Recently in Nigeria to learn the cultures and understand her roots, Omowunmi Alero, popularly known as Mo’mi in the fashion world, is a celebrated fashion and art promoter. Very adventurous, her love for Africa has seen her travel across the continent, visiting countries such as Tanzania, Congo, Zambia and others. In this interview with CHUKS NWANNE, she spoke on her career, exploits in the fashion world and her mission to give back to fatherland.
Tell us about your childhood, how was it like growing up
I grew up around women; I’m one of five girls with no brother, which was quite interesting. Being a black Canadian in a predominantly white community had its challenges for sure, but the good thing was music and art was rich in our home and still is in my memories of growing up. My father was involved with the music business and he really introduced me to music and a passion for Fela Kuti; my greatest memories were of me and my sister dancing and singing to the music of Fela. The music just captured my spirit at a young age and because I had a deep understanding of his message he was sending through his music, it gave me a sense of pride to be myself and to express myself courageously to face anything. So, meeting Fela when I was 10 and watching him perform, the whole experience of being in his presence set the tone for the rest of my life.
As a Nigerian living in Canada, what’s the experience like?
I was born into the Canadian system; on my mother’s side, they migrated from Oklahoma in the 1800 after the emancipation to settle in Saskatwean and Alberta. So, my roots run string in Alberta, but mentality, the way of life makes me feel Canadian. Having said that, I do not have any English name; my name by birth is Omowunmi Alero Dawodu. Having a Nigerian name is a constant reminder of my roots; the spirit of my country Nigeria has lived with me through my name.
And you have a link with Itsekiri royalty?
Yes, my grandmother is from the Omatsola Royal family in Delta State. Of course, it feels good to know I’m part of such a historical family, but it’s unfortunate that I still have so much to learn. On my first visit to Warri, I went to where my grandma was buried; I also went to our village Usele. It was such a magical experience from begging to end. I’m really trying to learn the culture, traditions; it’s something that is awesome to me.
What attracted you to fashion?
To be honest, I never really wanted to pursue a career in fashion; I didn’t grow up wanting to be a fashion designer or makeup artist. I started out helping out with Afrikadey, a world music festival in Canada, which aims at uniting Africa culture and tradition through music. And this has been something I have always been proud, being that my father Tunde Dawodu is the founder and creative director. I took advantage and was inspired to take full advantage of the platform the African Presentation Society in order to branch out using the tools I was afforded. Before you know it, I was coordinating an International Fashion show, where I worked a long side celebrity designer Romero Bryan, who I kept in contact with; he was actually someone that really encouraged me to come home. He had done many fashion shows in Lagos and really supported my career over from the beginning.
What’s you mission in Nigeria? Any plans to relocate back home
Absolutely, I would love to be back home; that’s definitely something I’m considering. However, there would have to be a few more details to iron out before making the final of coming home permanently. I’ve already accepted a few offers in the entertainment industry, working directly with upcoming artistes. I’m also working on a project that is related to using my platform to raise awareness about issues that Nigeria has been plagued with.
What motivated you to come home this time around?
Pretty much, I came for so many different reasons. Primarily, my quest to learn more about this amazing country and to share my experience as a makeup artist to other aspiring makeup artists, motivated me. I will be hosting several makeup workshops in Lagos; eventually I will expand to the whole country. I think what is lacking with so many aspiring artists is lack of knowledge of how to really break into the industry. Artistry is only one aspect, but I want to share insider tips as well. I have worked with some of the top names in the world of fashion, makeup, which was a huge honour.
My role as hospitality coordinator with Afrikadey opened many doors to interacting with Grammy award wining artists like Arrested Development, Common, Angilique Kidjo even the late Papa Wemba; this really positioned me on an international scale. Working for Anastasia Beverly Hills opened many doors. It amazes me what I’ve been able to accomplish living in Alberta. There came a point where I wasn’t even expressing myself artistically any longer; all I was basically doing was fighting for my rights. It was silly and something I know I won’t miss about working in Canada.
You seem to express strong emotions when it comes to child labour, human trafficking and issues of human rights?
The problem is self-knowledge, self love; we don’t value ourselves, we don’t value our own things. I was surprised that child labour is a thing anywhere let alone in this country. I personally experienced child labour while staying here and to say the least, it’s something that makes me feel very uncomfortable. I even cried for days and couldn’t sleep thinking about where these babies came from and where their parents were. This has inspired me to be part of the solution; this is a human rights situation. My project will teach self-love, this comes before attempting to change a tradition or trying to change minds. A child deserves to be a child and not a prized possession. For every problem, there are millions of solutions. I intend to educate these people, who are using young children as house help to find better solutions to their domestic needs and services.