Monthly Archives: September 2015

My Naijalife part 1. Coping during the fuel strike

I love Naija! An even though I draw a breath of relief every time I come back to Norway or England with running water, electricity and chocolate brownies easily accessible, it doesn’t take long for me to start missing the chaotic crazy place that’s Nigeria. Because in all her imperfections, Nigeria is a very beautiful place where I have learned many life lessons and really grown and matured as a person. I haven’t really been able to share my experiences with my blog readers, but I figure it’s about time now.
I am amazed at the Nigerian way of adapting to tough situations. It seems that no matter what, we have to cope with it. Preferably with a big smile, some good music and a can of Origin, which is this herbal alcoholic pop. One such situation was the fuel strike in April and May. The strike was so bad, it even hit international news.

In Nigeria, there’s always a shortage of electricity. At first I thought some big boss, OluwaChukwu Muhammad (All major tribes represented) decided “On NEPA” or Off NEPA” just to entertain himself with the fact that the electricity would be turned off and disrupt what the general public were doing. Ok, so I didn’t really think it was all that simple. But it does feel that way sometimes and it’s become a joke between me and my Nigerian friends.

So when NEPA is off, we have to fuel the generators to get anything done. I hadn’t seen a generator until I came to Nigeria, although I know some crazy Norwegians with mountain cabins that don’t have electricity and running water use them. So I knew that they provided electricity to a house or apartment.

During the fuel strikes, life was tough for a spoiled Oyinbo like myself who is used to constant power every day. LOL. Since NEPA was often more off than on and since black market fuel cost four of five times as much as legal fuel, we were often left with no form of electricity. The black market fuel was also watered down and could harm cars and generators. So buying that was dangerous as well as pricey. Phones couldn’t be charged and none of us really got any work done since music production depends on laptops that couldn’t be charged either.

Going out was not possible unless we really had to since we had to save the fuel in the car to go get more fuel for the house. It was hot, because there was no air-condition and the mosquitos seemed more plenty than usual.

So, not having access to a lot offline, or non-electronic entertainment or work, I slept a lot during the worst of the crises. Although I did have some relief in a hotel for a few days where they had diesel generators and therefore air-condition and all the other comforts of electricity.

I also attended a few TV interviews during that time. And they all asked me how I coped with the strike. I replied that I really had no choice but to make the best out of it.

And there were good moments too. Because we were forced to entertain ourselves, we played with balls and skipping ropes in the compound like when we were kids. And sat outside and chatted while eating fresh pineapple.

I’m not exactly hoping to experience something like this again. But the experience taught me to really appreciate things I take for granted, got my skipping rope skills almost back to my childhood levels and that it really is easier to work with a difficult situation than against it. And I’m grateful for those lessons.

My biggest Challenge as a white artist in Nigeria is…

When I give interviews in Nigeria, I often get asked if I face any challenges being a white artist. I reply that I have been received with open arms and hearts and that people don’t seem to see my colour. And I stand by that. However, after a really silly disagreement with a makeup artist, I realize that I do face one minor, but nonetheless annoying challenge being a white artist in a black music industry.

It’s got to do with makeup. A very common phrase among my friends back in Norway and the UK is
“You did look amazing in that photo shoot/video. But can’t they give you a better foundation? You look paler than normal.”

Though a minor thing, I do find it frustrating when I learn that more often than not, I have been given a lighter skin tone than I give myself when I apply my own makeup.

I have come to understand that the makeup artists, who style me, don’t do this out of malice. More than anything, it has to do with unfamiliarity with skin colour. Unless you are a real pro with lots of experience making up different people, choosing foundation and powder for someone who has a different skin colour to yourself is a challenge. That goes both ways. I think it’s hard for a white person to find a perfectly matching foundation for a black person and vise versa.

We all have skin overtones and undertones. And the two don’t always match. The overtones in your skin is what people can see with the naked eye, while the undertones may not really reveal itself until we’re talking about cosmetics.

A black person can have dark overtones, but light undertones, while a white person can have fair overtones and dark undertones. Two people with the same looking skin may need completely different makeup because of the undertones.

I have a friend who, at a glance looks as if she has the same skin colour and makeup needs as me. So, we went out to buy makeup one day, and she gave me the same bronzer she used. Only I used up mine in six weeks whereas hers lasted a year. It wasn’t a cheap bronzer and I was frustrated at the crazy amount I had to dump on my face for it to even show. So we pondered over this for a while until she came to the conclusion that I needed to go two shades darker as well as a slightly different colour. Her undertones are blue. Mine are yellowy brown.

So I went and got a quite brown bronzer which is still going strong after almost daily use for a year and nine months. And it looks natural on me.

But it was this brown bronzer that got me discussing with a Nigerian makeup artist.

This was a very unprofessional girl to start with. She knew she was going to work with a white girl, but had seemingly made no preparations for it, so asked if I had bronzer. I am getting used to this situation, so luckily I had brought it with me. I also wanted to make sure I got the right colour skin this time. However, she thought it was way too dark and complained that I didn’t have anything lighter., to which I replied that if my daily bronzer was too dark for her, I found it strange and that I wouldn’t use anything lighter.

I think the reason for this misunderstanding was her unfamiliarity with me as much as her preconceived idea of what white skin is. I know I was the first white person she ever made up, so perhaps she had ideas of white powders and pink colours. She’s not the first and she won’t be the last.

Likewise, the average white person has preconceptions of what black skin is and thus what makeup black people should wear.

But it’s not all bad news. As I said previously, true professionals have no issues with colour. I have had two amazing black stylists. And one of them hadn’t even met me before making me up. And they got it right. The fact that one was Canadian African and one African American may have helped since they were used to seeing and working with a greater variety of skin colours.

It’s not as if the Nigerian ones got it all wrong though. Lipstick, eye shadows etc. is not that colour bound. And if I don’t get light strawberry pink on my face, I usually look okay. It’s just the foundation that tends to go wrong.

Funnily enough, once when they did get it right, someone in Nigeria commented on one of the music blogs and said they hoped I wasn’t trying for a coloured gimmick. A la Rachel Doleza.l Hilarious!

Solution: When in doubt, ask. I may not be the makeup stylist. But I know my skin enough to know what works as the base. And with that, I hope for no more foundation and bronzer mishaps again.

And as long as that’s my greatest challenge as a white artist in Nigeria, I really can’t complain. Because my fans, you are lovely and I love you!

Take charge of, Your makeup

This is the final post in my miniseries on taking charge of your looks. And today we’re talking about makeup.

Makeup is so much more than just a visual thing, although it took me quite a few years to realize that. So for many years, I didn’t really care about makeup, because what was the point really. Except for a short spell in my early teens when I really wanted to blend in and heaped blue eye shadow and way too brown foundation on. They completed the tobacco jeans and buffalo shoes look. And I wore it because it made me into an average late 90s teen.

It was when I changed my clothes and hair that I stopped wearing makeup. Well, not completely. I tinted my eye lashes black every eight weeks, because somehow I understood that it made me look more beautiful, though how, I didn’t quite get. And I wore lipstick or lipgloss. But that was it.

I recently had a conversation with my secretary about makeup and I remember asking if makeup really had changed a lot since the 90s and early 2000s, because I remember makeup back then consisting mainly of powders. This was another reason I found makeup to be unnecessary. I have little or no control over powders and I didn’t feel confident doing it by myself.

Apart from the very basic, including eye shadow, which I realized existed as creams, my makeup was very minimal up until only a couple of years ago. Said secretary, who by the way said that yes, makeup had changed a lot in the past few years, introduced me to a whole set of new products I knew little or nothing about.

First up was CC cream and foundations that actually matched different skin colours. Whereas before I thought the whole point of foundation was for your face to be five shades darker than the rest of your body, I now understood that the purpose was to even out the colour of your face as well as possibly give you a natural glow. That slight tanned look, if you so wished.

She also introduced me to various cream make-ups. It wasn’t as if I didn’t know of their existence, at all, but finally I was explained why makeup made a difference and the point of wearing it. Not only that, but I did learn to work with powders, eye liners and mascara. Things I previously stayed well away from.

Now that I understand makeup to mainly be a tool for bringing out your original beauty, I find it a lot more fun and useful and wearing it makes me feel good about myself. I still prefer working with creams to powders, so I opt for cream eye shadows, blushers and so on. They are easier to apply with your hands and I like that since it gives me more control.
I still get my lashes tinted, but I’m no longer scared of mascara. My daily routine usually consists of foundation or CC cream which gives me a slightly tan look, brown eye liner, blusher, mascara and lipstick or lipgloss. My party routine involves a lot more. I have in fact shot a video where I apply makeup. And I’m planning on posting it here as soon as it’s up on YouTube.

If you’re looking to start wearing makeup or advance your routine. Find out what works for you. Creams or powders. Ask for makeup lessons of guidance from a friend or in stores where they often do them for free. The hardest bit if you can’t see at all is to identify the right colours. And I am a lot less experimental with new colours and ideas when it comes to makeup than when it comes to clothes. But don’t be afraid of doing so when you know your colour scheme and what look you wanna go for. Perhaps ask a sighted person you know and trust the first time you try to pull off something.

Another important point is not to despair if you’ve been out buying makeup alone, the sales assistant has told you how amazing it looks on you and then, when you get home, someone tells you it’s ok, but little out of colour. This happens to me a lot, especially when it comes to foundations, because some people think I look fair skinned and gives me a fair foundation which either is invisible, or pales me. Despite looking fair, my undertone is quite dark, so I have to go for medium to dark foundations. (Dark in a white skin context. That is.) This happens to sighted people too. Makeup is tricky for everyone who isn’t a total pro of course. So have fun with it and enjoy experimenting.

Lastly, I just need to point out that though blindies get praised up and down for finding the way to their local shop, getting degrees etc., they don’t get praised enough for laying the perfect eye liner. Trust me. It’s harder than crossing a busy street. LOL

Take charge of, your clothes

I’m sorry it’s been about a month since I’ve been blogging, but things have been a little hectic career wise. I’ll tell you more about that in another post, but let me tell you that NYC is really amazing and I’m just in luuurv with the place.

Now onto clothes.

After having decided how I wanted my hair to look, it was time to choose my own style of clothing too.

I was lucky in that mum, despite being mum and from a different generation was really good at helping me pick fashionable things to wear. In clothes shops, she would even have me ask other young girls if what I wore was fashionable, something I found embarrassing, but did all the same because where I grew up, you were damned if you war the wrong kind of clothes. Not that the bullying at school stopped because I was wearing the latest fashion, but on the outside at least, I felt more like the other girls.

But then, I decided that I wanted to do something different. I felt as if dressing like I did was a bit like putting on a uniform. I wore stuff, not because I really liked the style, but because I wanted to fit in.

I have always liked long flowing dresses, African inspired attire and alike. A far cry from the Tobacco pants with the side pockets and the high Buffalo shoes. (Yes, it was the 90s. Give me a break LOL.)

So in the summer of 1999, I started wearing what I liked. I figured the bullying wasn’t going to stop, but by then I just wanted to do my own thing and I cared less about it. I didn’t have much time left at that school anyway.

I experimented with all kinds of long flowing type stuff from dresses and skirts to tunics over tight jeans. And this being the nineties, skirts over trousers was actually a thing.

Mum despaired at some of my choices. I was covering up rather than exposing my body and she asked me why I couldn’t be more like normal teenage girls. Never mind that she’d frowned at the belly button tops I used to wear.

Eventually, I’ve found a happy medium between being a slave to fashion and wearing what I like. I sport the tight jeans, without side pockets, which I did in my teens, because my figure has remained very much the same. I also wear long African dresses, but usually in the right kind of contexts, like when I do interviews and shows in Nigeria, or just want to look a little different at parties. There is no bullying now though and I doubt whether anybody can accuse me of covering up to much.

And the more confident I get with my own styling, the more I combine things that I think will look good together. And my combinations have at times inspired sighted friends who never thought of doing the same things, or didn’t dare to do, such as yellow tights under a black dress, or a blue singlet instead of a black under a similarly coloured see through top.

My style also constantly evolves, because I get new ideas for myself by looking in shops and getting feedback from fashionista friends who can describe styles better to me than most fashion blogs.

The advice I have for blind girls and women looking for their style, is just like with their hair. Follow your instinct. What do you like? How can that fit in to the contemporary fashion picture? Have a few trusted people who can tell you if a colour looks good on you or not. You can feel yourself if the fabric and fit is to your liking. Don’t be too deterred when somebody tells you it may not look great on you, but keep it in mind and gather more reactions before you decide if you’re comfortable with a certain look.

Remember too, that accessories can change a simple pair of jeans and t-shirt into something spectacular. If you’re not the type who likes to stray too far from the H&M basics section, a certain style neck laisse, belt or bangles can be your style definers.