How do you describe someone who does law, media, fashion, music, arts, branding and PR and does it well? Superwoman? Genius? Inspirational? SHF gets up, close and personal with the budding online media mogul, the Über-Talented Uduak Oduok, founder of the Ladybrille Media Group.
What led you to start the Ladybrille Media Group?
I started Ladybrille because I wanted to make a difference and I didn’t feel that the medium I really wanted to use, law, would make an impact. My initial goal was to return to Nigeria to teach Comparative Constitutional Law in any of the law schools in Nigeria. However, I felt, strongly, I would be wasting my time and the young legal minds I would teach with ideas of democracy and a functional judicial system. It seemed so far fetched in a country like Nigeria. As I thought about what could have the most impact, it hit me that my experience and love for fashion could be the backdoor to ultimately set the groundwork for what I wanted to do in the legal and ultimately political arena within and outside Nigeria. I decided that if I was going the media route, which is also part of my DNA; that it had to reflect my personality and love for diverse cultures and people. Ladybrille blog was born and has evolved into what it is today.
How do you manage all the brands in the group?
It is not easy but it gets done. It helps to be highly disciplined and organized. It also helps to have a team of people that you can delegate work to. Independent of the administrative aspect of running a business, on the journalism part, there are certain stories I will author because I know where I am going with it and don’t feel someone else can execute it better than I can. But, being an entrepreneur is never easy. You just do it.
What are some projects you’re working on at the moment?
I used to be more forthcoming when this question was asked. Now, I prefer to just have it come to light and the world will see it. Suffice to say, SHF will be on our press list to receive news as we roll out our new projects.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
I recently received an email from a record label executive in Africa. She said she saw a feature on Ladybrille on one of her artists and was literally screaming and dancing. That, to me, is priceless. I also think it has to be that we are inspiring so many women and young girls within and outside Africa to be the best they can be. I am always humbled to hear about the immense respect many have for the Ladybrille brand. We work so hard and are very careful not to just publish anything on our sites. It has to be quality work that is on par with websites from CNN.com (if it is news) to Style.com (if it is fashion). I think the attention to details and professionalism with what we do is what has earned the brand such credibility and respect; a very important thing when you are trying to make an impact in the lives of young women.
If given the chance, what is the one thing you will change about your job?
I’d have to think about that. I am not sure . . . I like what I do. There is always room for improvement, more bodies needed to help continue to grow the brand. But overall, I am happy with where we are and try to stay focused on Ladybrille’s brand philosophy and ethos.
What role do you see people in the Diaspora playing to support the emerging African fashion industry?
I truthfully believe, based on the track record and facts, that Africans in the diaspora have been the key catalyst in pushing a renaissance/reawakening in Africa’s Fashion Industry. In places where there was no industry, Africans in the diaspora have helped create it. It used to be there were fashion shows here and there across the continent and in the West that paid a nod to Africa but nothing cohesive, much less a movement.
With the advent of technology and specifically the internet, Africans in the diaspora have helped really shape and change that. From Uche Eze/Bella Naija (Nigeria) who was based in Canada when she began her blog to New York based G. Kofi Annan (Ghana) of Annansi Chronicles and Yaye Marie (Formerly based in the US now in Senegal) of ‘Cos We are Africans and Doing it Well’ these people/websites really have helped shape Africa’s fashion industry. Other key players not to be forgotten include African Vibes, Helm Magazine and of course Ladybrille. We’ve now seen so many publications and blogs emerge and I think it is very good for the industry. The internet created a democracy, buzz and ultimately inspired many to believe that Africa could have what the West has. When Ladybrille began, there was only one video on Youtube on South Africa’s Fashion Industry from SA Fashion Week. Now, African fashion video clips abound. Africans in the diaspora have been instrumental to the continent’s fashion renaissance.
What designers will you put your money on this season? Why?
I love Tiffany Amber. Her clothes are pragmatic, beautiful and elegant. Lanre Da Silva Ajaji continues to improve with each collection, Korto Momolu is so talented, Bunmi Koko and the list goes on. Africa has so much talent to offer it’s hard to choose.
Let’s go down memory lane, what would you consider as the highlight of your modeling career?
I usually don’t reference my modeling career as much because I have always modeled part-time and done school full time. School was #1 for me. But if I were to choose, it would be working with designer Colleen Quen, a very skilled and amazing designer.
How easy was it to make the transition from model to a full time professional career in law, the media, publishing, fashion, music, branding and public relations?
I tease sometimes that I have undiagnosed Attention Deficit Disorder. I can be quite hyper-focused on the things dear to me. But, really at the end of the day, the best explanation is, it is a lifestyle. It is who I am. I am law, media, fashion, music, arts, branding, PR. It’s intuitive and I just get to translate all of that “organized” commotion via Ladybrille and other mediums.
What’s your view on the Nigerian Modeling Industry?
I used to wonder why our fashion industry model leaders like Oluchi, Agbani and others were not really doing much in Nigeria. Someone like Oluchi appeared to be active in South Africa but was silent in Nigeria beyond modeling in fashion shows. Now, I am seeing Agbani, Oluchi, Bisi Sowemimo and Warebi Martha, among others, really grab the bulls by the horn and give back to our young girls through seminars, upcoming reality TV shows and so forth.
I also like what Elohor Aisien, Joan Okorodudu and Linda Ikeji are doing. There is room for improvement and more organized systems for Nigeria’s modeling industry. I look forward to possible collaborations with these fierce female entrepreneurs to really look at the legal side of the modeling industry addressing a lot of the legal contracts and international relationships both for model agency owners, models and the clients they serve. I am pleased with the growth so far, albeit they are baby steps.
Fashion to you is…?
Confidence. There is nothing as fashionable and sexy as a confident man and woman. Put anything on and it can be “so last season” but, if you wear it with confidence and a “you need to get with the program and follow me attitude,” it becomes sexy and next thing you know, you are a trendsetter. Confidence is always fashionable.
A word on Fashion in Nigeria in the last 5 years – highlights?
Highlights: Fashion: Emergence of Fashion online media like Bella Naija, Ladybrille, SHF etc. Our designers are now featured on CNN and Western media, often. Nigerian fashion designers like Bunmi Koko and Duro Olowu really have brought attention to the country thanks to their quality work which peeked America’s first lady Michelle Obama’s interest, American celebrities are seen sporting Nigerian designers like Jewel by Lisa and Deola Sagoe. There is now more synergy with the fashion and music industries. Nigerian celebs are now regularly and proudly rocking Nigerian designers on red carpets across the globe. It is a good time for fashion. There is room for improvement but a big part of that will come from the government investing in the industry and the country having a strong fashion council that can advocate for the needs of its professionals.
What is the strongest trend that you think has come out of Nigeria in the last 50 years?
The “Proudly Nigerian” trend. Nigerians are in love with self and their identity. It is indeed why we felt at Ladybrille that we needed a LadybrilleNigeria arm. In the 60s to 70s, love for self was at an all time high. That faded in the mid 80s and now Nigerian citizens are back in the game of loving self. In the midst of 419 scandals, corruption, bribery, a scarred international image with the 2009 Christmas failed bomb attempt by a Nigerian, among others, Nigerians are still very proud and no longer afraid to say who they are. The music and fashion industries have also helped in that respect. This is so significant because I believe it is a large part of what drives our success as Nigerians and our accomplishments on the world map. When you love self, you want to proudly show your heritage through arts, culture etc. I am enjoying everything about this era we are in.
How can aspiring fashion enthusiasts get involved in the Ladybrille experience?
We are always in need for interns. Working with us is very hands on and our interns get amazing exposure to the industry’s movers and shakers. Please visit link http://www.ladybrillenigeria.com/2010/08/ladybrille-media-is-looking-for-editorial-pr-marketing-interns.html and send resume if interested.
What is your greatest achievement to date?
Professionally, being a lawyer. I say often, “ I was born to be a lawyer,” much like people are born to do music, fashion or film. I love law and I can’t imagine not being a lawyer. When I was a kid, I knew I wanted to be a lawyer from a Yoruba book written in Yoruba that I read I think in Primary 3. The book had a legal system and it was my first introduction to the court system. It turns out my paternal side of the family is steeped in law. At the time I had no idea but after reading that book, which I took everywhere, with me, I knew I wanted to be and had to be a lawyer.
I have been at a crossroad where I thought about quitting the practice to focus on just Ladybrille and other fashion ventures. I literally got depressed thinking of it. I love law and luckily for me, I now get to combine my passion for law and fashion by representing those in the fashion and entertainment industries making it double fun.
On a personal end, in terms of achievements, my greatest so far would have to be reconciling a past of abandonment and rejection with an absent father and certain childhood trauma. It was tough but I got through it and I am here, a better and much stronger woman; one engineered to do great things and destined for greatness.
What is the mantra you live by?
Respect for self, my family, family name, respect for others and just a genuine love for people. I try to treat people the way I would like to be treated, R-E-S-P-E-C-T being a big part of it.
What should we expect from you in the future?
The sky is the beginning, and has always been for me. I have accomplished so much as it is. I am now learning and reminding myself, especially as a Type A personality, to just relax and enjoy my accomplishments so far, very hard to do if you are me. There is more to come but right now, I want to live in the moment.