By YEMISI SULEIMAN
Omowuni Akinnifesi is elegance personified in her carriage, style and overall look. Years after relinquishing her crown as Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria (MGBN), cameras have not stopped clicking every time she appears on the public scene, as she continues to generate media attention for her beauty, style and grace.
A graduate of Geography and Regional Planning, from the University of Lagos, Akinnifesi was appointed Environmental Ambassador by the Lagos State Governor, Babatunde Fashola, in 2009. Obviously passionate about the environment, she has been very involved with environmental issues the fight against climate change, the importance of tree planting to reduce carbon oxide in the atmosphere etc.
Miss Akinnifesi is also CEO of Elle Poise, an outfit which focuses on international etiquette, international image and branding consultancy. Graceful and elegant in her style, Omawumi was recently voted Allure’s Style Icon for 2011. In this exclusive interview, she opens up to Allure on her unique dress sense, her life and relationship. Enjoy…
How did your style evolve? Did being MGBN influence your dress sense?
Before MBGN, I had always been very stylish and fashionable. But, being MBGN kind of influenced my dress sense in terms of the fact that, formerly, it was just a little more laid back and more casual because I hardly used to go for events.
After winning the crown, it pushed me further to take my style to another level because I had to stand out in the crowd. It pushed me further and I evolved and, style evolves yearly, monthly, weekly, daily. Let’s just say I am more matured in fashion.
How does it feel being in the spotlight? Does it put pressure on you to look good?
As an individual, being in the spotlight, being in the eye of the public, I think it’s more of a challenge in that your private life is very exposed. It’s not private anymore. But, I try to keep my private life to myself as much as possible. And, yes, it is a challenge.
People expect a lot from you and you know what they say: that great power comes with great responsibility. I’m a leader because, for me, being a beauty queen, you are a leader as a woman in terms of fashion, character and personality; in terms of everything. You have to be able to lead in a proper way, show and live by good example because you are going to be inspiring and influencing people.
Does it put pressure on your pocket?
Personally, it doesn’t affect me at all because, I have always loved fashion. Even if I weren’t a beauty queen, I would still be dressing and looking the same way because, I believe in looking good and being fashionable. It’s not because of being a beauty queen that I dress this way; it’s because I want to. If you look around, you will see that I am not the only one that dresses well. Every Nigerian girl is fashionable, by her hair, her make up; we just like to look beautiful.
So, how do you feel being Allure’s Style Icon for the year, especially being listed with some older people in the industry?
I’m very honoured. It was Omotola (Jalade-Ekeinde) or Ireti Doyle that handed it over to me, the edition in which a lot of people were featured on the Allure cover and I said “Oh yes?”. It was just a passive thing. I didn’t even know what was going on. So, I feel very honoured to have received it. It just goes to show that fashion and style has nothing to do with age. It’s you, the personality that is wearing the outfit and dressing in a particular sense. So, it has nothing to do with age but with grace and beauty and fashion.
How would you describe your style?
My style is very elegant, simple, classy and sophisticated. I don’t go by trend. I go by what makes me happy, what looks good and what will last for the next ten years. I buy timeless pieces. I collect the pieces I know will reign for a long time. Trends are so easily outdated because they have a short life span. So, I believe in timeless pieces.
Who makes your clothes?
House of Nwaocha. I do jewellery by Lisa. I have worn lots of designers in the past, from Mon Ami to Mya.
What is your favourite red carpet look?
I don’t have a favourite red carpet look. It depends on the event that I am going for but I would like the very elegant and classy look. And, I’ll not wear too much; it’s probably one piece, probably a long, flowy, effortless dress. I am wearing the dress, the dress is not wearing me. If you put somebody else in that dress, it probably would look different.
Most prized fashion item?
My most prized would be my Hermes Birken bag and it’s a very large size. That is my most prized right now. I saved for a while to get it (laughs). It didn’t just happen overnight.
How much did it cost?
I’m not going to tell you. No.
So, when it comes to fashion, what will you splurge on?
I will spend a huge amount of money on jewellery, because I can hand them over to my kids. I have lots of timeless pieces and I just see them in the family; like my grandmother passing it over to my mum and the chain continues like that. I see it going from generation to generation. Apart from jewellery, I will do bags.
I know some of my mum’s most expensive bags and purses, wallet purses and things like that are still in my family right now. And, you still see them and still wear them and they are in right now!
Favourite shoe designer?
My favourite shoes… I wouldn’t have an all-time favourite shoe designer. I don’t think it is time to have an all-time favourite shoe designer. Maybe, when I am 70 and I am about to leave the earth, I will have an all-time shoe designer because, more designers will come, more unique pieces will be discovered. So, why stick to one right now? Right now, I will just say I love Christian Louboutin because I think they are stylish, very sophisticated. That is why I like them but I won’t say they are an all-time favourite; because there was a time that Jimmy Choo was so in but right now everybody likes Louboutin. I go to different stores and I see different shoes I like, and that is it for me.
For perfumes, I will say Coco Channel Mademoiselle for night because it is more intense. I also do the Amani Code for evening with friends. Then, for day time, I do Lola by Mac Jacobs or Dazey by Mac Jacobs during the day.
Best beauty secret?
If I have a beauty secret, I am about to tell it to the world. It is not possible (laughs). And, if it were a secret, if I told you, it won’t be anymore. Anyway, I rest that is all. I watch what I eat and what I drink.
Do you exercise?
Well it depends. Sometimes, I do. Sometimes, I don’t. Because, I am the type that doesn’t really need to exercise. I lose weight very easily. I have been blessed with the physic.
What is your relationship life like? Are you into a relationship? You have been linked with some guy at a time. How true is that?
I don’t know. There is nothing to clear. People just guess because I am a very simple person. So, I guess they just look for something to write. I see a lot of people everyday. When I go to events, everybody in Lagos is in the event; all the people known to the public, all the celebrities are there and if I go close to a friend to take pictures with him, people just assume we are dating.
I probably will stop taking pictures with people on the red carpet, because that is where it starts from. And, the only picture the public sees is the red carpet pictures. I will stay with some people for hours taking pictures with them and nothing will come out, but the ones that few individuals just come out and say let’s take a picture and it becomes a problem.
So, these days, when I see my friends, I just tell them: “Please, don’t come close, because they will say we are dating. Just stay there.” And, they even laugh about it as well.
I appreciate Nigerians for trying to link me up with one person or the other; they can continue doing the match-making until they eventually see who it is, or get it right. But next time, they should just make sure it’s Prince Harry.
You had a scandal-free reign as queen. How did you do it?
Well, it is my nature. I am very jovial and so, I really don’t know how to explain that because it is the grace of God. I guess, it is my upbringing as well, the kind of home I am from. I thank my parents for that but I thank God most of all.
What do you have passion for?
Like I said, we have been involved in the fight against climate change, the importance of tree planting to reduce the carbon oxide in the atmosphere. I have been in contact with universities abroad that specialize in these areas: Oxford University, Cambridge University, Queens College, London trying to do stuff with them about the environment and do write-ups.
I am very involved with the environment, with tourism. These are aspects I have ultimate passion for. In this country, we don’t pay attention to the two things that we are supposed to be doing. We don’t concentrate on natural things, which is something we should start focusing on. But for now, I am doing background work. I am doing research and study of things and systems that have worked over there, internationally, because we have much more than they do. If their little system can work over there, imagine what it will do for us here.
So, there are so many things that I intend to do now and in the future. This is a long term thing. It is something I have such deep passion for and I hope to influence that industry by the special grace of God.
When it comes to relaxation, where would be your favourite holiday spot?
I am a tourist. I don’t have a favourite holiday spot. But I go to different places. I am a junky; people call me globe trooper, because every time I have different pictures. I collect pictures from places. I am a tourist. I don’t have one particular location. For me, leisure is going to a new place and experiencing nature. They have unique tourist destinations in different parts of the world.
So, if you ask me where I love the most, I will give you like eight different countries that I love their tourist destinations. I love Paris, it is a very nice place; very relaxed, very soft. Milan is nice as well. Rome itself is a tourist destination. When you are in Rome, you feel like you are in ancient times. Jordan is a wonderful place. There is this place called Petra Park. It is a whole kingdom cut in stones. It will take you like two weeks to walk around the place. So, it is an exquisite place. It is mind blowing.
Where would you love to see yourself in the next ten years?
Where I will love to see myself in the next ten years is in my head and I don’t want to share that. You will see it when the time comes. But for L-Poise, it will be an impact and an inspiration to people and women, more especially.