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Glow Through What You Go Through! Toke Makinwa Speaks to BN Style on Skin Lightening Backlash, building Multiple Brands and her Beauty Secrets

BellaNaija Style

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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.

Head over to www.BellaNaijaStyle.com for the full interview

16 Comments

  1. Physio Tinu

    December 19, 2018 at 12:35 am

    She’s a brave girl. Her ability to dust off the negative comments is a wow! She’s so thick skinned. Pun intended.

  2. Ajala & Foodie

    December 19, 2018 at 7:11 am

    I am not one to hate on someone’s hustle. In fact, I have praised this lady’s hustling skills on here and got chewed out for it. Nevertheless, I just read a bunch of “cow dung” who doesn’t know that sun tanning isn’t healthy? And yes people talk and have been talking about the risk involved with sun tanning. It is why many now resort to spray tans i.e temporary staining of the skin pigment. There is no safe way to remove melanin from your body. While I am not one to enforce my will on others saying “There are a lot of light skinned woman tanning all day… Why don’t we have the same conversation when the reverse is the case”. Well, it is the same conversation we are attempting to have (neither is healthy; be it sun tanning or “bleaching”). Yet, in the same breath you discourage people from having said conversation, pretty much telling people to mind their business. I guess the conversation is only to be had as long as it is only agreeing with your side of the argument i.e what you want to hear?

    Secondly, trying to educate others via having a conversation does not mean they don’t respect your right to make whatever decision about your body. The U.S government even Nigerian government respects all individuals rights to choose to smoke “it does not harm anyone else right?” But it does not stop the effort government officials and media houses have taken to educate on the risk of smoking. So this whole argument of “I am not hurting anyone so don’t try to tell me nothing” does not work. Yes, you have a right to lighten your skin. I sure hope no one judges you or treats you differently for it,but it is ok to have others still try to educate you as well as others on the health dangers and risks this decision poses.

    Lastly, I balk at BN referring to Nigerians as hypocritical. Ok while I agree that many can come across as hypocrites. I want to believe it is not the case in this issue. Are we saying that since many are complaining about the way things are with our past and current government then Nigerians are hypocritical since the same people we complain about are still in power? No, the truth is those enlightened enough to complain are the few dissenters we hear. Others, wel,l are just yet to come to the “light”. I believe the people that are against skin lightening are enlightened on this and so more willing to speak up and out. Others, not so much. So they just do what they do and yes, there are still obviously many who either do not understand or refuse to understand the health risk attached to chemically altering the makeup of your skin.

    • Mrs chidukane

      December 19, 2018 at 1:54 pm

      Jerez! You’re so intense these days,what’s happening? Take it easy.

    • Elle

      December 20, 2018 at 11:19 am

      Let her be intense, how is that a problem? We enjoy her comments, if you don’t you can skip reading them.

      Call it whatever you may (Glow, blow, flow), bleaching is bleaching no matter how you package it and has health implications down the line.

    • Xo

      December 23, 2018 at 3:43 pm

      Lmao.. You had time to wrote this full thesis?

      What a wow!

  3. Tee

    December 19, 2018 at 7:44 am

    I really don’t like that lots of people equate dark skin or acne to dirty skin. This idea that light skin is clean is so untrue. That’s just my observation.

    • Mrs chidukane

      December 19, 2018 at 1:57 pm

      When I see dull skin, I don’t see dark skin. I see skin that is ashy or lacks lustre. I’m not light skin,neither am I trying to be light skin but I love skin that glows and looks luminous. Any product that will give me that glow,I’m all for it.

    • Mrs chidukane

      December 19, 2018 at 1:59 pm

      Its like Chioma good hair and Og style temple. Their skin for me, especially the style temple girl is goals.

  4. kim

    December 19, 2018 at 1:08 pm

    Black is beautiful. I am black and proud;

  5. Seriously

    December 19, 2018 at 2:32 pm

    Toke, girl I like your mindset. And, you are a true businesswoman, she didnt allow the interviewer to distract her with emphasis on the backlash. She kept redirecting to her product. A true scorpio, tough signs, you cant mess with scorpios.
    Beauty industry will continue to expand no matter what. Each person has every right to have their negative backlash and positive feedback. And theres huge market for skin and hair. Of recent, small waist and huge butt trend.
    I’m yet to understand how pale skin from bleaching looks good, it always looks weird and unhealthy. Some people know when to stop and how to maintain it where it looks natural and healthy.
    But a good brand of vitamin C and hyaluronic serums are good way to brighten. Add retinol, you willbe glowing and supple. I stopped tanning because I had weird patches on my skin, now I leave my skin the way it is or I spray on.

  6. Anne

    December 19, 2018 at 3:36 pm

    I don’t have anything against Toke and certainly not trying to spoil business but the world is going crazy honestly. I woke up this morning telling myself that no man will kill me, the pressure on women is so much that I observed that many women die earlier. Why? Focusing on how something looks rather than healthy or hazardous. I love my skin and will try my best to maintain it but will not bleach it. Oh No. I am not going that route. If you don’t like me that’s ok, done this people pleasing game for a while and it kills the soul. One day the skin and body will go to the grave, I am so sorry not killing myself before my maker purposed. No, my mum who was a nurse before she passed on warned me. She saw the negative effects of bleaching especially when the victim needs to be operated upon. No, I am not placing vanity over health. No. No one will make money from my hurt. No my daughter will not do this. Toke you are a hardworking woman, got nothing against you but I am not falling. I am not among the hypocrites, we are already dealing with various risks to health on earth so I am not adding this to me. if that very dark skinned woman can mode(guess you all know who I am talking about) , those who have issues should seat under her tutelage.

  7. Anne

    December 19, 2018 at 4:00 pm

    Bella. You have not published my eye opening comment. Plesse publish it, adults are free to make their personal choices.

  8. yes maam

    December 19, 2018 at 4:11 pm

    Glow Through What You Go Through! RMBAOTFL

  9. Mrs chidukane

    December 19, 2018 at 10:28 pm

    Someone will take the time to type a comment and you guys will hold on to it. My new year’s resolution is to stop visiting this website.

  10. Seeiously

    December 20, 2018 at 12:32 pm

    Bella naija, close down this website. it’s dreadful abd pathetic at this point. There’s lack of content, takes forever to post comments, grammatical errors, etc
    It just doesnt make sense to continue to operate a dying thing.

    • Lexy Jane

      January 19, 2019 at 11:17 pm

      Its not easy bro

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