Category Archives: Work

New Exclusive Interview With me on NotJustOk TV

Lioness Oyinbo NEA Winner Exclusive InterviewI’m so excited to present a brand New exclusive interview With me on the Nigerian Music blog NotJustOk. The interview was recorded in Dallas Texas and I talk about my love for Afrobeat, Challenges in the Music industry and my perspectives as a disabled artist. I also sing the Nigerian National anthem.

 

You can find notjustok at http://www.notjustok.com

Why I left Forever Living

I’m not afraid to change my mind and admit when I’ve made a mistake.

 

Six months ago, I started my side business as a distributor of Forever Living Products (FLP). I had several reasons for doing so. One of them was to try and make some extra cash on the side. Another was because whatever I did to try and get a job on the side to finance my music I just couldn’t get anywhere. So although I’ve said previously that it was the ethics of the company and the products, it was just because I felt I was hitting my head against a brick wall. However, I did really believe that then.

 

Before I go on, everything I said about my C9 experience on my blog is true. It was positive and I learned some new good habits. I also don’t hate the products, or my uplines. I left because of a few things.

 

Firstly, I felt increasingly unwilling to put in any work. I didn’t like seeing everybody as either potential customers or recruiters. So I wasn’t talking to people enough that my business had the potential to expand.

 

Secondly, I felt the stress of having to buy in some stock every month to stay active. I never bought more than I could use or sell to my few customers, but this also meant my monthly bonuses were too small to make a difference.

 

Thirdly, it was the products. They are not bad and I’ve had some good results with many of them, but, remember the post I wrote about L’Occitane? I’d rather spend money on a company that make their products accessible to me by Brailling them and who does so many things I stand for, like the projects in Africa and perfume school for blind teenagers. I know it’s kind of ridiculous to be so in love with a skin care company, but apart from producing excellent good smelling products, the accessibility factor means so much to me. Ok, I can never really make money out of using L’Occitane products, but my money goes to a worthy cause.

 

Finally, and this is the most important reason of them all, I am getting some new opportunities with both my music and my writing. I won’t say too much before I have some big news, but I have good things in the works. And those things take up enough time that I don’t feel like making time for selling products where the tubes look all the same, not so easy when you can’t see, to people who’re not really interested. Also, the projects I’m working on will bring a more regular monthly income which is what I need.

 

I’m glad I tried being an FLP distributor though, because every life experience teaches you somethings about yourself that you can bring forward. I’ve had some great sales experiences and met some lovely people and those are positive things. I’ll probably stay away from network marketing for the rest of my life. Not just because it’s not my preferred way of working, but because of the cult like vibes to those companies and I’m not big on cults.

A rant about landing a mediajob

I’ve talked a lot about work, my work, other people’s work, the importance of work and difficulties of getting work on this blog. And in fear of both repeating myself and sounding very frustrated, which I am to be quite honest, I’m going to talk about challenges of getting media work when you’re blind.

 

First things first. Getting a media job is hard for anybody. The competition is fierce wherever you are in the world and even in supposedly uncorrupt Norway, nepotism rules in the media industry. So it’s not what you know, it’s who you know that is the key to land that lucrative job.

 

I have been trying for quite a while to both work freelance and get a media job here in Norway so that I can make money tow work more freely with my music, although my situation on that front is slowly but surely improving. Working freelance has its own challenges and I’m not going to discuss them in this post, but applying for media jobs is a bit like hitting my head against a brick wall.

Today a journalist is supposed to be able to do everything from writing and sub editing to photographing and creating video content. This is good in one way I guess. Media houses everywhere are cutting costs and thus jobs and it makes sense for them to employ multi-talented people. But the truth is that leaves out some good talent. And not just blind media professionals who are talented on the writing and the audio side of journalism. I have come to understand that just because your eyes work, it’s not synonymous with being good at creating visual content.

 

Ironically, I am quite good when it comes to visual content, because I have an intuitive understanding of what illustration work with what story. And I’m not the only blind media professional who have these skills. However, looking at most media jobs and seeing “Good eyes for pictures” or “Video editing skills” as a description of most of them, I feel like the world is trying to mock me and I take it personal. Most of my sighted journalist friends have to work with visuals in their jobs, even for radio. So the visuals seem unescapable.

 

The really sad thing is that instead of looking at my talent and ask me how to get around the visual challenges; I am just told that I don’t meet all the qualifications. And in some cases, I’ve been told right out that I’d not be able to do the job because of the visual skills required.

 

In Norway there is absolutely no reason not to employ someone on those grounds. Government funded assistance and secretary funds make it possible for a blind person with the appropriate skills to operate efficiently within any media organization. And in England there is Access to work which helps with similar things.

 

I wouldn’t apply for a job as a photo journalist. But I could instruct a work assistant or secretary to film certain things for a documentary or news report and they tell them how to edit it. I would still be the one creating the content. They would just press the buttons of the most likely, inaccessible software for me. Because that’s another thing. only the BBC in my experience have software I can use for audio editing. However, with today’s technology it’s possible to make audio editing programmes screen reader friendly. And in case of getting a job, it could be fixed. At least with some software.

 

My journalist friends in the UK often ask me why I’m not doing more journalism work, since I’m a good a journalist. My only answer is that I haven’t been able to show my talent to someone who matters and that I don’t know the right people. I have made full length radio documentaries, presented live current affairs shows and worked for one of the world’s best mediahouses, so I’ve got to know journalism, a little, right? But these days I’m wondering whether I’m kidding myself that I have journalism talent at all.

 

Again, it boils down to one thing. Attitude. There isn’t something wrong with me, but with the society who produce employers who don’t want to give chances to people who have to work a little bit differently, but who can work just as good and efficient as any of their other employees. I’ve talked about me, myself and I in this post. But I dedicate this rant equally to any visually impaired media professionals who are facing similar challenges. And wonder sometimes whether they do have talents. I don’t blame you if you’ve lost sight of it during your jobsearch. And if you’ve been lucky enough to land the dream job and keep it. Cudos to you and your hopefully liberal thinking employers.

I’m a Nigerian/African export and proud of it!

A lot of people in Nigeria either ask, or imply that I must be big in my own country and get surprised when I say they have absolutely no clue who I am unless they’re especially interested in Afrobeat. That number in Norway is extremely small. Though the Fela tribute concert I went to in Bergen during the Felabrations indicated that if properly promoted, Afrobeat could actually get a fair following here. I noticed names of different bands being noted down on phones all around me to be looked up on Spotify, so maybe one day more than the 15 or so Afrobeat enthusiasts will know the name Lioness Oyinbo, my family and friends not counted.

 

I got discovered by Nigerians and was invited to Nigeria to develop my music. This couldn’t have happened in Norway and possibly not that easily in the UK, where I experienced that being a white Afrobeat artist was just that little bit awkward. So Nigeria was the only place I could really develop.

 

My reply to those people who ask if I’m big back home is that “I’m an African, Nigerian export” and I’m proud to say that I am. Now, I am accepted as the white Afrobeat singer everywhere, simply because I, musically speaking, come from Africa. My music is being played on all continents, but mainly on African outlets. I hope to be played on mainstream radio stations in Europe, America, Asia and Australia one day, but this is something many African artists alongside me are dreaming of. And if I were to choose between one or the other, I’d rather be on an African radio station playlist among the big names that I admire than be on a mainstream station playlist whilst the people of Africa are don’t want anything to do with my music.

 

So there you have it guys. As an artist, I’m one hundred per cent African and proud of it.

My Naijalife part 4. What it’s like to be a blind foreigner in Nigeria

I’m going to talk about this topic from the point of view of a foreigner. If any blind or visually impaired Nigerian happens to stumble across this blog, comments would be greatly appreciated.

Before I went to Nigeria to record for the first time, I was apprehensive about a lot of things from whether this was a real deal to how I would be treated as a blind person. When I was in university, my parents used to live in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and I didn’t like the attitude the locals had towards me there being blind. People would randomly come up to me in the street or in shops, pat me on the head and say “God bless you dear”. My experience with African immigrants who were a generation older than me wasn’t great either. And I was accused of being possessed by “the spirit of blindness”, being too scared to allow god to heal me and a few other ridiculous and hurtful things.

Surprisingly therefore, my expectations of how I’d be treated in Nigeria were pretty low. After all, I was going to a developing country where disabilities seemed to be caused by evil spirits.

But I was positively surprised. For the first time in my life, I wasn’t referred to as ‘the blind woman’. OI was ‘the white woman’, which isn’t much better. I prefer to be referred to as Linn or Lioness, but the truth is, strangers are always gonna refer to you by your appearance. For example the man with the long beard, the girl with the square glasses etc. so I am not going to complain about that.I do it myself. Being the white woman is somehow a break from being the blind woman. My blindness takes second place. And nobody has accused me yet of being possessed by evil spirits.

I’ve had a few negative incidents, but that was mainly with my first label where the CEO, who has little education and I suspect low IQ, sent in a press release where he referred to my blindness as an “imperfection” and asked me to write a song where I “encouraged the handicapped”. Can you blame me for dumping that label? LOL. Handicapped might have been ok to say in 1856, but in 2016 it’s pretty off.

But after I changed label, I’ve had none of that. In fact, most people who meet me don’t realize I’m blind, so imagine how puzzled I got when a girl at a video shoot asked me if my leg was ok. I was holding my stylist’s arm so she must have assumed I needed physical support. Those kinds of assumptions can be quite confusing at the time. I think everyone knows I can’t see, though that’s not the case, but actually they are indirect compliments. Blindness doesn’t always come up in interviews either. But when it has come up, I’ve only had positive experiences talking about it, because blindness related questions tend to be about my blog.

The real challenge for me when it comes to being blind in Nigeria has more to do with practical matters. Public transport systems and roads are not developed, so I can pretty much forget about getting around independently. And that’s why I couldn’t live there twelve months of the year. I’m a spoilt girl who is used to going out to get what I want when I want and not having that freedom is depressing. My team is more than willing to help me with anything I may need, something I’m grateful for, but it doesn’t quite make up for lack of freedom and flexibility. Being a white woman alone in Lagos comes with its own risks, but had I been able to drive, or get around independently by other means, I would have enjoyed more mobility and freedom which would have made daily life easier.

Being a blind foreigner in Nigeria is fun and exciting as long as I am busy working and have access to a gym or a pool. But for day to day spare time living, it is just too restrictive in the long run.

The importance of working, aside from making money

As someone who is blind, I am perfectly capable of holding down a full time job. And not only that, but I can be a very positive asset to my work environment and work colleagues. However, getting to prove that I can hasn’t been and isn’t that easy.

It actually started with my parents, may they both rest in perfect peace. They did their upmost for me to be as normal as possible. But when it came to work, they had this really strange attitude that there wasn’t anything I could do. My brother was a newspaper boy and when he was old enough, he started working in the local supermarket. He earned his own money and I was jealous. Not only did my brother work, but most of my friends did too by the time we reached our teens. I only had sighted friends where I live, so the weekend became a little boring then since I didn’t work.

To some, my position may have been enviable. Because I was told there weren’t any jobs I could realistically do, since both shop work and newspaper work required eye sight, I was given tasks to do around the house and thus received pocket money from my parents. I technically worked for the money, but it wasn’t at all satisfying. I tried suggesting other types of work I could do so that I too could make money, but my parents just laughed it off and pointed out that I got money anyway, so what was the problem? They really didn’t get it.

When we had to work a one day job in school to raise money for children in faraway countries, or for local causes, I usually played the piano and sang at old people homes. The old people enjoyed it, so it was nice. But I still had the feeling that I was doing that because my blindness stopped me from doing a “proper” job. In hindsight, I see that not many of my friends could have done that to raise money and so what I did for the old people was great. But as a teenager who just wanted to do whatever I could to blend in, it wasn’t cool at all.

My constant talking of wanting a normal job outside the house, must have really got to my dad in the end, because for two summers in a row, he arranged for me to work a week at the oil firm he was working for. I worked in HR and I had a really great time there. I was busy typing up Cvs that the head of HR had read onto cassette tapes (Yes, it was just before they got extinct) and sending out everybody’s pay slips and holiday money. The workplace was adapted yes. But I was doing exactly the same work as the other employees children who were working there with me. In fact, we helped each other to get the job done. I came home every day that week feeling as if I had contributed to society, or at least the HR department of that firm.

I later went on to have other jobs and now I work for myself. And although working for myself initially was something I did because getting employers to see that I can work with them is a struggle, it is now something I find much more rewarding. Because I don’t profit anyone except myself and those I choose to share it with.

I’m not opposed to regular employment and at times I wish it was a little easier to get part time work, or work in general, just to supply my music career. But as it is, I am trying to make it work without regular employment. Forever Living was my answer to a supplementary income to help my artist and writing career.

My purpose though with this post, is to stress the importance of work. Not necessarily just for the sole purpose of making money, but for someone to feel like a valuable asset to society. There are obstacles that make employment more difficult when you’re blind or indeed have other disabilities, but with open discussions and good will, most things are possible.
If you happen to have a disabled son, daughter, friend, spouse or romantic partner who lacks confidence to work, or badly want to, please be that person who pushes them to explore different routes to achieve what they want to do. Perhaps this is especially important in these days when unemployment rates are rising around the world. Disabled people are harder hit by this, but there is no reason really why they should be. You can, you dare and you want, or replace the you with me, are a good place to start the motivation. Basic, but effective.

Happy 2016!

I know I’ve been a bit of a stranger recently. I always have these incentives to blog regularly, but something always comes up.

Anyways, let me start by wishing you all a happy 2016. May this New Year be the year where your goals are reached and your dreams come to pass.

2015 was a great year for me. Though mostly the exciting stuff happened in the first 9 months of the year. After the NEA in September where I didn’t won my category, but still had a great time and learned a lot, and till new-years-eve, I was just in Norway working on the business side of my music career and my Forever Living business.

But at the start of this year, I went back to Nigeria again and being back was lovely. I’ve done what I think is my best project yet. A song featuring Chidinma, a very sought after female singer in the Nigerian music industry for those who’re not too familiar with afrobeat and produced by DJ Coublon, producer of the year. The video was shot by my team member and friend Hg2films. The song will soon be released and I just can’t wait to share it with you!

What I think made this project so good, was both the fact that I now have a lot more experience and better self-esteem and, in the case of the video, I had my own personal stylist, who is practically like my sister. She didn’t dress me up in anything until I understood what kind of look and style it was and she kept a very sharp eye on the make-up artists, so I got the look I wanted. And so I felt I looked better and had more control.

Having the right team around you is extremely important for everyone. But for me as a blind artist, it’s especially important because I need to have that extra level of trust. My opinions on how something looks only goes as far as what I can feel myself and that isn’t always enough in an industry where appearance is so important.

I am back in Norway now, dealing with the cold harsh winter. But though I’m known for hating snow and the cold, I’m feeling really positive right now. Spring isn’t that far away and with spring comes my birthday. And I’ll soon be travelling again for shows and promos.

I also need to work on my other business this year. And I need to focus on recruiting which I’m terrified of. But I believe in having many things going at the same time and if I want to succeed, I need to step out of my comfort zone. Easier said than done though. But I’m ready for the challenge. Hey, it’s nearly spring! The Lioness is rising!

Side Business

OMG! What have I done?

I’ve been asking myself this question constantly for the past two weeks and I guess only time will give me the answer.

So what have I done?

I always talk to young artists about the importance of doing something besides music. Especially when you’re up and coming and don’t have a stable income from your music. But having a side hustle is also good because it gives your mind fresh impulses and you can use the inspiration for your music.

I was in the situation where I needed to find that side hustle. I write. But like music, it takes time and establishing to make an income from writing. Many other artists I know work in shops or cafes to finance their music career. But because there’s a lack of these opportunities for blind people, I have never seen this as something I can do.

Then, I came across a company called Forever Living. I was initially extremely skeptical, because I’ve known people who sell products from home before to usually give up on these things because the initial investments and the constant need to recruit people for them to make any profit have exhausted them. But after some extensive research, I found that Forever Living is slightly different in this regard.

First of all, let me tell you what Forever Living actually is. It is a company founded in 1978 in Scottsdale Arizona by Rex Maughan. It sells health, wellness and beauty products based on Aloe Vera and it has a presence in over 155 countries on five continents and it’s growing.

Apart from really liking the products, I liked the fact that it was free to join, that there was no pressure to recruit people and that I can do this in any country in the world. So if I move to the UK or Nigeria full time, I can still sell these products just like I do in Norway.

The ethics of Forever Living is also one I support. For example it helps disabled people through the charity Forever Giving. And on both a local and global level, there is great network support and I am already making new friends.

Since Forever Living buys your products back for 90% of the retail price should you regret your decision to join, I figured that I really had nothing to lose from trying. And when I see people have success with it, it encourages me to want to work hard.

I have already had 2 customers in my first week and I’m having a business launch in two weeks. I really hope people will show up! I soon even qualify to have my own online retail shop.

I have had some really crass negative response to my new venture, but mostly people are positive. And I hope and feel Forever Living can empower and enrich my life.

I admire: Femi Anikulapo Kuti

I know. It looks so easy. Recording in the studio, appearing in the media, performing on shows, getting nominated and winning awards and have lots of fans telling yu every day how much they adore you.

Yes. There is this side to being an artist. And nothing feels more fulfilling and rewarding than, when you do these things and they go well.

But to get there, you need to work hard and take chances. Many artists before me have experienced working with dodgy labels, being rejected over and over and puzzle over how on earth to get together money for a good promo for their new single. Many artists after me will experience the same things. I am going through these things.

Though you know you’re not the only one going through these things, you can often feel really alone and isolated when you do. And it’s easy to lose faith in yourself and start a negative cycle of thoughts.

When I feel particularly down related to my career, I cheer myself up by reading, or listening to success stories of artists who are doing well now.
And who I see as my role models. One such artist is Femi Kuti. He is the son of the legendary Fela Kuti. And in my opinion, a legend himself.

I Recently came across a very lovely interview with him on youtube. Don’t let the title fool you. This is deep, personal and to me it was super inspiring.

I may not agree with every single of his viewpoints, but I share many of them and it would be a dream come true to one day work with him.

Not many, if any women is doing this type of pure afrobeat. With my soon-to-be released single, I’m going to be doing a pop version of it. But how cool wouldn’t it be to perform at at the Fela Shrine with Femi and his band?

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!