Since her first foray into media Toke Makinwa has been plagued with undoubtedly harsh criticism and arguably has as many fans as she has detractors. What you cannot argue with, however, is her ability to turn that criticism into cash. In a stroke of entrepreneurial savvy, the super-influencer and media personality turned her most polarising admission (and one her detractors vilify her for) of bleaching her skin to a potential goldmine.
Skin lightening is a loaded issue, one that many would have stayed far from, not only because of its racial and ethical implications across Asia and Africa but also because of the truly horrific consequences when substandard ingredients are used.
We speak to the multi-hyphenate on her decision to tread this path and what her journey has been like so far.
BNS: How did you first decide to start Glow by TM? Tell us how it came to fruition, from the idea stage to the final product.
I’ve always been a huge fan of skin care. I’ve been obsessed with skin care products since I can remember. I’m the girl who goes to the grocery store and stops by the beauty department and literally spend close to 40 minutes reading and being obsessed with different things. I’m a skincare junkie. It hasn’t always worked, I have tried various products, Sometimes it failed woefully and sometimes I’ve gotten the best results. I’ve been working on having my own skin care line for about 4 to 5 years now. I’ve been to quite a number of beauty fairs. I’ve tried to partner with a number of prominent organizations, some almost made it and others fell apart before we got very far. I got an email sometime last year from Buluwa Inc., they had launched a beauty product and contacted me to try it out. I read the email, but forgot to respond and I remember the last beauty fair I attended, I came back really frustrated, I was having a chat with a friend who knows how obsessed I am with skin care, (I would literally be the guinea pig to try everything) she asked how the journey was going and instantly I remembered the email from Buluwa so I picked up the email thread and asked if they’d be interested in partnering with me on creating my own skincare line. Buluwa and I got into bed together, created some amazing formulations, tried it and we were all happy with the result.
This first phase of TM Glow is a performance line, I feel like a lot of people are struggling with maintaining a great skin complexion, It’s one thing to use certain products to achieve a great look but to maintain, that is where the struggle is and our skin is not magic, you have to take care of it so you have to constantly treat your skin even better than you think you should. Ever met anyone with bad skin? You have a deep appreciation for your skin instantly but we are trying to promote the journey to healthy, glowing, skin as part of our daily routine because your skin is all that you have.
BNS: How does Glow by TM reflect the way you approach self-love and self-care?
Your skin is part of who you are. Everyone needs to be comfortable in their own skin regardless of whatever shade. I never try to get into conversations about shades. I’m not one of the people who believe that using performance lines means that you do not love yourself. I feel like maintaining your skin is a huge part of arriving at great skin. There are a lot of people struggling with dark spots, uneven skin tone and we were looking for the perfect product that blends and also gives you that amazing skin tone that keeps you glowing, all day, keeps you bright and also keeps you refreshed.
BNS: You’ve faced a significant amount of criticism in general and particularly since you launched this skin lightening line. What do you say to people who think your line is in direct conflict with your faith and the rising #BlackGirlMagic narrative?
I try not to get into some conversations because a lot of people leading this conversation do not quite understand it. I feel like people will call out others on using skin lightening products or those who choose to perm their hair (because there is also a #teamnatural debate that exists) but will spend so much time trying to get a particular body shape or size at the gym or diet plans etc. If we are all going to talk about loving ourselves it should not be with restrictions.
We are all a work in progress and If you feel your skin can do with a little work, why not. What I will say is that Glow by TM is a skin care line targeted at every woman of color and women who seems to struggle with dark spots, melasma, uneven skin tone and are looking for the perfect shade for their skin. I’m not one to judge anybody or tell someone on how to live their life as long as they are comfortable in their own skin and I have never been one who looks at a lighter skin as being better than darker skin.
Personally, I don’t think self-betterment equals self-hate. There are a lot of light skinned women who tan all day, looking to get a shade or two darker too. Why don’t we have the same conversations when the case is the reverse. I feel like if you wake up in the morning and your skin is looking dull and you’d like to brighten it, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it as far as it is done safely. It’s all about maintaining your skin and your skin journey is not always going to be the same. Certain people have started from acne to clean and clearer skin. While some have started from dark spots to having them faded out and having the skin progress in time.
I’m the kind of person who hears about a product and loves to try it even when I’m not suffering from any skin issues because I’m just curious. It has nothing to do with my faith. People do worse behind closed doors. If you go to their bathrooms to see what they use, there’s a tendency to find a skin brightening solution lol.
Why can’t we just embrace our decision and understand that everyone is entitled to what they want to do as long as they are not hurting anyone? I feel like a lot of people need to be comfortable with whatever they are doing. We live in a world were a lot of people are huge hypocrites. People saying this person is using skin lighteners, that person trying to lighten her skin is a sign of self-hate are not always right and who made you judge anyway? We are all on a journey to self-betterment.
BNS: You must have known there would be sizable negative feedback. How did you brace yourself?
There was nothing to brace myself against. At every new level comes a greater devil. It has nothing to do with the critics. People are curious, and they’d always have certain conversations and I have come to welcome that it comes with who I am as long as I am true to my purpose, my jo, rney and growth I am up for it. A lot of people have criticized, joined the bandwagon and in the long run become my promoters
So I’m just sitting back and enjoying the ride. I feel so lucky and blessed.
BNS: And as we have seen from some of your stories and some industry feedback, the line is selling like gangbusters – do you think Nigerians/Africans are hypocritical about the issue of skin lightening?
I definitely think so. I think it comes from the shame culture where we are quick to shame each other over everything. People love to play it safe not because they don’t want to step out of their comfort zones and find what makes them happy but because we worry so much about being judged. The funny thing is we are all judged anyway and the judgement mostly comes from people who deep down wish they had the courage to live free. People generally hate you for having the balls to walk on water when all they truly feel is admiration and a tinge of jealousy because if only they took that chance, or stepped out and damned the consequences. It would amaze you at the number of people saying things but still calling to make enquiries about the products.
BNS: In your book On Becoming, you stated the reasons/emotional basis of your decision to lighten your skin. A lot of people took that as an admission of remorse/ regret. How do you balance these expectations?
My book was about my journey, I am still on that journey. I revealed in my book that certain things led to the decision to lighten my skin but I do have to maintain my skin now, don’t I? lol I’m on a skin maintenance journey right now and I’m loving it. It takes a lot of work to still make it look this polished and to get it to glow like it does. I don’t see it as an admission of regret. I saw it as talking about my journey and finding me. I am most comfortable in who I am becoming.