Music is still my first love – Chibuzo Idowu (Chi Chi of Africa)

 She was well loved by all and sundry. Children all of over Nigeria struggled to emulate her and parents wished their children could be like her. She

Unveiling Hon Boma Goodhead, the lawmaker who dared mask wearing DSS operatives
Nigerian scientist, Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon gets an MBE
Linda Ikeji named as one of the most influential people of African descent

 She was well loved by all and sundry. Children all of over Nigeria struggled to emulate her and parents wished their children could be like her. She travelled widely showcasing her craft, dining with celebrities and socialites. But today, Chibuzo Idowu nee Onwuegbu, more popularly known as Chi Chi of Africa has embraced an entirely different path. She tells the Editorial/lifestyle director all about her new found venture in this interview.

For something you enjoyed doing, you have been off the music scene for far too. What is responsible for this?
A lot actually which necessitated me to go off the scene. After my Youth Service, I felt the need to extricate myself from my father’s management, who introduced me to music and managed my career. I felt I had grown up to become my own person so I began to work with some music producers like the late OJB Jezreel and Jeremiah Gyang. I also felt I needed a proper platform to further project my music better and I got signed on to Next levels record label which was being run by Femi Aderibigbe (Kwame). Unfortunately, I didn’t get what I wanted and got discouraged and from that point on, I just kept going off quietly, got married, started to have children and finally went off the scene totally because I wanted to focus more on my family. Besides, the music  industry today hasn’t quite been encouraging what with the lewd lyrics that is being put out there. It isn’t just what it was back then. Yes a few people are doing something different like WAJE, Omawunmi, Chidinma, Asa, who have all tried as much as possible to remain on the sane path that I grew up knowing.

Does it mean you are no longer interested in making music because of the lewd lyrics?
No not quite. I mean, you might say I should equally do something clean and different if I do not like the lewd lyrics but what I would prefer to do is to go in to a studio, record a song and put it out anonymously. I have been working behind the scenes more or less and I hope that one day I would go back into the studio to do something. I love music. I can’t leave doing music because it runs in the family. My father was a music person before he passed on.He recorded some albums back then and even performed with the Sunshine Sisters. I just found out recently that my first cousin, was a contestant on The Voice reality show. I haven’t seen her in about 15 years  and was pleasantly surprised to know that she was on the show and doing well. The judges gave her the best of compliments . I have also passed it on to my children who are into singing too and are both able to sing songs back to back on a CD. I still love music and I really hope to go back to it one of these days. But I am not sure I am ready to face the back lash that will definitely come from the social media.

But you can’t run away from social media if you must go back to the entertainment business
I know. It is the biggest market in the world and it isn’t dispensable but even if it is for the fun of it, I do hope to get into the studio and so something but not stage performance.

Does this have anything to do with your husband?
No because he is 100 per cent in support of me going back into music

You are now into the fashion and beauty business. How did your foray in to it begin?
After school, I worked with an events company for some years. I started off with Tequila events and ended my 9 to  5 with Lamppost, a subsidiary of Prima Garnet, an advertising agency. While working, I would always visit blogs for leisure and I soon became drawn to a beauty blogger, Thatigbochick who always had her posts on one of the blogs. I was impressed with her makeup tutorials and even exchanged emails with her. From then on, my love for makeup grew. I began to buy makeup kits and in the office, I would sit my colleagues down, do their makeup and style their hair and before long, my interest in beauty grew stronger. After my second child, I felt the need to spend more time with my children and left paid employment. Soon after I did a makeup course in London and then set up a makeup place. It has been a little over a year of running Fabzone and I am getting stronger by the day.

How has the journey been?
It has been great. My intention to site the beauty place on the mainland, on the outskirts of Lagos State precisely hasn’t been without its own hiccup. I won’t say it is an advantage, I regard it as a learning curve. I basically brought the island to Agege and people are amazed with what I have on offer. I didn’t want to go to an already saturated place. So clients come in and wonder why my pricing is supposedly high compared to what is obtainable. I always try to educate them that they are getting their money’s worth with what I am offering and sometimes, they understand. Having said that, I am quite affordable.

What sets yours apart from the legion of fashion and beauty outfits in town?
I attend refresher courses once in a while to keep abreast of things and stay on top of my game. Also, hygiene is key for me. I bring in my makeup cleaning solutions into the country. I do not compromise on that. Again, I do not use cheap products that will cause acne. One of the products I use is Avon which many makeup artistes don’t even use. But most importantly, my work sets me apart and I have always had good rave reviews.

That’s because you are a major distributor of Avon. How did you get the deal?
Through a relation who is also a big time distributor. Initially I thought Avon was just a brand name for a body lotion. Unknown to me, Avon as a brand is into so much like makeup,  fragrances, toiletries, clothes, accessories, there is a whole lot they are into that most people don’t know especially in Nigeria and they needed an outlet to pass the information across. 

You recently started ‘Celeb Makeover Series’. What is it all about?
It is a launch pad to show what Fabzone is capable of doing. Comedienne, Lepacious Bose and C omedian, Owen Gee were the first in the series and it is basically about showing the different makeup techniques, hair styles and that I can achieve as well as how to put clothes and accessories together to achieve a particular look. It ends with a photo shoot which I put out to the public to show them what I can achieve – party looks, editorial looks etc. It is something I hope to do monthly. People love visuals and who better than entertainers to use which is why it is called ‘Celeb Makeover Series’.

You are also a stylist. How did that part of you evolve?
I used to bring in accessories and sell to my colleagues. As you know, accessories help to bring out the beauty of a dress or accentuates a person’s beauty. I am also very good with my hands. I am able to style hair uniquely and I didn’t learn that from anywhere. I think I am blessed with being creative with my hands but people I have put things together for have been happy with the result.

What has been most challenging about running Fabzone?
Forex basically. The boutique angle is lacking. Also I am in a place where  I can’t hike prices which have always been competitive.

You started music quite early, seven years old to be precise. Has losing out on your youth affected you in any way?          
Having been too much in the limelight, I hate to be in the spot light these days. I just want to be me now, to be the girl next door. However, I am now coming out of my shell and hope to get better. Back when I was younger, I would miss birthday parties because I had to be at rehearsals.

What has been your greatest achievement in life so far?
My children

What would you say must have significantly shaped you to be who you are today?
God first and then my late father. It is inborn because I was born into a musical family. My father was the vice president of Performing Music Association of Nigerian (PMAN) under King Sunny Ade’s tenure as president. My father handled my career for most of the time because he introduced me to music. He  brought me up to be strong no matter the situation with your head held high. He was loyal person and to a fault. He was a straight forward person who wouldn’t allow you cut corners. I was very close to him and I see him in me.

How do you give back to society having received so much love from it?
I intend to start working with some churches to train ladies for free and give them materials to start off with.  My father brought me up to give and I  want to demonstrate that, at least to show how thankful for how far I have come. Then at some point, I will bring in people into Fabzone to train for free.

Where do you see Fabzone five years from now?
I want to grow the brand and make it a household name. I want to be able to through it, support as many young people as I can and grow to the point where I can help them start off on their own because it is so difficult to get bank loans these days. I want to be able that voice that support a system that works instead of constantly blaming the government.