Mrs. Elizabeth Osinsanya, the proprietress and chief executive of Elegant Twins School of Cosmetology, comes from the parentage of Mr. P.A. Okubadejo of Ijebu Ode and Princess Alake Kosoko of the royal family of Lagos. She remains a reference point and a force to reckon with both locally and internationally as a beautician. Her outfit, Elegant Twins School of Cosmetology in Lagos has churned out great beauticians scattered all over Nigeria and beyond. In this interview with EFFECTS, the astute hairdresser, foremost cosmetologist and entrepreneur spoke about life and others.
You started early in life as a beautician, that was not common, how was it then?
I had my education at St John Anglican School, Aroloya, Lagos, Girls Modern Academy also in Lagos and Wesley Guild Hospital, Ilesha. But early in life, I showed the traits of becoming a professional hairdresser. My father who recognized this innate ability in me decided I pursue a career in hairdressing instead of nursing. Thanks to my dad, Pa Okubadejo who saw this coming.
At your age, you still find time to go to Elegant Twins to work, why?
If I don’t go, the standard will go down. You don’t say because of age you allow what you labour to get go down the drain. Though I’m 86, I will mark my 87th birthday in September, but that does not mean anything. Age is in number. It is the way you carry yourself that matters.
So you go there to supervise your staff?
Not to supervise them, I go there just to see what is going on and to make the place move forward. I don’t want to be at the back in the profession. God has made me the head in hairdressing business in Nigeria, most especially in Lagos state and West Africa. God has done wonderful things in my life. He’s the one that pushed me into it. God is the one who teaches me what to do in terms of creativity and I listened to him.
How do you see the beauty profession in Nigeria now?
It is very rosy. It seems there’s no other profession again in Nigeria except the beauty world; hair, skin, nails etc. I’m very proud of what is happening in the beauty industry. I started in 1952 but I opened the school in 1959.
When you started as hairdresser, it was not a popular venture, how did it start for you?
To be frank, I used to cry when people would not let me play with their hair. I always like playing with people’s hair as a child. One day, my dad in a stern voice said I’m going to do hairdressing as a career and I said No. I said that, because those days, people term hairdressers as harlots. I’m a God’s child. I teach in the Sunday school in the church, (St John church, Aroloya). I was a member of Girl’s Guild and I belong to different associations in the church. How would I stand to tell people I’m a hairdresser? We had a Togolese lady living in my compound and she was doing people’s hair; I would sit with her after school and help out. Today, I bless God. I have various awards within and abroad. I’m a member of European Association of Hairdressers, Member (only one in Nigeria) of the World Federation of Supreme Hairdressing Schools, representative of West African countries at the Word Hairstyling Championship, Rotterdam 1980. Winner of Gold Trophy and Gold Scissors of the Federation of European hairdressing schools, which was presented to me by the president himself, Prof. Alfred Morris. Without my glasses, I can see, I can walk.
You still look fashionable, how do dress years back?
Jesus Christ before he went away was always wearing the best. People always admire him and God made me like that. He said I will never wear rag. In those days, I always dress smartly, I walk smartly, and I love seeing people looking smart. I have my lovely shoes. I don’t wear low shoes. I still wear the heels I wore in those days even at 86 years old.
What kind of music do you dance to?
(Laughs) Any good music that comes my way, I dance to every music.
What lesson have you learnt about life?
Be honest with people, do not deceive God and people. Be honest with whatever you do and obey the words of God.
Your favorite food?
I eat everything. There is nothing, I don’t eat. I eat eba, ikokore, yam, salad and fruits. I eat three times a day. I’m just blessed to have a good body. It is God that has done everything.
Recently NAWORG, Business Women Group of NACCIMA gave you an award, how did you feel?
I thank God and I thank our president, Iyalode Alaba-Lawson, who put together the event. I like assisting those who don’t have jobs and I teach them free. I went to prison yard, school of the blind to teach them and they are very happy. I have been supportive of government programmes in the area of education and alleviating the sufferings of the economically disadvantaged people and children. I was invited by the National Board of Technical Education (NBTE) to Kaduna in 1980 and served in the panel which designed the syllabus on Cosmetology for National Technical Certificate Examinations.
What advice do you have for women who want to follow your line of career?
My advice is for everyone not only women; try doing something with your hand. If it is sewing, barbing, cooking, hair dressing etc. Handwork pays a lot. Don’t rely on white-collar job only. You can do the two together.
Elegant Twins is still waxing strong, what’s the secret?
It is God. The school is not mine. God called me to start the business of looking after people from head to toe. I named the school after my children (Twins). I had a boy and a girl and they are still around.
I always tell people that whatever you want to do, do it well. Especially, if God instructed you to do it. God asked me to start hairdressing and I obeyed. I wanted to become a nurse and God said, I should use my hand and leave white-collar job.
When I get back from school (primary school) and done with my house chores, there was no house help, we do the house chores ourselves. I passed that to my children. In my house, I don’t allow anybody to do housework for them. When my parents saw my passion in plaiting and weaving people’s hair, they said I should forget nursing. I was crying like a baby because I love nurses uniforms. But thank God I obeyed. At a point they came to call me at Kingsway stores, the most prestigious store in Nigeria to work as a salon assistant (hairdressing) between 1953 and 1957 before I proceeded abroad for formal study in the profession. I graduated from the famous Morris Institute of Hairdressing London with diploma in 1958.
Do you have favourite holiday destination?
I usually travel to London, and America on holidays. When I was younger, I traveled to France, Germany, Netherlands and other countries for meetings in the beauty industry. I have been to Cameroon and other countries in West Africa for same purpose.
Are your children taking your path as a beautician?
My children are doing secular jobs. But I have a grandchild that has taken interest in what I’m doing.
Do you do anything extra to look smart at your age?
I pray, I eat, and I can’t say I do anything in particular. It is God that has given me the energy. I don’t do any other thing.