AMUDAT Salam Aina relocated to Nigeria almost a year ago. She had been away from home for over 20 years. She worked as a physical therapist in New York for a while and returned home with her two little sons. Despite her American accent, she still speaks Yoruba language fluently and as a matter of fact, she had always dreamt of coming back to her roots. She now runs Fashionfreak by Ami at Allen Avenue in Ikeja. In this interview, she reflects on her life and fashion which she’s passionate about.
By Christy Anyanwu
Did you study fashion?
Actually, I schooled in America and I have a Master’s degree in Physical Therapy. I was actually working as a physical therapist, although I have always been passionate about fashion. That has always been my dream. Although I was working in a healthcare firm, I bought myself a sewing machine. I always liked to sew my own clothes. I sketch and draw and I didn’t undergo formal training. I’m just passionate about sewing and it’s just something that comes just natural for me. I’ve always dreamt of having a fashion line. When I’m bored, I just sketch. I was a full time physician and sewing is just something by the side. I was motivated by the thriving fashion industry in Nigeria and I felt it’s something I could explore.
When you resigned from your job to come back home, what did your family say?
Many people said I needed to think about what I’m doing and some were supportive. My parents are very supportive and my husband is very supportive. Initially, everyone felt I was leaving my job to go to a third world country and hope I won’t regret it. Life is a risk, so you have to take risk sometimes. I didn’t want to become 60 years old abroad before I come back home. I do believe in myself and in my talents. I knew that given the right opportunity, I could shine.
What’s growing up like for you?
I grew up in America. I was born in Nigeria and I went to America at the age of 10. I was there for over 20 years. I had a normal life with my mum and dad and my siblings. I have a sister and two brothers. We did things together.
It’s a normal Nigerian family. I started visiting Nigeria when I was old enough to do so alone. My parents didn’t bring us much when we were children and when we got a little bit older, I came with my mum and since then, I said to myself, this is my country and I would always come to Nigeria. As a matter of fact, among my three other siblings I’m probably the only one that has the connection to Nigeria. My brothers have been here once and my sister maybe twice. But my parents do come around. I like Nigeria, even though it’s hectic and crazy but there are lots of opportunities here and that’s why I’m here. Otherwise, I won’t be here.
What challenges do you face here?
I think coming from a place where everything is orderly, I was always afraid of being swindled. I felt I would be taken advantage of here and I was scared to go out on my own. Also, I’ve been grappling with the challenges of epileptic power supply and bad roads. Typical Nigerians complain too but I have also met people who are very supportive who helped me on this journey.
How about your children?
I have two boys. I kind of shelter them. They complain at times but they have their Wifi, their bicycles and games that keep them a little bit busy when they are not in school. They are making friends slowly. I have a nine-year-old and six-year-old. I think my 6-year-old is more relaxed but his brother complains a little bit .
My husband and I always wanted them to come here to school and just live a different life. We wanted to let them see that everything is not easy and how people are coping so they will appreciate what they have. It’s not easy in this country and they’ve already seen that. The first 10 years I spent in Nigeria made me who I am today.
Is your husband into fashion business too and did you meet in the US?
No, he works in the hospital. He is a Yoruba man and he’s extremely supportive. He’s my biggest fan and supporter. He wants me to make it. I appreciate that about him. He’s a good man. Not all men can do it, but I think because of the children he knew I cannot go anywhere. He trusts me.
How do you start your day?
Since I started this business, I wake up and get the kids ready for school. After I drop them at school, I get ready to come here. I try to do some advertising on phone and I try to send some emails and try to check anyone coming to drop some fabrics or sometimes people want me to buy the fabrics for them and make the clothes. Most of my clients are really not in Nigeria, they are people abroad, and they just send me their measurements and their pictures or something similar to what they want. I then go out and look for fabrics and start work. Technology is a great thing. It makes my life very easy.
You have a lovely skin, what’s the secret?
I don’t have the best skin. I would love to have a better skin tone. I spend a lot of money on that. I use different products on my face to clear the pores. I try hard not to over eat, I don’t exercise, and I just try to eat maybe twice a day. If you are not going to exercise, then you have to watch what you eat.
What has life taught you?
I think one thing that I have actually learnt is that if you want something, you should actually go for it. I don’t want to live in fear because fear today can be regret tomorrow. My dad once came from Ibadan to spend the weekend with us and he commended my courage because I’m already driving in Nigeria. Initially, I was scared. Driving here is scary, it’s crazy, but at the same time, if I don’t do it, I’m not going to have the confidence to and that’s my attitude to everything that I do.
I just go for it. It may not work out and it may work out but you just have to try, because if you don’t, you are going to regret it later. It hasn’t been easy to move from America to Nigeria but if you believe in yourself, there are opportunities here and you can easily reach your goals. Whatever you want to do, pray to God, and get His approval and you do it.
I believe in the power of prayers and if something is not in your destiny, it’s not planned for you; it’s not going to work. Be fearless and commit yourself into God’s hands.
What can’t you wear?
I think I can wear anything. I’m not shy and my husband knows that. I have been known to wear some little revealing clothes here and there. I wear anything. I can also wear iro and buba. I can wear jeans and short skirts. Practically anything fashionable. If I like it, I wear it. I wear red hair, blonde hair and contact lenses too. The only thing I can’t do is expose my belly and that’s because it’s not toned. If it’s toned I would.
Have you ever been a model?
No, but I do a lot of modeling on my IGpage and facebook. That’s what I’m saying about being passionate about something.
If you’re passionate about dressing up and looking good, it doesn’t seem like work because there are lots of women who have kids and they don’t have time to take care of themselves anymore. However, if you are passionate about the way you look, even if you have six kids, you will still make out time just to look good because that is your personality.
I like standing out. If I walk into a room I like being noticed. That’s me since I was little. My parents told me when we were children, we went to parties and I was among the best dressed and even in middle school and high school in America.