I once bought 50 pair of shoes a dayBy Ronke Kehinde
Chief Gift Iyuwame, popularly known as Muma Gee, is one of the famous female musicians in the Nigerian entertainment industry. She released her debut 'Kade' in 2006 which brought her into the limelight. She is also a song writer, producer, actress, and a fashion designer. She has a clothing line known as MGee Confidence, which deals in men's underwear. In this interview with RONKE KEHINDE, she talks about her clothing line, her music career, and her marriage to Prince Oluebube Eke, Eklips, among other issue.
HOW long have you been in music?
I have been in music for over 12 years now. My first album was released in 2006. That is not because I didn't want to come out with an album but because mine is a different genre of music; a new one and I'm pioneering it. We have been doing a lot of research since 1998; doing recording, shooting of videos and sending to people for critique and back to the studio to work on it or to do another track. I have been doing a lot of this for so many years. In between these years, I took four years out to study Theater Arts at the University of Port Harcourt; a course which involves music, drama and literature - not so much of music but, it goes with music. I chose music as a profession since 2004.
Who influenced your choice?
My mum influenced me tremendously. She sings a lot and she sings in the church choir to date. Music is something that runs in my family but I'm the only one doing it professionally. Though, initially they disapproved of it. Now, I have the full support of my family.
Which of your songs brought you into the limelight?
I have done a couple of songs so, I wouldn't really know which of them now but, there was this particular video I did that was directed by Sam Dede. That was a niche for me and it really gave me that exposure. Also, 'Kade' was really nice. Another one titled 'Amebo' also gave me exposure.
What are the challenges you face as a female artiste, in the music industry?
We are not given equal opportunity; the societal influence as well considering our culture. You know, culture relegates women to the background so, we grew up with that and still have that notion. But, civilization is taking over gradually though, the instinct is already in us; it s inborn so, it's difficult to change. Even most of us, women, still relegate ourselves to do certain duties because we believe women are not meant to do a lot of things - all in the name of being women. So, that alone is a kind of pulling force, dragging us behind in the society; especially m the entertainment world. Most people see women in showbiz as wayward; useless in the society.
And, that is why most of us took it as a challenge to go to school. That notion (initially) slowed me down but thank God, I had a starting point. I might look small but I'm rated as A-list in the entertainment industry and I'm working hard to stay there.
If you had not been a singer, what would you have been?
If I weren't a musician, probably I would have been a full time housewife (laughs heartily). Maybe, I would have been a doctor because my Dad wanted me to become a doctor but that wouldn't have worked out because I can't stand the sight of a hospital. Probably, I would have delved into fashion which, of course, I'm into now because I love colours and the inspiration keeps coming and getting higher and higher as the day goes by. I would have been anything God wants me to be. We all, here on earth, are for a purpose and that purpose can only be achieved if we add our own effort to ensure that that purpose works. As for me, I still don't know God's purpose for me; I'm still working on knowing it.
How was growing up like?
Growing up was strict, very strict. I will stop there because there are some children that are still experiencing such things in the society right now. In my family, there was nothing like party and all that; no going out and no keeping of friends. It really affected me because up till this moment, I still can't keep friends. I try to keep regular kind of relationships because I know there are a lot of people that want to be close to me and I would have loved to be close to as well but, I can't because of my kind of upbringing.
My upbringing did not give room for that. After school, its home work followed by house work, so there was really no time for me to keep friends that I would have loved to keep. I remember when I was growing up; I was in charge of all the domestic work because my older sister was so much older than me that I even called her 'aunty'. She was so busy with other things so basically, I was the only girl in the midst of the boys, handling the domestic affairs of the home.
Ironically, that has really helped me in managing my home. I run my home as if I were a married woman. If you look around, you will see how well organized my office is and that is true of the biblical saying: "honour your father and mother so that your days will be long"; not being long on earth and be foolish but to be wise. So, growing up for me was tough but to my own advantage. For instance, my mother was a very industrious woman and that has influenced me too in delving into fashion as business because of the entrepreneurship skills I had acquired over the years
You are a fashion designer, how would you define the word: fashion?
Fashion brings happiness; and a means ofbuildmg self confidence; a means of livelihood for a lot of people.
Fashion means a lot and the list is endless. Fashion means a lot of things to me because even to the under wears that I put on my body is made to suit my body so, fashion is me and I'm fashion. I am a musician but a very fashionable one, highly fashionable one because fashion is the interpretation of who you are on the inside.
Fashion is basically who you are on the outside and on the inside. I love colours a lot; I play around with colours all the time. Playing around with colours is my joy and my passion. Fashion to me goes beyond just being fashionable. You must have a passion for it.
How would you describe your kind of style?
You can give my style an interpretation you wish to give it depends on the perspective you are seeing it from, what interpretation you give to it, it's acceptable by me because, sometimes I can't really define what I wear fashion-wise. Africans are beautiful and their colours clash sometimes. So, if you say you are fashionable but cannot update yourself with the colour clash at the moment, then you need to rethink.
I could choose to wear a black skirt with a red top and the accessory to match, it's my own expression. You could give it any interpretation you want, its okay by me. As long as it gives me joy and comfort no problem; that is me. I don't use my fashion inclination to criticize or assess people negatively but, if you assess me negatively, that is your business.
What fashion accessories do you love most?
I love my shoes though, shoes are borrowed culture from the white man and that is what I have accepted but for the clothing, sorry I have my African fabrics. I love beads and that is basically what I wear most of the time. Some beads you see me wear are plastic while some are made from elephant tusk. Some are from wood and bone which are the ivory beads, if well polished. I traveled round the world to get my beads. Sometimes I go to Egypt to get my beads or when I go to Italy or Paris to buy shoes. I could buy between 50-100 pairs of shoes because I love shoes a lot.
Which of those items would you say is your most priced?
My coral beads. I don't joke with coral beads and I have one worth some money. So, my most priced fashion item, I would say is my coral beads.
What would you say constituted a high moment in your life?
Music-wise was when I performed live with Mariam Makeba at Korean Royal Festival Hall in London a long time ago but it's still the most cherished moment of my life. I was really happy because, Mariam Makeba nappens to be one of my role models. ^ Playing on the same stage with her was the greatest moment of my life.
Have you had any dull moment?
My dull moments come when I'm doing a show and the equipments are not working. You have a maximum capacity Audience watching and you are on stage performing, suddenly the equipment just stops working. Oh my God, that 1 is the worst moment for an artist.
What is your beauty Routine?
I have a gym. I wake up in the r morning and go to the gym. I use the gym basically to stay healthy and okay. I don't nave a particular beauty routine for my skin. What you I see today is natural. The only cream I use on my skin is idachin (palm kernel oil)
when and why did you decide to delve into making of under wears for men?
MGee Confidence started in December 2007. We are just seven months in the business and you can't believe how far we have gone. We make under wears for men as well as shorts and boxers.
Why did you limit it to only men underwear?
We decided to narrow it down to men because, we don't really have many companies manufacturing under wears for men so I decided to do just that and we have not been disappointed at all. The acceptance has been great and the patronage is wonderful. It was also an opportunity to provide jobs. So MGee Confidence clothing line is not only to provide under wears for men but to provide jobs for youths too.