Award-winning make-up artist Lola Maja Okojevoh started doing make-up as a hobby at age 14 in London. Today, her make-up and beauty outfit, sacred, has warmed its way into the hearts of many Nigerians including filmmakers. In this chat with OMONIYI ALLI, Lola bares it all.
How did you start as a make-up artist?
I’ve been doing make-up since I was 14. So, it’s something that developed from a passion into a career. It’s not something that I feel like I chose to do.
My mum always encouraged me. I came from a family full of women and I just found that I loved make-up and then realized that I can get paid (laughs) to do it.
So, I wanted a part-time job when I was in school. I just wanted to be working. And my older sister was working as a make-up artiste. And I went and I joined, pretending to be my older sister. I went to join some agencies. I used her details and I started working. And I’ve moved on since.
When was that?
That was when I was 14 (laughs), 1992.
Was that in Lagos?
No, it was in London. I grew up in London. I only came back like five years ago when I got married. I went there when I was two.
So, you actually started your make-up business in London?
And from that time till now, what are some things that have changed in the make-up business?
Everything has changed. So many things have changed. The way people do eye shadows, the way people style their eyebrows, the products, and especially filming as well.
When I first started film make-up, mobile phones were just being invented, now you’ve got cameras on your phones. Everybody is taking pictures with their cameras. It’s all of these things that actually affect make-up.
So, you have to learn the different types of cameras, different things that they are using for filming to understand how your make-up is going to look on screen, how your make-up will look in a picture, how your make-up will look in daylight – everything. You have to understand how make-up is being affected by technology.
So, have there been times you’ve had to do trial and error?
I’ve done a lot of trial and error (laughs). I mean, there are things that they can teach you and there are things that you learn (laughs).
I stay by the director a lot, not because he’s the director but because he has the monitor. So, you want to look on the monitor and see how your characters look on the screen.
You can’t see it with your own eyes. You have to go on the monitor and see, ‘how does this person look?’ When they put it up on the big screen, the actual TV, it’s too late to change it.
You do make-up and beauty therapy, what else do you do?
I personally do make-up, I do hair and I do beauty. I’m a qualified therapist, so I have a beauty salon as well in Maryland and in Victoria Island. We do facials, waxing, lashes – we do the whole range of beauty services.
How did you meet your husband?
I met my husband at my cousin’s wedding many years ago. And we were friends. I was actually engaged to somebody else. But in my engagement, we broke up. And then, a few years later, Tonio, just out of the blues, said we should get married.
Are you sure your husband wasn’t responsible for destabilizing the engagement?
He lived in Nigeria and I was in London. He was actually like my best friend. That guy that I could always confide in and tell different things. My husband is a Christian. He was celibate for six years before we got married. To me, he was almost like a saint. And he was like, ‘we should get married.’
We’ve never even dated. He said it doesn’t matter, ‘we’re friends. We know ourselves. And I know I want to marry you.’ And we got married. We never dated.
Some men, even knowing you’re married with children, would even want to chase. How do you fob off such men?
I have the best husband in the world. What am I looking for?
But they’ll pressure you?
You can only feel pressured if you allow them to pressure you. You don’t just give anybody a chance because within a few minutes of meeting anybody, you already know I’m married with two children and how much I am in love with them, what are you going to tell me? There’s a huge amount of trust.
How expensive is Lola Maja?
I’m as expensive as the job requires. You pay for my experience. I’ve been a make-up artist for more than 25 years
What are some of the highlights of the job?
I’ve worked with everybody. Most of the people I ever wanted to work with in Nigeria, I’ve worked with them. From Genevieve, Omotola, Rita Dominic, Ini Edo, Tonto Dikeh, Omoni Oboli.
Music wise, I’ve worked with Tiwa Savage, Omawumi, Davido and Banky W is my son’s godfather. And I’m just thankful. It’s not just getting a job but it’s being able to keep a relationship. It’s very important.