Nivea West Africa brand ambassador, Omowunmi Akinnnifesi is an interviewer’s delight any day. Recall way back in 2005, Omowunmi was crowned The Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria and since then, her faith in her maker has doubled. She tells you several people who saw her at the pageant were shocked at the new image she cut for herself years after. It was the other side of Omowumi; a transition a pageant queen to a humble and God-fearing lady. The fashion enthusiast radiates beauty within and outside as she shared with Effects her dreams, passion and life as a fashion entrepreneur.
What led you into fashion of all businesses?
I wanted to do a business that would make people call on me regularly. I have this knack for empowering women. There are several other things I intend doing to empower women but among all these interests is my passions for making people look good. I love to make women dress elegantly. I want something that would make the women to be able to carry themselves nicely. The first thing they need to do to beef up their image is to enhance the way they look. So, I started with enhancing the physicality of women. I’m going into other things like enhancing women mentally and enhancing her soul as a woman in the society. I started with what women looks like, and adapt that to her image. I know it sounds something like a cliché, but that was the reason I went into fashion.
Do you have a fashion or grooming school since you mentioned your desire to empower women?
I intend going into international imaging and etiquette. I want to teach women not only how they should appear but how they should also behave and this is important. When you come across some of our children these days, especially the girls, you would notice they don’t have integrity anymore. They lack morals and manners and these are the things that make a woman. These are part of the content. The new generation of youths is not growing with our culture, so we need to retrain them on how to behave. They have to imbibe the culture of respect for elders and how to behave like a proper lady. They also need to learn how to host visitors; do fine dinning; how to speak, sit down, talk; eat certain kinds of food.
We hardly train people on some of these things in Nigeria. People don’t believe they are necessary. But it’s very important. I attended Queens’ College, Lagos and way back then; they used to teach us these things. But these days, the students are only taught Maths, English and all those important subjects but as for moral etiquette, it’s no longer there.
So, part of your vision is to establish an etiquette school, how soon will that happen?
I wrote a business plan for that in 2009. How old was I then? But I never got around it. I was in London College of fashion. That was after I completed my masters at Kings College London. This is the way to start and from there, it will graduate. I’m also into photography. I have a studio. We started with our photos for the fashion brand. We also stated taking shots of women and children, pregnant women, just anything to make the woman look good; anything to enhance her beauty. The few photos we have done for pregnant women or a woman and her daughter, they are so happy, I don’t believe I’ll look like this ooh, they scream. I have not been happy with this pregnancy but this picture, I will blow it inside my room. It makes women happy; it makes them feel more beautiful. I’m also into construction, public relations and several other things. This is Nigeria, and you have to be hardworking. My friends said I do every business. I know I don’t look it but I’m very hardworking.
Did you inherit this aspect of work from your dad or mum?
My dad attended Yales University. My dad was a scholar and an executive director at the Central Bank. He was very hardworking and my mum was a career woman. She works with Lagos State government. My dad was also a diplomat with the West Africa Clearing House in Sierra Leone. My parents are very career-driven and I want to believe that’s where I got these things from.
You are a beauty queen turned businesswoman, what lessons have you learnt about life?
I have learnt that one needs to be humble. Humility, diligence, discipline, and perseverance, determination are recipe for success, especially in Nigeria. Anything short of those things won’t get you where you want to be. You must be able to treat everyone well, even when people don’t treat you right. Treat them with love. Love conquers all. You never know what anybody could become tomorrow, so don’t you ever look down on anybody. Life is full of up and down. Appreciate God wherever you are in life and maintain your faith and your hope in God and you will be lifted up..
Although you have added a little flesh, you still radiate that beauty that won you the Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria crown several years back, what’s the secret?
The added weight was deliberate because I wanted to fill up a little bit. It’s a sign that I’m really taking care of myself. I have a very good heart, thanks be to God. I sleep peacefully. I forgive people who wronged me and when I wrong people, I also ask for their forgiveness. Nothing makes me ugly inside or outside because I have a peace off mind. When you see people not looking good, it’s because they are worrying or they are holding a bit of heaviness inside. Once you have a light and forging mind, you would always look beautiful no matter what your physicality is like. You will always radiate. That is what makes me radiate.; it’s the peace of mind and favour from God.
Tell us a bit about your growing up years?
I grew up in Sierra Leone. I had my early education in Freetown. My dad was a diplomat in Sierra Leone.
After your reign as beauty queen, you did a secular job?
I was into a lot of things before I went into fashion. Currently, I’m Nivea brand Ambassador for West Africa.
How do you relax?
I have good friends. I keep good company. I walk with people who keep me company; people who enhance my soul. I cherish people that have the same morals; the same standards and the same views about life. These are people who keep me going. I watch movies, I mean, good movies and I read books.
Can you throw light on Omowunmi ready-to-wear brand?
Omowumi is a woman with a social lifestyle. We have five stores in Lagos and Abuja well stocked with clothes. We do smart casuals, events wears for women. Most of the materials she can wear from daytime to night time. The brand is for vibrant women that always want to have confidence in themselves. We have our head office and factory in Ikeja. Sometimes, we try to get our fabrics from different countries like Indonesia, Turkey, India, Korea, etc.
How far with Mr. Right?
Who is your kind of man?
A man who fears God. Just leave it at that.
You sounded like a pastor?
That’s one thing people don’t know about me. Since the day I won the pageant, I have become God-fearing. It was by God that I won the beauty pageant. I have always been God-fearing. A lot of people that met me later on were surprised at what they saw of me. When did you become this? They kept on asking. Is it because you’re getting older? I replied them No. People that knew me very well…. infact in my house they used call me pastor. But people don’t know that maybe because the way I look, or the fact that I did the pageant, I’m a strictly God fearing person and I’m still relevant because of the grace of God on my life.