'I once took okada to save my image'
Revolutionists can be found in every field, and the beauty business is not an exception. One of the big names trying to make a change on the Nigerian fashion scene is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of LISE beauty range, Mrs Enitan Balogun. In this interview with RONKE KEHINDE, she talks about her struggles, her dreams, the things that make her tick and how she had to take a commercial motorcyle (Okada) to a wedding when her reputation was at stake.
What do you do for a living?
I'm the CEO of a revolutionary make-up brand that was launched in Nigeria in 2006. But the product was initially launched in 2004, in New York city. Presently we are located on Awolowo Road, our services range from bridal make-up, fashion make-up, special effect make-up among others. Any kind of make-up you need or services or product you need in the industry, we get it for you if it's beauty range.
What kind of job have you done?
I've done quite a few since I came back. Do you mean jobs here or in New York?
In America actually, I'm a freelance make-up artist with Ford Modelling Agency in America, New York. So, anytime they have job, photo shootings and things like that I do the make-up. Apart from that I've worked with quite a few, and I've been on my own as well. I've done lots of bridals, and fashion shows, I've worked with ambience. I've worked with Style magazine, an international magazine.
In Nigeria I've worked with City People; we've done make-up for Adebayo Jones fashion show with City People. I've worked with Encomium, Fashion and Style, I've worked with Zae. I'm currently the Beauty Editor of a new magazine called the Resh. I'm also the Beauty Editor of a new magazine as well called Zae. Pretty much, so far I do a lot of bridal jobs as well, even though that is not my foray. But since I'm good at it and people do like the result of what I do, I get a lot of jobs from my client regarding bridal jobs.
What led you into fashion and beauty world?
Growing up as a kid, I've always been very very fashionable, not only because my mum and dad are very fashionable. My father, most especially, is fashionable. He is always on point even if he wears native. His agbada is always on point. He picks his shoes. He is very fashionable and stylish. From there I picked up, but I've always loved something about hair. My first love actually was hair. Going to college as well as being a hair stylist. So, I've worked with lots of salons, I was always getting hair done. Make-up has always been my thing. Anytime I had make-up done on myself, it's always like it was done by professionals. So, from there I got working in Fashion Fair. I did a few months with Mac. But there I started doing my family, friends, even schools. When I was working at the hair salon, clients would rush in to do their hair. When they are through I will do their makeup as well. From there I noticed that my work was better than someone that got trained. To work as a make-up artist in America, you need to be certified. So I had to go to school to get certified. It wasn't easy to get the certificate, it's much expensive learning to be a make-up artist in America. In Nigeria you pay peanut to get the certificate. To go to one of the good schools, get certified, use top of the line product, you need nothing less than 6,000 dollars. Just for something I already know how to do. Just for me to get jobs, they got to see your certificate, because they will go to agency to verify you. I had to just go through it for the certificate regardless that I already know how to do what I'm doing. Before then I'd worked with Fashion Fair and all that, but it still didn't count. I enjoyed the fact that anytime I apply makeup on somebody, the end result is just happiness. They love the result, and every time I surprise myself again: Wow! you just did this again. It's like looking forward to see someone on my chair every time. I'm excited everyday that I'm a make-up artist. I'm proud of what I do, I enjoy it. I love to make people look beautiful.
What are the challenges involved?
I won't say I have challenges because it's just so hard sometimes when you're in a country whereby you feel that you are not used to things around you. With time you pick up, people get to know you. When I first came down here and I launched my product in 2006, I was a bit shaky. It was like 'Oh my God nobody knows me' . Eventually, it picked up. People started calling my name, calling me for jobs here, calling me for products, from there I was everywhere. Regardless of that, I would say the challenges are not too much. But I'm actually putting something together, just to make make-up artists in Nigeria more relaxed, by forming an association - Make-up Artists Association - which we started early last year. We had two meetings so far. This year, in February, we are to start. It will make Make-up artists in Nigeria unified. At least we have 20 Make-up Artist so far, and on Facebook we have about seventy something Make-up Artist that are members. So, we're going to create a big bang to let people be aware. The sky is the limit for us in Nigeria. We don't even have enough Make-up Artist. We think we do, but we don't. People say they keep springing up everyday. Do you know how many people we are in Nigeria? We have about 160 million people. So, having 500 Make-up Artist is not even enough. Personally, I've had about 60 Make-up Artist. I've trained over 40 Make-up Artist. Because my training classes consist of about seven people, I've had about seven classes. I personally keep in touch with them to know how they are doing. Some of them are sales representatives of my products. They do carry my line. They sell them as well and make profit. Aside from that, creating the association is one of the toughest thing that I know because everyone wants to keep to themselves and say I am my own boss. Fine, we don't need to see each other and have attitude towards each other: What does she think she is? She thinks she is better than me? It does not matter. The way you make-up is different from mine. Somebody may like my make-up and not like yours. Someone else may like yours and not like mine. The sky is the limit. We are not even enough in Nigeria. We've just gotten into the industry. We need to come together, form a body so we can get that respect and that recognition from individuals and our clients as well. It is for people to know that this is what we do, and this is how good we are. So, we deserve to now charge them according to how good we can be. So, they'll know they are getting good services for their money. The only challenge is putting everyone together.
Are you a label freak?
No, I'm not. I wear anything that is comfortable. My dressing is not particularly trendy. You can't say I'm a trend person. I don't wear what is in trend. I love dressing like a gypsy as well. I can mix colour. I can wear things that when you see it you'll say 'Oh, my God'! By the time I put them together you will say this is so hot. I just like to create things on my own. My husband is a total freak of Roberto. So I can wear Roberto Kobali piece, if I see a nice one. I can spend my money there, if I'm crazy about it, but I will not go out of my way to say I'm going to break my bank account because I need to get something Gucci just made or something Fendi made. I can wear anything at all, but I don't play with bags. I'm a freak for bags. I don't care about shoes, but bags, oh my God. I love to have one, I can have one particular bag in different colours.
What is your best colour?
Pretty much, I like chocolate brown, I like beige, I like neutral tones like oranges. All those beige, tan, cream colours and black, I like them.
What type of perfume do you wear?
I do cocktails. I won't say one particular one because I've actually not tried one particular one before. I mix different ones, I can take Babyblue, Kokra, and just spray that as well, I kind of do cocktail of everything. But I like Baby Doll by Wiser.
How would you grade the Nigerian Fashion scene?
We are going places. We are almost there. We are making a mark everywhere in the world. We've been getting that recognition from abroad as well, with due respect that we do our designs ourselves. A lot of fashion designers have been coming up with a lot of nice designs. Not just copying the western designs but putting a lot of ethnicity that we have into the styles. It is not just what is available in the American runway. Sometimes if I see one I say wow I can wear this, it is wearable. I think we are there already, although some of the designers go overboard with their creations sometimes. But pretty much they are doing fantastically well.
If you are not in this vocation, beauty and fashion world, what else would you have been doing?
I used to work at a bank but I never liked it.
How many years ago?
Till 2002. I don't enjoy wearing suit. When you are dealing with people in a very very timid atmosphere, it makes you more timid. Banking sector is a very very serious place. I'm not saying I'm not a serious person, but I like to laugh. I like to have fun. Bankers are so uptight. It's not by my style. I like to be happy. I like to play around. I like to crack jokes. I can baraje with anyone. I can't do that at the bank. I like to be close and be personal with people. If I wasn't a makeup artist I really don't know what I will do. Anything I do has to do with the body. I just can't picture myself not doing something on a physical self. Even if I have to be orthopaedic doctor, it still has to do with making someone feel better.
What is your educational background?
I can't go into my educational background because I went to a lot of schools. But I can say that I went to Gideon International. I went to Christland, and I went to three secondary schools as well. I ended up going to the state. That is where I went to the college. That is where I met my husband and that is where I got married. I went to Borough, in New York. My major was actually Business Administration, with a minor in Computer Science. I had two majors as well. Throughout College, on the side my part time job was always with make-up companies. I started with the hair thing at first, then I moved on to makeup companies, and I started with my product till I moved down here.
I have my BSc. and I almost completed my masters. I didn't finish it in America. I'm finishing this year.
Why didn't you finish your Masters?
I was expecting a baby. That was my first baby. I had a lot of complications with my pregnancy, so I had to call it off. Then I decided to stay off to take care of my baby.
What is the most memorable day of your life or in your career?
I will rather stick to my career. Recently, I have never taken okada before, but I did on 5th of January this year. I will never forget. I had a bridal job in Lekki Phase One. It was on a Monday. It was a boat cruise. The bride was calling me, she was almost close to tears, I can sense from her voice that she was very angry as well. I left my house at 6 O'clock in the morning but traffic in Lagos is so unpredictable. It was so bad I had to get down from the car. I had to get down because I couldn't stand the fact that I was late. I had never got late to my jobs. I just had to take a bike. I went on a bike from Kingsway Road to Lekki Phase One. My eyes were close till I got there. I was terrified. To me, I don't like to upset my clients at all. I could easily sit back in my car and say I would get there whenever the traffic allowed me, but I could not do that. I just had to, even though I'd never been on it (okada) before. I even called my husband to say I'm about to get on a bike, and he said please don't get on a bike o, remember you have three kids here o, who is going to take care of them. But I couldn't just sit in the car. I must have had high blood pressure. I just got my box, got a bike, held on tight to the okada man, till I got there.
What would you consider the biggest achievement in your career and in your life?
It was not easy for me to get pregnant, that is one; to carry the pregnancy, two; and three to have the babies. That is the greatest thing that God has ever done in my life - that I have a family that loves me. I love my family so much, they've been my backbone, they've supported me. I might not have a lot of friends but I am contented with what I have. I see nothing as high as what I have, as just my family. That is actually what made me create the name of my product after them which is LISE, I had the names even before I got married. I had the names before I had kids. Because I have names of my children yet unborn. A lot of people tell me that I am really crazy. The L from LISE is Laila, she is my second daughter. I, which is Imani, my last baby I just had. Then S which is Sam, my first son. The E is for Eni which is my name. My husband use to represent that I because his name is Idris. But I actually moved him over, put my daughter's name Imani. So, it's still all of us regardless the fact.
What is your philosophy of life?
Whatever you give to other people good or bad is what you are going to get. If you are good you treat people good. If you are bad and you treat people badly, the way you treat people is what you are going to get back. That is what I stick to. I don't pretend to be who I'm not. I can eat with anyone in the same plate, I don't use madam stereotype. I gist with anyone. Some people will tell me you are not supposed to be talking with this kind of person. It's not me. Pretty much I treat people the same way I like to be treated.
What is your family background and growing up memories?
I actually grew up in Ojodu. We used to live there before we moved to Airport Road. From Airport Road to Ojodu. From Ojodu we moved to America and we lived in America for 15 years.
With your family?
Yes, none of my family lives here in Nigeria.
Where are you from?
My father is from Ijaiye, Abeokuta. I'm a Yoruba. People say I look like a Delta woman. I'm married to an Ikorodu man. He is a prince in Ikorodu. He'ss Prince Adekoya Balogun.
So, what is your full name?
My name is Enitan Ibidunni Balogun.
Do you have any phobia?
I don't like lizards. I can't stand it. I don't like to fly, but I don't have a choice. It terrifies me. So I always summon up a lot of courage. Like a week before I travelled, I was already throwing up. If I know I'm going to travel next week, I'll start throwing up this week. It's that bad. It's like I have morning sickness till I'm on the plane and I get off. I've seen doctors, they say it is my brain, my body; that it's all in my head. There is really nothing I can do.
If you can, what will you like to change about yourself?
Maybe not being too nice. Something like ki eyan ko buru die. Not fun, fun, fun, all the time. Be serious once in a while. Apart from that, characterwise nothing; maybe body wise.