Celebrity, Classics, Interviews

‘I pioneered million braids in Nigeria’ – ISLAR ANIMASHAUN


ON Friday, March 11, 2011, Chief (Mrs.) Islamiyat Arike Animashaun, was awarded the fellowship of  the Institute of Administrators and Researchers of Nigeria at the University of Lagos Conference Centre, Akoka, Lagos.  ENCOMIUM Weekly was at the event and later chatted her up.



Thank you very much.

How do you feel today about thus honour?

I feel great. I feel elated and happy.

Did you envisage winning an award?

Sincerely, I never envisaged such. This is a big surprise.  When I got the letter, I gave it to one of my brothers to find out if it’s true.  He came back telling me it is true.  They called me to give them my profile and curriculum vitae.  I decided to keep it quiet because I was still sceptical.  The reason is that I feel humbled to be bestowed with such a huge award.  When I got here, I was surprised that I was the first person to be awarded.  I was nervous initially, but controlled my emotion.  I told them that I am a doctor of cosmetology and beauty and I pledged N20,000 to the institute (laughs).

What does the award mean to you?

It’s a great award and I have realised that the sky is my limit.  That means more responsibility and seriousness.  This is a huge award and I have to be more helpful and relevant than before.  It also means impacting and helping the needy and less privileged. And also to stick to good things.  This award is an energiser for service.

You are a leading cosmetologist and beautician, what have been the pains and gains?

The gain is that I started most of these things in 1979.  I started this million braids that everybody is crazy about now at Oprah Benson’s place.  I pumped creativity into the beauty industry and if you are creative, you earn more and control the market.  Nigerians are fashionable and when you give them what makes them feel good, you control the market.  I am now almost 34 years in the industry. I have specialised in the weaving sector that it takes only my staff to understand how to go about it.  That includes braids.  The million braids were done by the Beri Beri among the Fulani and I sat down one day and asked myself, why can’t I do it if the Fulani can do something like that.  That was how it all began.  The first person I did it for was late Bobby Benson’s daughter, Dupe.  People fell in love with it and it gained attention day by day.  Look at the weave-on.  Most ladies can’t do without weave-on.  I have done so many things in the beauty industry and in the USA, they gave me the key to the city of Detroit because of the work I am doing. I was appreciated for my creativity and hard work.  The Mayor of Detroit was shocked that a Nigerian could do such a thing and I was awarded.  I think it’s being replicated in Nigeria now.  I deal with skin and hair.  I work myself out. You can’t be so hard working and be considered a nobody.  I worked myself to this stage through God’s grace. I thank God for using me as an instrument to impact people today.  I appreciate the due recognition being bestowed on me.

What are the measures you have in place for a successor?

I trained the trainers.  I am the grandmother of the business.  I am now the president of Hairdressers Association.  I am the president of old students association of Elegant Twins.  I have trained so many trainers.  When you work with me, I bring you up to standards.  They can face the world.  This work is about self esteem.  And if you know what you are doing and your interest is there, you will be a force to be reckoned with.  We take them through the theoretical and practical aspects.  I am not just a hairdresser, but a cosmetologist.

Over three decades now and you are still relevant, what is the secret?

When you are talking about creativity, it comes from within.  When God gives you something, it’s in you.  When I walk the streets and see anybody whose dressing or beauty is misplaced, I beckon on the person and tell them beauty tips they should work on.

What are some of the challenges you have battled?

Sometimes, it could be so hectic, but once you love what you are doing and are passionate about it, you win.  If what you love doing is your hobby, you won’t look at the challenges.  I can easily work in the ministry, but won’t be fulfilled.  But when I encounter challenges in what I love doing, it brings happiness.  However, the greatest challenge I contend with is staying at the top. I always ponder on what next to do and how to better my last effort.  As a cosmetologist, I solve problems and I desire to make people happy.  I hold a doctorate in Cosmetology and I am the president of Islar Investments Limited, Sen-larn Min Nigeria Limited, Islar Property Consultants and Realtors, Islar Hair Weave-on Centre and Islar Le’Beaute.  All these were possible because I derive joy in what I do and as such see challenges as stepping stones.

  • This story was first published in ENCOMIUM Weekly on Tuesday, March 22, 2011

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