, but you know growing up, you think you know better, so I continued doing it. My father used to say that sometimes the skin listens more than the ear, and in this case it did because my hair started breaking as I continued to perm it. I wish my father was alive now- I’d tell him that my skin is now listening intently. I didn’t understand this when he first said it, but I do now, very clearly.
I cut my hair in my 30s. I was beginning to understand my identity and culture, and as an African, my heritage means a lot to me. My hair, my accent and the food of my culture are the elements I never want to let go off. My accent is a part of who I am, and so is my natural hair, so cutting it meant that it would show in its natural form. Cutting your hair doesn’t look good in my culture, as you do it in memory of a close relative who has passed away; that used to be the only reason why you’d see a grown person cut their hair, but I do whatever I think is right, and that felt right to me. I try to encourage my children to go natural, to be themselves, to empower them, not only to be natural in terms of the way they treat their hair, but also to be their natural selves from the heart.
My favourite feature is my accent. Whenever I speak and pronounce my name, I feel proud. People hear it and immediately ask where I’m from, and those who already know I’m Nigerian can identify my tribe through my name.
I also love my nose. People see my brother or my sister’s nose and know that it is different. I used to get teased a lot about it, but I realised that there’s nothing I could do to change it, so I might as well love it. It might be the worst nose, but to me, this is what I have. It reminds me of where I come from. I like my hair especially now because I can do whatever I want to do with it. I can wash it, put weave in, do what I want. I’m happy because I can do so much; it’s all my choice. In African adage, they always say that the beauty of a woman is in her hair. Now, we’ve got a lot of different ways of manipulating it, when we should just showcase it with pride.