PRINCESS Sola Elegbede likens herself to Margaret Thatcher, the iron lady of British politics. She is bold, daring and fearless. But that is where the likeness ends. The outspoken and very funny dark skinned lady, who lost her husband several years ago, is also very beautiful. What is unique about the princess is that, for several years she has abhorred makeup and everything that could adorn the female face. And yet, surprisingly without a scratch of makeup on she still turns heads wherever she goes. She gave us some of the secrets to her fresh faced look.
What are the three beauty or makeup items that you can’t do without?
Honestly I don’t like or really use makeup. In fact, I don’t use makeup, period. The three beauty items that I can’t do without though are ose dudu (local black soap). I mix it myself. When I was in school I used to mix for my friends in America because they really liked it. I buy the soap in bulk from Ibadan and then I mix with organic honey, camwood (osu), local coconut oil (adiagbon) and milk. Milk is the only thing I cannot produce myself (laughing), so I just us canned milk. And the coconut oil you have to be careful with, just a bit because it actually acts as a tanner and if you use too much, it will darken the skin.
I also cannot do without ori. That’s shea butter. Black soap can be a little drying on the skin and shea butter provides the moisture so I use it as moisturizer on my face.
Finally, I can’t do without honey as well. I don’t buy the commercially manufactured honey though. It has to be organic and the reason is because all commercial agricultural produce have been treated with insecticides and these are not really good for the skin or the body. I get honey from local farmers, who have beehives, usually from Ibadan. The quality of the honey is pure and very medicinal.
From what you have said, all the products you use are natural. What informed your developing this attitude?
My dear, when I was much younger, in my school days, I used to model. Over time, I have realized that commercial cosmetic products age and they age very aggressively. Many of the products have had their molecular structures changed and over time they have a detrimental effect on the skin. I am a firm believer that God has provided every area, every country with the natural things it needs for curing of all the ailments for that area. God has given us everything we need to look good and I am particularly happy that I am black because black skin is the most gorgeous of skins. Shea butter is a wonderful moisturizer. Western manufacturers are clamouring for the product and here it grows wild and free. Honey is another fantastic beauty product that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. I think our people are so much influenced by foreign products that they don’t realize what we have in our own back garden. Why would I be spending so much money on products, many of which are not even made or good for black skins when I have products that God has made perfectly already, are cheap and don’t have adverse side effects. I learnt that a long time ago, and as you can see, I have baby fresh skin so I will stick with what I know (laughs).
My mother always told me be yourself. It’s very funny because over time people have seen me as a man. I look a lot like my father, he was a very handsome man, and I believe in character, I am like him as well. Over the years people are always telling me to be more feminine, act like a woman, ke! They call me iron lady, Margaret Thatcher, but that’s just me. Every time I try to be ‘feminine’ it always backfires and I feel miserable (laughs). So I say to myself let me be myself ojare. I don’t really mind what other people say.
What is your beauty routine?
You are very funny o. I don’t use makeup, period. Not even powder…nothing. Many of my friends when we are going out they will say, ‘Ti e kun powder, now’ (wear just a little powder at least…) and I will say, ‘I beg.’ People give me lots of makeup and things over the years and I just box them away. Even when my husband was alive when I wear earrings he will say, “Halleluyah oh!” (laughs).
When I am going out, it takes all of five minutes to get ready. Yes oh. I sometimes tie my gele for church in the car. I never use makeup. Shea butter, black soap and that is it. The only manufactured thing I use is baby lotion on my body, that’s all.
What kind of skin do you have?
Baby skin of course! My face is oily and my body is very dry.
So, how do you cope with that?
Ah, if my face gets oily and I am at home, I wash it off with black soap. Otherwise, I do nothing. It is good for the skin to breathe but I would never ever touch powder…of any kind. So, it’s a little shea butter moisturizer because as I said black soap can be drying and then nothing.
Not even sunscreen?
Nothing! For me, even sunscreen has chemicals. But I am considering sunscreen for my lips because they get very dry and sunburnt, but apart from that no.
No eye shadow? Lipstick?
My dear all those things are aging and they make people look older than they really are. Look I don’t have any wrinkles and yet a lot of my friends, who are my age and even younger have lots of wrinkles. And they are always saying, what can I do? But I point out to them that makeup is the culprit. All the eye shadow, really heavy and I think it encourages bags as well.
Do you diet?
Diet ke? No, I like my food. Besides, I really like chocolate and ice cream a lot. But I believe in moderation and I don’t really eat too much anyway. When I have craving for something, I don’t tend to deprive myself but then what I do is have a water flush. I make sure I am not going anywhere and just drink a lot of water all day for a couple of days. It really helps to flush out the system. Water is a natural therapy and again doesn’t cost anything. You will go to the toilet a lot which is why I don’t go out on such days…but it helps tremendously.
I also take a lot of herbal teas…not the foreign teas o. I told you I believe that every environ has vegetation and things which naturally heal the people. I drink a lot of Passabout teas. They are the teas made by the Catholic fathers, in Edo State. My favourite is the bitter leaf tea. They have teas for sickle cell patients, diabetes, even diet teas and they are all natural as well. They also make very good teas for cold and catarrh.
Do you exercise or go to the gym?
I used to go to the gym years ago but I don’t know because I have bad legs but I exercise. I like walking and I do a lot of gardening. You will be surprised at how much energy you can expend on gardening. I have a very big garden and I have all kinds of flowers and herbs in it. Morning glory, moonflowers, marigold, sunflowers, bitter leaf. I love nature and plants. I also have a tiny farm in my compound. I grow tomatoes, pepper, ewedu, okro, tete, shoko, carrots, potatoes, mint and even corn. That keeps me quite busy.
I like the fact that if I just need something from the garden it is fresh. I don’t use herbicides so, everything is organic and I believe it does a lot for the ecosystem. A lot of birds and butterflies come here as well as bugs, but I don’t mind because the lizards and birds eat all the bugs. So gardening mainly keeps me agile and busy.
I noticed that you have cut your hair…
Yes. As you know I have natural hair. I stopped relaxing my hair about 12 years ago. I just got tired of the hassle. I also used to wear wigs and then I stopped that in 1999. I started threading my hair (kiko) and matting (irun didi) to help grow it really. It’s funny, a lot of people in Nigeria would look at me and wonder why is this woman doing kiko in the 21st century, but I just found it beautiful. In fact, I remember once I travelled with kiko and this white man followed me and then put his hand on my head. I gave him a hot slap (prolonged laughter) and explained to him that in African culture the only person allowed to a woman’s head is her husband and that if he were in Africa he would pay for touching my hair. He then apologized and explained that he couldn’t resist it, that it looked so intricate and he just wondered how it was done.
Now I am spotting a blond low cut. I went to the salon to matt it as usual and the lady that usually does it for me was not around and after waiting for a while I just said I am cutting it. And they took the shavers and cut it real low, they I dyed it blond just for effect. Some of my friends keep saying I am really a man. But what people don’t understand is that despite the fact that I may not be conventionally feminine, men don’t keep away o…Men chase me a lot! (laughs).
I even make fun of them and say are you gay? Why are you chasing your fellow man…don’t you know I am a man…(laughs) even my children call me male-fe, instead of female, saying I am more a man before a woman. They always make fun of me when I make any attempt to be feminine. They say things like, “Ah, is it not mummy…why are you trying to dress like a woman?”
One day I even made an effort and asked a friend to access me and give me a pass mark and she said I failed woefully! So, I don’t bother with things I am not comfortable with.
How would you describe your style?
I would say carefree and totally me. I don’t follow trends or wear what is in vogue. I don’t like wearing what everybody else is wearing. People like to think they are wearing expensive designer clothes but if you consider that these clothes are mass produced, you are not wearing one of a kind…why then waste your money? All the Fendi, Gucci, Burberry, Guess, they are all mass produced so what is the uniqueness in that? That’s not me. I like unique things, made just for me. Also I used to be a designer myself, I like my own three piece creation, always Ankara or aso oke. I don’t like lace. But I also like jeans, jeans l’aso mi (laughs). They are good for walking about and very comfortable. Also our weather is very hot so you have to wear practical things sometimes. I like casual shorts…but you know, in Nigeria it is people that will make you old, saying you can’t wearing this, you can’t wear that. As long as it is practical and decent. I have an aunt, in her 80s. Whenever she visits she wears shorts, she says it’s just too hot to be comfortable in anything else.
Do you have a fashion fetish?
Oh yes. I love shoes. I can comfortably say I have up to 3,000 shoes, seriously. Some are shoes I had long before I got married, and you know, fashion always comes around. I remember when I was young, my father was always complaining…ki le lei? More shoes? What are you doing with all these shoes? (Laughs). In those days I used to spend hours walking along Broad Street looking for the perfect shoes. I have big feet, size 42. What I have always done therefore is if I see a style of shoes I like and fits me I will buy it in all colours, even if it means going back several times. That’s something I spend money on. I like mews and sandals. I don’t really care for any particular brand but if I like the shoe I will buy it. I also don’t care very much for open toe shoes. My feet are quite thin so they would look very lost in open toe shoes. What I love is pointed shoes. I love that shape. And I simply love suede. I am not crazy about bags, I don’t carry much anyway.
Would you ever consider plastic surgery?
Whatever for? Awa o need gbogbo yen. We don’t need it…we have so many things to help us look young anyway…agbo, for cleansing. Avocado and cucumber, great for lifting and refreshing the face. Garlic and ginger too…we seem to have been brainwashed into thinking that everything western is good or better. The oyinbo stuff we use is too much and that is why there are fewer natural beauties than when most women relied on what you have in the garden to look good and healthy.
Do you have a favourite perfume?
I use deodorant and then I also have a perfume made to suit my natural smell. There is nothing as perfect as having a perfume specially made for you and only you. I won’t even tell you who makes it, all I will say is that it is very expensive. Any other perfume I have and use are gifts.
Looking at you it is so hard to believe that you are above 60…
I beg your pardon? I am going to be sweet 16 (laughs).
What is your advice to younger ladies?
My dear, I have to say it, everything is so artificial these days and no individuality. Do you notice that everybody looks the same, clones of each other? And even worse we are so wrapped up in all things western, not that this is always bad but everything is artificial and cheap even. Artificial hair, horse hair even in the guise of human hair (laughing). Fake eye lashes, fake nails, fake toes..ahah. Even the men complaining, head to toe fake…what you see is not what you get. I think Nigerian women have lost their womanhood. Nothing is natural anymore and this means nothing is real. The essence of womanhood is lost and we seem to be going backwards. This is why our women seem to be having an identity crisis…you have old women desperately trying to fit in, having tattoos done at 50…ahah. In my days, we had lali, something we know that at the weekend you can wash it off. What is a 50 year old woman doing tattoo for, who is she trying to impress? You know I go to parties, to places and I see women looking at me and talking, wondering why do I dress like that, no makeup, no perm, no weave…complaining. But I say to myself really what it is you wish you could be bold like me. Be an individual, dare to be different and not just follow the herd. Till today men still toast me and chase me, so my not having any makeup has not made a shred of difference. Black is beautiful and I really believe in that mantra.
- DESOLA BAKARE