Nigerian beauty entrepreneur Tolu Oye in a new feature with American fashion bible Vogue gets candid about growing up Nigerian in the States. She talks about most especially the role that her Nigerian parents played in ensuring that she and her siblings grew up fully conscious of their Nigerian heritage.
As a child, I resented my mother’s love for Ankara and her desire to pass that love on to my siblings and me. I hated the way the rough texture rubbed against my skin and the looks I got for wearing it out in public. On Sundays, in preparation for church, my siblings and I would angrily rummage underneath our beds for our wrinkled traditional clothes, counting down the hours until we were able to return home and rip them off our bodies. We would all scurry to the car, hoping not to be seen by our neighbours, who always looked at us questionably whenever they saw us in our traditional attire.
But it wasn’t until 2012 when Tolu Oye and her family visited Nigeria, and her for the first time, that she started to understand the importance of home, she revealed to the publication.
It wasn’t until my mother forced me to take a trip to Nigeria, in 2012, that I began to understand the importance of home and the privilege of being able to return. As soon as we arrived in Nigeria, my grandmother invited all the children in the community to eat with us. One by one, she filled our plates with rice and stew, giving seconds and thirds, until we were all full and sitting comfortably in her front yard. For the first time, I saw my mother with her family, laughing and catching up on lost time—I thought it was beautiful. For the first time, I regretted all the years I had spent hating my culture.
Tolu who is a fashion student at the Fashion Institute of Technology, will later return to the country alone and spend three months with her grandfather, who showed her old photos of her family, she adds. On her return to American, in February this year, she gathered Nigerian friends and extended family and took a remake of the photos with them in fabrics that she cut and sew herself. And when Nigeria’s independence came on Tuesday, October 1st, she celebrated with the photos.
Click here for the full feature in Vogue.
PHOTO: DOTUN ABESHINBIOKE / COURTESY OF TOLU OYE