w w w. b l a n c k d i g i t a l . c o m
‘The art of being YOU’
3 Editorâ€™s letter
48 Tribal escapism
112 Call of the wind
5 Team and Contributors
64 Ayo Awosika
122 Mandela in all of us
10 Lola Rae
82 Amal Fashanu
134 How free are we?
28 Alex Ekubo
38 The scarlett woman
102 Toni tones
editor’s letter I am a bird, a victim of serial caging. I am one person that has been put in boxes - of different shapes and sizes. Consciously or unconsciously my performances have been measured by the expectations of others. I live my life thinking about what they think about me, what they feel about my work, how good they think I look, how stylish or unstylish they think I am. I am bound by their appraisals; my decisions are made from their conclusions. My limits or abilities are defined by their realities. My drive is oiled by their perceptions. This is the life that I live, every single minute and day of my passing life. Sometimes I ask myself, whose life is this - theirs or mine? Some other times I wonder, whose fault is it - mine or theirs? The day you start living is the day you realise that you are your own prisoner and freedom in the actual sense of the word is only but a state of mind. This realisation though still in progress prompted me to start BLANCK. An empty page that would allow me and a bunch of creative genies to express ourselves without the fear of judgement. The quest for freedom is one that is endless; it is beyond being gay and seeking acceptance, it is beyond being black and waiting to be recognised, it is beyond being yourself and expecting the world to deal with your choices. Our journey towards liberation is understanding that as long as we live, we will never be free. Just like meat… your freedom is another’s bondage. Two friends got into an argument - one said, it’s my right and choice to be gay, then the other replied it’s also my right not to accept your choice as the norm… whose right is it really? Come back down to earth… The concept of freedom is too deep for one to fully express in one issue, but as much as we could, we have delivered. Over seven celebrities, amazing photography, stunning styling, interesting views on the concept of liberation, mind blowing creative concepts; this edition is one for keeps. My team and I have had the most fun working on this piece and I’m in no doubt that the deep joy that flows within all of us will reach your end. As a fashion publication with a conscience, our goal is to drive home topical issues that affect our lives using the craft we know best. I sincerely hope you enjoy this issue and many more fabulous ones in the future. Before I go, I will leave you with these words by the great Nelson Mandela on freedom ‘To be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others’. My name is Franka and Franka means freedom – I am a free spirit who knows that she alone is morally responsible for everything she does.
Enjoy your read.
àsìkò is our Art director and manages the visual content for the magazine. As a photographer, he uses his intuition and visual aesthetic to develop the visual identity for Blanck. àsìkò also shoots for Blanck .
Segun is our beauty editor and manages all the beauty content created for Blanck. She is a consultant to beauty brands and has her hand firmly on the pulse in the beauty industry.
Bella is our fashion editor and curates the fashion put together for Blanck. She currently freelances as a creative consultant and stylist. Bella is also a designer and is the creative mind behind the Mr Garbe Tshirt brand.
àsìkò is a freelance art photographer who currently lives between London and Lagos. His work has been featured in a number of publications namely Vogue.it, Pride, WOW.
She also freelances as a PR/ Marketing Consultant and Business Strategist. She currently lives in London and manages the prolific beauty blog LotionsPotions and Me.
Graphic design by Maria-Inès Chevallier - www.mariaineschevallier.com
Tokyo James is the creative director and founder of Rough Magazine. He has an impressive portfolio of work and has created fashion and film editorials in collaboration with major fashion brands like Vivienne Westwood, House of Tara, Jagger, Puma, Ozwald Boateng, Armani Exchange and much more.
Ada Emihe is a freelance fashion and portrait photographer from New York. She is one half of the creative duo that runs Avaloni studios. Adaâ€™s images exude feminine beauty and her work has been featured in Elle, Harpers Bazaar, FAB magazine to name a few.
Kadara Enyeasi is an art photographer from Nigeria. His main forte is creating compelling narratives about identity and self-expression.
Raychel Odunuga is an award winning hair stylist and makeup artist from London and is the brains behind the brand RayJewelled beauty.
Rasheeda Brown is a stand out makeup artist from London. She is what we call a face beater with an aptitude for creating a flawless look. Rasheeda’s work has been featured in magazine editorials in Pride and Black Beauty.
Dele Alakija is an accomplished makeup artist and dancer from New York. She is a free spirit with an infectious personality. Dele’s work is about enhancing inner beauty. Dele’s work has been featured in Afrizion magazine.
Anoushka Romanenkova Anoushka Romanenkova is a talented hair stylist who creates art inspired hair. She has a wealth of experience working on photo shoots and video shoots. You can follow her work on Facebook and see her extensive portfolio online.
Words by Franka Chiedu - Photography and Art direction by asiko - Styling by Bella Adeleke - Make up by Rasheeda Brown - Hair by Anoushka Romanenkova
There are stars and then there are superstars; the difference is in the depth, strength of character and quality of art, the individual exudes. To understand what a budding superstar looks like, you only need to spend a minute with Lola Rae. Soft spoken and easy going, she is definitely not the same feisty, power dancer you see on stage. An interesting mix
in personality that endears her to fans, family and friends. Born Rachel Funmilola Garton by a Nigerian mum for a British father, she grew up like every typical Nigerian child, spending long hours in the Lagos traffic to find her way to St Saviour’s and later the Lekki British High School. When Lola auditioned for world famous Simon Cowell during ‘Britain’s
Got Talent’ little did she expect the response that would come from that singular act. Today the super fine singer/song writer with a voice laced with honey is set to launch her much anticipated album but before that, she stopped at our studio to share her thoughts on the concept of freedom… www.blanckdigital.com 11
Where do you draw your cliché thing to say and we hear it influences from? all the time, however it’s honestly A lot of my influences come from my family. My family is dominated by strong women, who have always depicted a very serious work ethic. I’ve always looked up to their drive and determination. I try and enforce it in everything I do.
Who are your icons in the industry?
Wow, I have so many I wouldn’t be able to mention half of them because I look up to so many people for so many different reasons. I would have to say all the greats that have paved the way for us today to be heard by the masses are all deserving of the title.
When did you decided to delve into music and how long have you been doing this?
I’ve always wanted to do music, it’s been a dream of mine from a very young age. I’m sure that’s a
the truth. I used to suffer from a huge lack of self-confidence, so I never pursued music until I auditioned for ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ and Mr. Simon Cowell told me I had a good voice, my career began after that day. It has been just over a year since we released my debut single as a solo artist, ‘Watch My Ting Go’.
What have been the highest points since this venture and what are the set backs?
The greatest joys have come from seeing how people receive my music. Performing at a concert and hearing people sing back my lyrics is the most amazing feeling ever. Thus far there have been no setbacks. I can only be grateful to God for that.
What inspires you to write the songs you do?
Day-to-day life experiences. My songs really do illustrate
where I am mentally at the time of creating them. I am a very happy person, I love making people dance so majority of my songs are very up-tempo and eccentric.
Which of your songs do you love the most and which have you received the greatest love for?
My favourite released song would have to be ‘High’ featuring Bridge from L.O.S. I love the sexy reggae feel to the beat. The song which has received the greatest love would be ‘Watch My Ting Go’, it’s my only song with a video. God-willing our upcoming videos would receive the same amount of love it did.
If you weren’t doing this what other career path would you have chosen? As a result of my confidence issues in the past, I decided to delve into a career that would enable be express myself without
necessarily having the spotlight on me, so I focussed my attention on fashion. I went to Central Saint Martins and took a course in Fashion Textiles. So if I wasn’t in music, I would definitely be doing something in fashion.
amount of materials. However I have had a few life experiences since then, I’ve grown and matured a lot and I really want my first body of music to be true to who I am today.
captioned ‘Lola Rae Is Pregnant and Loving It’ [ha ha]. Thinking back it is hilarious, but at the time it wasn’t!
My future aspirations are plenty! Lol! But above everything I want to be very successful in the music industry and on an international level. There are so many things that I’ve put in place to achieve this but I would hate to spoil the surprises, people would have to wait and see.
people’s confidence and make them feel so powerful! Wow, I’ve been collecting make up for years so I have no idea.
What fashion accessories are you obsessed about and Let’s talk about your what’s the most you’ve spent What are your future personal style, how would on them? aspirations and what plans your describe your style in I love make-up (yes that to are you putting in place to three words? me is a fashion accessory). I love achieve this? Versatile, clean and light how make-up can instantly boost
How many songs do you have on your album and can you talk us through the album?
I’m still in the recording process. I thought I was done with it last year as we recorded a vast
Have you ever suffered a fashion faux pas, if yes please fill us in
Oh honey, yes! A major one at that, [ha, ha, ha!] I had the most amazing piece given to me for the Davido UK Album Launch by the amazing designer Mark Fast. The dress was absolutely gorgeous! However right before going on stage the belt to cinch in the dress as seen on the runway was nowhere to be found and I was left to go on stage without it. The very next day the blogs had titles
How do you keep fit and what is your beauty regimen?
As of recent I’ve gotten myself a personal trainer as I really want to shed some pounds and I’m really trying to implement a healthy eating lifestyle. Lots and lots of water is the best beauty regimen.
How do you want to come across to your audience?
All I ever want to do is entertain people; have them leave a concert and say ‘Wow, she really put an effort into every single detail on stage’. I mostly want to come across as how I am in reality; a happy, God-fearing person.
Are there plans for future collaborations, if yes who are you looking at and why?
We have quite a few collaborations so far, however I have a collaboration wish list. In Nigeria I would love to collaborate with female artists, Tiwa Savage especially she is so talented, and P-Square. I think performing alongside P-Square would be mind blowing. Worldwide, Beyoncé - a girl can dream right? [Haha!].
Do you have plans of relocating to Nigeria?
Absolutely! God willing I should be fully relocated by the end of April latest; I really cannot wait, so excited.
What does freedom mean to you?
Freedom is such a powerful word. The first thing that comes to mind is ‘Personal Liberty’. Having the power to dictate how you to live, who you love - being able to make your own mistakes and learn from them in your own way. Freedom to me is truth, freedom is fearlessness, and freedom is euphoria. One of my favourite quotes by Carrie Jones is ‘The secret of happiness is freedom, the secret of freedom is courage.’
A woman in a trouser suit or menâ€™s clothing especially in a well fitted suit always commands power. Every season, there is always a cool new twist on how to pull of this all time classic look ever since Yves Saint Laurent (now Saint Laurent) gave life to this adopted masculine style. Fast forward to this season, the look is fun, playful and effortless with the right amount of risquĂŠ and pizazz. Pencil trouser suits are teamed with silk lapel jackets and sheer organza shirts. Day suits are more fun with linen shorts and jumpsuits are alluringly sexy with plunging necklines. This season it is definitely cool to dress to kill and much more fun in a suit, even if it is work or play.
The notion that fashion is art was put into design context by prominent fashion houses this season and has created a fashion frenzy for all fashionistas and style lovers out there. Art murals, Graffiti inspired design and a quick science class in the anatomy of flowers was dished by the likes CĂŠline, Prada, Nkwo and Christopher Kane. With Midi pleated skirts teamed with silk blouses and Jumpers. Applique and intricately embroidered dresses, it is safe to say that this Look is strong, bold and elegantly eccentric. Team the outfit with contrasting Heels; wedges or cork heeled platforms will set this look off perfectly.
3..1 phillip lim
According to Coco Chanel, White is the absence of colour and its beauty as a hue is absolute. White exudes elegance in the innocent and purest of form. This season the hue is seen in sheer silk and chiffon in form of maxi and midi dresses. The soft nature of the look only encourages the daintiest of footwear and simple minimalistic jewelry with the highest sophistication. A splash of colour will also set a white ensemble off nicely so look out for clutches and totes in candy colored hues to set the outfit off in grand style. As the saying goes; when it’s white, it’s always right and most importantly, it is verified by Coco Chanel. If you dare to cause a stir, look no further… Balenciaga
all images from www.style.com and Lagos design fashion week.com
3.1 Philip Lim
Ankle straps, stilettos and the single sole pumps have become staples and remained fixed on runways from New York to Paris and Milan. One style that has been raised from obscurity and onto the scene this spring is the mule. Mules graced the runways of Alturzarra, 3.1 Phillip Lim, Jenni Kanye and Victoria Beckham, Fendi amongst many others to seal its place as a must have accessory this spring. Ladies I hope the calf muscles are in shape as the mule has arrived, and it has in grand style.
Issue 2 online now
w w w. b l a n c k d i g i t a l . c o m
â€˜Having the power to dictate how you live, to love who you want, to make your own mistakes and learn from them in your own wayâ€™
Download the Issue app for Android and Wi n d o w s p h o n e s . Blanck Magazine on the AppStore on iTunes-coming soon
Two piece suit by Ozwald Boateng Belt by Edwin
Jacket by Lot 98 Trousers by lot 98 White shorts by Iceberg Socks by Nike Boots by Dior
Words by Franka Chiedu - Photography by Andrew Hills Art direction & Styling by Tokyo James
“First of all, just so there is no confusion, I am African, Nigerian and Igbo from ArochWukwu LGA, Abia State, I’m a black man and I’m proud of my heritage!” Alex Ekubo, very fair-skinned, easily confused as not black nor Nigerian is quick to affirm his identity on our meeting. In today’s world where many would kill to have his complexion (especially women) thereafter laying claim to another nationality, he is the patriotic
exception to the unfortunate rule. Working with Alex has always been a delight; his professionalism and level of organisation is worth applauding. Jovial with a great sense of humour, he readily admits to being a workaholic that rarely takes himself seriously. He shot to fame after finishing second best at the Mr. Nigeria competition (a pageant for men) in 2010 and has not looked back since. His participation in the competition
opened doors to a successful modelling career and he has since leveraged on this to launch himself into the movie industry, starring in a number of box office hits. With his amiable personality and great sense of purpose, he has quickly become an industry favourite, winning himself countless trophies in Nigeria and beyond. Here, he talks work, fashion and most importantly what freedom means to him… www.blanckdigital.com 29
Two piece suit by Ozwald Boateng Belt by Edwin
Jacket by Nicole Farhi Track suit by Domingo Rodriguez Glasses by Valentino
Jacket by Lot 98 Trousers by Lot 98 Shorts by Iceberg Socks by Nike Boots by Dior
‘The power to act, speak or think freely without internal or external fear or favour’ What do you do? I’m a professional actor and a full time model. I recently setup a company, to explore other business opportunities. Having studied Law at the University Of Calabar coupled with a Diploma from the Calabar Polytechnic, Cross River State. It’s only natural for me to expand my reach as far as possible.
Floral hooded track by Penfield Sandals by Xander Zhou (Archive)
How did your career start and how has it been? It started in 2010 after I emerged the first runner up at the Mr Nigeria contest. That event gave me the much needed platform and exposure to explore my modelling career as well as my interest in film. With each job comes its unique challenges, so I’ve learnt to appreciate the individuality of each project and pick as much as I can. Even though I am currently a full time actor I intend to explore the production angle of the industry in the near future. It will be great to be on the other side to learn how the magic is made behind the cameras.
What has been the high and low points for you so far? I’ve graced a couple of major runways & adorned a few billboards around the world, but being a part of the Mr Nigeria contest, was a major highlight for me. Talking about the lows, I would say none. From my view, there are no lows for me in my pursuit of success, just lessons learnt, it’s all in the process of making me a better person. blanck
What does the future hold? I can’t say I know or have all the answers but the ultimate plan is Hollywood, so help me God. What are your thoughts on the fashion and the entertainment industry and how he juggles between the two? I will call myself the love child of both industries. Working as a model and also as an actor gives me the right to that title [laughs]. The fashion and movie industry are like rice & stew, they complement each other, without one the other is incomplete, however it must be in the appropriate proportion because an overdose on any can be tantamount to counterproductivity. What is your fashion sense like and do you feel like fashion itself is overrated? Fashion can never be overrated or underrated, before us there was fashion, and after us there still would be fashion. Fashion is timeless. I love fashion and it’s ok call me a fashionista. I love the quick changes in trends but I’m a huge crusader of comfort. I love wearing body appropriate and fitting clothes and my personal style is classy and edgy. I love great designers no doubt, but I’d wear what suits my body type and budget before any brand name. When it comes to fashion faux pas I would say that somehow I’ve managed to fly below the radar, hopefully I don’t make any mistakes. What’s your take on freedom? I usually would say, live and let’s live! Freedom to me is the power to act, speak or think freely without internal or external fear or favour.
Words by Segun Garuba - Photography by Asiko - Make-up by Lola Maja and Imelda Ladebo - Make-up products: Blush Nigeria - Model: Mulan Itoje
the scarlet woman
the freedom to make a red statement
Does anyone really need convincing of the allure of the red lipstick? When it comes to makeup the crimson pout is our secret beauty weapon, it has the power to make or break an outfit, give you an inner secret confidence and make a statement with just one swipe. It has been a trend for centuries, it is said that ancient Mesopotamian women were the first to invent lipstick by crushing precious jewels and applying it to their lips. Ancient Egyptians used a red dye and Cleopatra used crushed ants and carmine beetles to achieve a more vivid red hue for her lips. Thankfully the red lipstick has come a long way from using
insects to create the perfect colour, and now spans a full spectrum of colours, textures and finishes. Loved and disliked in equal measures, the simple red lip is fraught with many different connotations, some good, some not so much. There is something about the red lip that seems to invite strong opinions both about the lipstick itself and the woman wearing it. In the past the woman who wore a red lip would need to be prepared to have some assumptions made about her character. In more recent times, this has ventured into darker areas of colorism, when rapper A$AP Rocky, was quoted in
an interview as saying only fair skinned women could get away with wearing a red lip. “But for real, for me, I feel like with the red lipstick thing it all depends on the pair of complexion. I’m just being for real. You have to be fair skinned to get away with that.” Now let’s for a moment, ignore the fact that he has absolutely no training or qualifications whatsoever to make him an expert in providing advice on the skin tone of women in relation to makeup. His belief and comment that your ability to wear a red lip is in any way determined by the lightness of your skin is not only highly flawed, but is completely deplorable.
It is however sadly echoed by others, who not only believe that they have the right to loudly voice their opinions but have taken it to new heights with what can only be described as bullying. This was shown in the case of blogger Rocquelle Porch, founder of the blog Consider Me Lovely. Rochelle wore her favourite red lipstick to an event, and her picture unbeknownst’ to her was then posted on the Essence Facebook page and what followed was a slew of negative comments both about her choice of lip colour and her appearance. As people loudly critisised her,
and her choice of lipstick, again claiming that she was too “dark” to wear a red lip. The truth is, we all have the freedom to choose what we want to wear and whether we agree with an individuals choice or not, it is exactly that, their choice. There is a difference between constructive criticism or advice but even with that being said, it still remains exactly that, an opinion and no one is entitled to sprout negative, hurtful comments or impart their own perceived beliefs onto others
simply because they don’t like how they look. There are so many women that restrict themselves with self limiting beliefs and say “I can’t wear this because ___________! When the simple truth, is that it’s your freedom of choice to choose what you want to wear and quite frankly, is nobody else’s concern. That’s why despite attempts by several governments over the centuries to try to ban the red lip, it has stood the test of time, because the only opinion that truly matters is yours. www.blanckdigital.com 43
the red for you Red lips are the quintessential sexy look; a makeup must have that is simultaneously classic and trendy all at once. It is one of those magical colours that works on everyone, from the darkest to the palest of tones and when worn right has the power to transform your look and make you ooze allure and confidence. The bottom line is all women can wear a red lip, and regardless of your skin tone, there is a red lipstick that is perfect for you. Yet so many women struggle to pinpoint the right red for them. Here is our guide to finding the right red for you.
As a general guideline orange based reds are warmer in tone and blue/pink toned reds are cooler in tone, however I donâ€™t believe there is a universal law on which red is right for you, as most women can actually wear both shades of red regardless of their skin tone. The key to finding your shade, is to work both with your undertone and also with how well the shade of red looks against your skin tone, and the only way to truly find out is to go over to a beauty counter and try some on.
tips for finishing
your look When wearing a red lip (or any other lip colour) dry or chapped lips is a big no no, so start off by exfoliating your lips to remove any dry skin. Moisturise your lips first to soften the skin, then either use a lip-exfoliating product or use a warm and soft bristle toothbrush or washcloth to gently exfoliate your lips. Follow this up with a lip balm to help seal in the moisture.
Press your lips together, blot with a tissue and reapply the lipstick for true staying power and then blot again.
Once they are smooth and soft, a lip brush is a fantastic tool to help you achieve a perfect pout. Start at the center of your lips and blend outwards ensuring that you also blend the lipstick into the corners of your mouth.
Ensure that you donâ€™t get the dreaded lipstick on the teeth look, by inserting your index finger into your mouth and gently pulling it out. This will help to remove any excess lip product
To make the colour pop even more, ensure that the lines around your lips are crisp by blending either your foundation or concealer around your mouth and remember to blend it well to avoid any harsh line.
Finally to complete the look, we recommend keeping the rest of your look simple as it really helps your red lips to stand out. Well-groomed eyebrows, glowing skin, minimalist or soft eye makeup if any, a lined eye and either mascara or lashes.
From left to right: 1. Tom Ford Cherry Lush - Tom Ford is well known for his gorgeous collections and makeup and this lipstick was a best seller in his first collection. £36, Selfridges. 2. Lipstick Queen Velvet Rope lipstick in Black Tie – The queen of lipsticks, it’s velvety and is a rich intense deep red. £35 from Space NK. 3. Nars Heat Wave - With just a hint of orange this is a lovely warm red. £18.50 available nationwide at Nars Counters.
4. MAC Ruby Woo - No lipstick list is complete without MAC’s super matte retro red (blue toned) that is a popular favourite for many women. £15 available nationwide at MAC Counters. 5. Bobbi Brown Burnt Red – A lovely classic red that isn’t too bold. £19 available nationwide at Bobbi Brown Counters. 6. Stila Stay All Day Liquid Lip Colour Beso - A vivid, creamy liquid lip colour, that applies like a gloss but dries to a long lasting matte finish. £15, Selfridges.
Photography and Art direction by àsìkò - Styling by Ken Crombez - Makeup by Crystal Die Model: Nadege Peldetta Golonga (IMM)
The strong desire to travel comes from within. Fashion is lustfully beautiful and through fashion the desire to wander is irresistible. We always tend to aggrandize our perspective towards life in search of a deeper meaning or purpose of our existence. Freedom is a foray into escapism which is tied deep in our origin. 48
Feather piece by Christophe Coppens Dress by H&M trend Skirt bottom by American Retro.
Left and right: Dress by H&M Trend
Left and right: Chiffon cape by Ken Crombez Design Velvet black leotard by Bitching & Junkfood Black leather shoes by H&MAntique Necklace Jewellery (Stylist’s own) Black feather headpiece (Stylist’s own)
Top/bra by River Island Trousers by H&M Trend. Necklaces by River Island and H&M. Antique Bracelets (Stylist’s own) Headpiece with fringes (Stylist’s own)
Left and right: Feather skirt by River Island.
Feather piece by Christophe Coppens Dress top by Trend collection H&M Skirt by American Retro.
Words by Franka Chiedu - Photography and Art direction by Ada Emihe of Avaloni Studios Make up by Rozy-Cheeks by Roselyn O
awosika Ayo Awosika is a diamond in the rough, and like most treasures stumbled upon by a stroke of luck or fate’s guiding hand, I came across her unintentionally doing my rounds on cyberspace, reading up news on different blogs and digital news platforms. A gem popped up on my home page- a picture of a lady in high-
octane, eye-catching yellow dress with perfectly groomed locks. The caption read, ‘AmericanNigerian Singer Ayo Awosika makes her Lagos Debut!’ Her appearance was definitely not the norm as per Nigerian entertainers and my curiousity was pricked. I decided to investigate. I ended up spending the whole day on her
website, playing the four songs I found there over and over again. Ayo Awosika is a vocalist, multiinstrumentalist and songwriter based in Brooklyn, NY. Her sound is distinct, soulful with doses of nostalgia and highly addictive. In this chat, she shares a little of her fascinating world with me.
â€˜In the greater sense, what inspires me to write the songs I do is necessityâ€™ 70
Tell us about yourself
I was born in the US in a town called Salisbury, MD. Which is on what we call “the eastern shore”. This is where my mom is from and also grew up. My dad is Nigerian and is from Lagos, where I was so fortunate to visit (for the first time as an adult!) this past January. I’m a graduate of the Berklee College of Music with a degree in Vocal Performance, I’ve often been described as a “songstress“, with diverse training that spans from the classical to the jazz world and everything in between. Early on in my career, I had the opportunity to learn from jazz greats like Ellis Marsalis, and Art Lande.
Where do you draw your only really talented, but they also had influences from? something significant to say in the
This is always a fun question! I draw my influences from a lot of different things including music, books, my own life, including situations related to family and friends. But specifically in music, my influences are vast because my parents played a lot of different types of music when I was growing up, from Diana Ross to Michael Jackson, Andrea Bocelli to Barbara Streisand, and Bob Marley to Fela. I feel like what I really took away from my musical upbringing was the idea of true artistry and musicianship. I was exposed at a young age to artists who were not
message of their music.
Who are your icons in the industry?
This is a tough question, because I feel like there are only a handful of artists that are really upholding the title of “icon”. But for me, artists who will always be iconic to me are ones like Michael Jackson, Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, and Fela. As far as an artist today, I love Sade. I’m also a big fan of Norah Jones for her ability to adapt and change musical styles. www.blanckdigital.com 71
When did you decided to delve into music and how long have you been doing this?
I’ve been involved with music ever since I can remember. I started playing piano when I was 6, and I stuck with it through college and up to now. And I just always loved to sing - I was in various choirs growing up, both in high school and also extracurricular regional and state competing choirs. I fell in love with singing in general, but I also fell in love with singing with other people, finding how our voices fit together and creating harmonies. That’s one of my favourite things to do. I always knew from a young age that I wanted to be a professional musician and decided I wanted to go to music school very early on. I’ve been pursuing it since I got out of college in 2007.
I look up to most, and I’ve been able to share and write music with the best of friends. Playing shows for any audience is a treat, but especially playing for big crowds - I’ve had many of those experiences, and it is magical. In general, it’s just always amazing to have the chance to play and make music with musicians who are just so good that you want to pinch yourself. I feel blessed to have had that experience many times. The setbacks would be that it can be hard to keep the ball rolling in an industry that is always changing, and can be very fickle as well. There is no formula to success, as there may have once been... with few record labels, and less funding to pay musicians, (and for the arts in general), it can be tough to be a professional musician and artist in today’s world.
What inspires you to write What have been the highest points of this venture and the songs you do? what are the set backs? In the greater sense, what inspires
The highest points of this journey are most certainly the musical ones. I have had the opportunity to play with, or open for some of the artists
me to write the songs I do is necessity. I might have a melodic idea or a lyric that pops into my head and until I can get home to my keyboard or guitar to
develop it, it’s just itching to get out. More specifically, I can be inspired by anything: something that happens to me personally, something I hear someone say or do, a mood, something I read, a situation that a family member or friend is experiencing.... it could be anything!
She has performed all around the US and has also had the privilege of sharing various stages with the likes of Richie Havens, Peter Eldridge of The New York Voices, bassist/singer Esperanza Spalding, and members of Tower of Power. She has been performing her original music since 2009 when she released her first EP ‘‘Hearts, Words, and Other Forgotten Things’’. Ayo is finishing her first full length album with Grammy winning producer, Scott Jacoby, featuring musical prodigies such as organist/keyboardist, Cory Henry (Snarky Puppy) and guitarist Grant Gordy (David Grisman Quintet), among others. It is slated to be released later this year. 74
all images from www.style.com
case for blue When shopping for bags, whatever type they may be; the blue coloured ones are usually not the first to come to mind but what the designers are saying with their latest deliveries on the runway is for you to question the norm and shop the coolest colour on the rack. Give the black bag a break and take a deep plunge into the soothing world of the blue coloured wonders. We have had the longest relationships with the blue hues when it comes to dress, denim and tops, so why not bags? It’s understandable why the blue handbag idea will be new for some, but designers like Chanel, Prada, Phillip Lim and Chloé say it’s ok to fall deep in the blue and show your love of the shade in monaco and dusk blue! See a few looks for your shopping inspiration.
From left to right : Jil Sander, 3.1 Phillip Lim, Chanel, Fendi, Gucci, Chanel, Chanel, Prada.
Diane von Furstenberg
Zac Zac Posen
First row: Balenciaga, Second row: CĂŠline, Third row: CĂŠline, Chanel, Diane Van Noten, Fendi.
statement cuff 78
all images from www.style.com
Dezso by Sara Beltrán
Zac Zac Posen
Need we say more? The photos speak for themselves, when it comes to trends there’s no such thing as much is too much, not if they are done properly. Rocking a statement cuff or layering a few of them can be sophisticated when done right. This style is bang on trend from runway close ups of Céline, Dries Van Noten, Fendi, Prada and more. A beautiful sculptural cuff is totally chic on its own, but adding extras to it can add a modern twist to your ensemble. Let your metals mingle and take a peep at some of the finest cuffs ever made. www.blanckdigital.com 79
all images from www.style.com
hot necks Call them HOTNESS if you please but you know thereâ€™s no harm intended. Jazz up your looks through any season by adding some statement making show stopping necklaces. Be inspired by designers like Balenciaga, Christian Dior, Dries Van Noten and a host of others. Statement necklaces are here for the long hull, get used to them- plus we have a few hot ones for your viewing pleasure.
From left to right : Alexander McQueen, Balenciaga, Balmain, Bottega Veneta, Christian Dior, Christian Dior, Dries Van Noten, Saint Laurent.
AKONG London AKONG London AKONG London
Words by Franka Chiedu - Photography by Asiko - Styling by Bella Adeleke Hair by Raychel Odunuga - Makeup by Rasheeda Brown
fashanu You would think the slightly sunny, easy breezy day was responsible for the zest and energy in the room that morning, but no! It wasn’t. The infectious wide smiles, laughter, excited chatter was emanating from one person- Amal Fashanu. Hers was a shoot to remember. “Wow! This is really amazing you know,” she said drawing my attention to her beautiful face being painted by the make-up artist. “This is the first time I will be having a full on black team in a shoot and it really feels amazing.” Amal was a delight to shoot, not only for her versatility and experience, but her palpable energy and megawatt personality. She singlehandedly kept the energy in the
room from the beginning of the shoot till the end, entertaining us with her flawless switches from British English to a hardcore Spanish accent. The shoot crew and I felt as though we were at a movie scene. Born in London, but raised in Spain, Amal Fashanu is the daughter of renowned football legend John Fashanu and Spanish model Marisol Acuna. She shot to fame with her grounding breaking BBC Three documentary Britain’s Gay Footballers, one of the channel’s highest rating shows of the year, with more than 1.3 million viewers. The documentary was nominated for the prestigious British Broadcasting Award that year and followed Amal’s brave
and moving journey, interviewing premiership stars including her father to find out why her uncle Justin Fashanu tragically committed suicide after becoming Britain’s first (and only) footballer to come out. Ever since, Amal has gone on to become the country’s most vocal campaigner against homophobia and racism in sport and will be launching her own charity this year to stamp out prejudice. Here she talks about her tall aspirations, her life right now and what freedom means to her…
Yellow guipure top by Zara - Asymmetrical skirt by Zara
‘Freedom is the art of being you!’
‘My mantra “The best revenge is Success” - a quote by Frank Sinatra’
Tell us about yourself, documentary for BBC3. This growing up, family back- doc was the most watched doc ground, education and all. of 2013 and was nominated for I was born in London on the 21st of October under the wonderful sign of Libra. I lived in London as a child attending St Christmas School until I was ready for secondary school. At the age of 10 I moved to Madrid,Spain and lived there with my mum until I moved back to London for university. In Madrid I went to an International school called Runneymede Collage, where people of the likes of David Beckham took his kids. After a long deliberation of choosing between studying Law or Media, I ended up studying Communications and Media Studies at Brunel University in Uxbridge.
a British Broadcasting Award, in the current affairs division, something I was very humbled and indeed proud of.
point in my showbiz career hasn’t come yet. I feel like the day I win an Oscar or a Grammy. The lowest time for someone in showbiz I believe is when you are not active job wise 24/7 but I am fortunate enough to say I haven’t experienced that yet and hopefully will never.
What was the specific outcome from the documentary and what impact did it make What are the plans for on your career? the future short term There was not a specific goals, anything new? outcome after the documentary, the main essence was to help create awareness on equality in general and the lack of respect some individuals have for other people’s feelings. This documentary had a massive impact on me personally as well as my career. To such an extent I was truly shocked.
The future holds the key. I am super excited for the future as I believe in working hard in order to achieve what you want. More documentaries are in the pipe line and I am going back home to Nigeria soon to be doing a show potentially alongside my father.
not just one thing I do for a living, as it’s not within me to just be doing one thing in particular. From owning a fashion brand, to writing for Observer or Huffington Post, campaigning, singing, modelling, I earn my living in various artistic forms. The world is truly our oyster, everyone must explore all their God given skills.
Singing hands down is the most exciting thing I do. For me it is very important to feel passion for whatever you are doing and this is what I feel when I am doing it. I am looking to take my singing and writing to the next level, which means I have to dedicate the majority of my time to doing what I love the most.
Fill us in on your rise to fame and how it all started. I rose to fame after making myfirst ever hour long
What has been the highest and lowest points in your career so far?
I love fashion and how it is something for everyone and anyone. Fashion is what the individual choses it to be. I believe black female models for example are underrepresented in the UK and in Europe in general, and I think this is a huge issue we slowly need to tackle, and the only way of doing this is through the art of commnication. Fashion is what you make it. If you overrate it, it will become over rated. Fashion is in me as I walk, sleep, and eat fashion!
What’s your take on fashion and the industry; Which of your many jobs do you think fashion itself is Opportunity is key, there is excite you the most? overrated?
What do you really do for a living?
To be honest I think the highest
Burgundy/red dress by Diversus
necklace and earrings by Thelma West
What’s your style fetish? W h a t ’ s y o u r s t y l e and how much? My style fetish would be high preference and who would The most expensive fashion heels! you call your style icon? piece I own is a Hermes Birkin I would describe my style as classic, chic, and simple. I stick to basic greys, blues and black with occasional outbursts of colour. My style icon is Elle McPherson and has been since I was very young. Her fashion style is on point.
Are you a trend/designer buff or does anything go for you? To be honest I tend to stay away from what is trendy as I find you always end up looking like someone else if you stick to trends too much, and for me there is nothing like being original and being you!
Have you ever suffered a fashion faux pas, if yes tell us about it? I have suffered a fashion faux pas, and it was at a very well-known premiere in London staring Richard Gere. I wasn’t anything major although tabloid press decided to blow out of proportion when my dress lifted a bit with the wind.
If you had an opportunity of swapping wardrobes with anyone, who would that be?
I think I would swap wardrobes with Kate Moss even though most of her clothes wouldn’t fit me, but because she has done more fashion editorials than any other model ever and therefore I know her closet is full of interesting amazing pieces.
What’s the most expensive fashion accessory you own
Croc and it’s worth a lot of money….let’s leave it at that! Lol
Where is your favourite shopping destination?
My favourite shopping destination is New York for sure. For me, it beats Paris as you’re spoilt for choice in NYC.
How do you keep fit?
I keep fit by maintaining a healthy body. Looking after myself from the inside out, by taking daily vitamins and drinking at least 2 litres of water a day. I also work out 3 times a week and play polo.
Where’s your favourite Are there celebrities male/ holiday resort? female you think are stylish My favourite holiday resort is home and abroad? Well we have the stylish men who I would say are characters like David Gandy, Tyson Beckford or David Beckham and for the females as already mentioned Kate Moss, Elle McPherson, Naomi Campbell, or even legends like Grace Kelly.
called El Dorado and it is in Dorado Beach in Puerto Rico. It is one of the most amazing relaxing place in the world.
What’s your mantra?
My mantra is “The best revenge is Success” - a quote by Frank Sinatra.
Give us a typical day in your life.
Send words of advice to There is never a typical day in people you inspire.
my life. I do so many different things, that each day is a whole new beginning. I do manage to go to the gym 3 times a week and write blog posts for my fashion brand Black Heart Label. But apart from that which is pretty much the same, the rest of my daily activities vary greatly.
If you were a fashion accessory which one would you be?
If I were a fashion accessory, I would be a Chanel Hand bag as everyone would love me, would be very versatile and can go anywhere in the world at any point. [Laughs]
The best word of advice is to always believe in what you’re doing and work hard for what you believe in. We can all be who we want to be in this world with hard work and the grace of God.
Any shout outs to fans and family members? I would like to give a shout out to my Daddy John Fashanu as I admire him endlessly and to all my fellow Nigerian followers as they never let me down and always support me to the max.
What does freedom mean to you? Freedom is the art of being YOU!
Words by Ayodeji Abraham - Photography and Art direction by Kadara Enyeasi Styling by Ifeanyi Nwunne
Ikenna Azuike is the consummate satirist. Born in Nigeria, he was then transplanted to the United Kingdom at the young age of eight, an early start to being an AfricanWestern hybrid today now known as the Afropolitan. This has largely informed his bread and butter today: casting a critical eye and
keeping close tabs on his homeland, diligently aware of its relatively charged affairs - in largely comical, roaringly hilarious fashion. His talk show What’s Up Africa, inspired by Jon Stewart’s ‘The Daily Show’ is a blossoming social media success, treating burning topical matters concerning the African
content with rib-cracking humour deftly laced with messages inviting viewers to introspect. Here he talks about how he does this, the sometimes nutty connundrum that is fashion and the career detour that has gotten him where he is today. www.blanckdigital.com 91
How was your recent opportunity in place to do so, but I’m trip to Nigeria? very open to the idea.
It was amazing! We went to the Freedom Park for a live music concert, ‘Afropolitan Vibes’, Bogobiri for the open mic night and we also went to Ogudu and Anthony Village to watch the football tournaments. A lot of things went down in Lagos.
Are you making plans relocate?
For sure! This is actually the first trip where I actually talked about moving back; like I properly vocalised it, but I know there’s has to be the right
Tell us about yourself and What’s Up Africa.
Well, I was born in Nigeria, Surulere to be precise. I was brought up by two loving and amazing parents and when I was eight years old we moved to the United Kingdom; which was very good and the transition for me was also very smooth. The most important thing for me at the time was being with my parents at that age and the fact that they were always there to guide and support my growth process.
My dad would always remind me of how I was crying and screaming “I don’t want to leave my country o”. He said that brought tears to his eyes. We came back fairly often and also had a lot of Nigerian friends and family members around so the transition was very good. The last time I travelled to Nigeria before now was when I was age 18, so there’s been like a 15 year gap in between. In the time that I was away, I studied Law mainly because that was what my dad wanted me to study and to be fair there was nothing else I was passionate about at the time. But afterwards I left Law to work in
journalism and there I started as an intern and just like someone once told me, that it is better to start at the bottom of the ladder you want to climb instead of sitting half way on the one you really don’t want to climb. I took an 80% salary cut, which was painful but then I was able to be myself and every day I walked into the office I was getting all these creative ideas. It was more like an explosion of creativity. It was wonderful! I started making radio productions on the African desk of a magazine star programme and after a while I got the idea for the ‘What’s Up Africa’ project which was inspired
by a satirical talk show in America called The Daily Show hosted by John Stewart who I think is a comedy god. I pitched the show to Radio Netherlands where I was working and they liked it and that was how it all started. The show has grown since then and a lot of people seem to like it. I would like to believe that it is doing something important. I try to do a couple of things with the show but mainly airing my frustration on how Africa is often portrayed in the Western media but at the same time be critical because many people believe Africa is rising but Africans are not, which was something
I said at the previous TEDx Talk and this is absolutely true. There’s a huge disparity between the rich and the poor across the continent, it is not like this is not happening in other parts of the world but it is extremely visible in Africa. So it is important to be critical about the progress that needs to be made.
What is the next step for the brand?
Well, it is an exciting time for sure because the Facebook following is growing immensely, the YouTube views as well and my recent trip to Nigeria www.blanckdigital.com 93
was also amazing as the acceptance was huge. Channels TV said they would like the show to be featured on their platform on weekly basis; Ebony Life TV said the same thing; KTN in Kenya just got a new channel and want to take it on and also I did a pilot for BBC on the first of January; hopefully one or all of these will work out.
How do you get your stories?
safety of Amsterdam and London and these people are on the frontlines. For instance, during a trip that I made to Angola to give a talk, the guys organising the talks (TEDx) Uganda requested that I changed some of my slides because they were too political; I had no problem doing that because these are the people who on daily basis get harassed and hassled by these politicians and their cohorts.
Did you ever anticipate I’m really thankful that I have a the type of reception and the lot of editorial and creative freedom level of impact you’ve made on the show; so I’m able to pick so far? stories that annoy or frustrate me. Stories I’m desperate to air my views on; something I desperately want to change its narrative. Also I’m able to make fun of politicians and have them talking like figures from South Park, you know all these people that can make someone into a super hero.
What do you seek to achieve with this show?
I hope to be able to use this show o change the narrative about what life really is in Africa; because so many people outside Africa believe it’s a dark continent where famine, wars and homophobia is prevalent; but more importantly my target groups are Africans in Africa and Africans in the Diaspora. I want to inspire and encourage people to think critically. To ask questions of their leaders and if their leaders cannot provide them with answers, to know that they have the right not to vote them into power. Having said that, it is also something that is very difficult to do because I’m making these videos from the relative
No! I say no very quickly because normally you only start with hoping it happens, especially when you see people like Ray William Johnson, the guy that has the most subscribed YouTube channel with over 10 million subscribers. I knew this project was for a smaller audience, people who generally have interests in Africa: but I’ve been blown away by the reception so far, I mean last year was amazing! Getting an interview on CNN and BBC as well as doing the TEDx Euston talks. I mean the TEDx Euston Talks was the height for me. And event that attracts some of my heroes and suddenly I was able to speak on the same stage they spoke on. That was very special.
What have been the high and low points for you so far?
The high point would be getting on the TEDx Euston stage and for the lowest point which I don’t regard as anything bad as I believe things happen for reasons, it will be those moments during my legal practice
when I used to feel so depressed about the materialistic person that I had become. The apathetic person who is only doing a job just because it pays well. It was a challenging job no doubt and was also very interesting but it just wasn’t for me.
How was your transition process?
It was tough at the beginning. I had just bought an apartment at the time I made the decision to quit my job and you know how the banks are with their mortgages. Things were very tight but I was inspired by what I was doing. I had great colleagues as well; but I generally believe that if you are creative and hardworking, with common sense and initiative, things will generally be fine.
At what point did you decide to leave?
I had known from day two of being a lawyer that the profession wasn’t for me but there was always an excuse to continue. There was also the need to keep my dad happy and I was always hoping that my lack of interest would change, may be when I finished my qualification or become a partner: but one day during a lunch break at work, I decided to go buy myself an electronic toothbrush. I bought this for $200 and when I got home I thought to myself ‘why would I spend this kind of money on a toothbrush that became my wakeup call. I wondered what the hell I was doing, buying things because I felt it was part of the life style of a big shot lawyer. I knew I needed to change.
What was your change. father’s reaction to your Who is Ikenna? decision?
He is happy that I’m happy but it’s still a disappointment for him unfortunately. I think mostly because he knows that we are not as financially secured as we would have been at this stage if I had continued as a lawyer. Five years on, I would have been a partner or some big lawyer with a £200k – 300k annual salary, which is obviously not the case at the moment. He also finds it difficult to describe to people what I do. I know he loves me but I’m the person who needs to change my expectations because he’s not going to
Ikenna is not the shouty guy on What’s Up Africa show. Ikenna is definitely not the pastor as well. Ikenna is just a guy who is interested in current affairs, news, and politics and also likes watching some funny Hollywood or Nollywood movies and have a good laugh with his friends and family. I am also a dad to a lovely daughter and a great boyfriend to a very wonderful girlfriend.
How do you manage your busy schedule with regards
to family time?
I’m a bit of a workaholic, especially with all these social media stuff and constantly having to churn out new videos. It is so hard to switch off. So in finding a balance I have had to device a lot of practical ways to meet up. For example I bought a very old telephone (Nokia) which obviously does not have access to internet connections and all. This is the phone I carry out when I’m spending time with my daughter, so when the three of us are going out the most that can happen is a text or a phone call. I am addicted to my smart phones and it would be impossible to concentrate on my family time with
my phone around. So we do all these things to create time for ourselves.
Are you into fashion?
Yeah for sure! I like fashion but I’m not a slave to it. I enjoy fashion and have those days when I pay attention to my outfit but there are also days I look at my clothes and don’t feel like styling them up as they all appear too superficial. I am one of those people that have moments of loving it, reading fashion magazines and attending fashion events; then after a while the love just fades out.
Have you had a fashion
[Laughs] Multiple! I remember having this conversation with some of my friends from the university. We all at some points had very terrible fashion moments. I remember wearing one 3/4-length leather jacket with a belt like a trench coat to my friend’s house, and when his sister opened the door and saw me she screamed ‘Why are you wearing your mother’s coat? [Laughs] The coat was two sizes too big! There was also another jacket that had a zip off sleeve, so you are able to convert it to a waist coat, black shoes with big silver buckles like a freaking musketeer.
But some of these trends go and come, don’t you think?
Yeah, I guess but my timing was never right! I was always two years too early.
What fashion accessories do you like?
I like bow ties a lot, I definitely don’t do jewellery. I went through a hat phase at some point but I’m not into hats anymore; again I was two years too early. I liked those fifties hats a lot. I like sneaker shoes too but above everything else, I like the fact that most of my accessories are sustainable and fair trade. For example What’s Up www.blanckdigital.com 97
Africa T-shirts are made from organic cotton, they were made in Ghana and I ensured they were fair trade, which is one problem I have with the fashion industry in general. I would care more about fashion if everyone was employed fairly.
Do you have a style icon?
I do for sure! I really like Stromae, the Belgian-Rwandan singer. He is an artist with a distinctive style which is super cool. Everything about him is cool; his music, his dance, everything. I love the fact that he is not afraid of being himself without a care about what he looks like or what people think of his style. He wears some very stylish pieces in very effortless ways. There’s nothing painful about his style.
Would you delve into fashion at some point?
I really enjoyed the shoot for this feature and I will be happy to support as many designers as possible, we can always find ways of working their
pieces into the show, by maybe having a distinctive style.
Do you have icons?
I look up to Chimamanda Adichie. I think she is so eloquent and fearless. I have never met her even though I’ve been so close, but I will ensure to do so soon. I would like to interview her on my show, I hope she will be willing.
Words and rules you live by?
Fail harder! Being willing to try out things that you have never done before and not being afraid of failing; you can get the most out of life that way. What traits do you admire and deplore in people? Honesty, kindness, fearlessness, hardwork. I can’t stand lazy or superficial people.
What’s your take on the Gay Rights Bill recently passed in Nigeria and
It’s oppression! The government picks and chooses what they like to implement. There are things that the masses don’t support that the government goes ahead to implement and they are also things the masses want that the government are unable to deliver on; so they need to stop hiding behind the masses’ excuse and be more progressive. They need to understand that the homosexuals have about the same rights as the heterosexuals.
What does freedom mean to you?
Freedom is the ability to choose (if you have a choice) what you want to do with your life, be it in your career or lifestyle without being wary of what people will think of you.
Words by Franka Chiedu - Photography by asiko - Make up by Seun Omisesan Styling by Toni Tones
â€˜Freedom is being able to make my own choices in my pursuit of happinessâ€™ www.blanckdigital.com 103
â€˜Freedom to me is being able to make my own choices in my pursuit of happiness.â€™
were unable to achieve; earning her a truckload of critics and fans alike, some from sincere concern others from sheer jealousy and fear for the competition she was breeding. While, tongues wagged, she took her hustle to the cyberspace and started an online fashion publication, a platform which she occasionally uses to celebrate her work, those of others and her thoughts on the fashion industry in general. The tongue lashing continued, with people questioning her choice to express her multiple talents in an industry where people could barely make a meaningful living.
With a new single and TV/ web series out, the fashion photographer, actress, singer and songwriter is sending a strong message to detractors this year. She is set to rewrite the theory that says stick to one thing and be the best at it. Toni is definitely setting free her creative genes and letting people know that life is too short to define your abilities by the realities of others. When Toni relocated to Nigeria and started her photography career, little did people anticipate the surprise that she was about to spring on everyone. As a go-getting young fashion photographer, she quickly worked her way up to shooting major cover editorials for magazines and industry elites; something so many home based photography veterans
I remember sitting beside her in church during one of those powerful Sunday services in Lagos and she said ‘I’m releasing a single soon! I’ve been working really hard at the studio and I’m quite happy with my work’ I froze for a bit; I wasn’t sure if that came from Toni Tones or a voice in my head. I spun around slowly and asked ‘You sing as well?’ ‘Yes! I sing and very well too’ she replied, the look on her face saying it all. I know what you are thinking but it’s better you save your thoughts for the girl with a weak liver. I was sincerely worried for her, not because I doubted her singing abilities but more for the critics waiting to tear her to shreds. It’s more than two years now since that conversation and the Toni Tones brand has grown to heights at that time unimaginable. What I have found intriguing about the young lady is the innocent, yet unwavering drive and hunger she approaches her endeavours. If words could kill one’s drive, Toni would have been an early victim; when asked about her take on criticisms and all; she takes it to church. ‘I’m a photographer, the editor in chief of thefancyhub.com, I’m a voice over artist popularly known for my work with Mavin Records as their Mavinbot, a musician, a songwriter and also an actress. I recently made my acting debut in ‘Gidi Culture’, a new drama series in which I was fortunate enough to get the lead role. The photography bug actually caught me long after music and acting. But when I was moving back to Nigeria to pursue my dreams, I felt like I had a huge decision to make. Music, acting
and photography were my passions. Which would I do? Which would I not pursue? I found that I could not answer those questions without having anxiety. That might seem extreme, but I’ve always been that way, overly passionate. When I want to do something, I can’t eat, sleep or focus till I’ve begun to do it. It’s a trait I find to be both a blessing and a curse, a blessing because it helps me accomplish things and overcome my fears but a curse because, when there are things I should just let go of, it’s extremely difficult for me to do so. The truth is people will never know what you have inside of you unless you show them. It is better to express the art inside of you whichever form it comes than to keep it bottled up or hold back for fear of criticism. Yes, I was already known as a photographer, so when I decided to pursue my musical and acting dreams, I knew what the reactions would be, I knew people would say “Hey, why is this Toni Tones acting and doing music, is she not a photographer?’’ But the truth is people will always want to put you in a box, “Ok, this is her, this is what she does, ok cool, next!” They don’t want to hear any extra story. DON’T let them! Live your life for you not for others, because it’s your life and you only get one so do what makes you happy. I am a strong believer in the freedom of self-expression. Fear of failure is the number one dream killer. But the truth about failure, just like success is, failure is your perception of what it is. Just by finally taking the steps to achieve my dreams, I’ve already won. That was the biggest battle and I’ve won it, anything else that comes after is a blessing, absolutely anything. I’ve always known that there was a lot inside of me that I wanted to share with the world and my greatest fear was never about what people would say but how I would never get the opportunity to do so. The regret that comes with living with deferred dreams is greater than the fear of not pursuing them. This fear has helped me overcome all other fears and now that I have done them, I feel much closer to my dreams and I have never been happier. I’m unstoppable now. Freedom to me is being able to make my own choices in my pursuit of happiness.’
Photography and Art direction by Ada Emihe of Avaloni Studios - Styling by Ada Emihe Makeup by Dele Alakija - Model: Karen Bengo
â€˜Let the skies fall and the four winds of the Earth call, she seeks warmth in the embrace of vibrant apparels the wildling whispers are abundantly apparent.â€™ www.blanckdigital.com 113
Words by Olumide Maborukoje
nelson mandella in all of us
After the event came the flood. As with all great floods, it engulfed everything and everyone insight. Twitter, Facebook, television, radio, newspapers and magazines. His name was even at the foot of Google’s homepage. Politicians, musicians, sports stars, those born after apartheid had been officially uprooted joined in celebrating the man who lived. There’s no doubt Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was a great man, a leader, a giant, a man beloved in his country and respected around the world. Every good word, every accolade and tribute paid to him in the aftermath of his passing is a testament to the freedom struggle he saw through to its end. Of course he wasn’t the only black South African to struggle against
apartheid, but he was the figurehead, the Martin Luther King and Malcolm X of the South African freedom struggle rolled into one. Nelson Mandela was in prison longer than many readers of this magazine have lived. And yet, we all feel a need to connect with him – such is the stature he attained. And it’s all well and good to say good things about him, but the cynic in me can’t help but wonder if many of us have a clue what we’re talking about. A lot of the tributes I’ve read, especially those written by my fellow Nigerians (sic) have referred to Madiba as an inspiration. While this is doubtless accurate in a general sense, I struggle to figure out how Mandela was a personal inspiration to a set of
We pride ourselves on our constant pursuit of money. We view anything less than successful ‘hustle’ as beneath us. We call things that don’t match our standards ‘struggle’ – a word that is connected to great men throughout history – Mandela, King, and Malcolm X, who I’ve already mentioned. Ghandi, Geronimo, Ho Chi Minh. All people who struggled for ideals they believed in, all people who are remembered, immortalised even.
ly gigging musical act. Righting political and social wrongs is not my thing at all. What I am saying is this. We belong to a country full of wrongs. Wrongs too weighty for any one man to right, I think. But if we truly believe Nelson Mandela was an inspiration to us, we should do our bit to hold our government accountable, to stop our officials from acting without regard for the law, to stop our friends from doing things that add to the terrible image Nigeria has in the committee of nations, and to stop ourselves from being proud of the wrong things.
I’m by no means claiming to be some kind of heir to the freedom struggle throne, no not at all. I’m comfortable with struggling to become an above average writer and a consistent-
If we claim Nelson Mandela is an inspiration to us, then in the words of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, we must “Promise to God we will follow the example of Nelson Mandela.”
people to whom struggle has a strictly negative connotation.
Words by Franka Chiedu - Photography by asiko - Styling by Bella Adeleke
When he is not acting or producing a movie, Gbenga Akinnagbe is attending protests and freedom campaigns around the world. His ‘Liberated People’ project is gradually finding root in the hearts and homes of people. With his new line of T-shirts which celebrates the liberation dates of
different nations, his message is that freedom is actually a thing of the mind and no one has a right to define the extent to which you can express yourself and your God given abilities. A prolific actor, producer, writer, motivational speaker and freedom fighter, he has jumped so many hurdles to get
to where he is today but you could never tell with his larger-thanlife smile and easy-breezy take on the world. Currently in the UK shooting the ‘24’ series for FOX, he spared us a few hours from his very spontaneous schedule. Those few hours are better experienced than explained… www.blanckdigital.com 125
Tell us about yourself?
I was born in Washington DC but grew up in Maryland. I currently live in Brooklyn and I’ve lived there for many years. I’m and actor and a producer.
How long have you been acting now?
I started acting in 2001 so it’s roughly 13 years now. It feels like a long time but it’s been good. I’ve had a very blessed career and I can’t complain at all. I’ve been privileged to work on great projects, made good films, both as a producer. So yeah it’s been great I’ve also been involved in some very good projects with regards to writing.
What were before film?
I worked with the government, the corporation for national service but prior to that I was a wrestler in college and was looking forward to earning a
position on the team as a sponsor. While I was waiting for that, I decided to take a position with the federal government and there I worked for a year before I fell into acting.
Let’s talk movies.
I produced a movie called ‘Newlyweeds’ which was in last year’s Sundance. We had a pretty cool theatrical run and ended up getting our sales and distribution done during the Sundance. Now you can get it on VOD or DVD and you can find it on NETFLIX, iTunes, Amazon and Redbox. I also executive produced and acted in a movie called ‘Home’. It was a very beautiful script written and directed by Jono Oliver and that is also going to be available on Amazon. Home is about a man called Jack Hall, who was recovering from a mental illness and is trying to rebuild his life. It
is a very inspiring movie, I urge people to go see it.
What plans do you have in terms of relocating?
I was just in Nigeria for the Afrif Festival in Calabar which was pretty cool. I’m making plans to develop and shoot contents for Nigeria; but I’m open to partnerships and collaborations especially with up and coming networks that understand film and are pushing the boundaries with regards to the quality of work produced. There also has to be the right budget and by budget I don’t mean Hollywood type of budget, but enough to cover the scope of work involved.
Why are you in the UK and how has it been for you?
I’m currently shooting the series 24. Fox decided to bring it back and I’ve been fortunate enough to join the cast. So we are shooting the next season with
12 episodes here in London. It’s been great, especially now the sun is out. I’ve always wanted to spend a significant amount of tie in the UK and this happens to be the best opportunity to do so. Although the shooting has been keeping me busy I plan to explore the city at some point. I love the stories lying behind the walls of this ancient city. I would like to visit the museums and tourist zones.
Let’s talk about your freedom project and T-Shirt line. My freedom project is called ‘Liberated People’ and we have a T-shirt line that highlights the liberation dates of nations around the world. I am very excited and passionate about this project and surprisingly, it’s been going great. We launched in May 2013 and recently published out first newsletter which also has a link to the TEDx talk I did last October. I
represented the company and one of our main concerns was the new stop and frisk, here it’s called stop and search operation happening in some parts of the US. I was also invited to speak at the UN where I addressed the Millennium Global Development Goals. So people are really responding to what the company is about, which makes me feel very good. I’ve been to the west bank in Israel, to attend protests and was also in Nigeria for the ‘Occupy Nigeria ‘campaign. I was actually just on trial protesting against the stop and frisk operation. I was arrested a year before the trial in Brooklyn and they kept offering deals to us to make the case go away but we didn’t want to take the deal. We wanted to enforce the trial, which we did and eventually got acquitted. These are the sort of experiences that led to the formation of the ‘Liberated People’ project. I’ve always believed that people
the world over are constantly fighting for freedom, fighting for their rights, irrespective of their ethnicity, language or skin colour. We are all fighting for the same thing and has been for a very long time. So I wanted to create something that is a representative of that struggle and that was how ‘Liberated People’ was born.
What does freedom really mean in your mind?
This is a hard question. I think freedom is being free and not free at the same time. Freedom is being able to access all the gifts that we have inside of us and being able to express them outwardly. There are a lot of things that prevent that from happening, which include people, society and even ourselves. I think a life well spent is about accessing the gifts that are inside and sharing them with people. The process of letting this happen is freedom. www.blanckdigital.com 131
Words by Chi Jerry
how free can weget? It’s a concept so advanced, it finds its way into various language dictionaries in the world. It’s called Liberte in Paris, Freheit in Munich, Libertad in Madrid and Uhuru in Nairobi. Call it what you may, the fact remains that Freedom is one part of human existence which is so important, people don’t mind what they have to give in order to achieve and attain it. Certainly, nothing beats a state of affairs where one can think, act, speak, walk and eat without some form of direct control as to what to do and how to do same. Taking a close and objective look at world history, it can easily be inferred that Freedom is a state of mind and body which individuals tend to treasure, and would go to any length to achieve and equally protect. Over the centuries, men have struggled for it, fought for it, lied for it, killed for it and in extreme cases, even died for it. An
in-depth analysis into the life and times of historic figures such as Nelson Mandela, Che Guevara, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Malcolm X, Matin Luther King Jr. and even (in a loose sense) the biblical Moses would help to lend weight to the above assertion. Whether or not the people these men fought for were directly enslaved, the truth is that at some point, the people they represented were not allowed total freedom to think for themselves, speak for themselves or be exactly where they wanted to. Freedom as a concept or situation goes way beyond the absence of an organised system of direct control, be it in form of Racial Segregation, Colonisation or Apartheid. Sure, the elimination of such systems make up what freedom is all about, but it’s a lot more than that. Freedom is wide in scope and involves several facets, which cannot all be
itemised or subjected to a system of classification. There is that aspect referred to as Freedom of Thought and Opinion. This entails the ability to think how we want without any undue interference. It’s that aspect which gives room for the belief that God doesn’t exist, that human existence is the result of a process known as Scientific Evolution, that the universe as we know it came into being as a result of an event called the Big Bang, that we share the solar system with a bunch of aliens. This aspect of freedom is often the first to be attacked under a dictatorial regime, such that citizens at the mercy of such a system of government are forced to think in one direction. Instances such as the execution of intellectuals in 1970s Cambodia, as well as past and present communist governments in various parts of the world, show that this aspect of Freedom is a sensitive
one. A lot has changed today, as people are now able to think up a whole lot of stuff no matter how controversial, but you just can’t help but feel that somehow, people still get manipulated into particular thinking patterns. The Turkish and Chinese governments still exercise huge control over their press, U.S media over the decades has found a clever way to easily portray the Middle Easterners and Russians as “the bad guys”, African-Americans still get to be the first to come to mind whenever we mention the word “gangster”, and that mental picture of immigration that comes with being Hispanic doesn’t look like wearing off anytime soon. Freedom of Speech is another aspect of freedom which is impossible to ignore. This is what enables you to criticise government decisions, send out open letters, call out public officers, make jokes about the President, and admit having a crush on a particular celebrity. This facet of Freedom gets picked on by oppressive government regimes too; the citizens of Nigeria would know a lot about that, thanks in particular to the late General Sani Abacha. Nearly every country in the world today (when you exclude North Korea and a few other world states, that is) try to afford its citizens with this Freedom, though when you see what is spewed out on social networks these days, you just wish sometimes that there could be a measure of restriction. You can’t talk about Freedom and not spare a few sentences for what we usually call Freedom of Expression. This is the most sensitive (and a tad controversial) “branch” of Freedom, and often the first to spark a debate. This is what gives you the chance
to walk how you want, dance how you want, wear what you want, sleep how you want and yes, love who/what you want. The fashion activists around the place will be grateful to whatever they believe in, for not being in those Middle Eastern countries where women are restricted as to what they wear, in the name of religion. Not every country in the world approves of sending out their female citizens to beauty pageants, and the mini-skirt could still earn you a date with law enforcement agents in some corners of the Earth. Freedom of Expression is a really sensitive subject, which is why you still have countries where kissing in public is still frowned at. How free are you to express yourself when you could get arrested just for seeking the services of commercial sex workers? How really free is that male in Western or Southern Africa who suddenly discovers that he’s in love with another male? It’s all about expression, but how much of yourself can you really express? There are also other sides to this concept, such as Economic Freedom and Religious Freedom. Economic freedom in my opinion would mean being able to buy and sell what you want without undue influence, but how many items can a Nigerian get to buy without dealing with the economic monopoly that is Dangote? Religious Freedom is to the effect that individuals can choose to pray to Buddha even where everyone else around them subscribes to the Qur’an. And speaking of religious freedom, there are still those parts of the world where Sundays are not as free-flowing as you would expect, and where the only reason you are in jail could be having a Bible in your possession. Then again,
it’s no longer so easy praying in a U.S school, or having “I love Jesus” inscribed on the inner vest you wear on the soccer field. This feeling, this state of affairs we all crave for, doesn’t come without its question marks. For instance, it’s Freedom of expression to smoke in public, but how about the guy sitting few inches away who also thinks that fresh air is a free gift? And for those who desire to wear what they want (or wear nothing at all) in pursuance of a prevailing fashion trend, how about the man across the street who is rather sensitive, and feels that his eyes do not have to come to certain modes of dressing, in a bid to preserve his mind from corruption? The U.S Constitution affords citizens with the right to carry arms in ‘self-defence’ thanks to the Second Amendment, but how about the serial shootings in schools, which have sparked widespread debates as to whether or not gun laws should be reviewed? No one enjoys being told what to do or how to do it, but it’s dangerous when those who have been gifted with Freedom have problems with handling it. When it comes to Freedom, there is so much to talk about, fuss about, debate and brood about. The world as we know it seems to lean towards the protection of this concept, this idea, but when you look closely, weighing the pros and cons, you would have to ask: how free are we? How free do we really want to be? How free can we really get? If we claim Nelson Mandela is an inspiration to us, then In the words of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, we must “Promise to God we will follow the example of Nelson Mandela.” www.blanckdigital.com 134
Issue 2 online now visit site for more
‘The art of being YOU’
w w w. b l a n c k d i g i t a l . c o m
w w w. b l a n c k d i g i t a l . c o m
‘Having the power to dictate how you live, to love who you want, to make your own mistakes and learn from them in your own way’
“The ability to walk where your heart leads you, there are no restrictions and no burdens”
w w w. b l a n c k d i g i t a l . c o m
w w w. b l a n c k d i g i t a l . c o m
“The power to act, speak or think freely without internal or external fear or Favor”
Issue 2 online now Print copies available on request