For the next 10 weeks, I will be serialising my book, ‘The Cost of Our Lives – Pandemic Edition‘, and sharing a chapter with you every week. The Cost Of Our Lives highlights the story of how Ibidun was taken from Ajegunle to London by her mother’s friend. This novella details Ibidun’s London adventure of friendship, betrayal, freedom, and how she was able to return to Nigeria to begin a career as a celebrity fashion stylist.
I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. If you missed the first chapter, read it here.
I decided that I was going to move back to Nigeria exactly two weeks after I left work because I could no longer pay my bills. I was practically living from hand to mouth. I had also done a little too much shopping and I was slowly going into depression. I was broke, jobless and I kept having suicidal thoughts because of all I was going through. I remember there was a night I even picked up a knife and was about to slash my wrist because I was fed up with life.
I had no source of income, no boyfriend, no house to call my own, no real friends or family in London. I knew it was time to move back home. I began to make enquiries about how to get travel documents since I had no international passport and my visiting visa had long expired. After falsifying some documents and swearing an affidavit that my passport was stolen, I applied for a travel certificate at the Nigerian High Commission. Luckily for me, it was granted. Thanks to my credit card, I bought a one-way ticket to Lagos and I was ready to say goodbye to London for good.
When I got to Heathrow airport, I put my right hand on the floor and kissed the hand. That was my way of saying goodbye to a city I had called home for nine years, a city that had given me a job (even though I had to pretend to be someone else to do it). A city that made me think outside the box, a city that made me speak confidently like the white man, a city that was so good to me and, most importantly, a city that made me dream big without feeling like my dreams weren’t valid.
By the time I was leaving London, I had made so many friends through social media. In fact, I had become a Twitter celebrity and an Instagram idol. I had fans who worshipped me online day and night. ‘Fashion slayer’ and ‘pawon’ – which literally meant ‘kill them with fashion’ were constant comments on my timeline.
When I arrived in Lagos, one of my social media friends, Chiamaka, agreed to accommodate me in her Lekki flat because I had nowhere to go. It was unthinkable for me to come from London and head straight back to the ghetto. Who goes to live in Ajegunle after living in London for almost a decade? Definitely not me. I made a decision not to contact my mother and brother until after I had hustled and made it. My friends in Nigeria had already told me that Lagos was all about packaging so I began to package myself rather nicely. I came back with a lot of clothes from Primark. I tried not to wear too many prints or patterns because those ones were easily recognisable as being from Primark. I went for mostly earth tones and single colors because I didn’t want to be tagged a Primark chic. I had been told that some of the spenders in Nigeria wouldn’t be caught dead wearing clothes from Primark but preferred clothes from Atmosphere because they were very ‘trendy’. I had also heard that guys saw ‘Primark wearing babes’ as cheap girls even though the men themselves also wore ‘Cedarwood State’ shirts. Well, I didn’t move back to Nigeria to educate anyone about the fact that clothes from Atmosphere and Cedarwood State were basically the same as those from Primark, I moved back to make money and force myself into the Lagos social scene either by hook or by crook. I had also invested in some nice pieces I bought from a thrift store, especially for some of my friends from Instagram who lived in Lagos and who were only interested in buying so-called ‘vintage’ pieces.
Since my impression about Lagos was that it was all about flossing and partying, I began to hustle to get invites for all the major events. The first event I attended after I got back to Lagos was a fashion show. My friend, Clara, who had also moved back from London around the same time, was the main organiser of the show so I got a front row seat. It was like a dream come true as I got to wine and dine with all the red carpet faces I had been seeing on all the fashion websites and Naija magazines while I was in London. I was dressed to kill and my British accent was in full flow. I didn’t spend nine years in England for nothing. Even I knew that my swag was on another level that night. I distributed the classy call cards I had printed a week before to those around and, of course, it read ‘Ibidun Dan-Martins, Celebrity Fashion Stylist’. My new surname was simply a hybrid of my father’s names.
When one of the recipients of my card asked to know the Nigerian celebrities I had styled, I was glad to let her know that I had just moved back to Nigeria and most of my clients lived in the U.K. She seemed impressed with my accent (trust me, I know when it’s working on people, especially Nigerians) and before I knew it, she had also switched from her regular Naija flavoured English to full cockney. Even the Queen would have had to strain her ears to hear her properly. I was really impressed. When she handed me her business card, I suddenly realised that we were namesakes. That was rare. We obviously hadn’t heard each other when we were getting acquainted earlier because of the loud music. But that wasn’t the only thing we had in common. Clearly, we were both big time wannabes and it was only logical that we became best of friends.
Ibidun was dark, short and very bubbly. Her small stature made her stand out every time. She knew all the movers and shakers of Lagos and they were always so excited around her. Her loud voice always made people take a second look at her whenever she spoke. I guess it was because one wouldn’t expect such a loud voice from such a petite lady. I nicknamed my new friend ‘Ibidun small’.
She invited me for all the happening events while I, in turn, loaned her clothes to wear. I was shocked to hear her tell a friend at an album launch we attended together that she was styled by me. That was either the way she interpreted my loaning her clothes, or she was just being creative, if you know what I mean. Didn’t they already say that Lagos was all about packaging? Whether she loaned the clothes or I styled her, she wore my clothes most of the time. At some of these events she invited me to, I got to meet all the supposed Lagos big boys and girls as well as celebrities, artistes and the likes. I soon realised the effect that saying, “I just got back” had on these people, so it gradually became my regular introductory line. “Hi, my name is Ibidun Dan-Martins, celebrity fashion stylist. I just got back from the Yuu Kaey.” They would smile and nod and suddenly become more welcoming. Call it what you may, but what works, works. It worked so well for me that even six months after I moved back to Nigeria, I was still saying, “I just moved back.”
Soon, I had styled a number of celebs and I had become the rave stylist. Everyone wanted to be styled by me. Major designers were asking me to style the models for their shoots, all the fashion magazines and blogs wanted to work with me and interview me. I had finally arrived. My dreams of becoming a Lagos big girl and an entrepreneur had finally come true. I was getting paid to style celebrities, while music video shoots and fashion shows were incomplete without my touch. Nothing prepared me for that much success. Who would have thought that everything would fall in place in just less than a year? I got myself a flat in Ajah and I finally asked my mother to come live with me. Life was good.
Join me next week for the next chapter of The Cost Of Our Lives.