Let’s face it, most will think this post is inspired by the furore Toke Makinwa’s comment on air about Linda Ikeji not being a role model and Linda’s response on her blog has caused on Twitter and blogosphere today. Yes, it is indeed in part owing to the this interaction but also those I have had with various people in the last few days.
Let’s consider a few episodes from the week of mixed blessings in the life of this editrix separately and all at once.
First off, a conversation I had a few days ago with a stylist who asked if I was interested in a shoot with a fairly well-known actress. We discussed the shoot, the looks, the logistics; I googled the actress, asked around a bit, and in the end informed that yes, I would be interested in homing the shoot provided we liked the final images and also got to interview the said actress for FAB. So far, so fab, right?
Only the following day, I got a text from the stylist saying, “Sinem, are you able to do the interview face to face as the actress is saying she either does it face to face today or not at all.” My response was simple, “I am sorry to hear that after all your troubles; however if this is the attitude she is taking, then I would rather pass on the shoot than publicise her on the FAB platform.”
Will I ever cross paths with this actress? Possibly at some point, at some place, we may meet and I may be pleasantly surprised by the person behind the diva but does one who may be role model for many impress me? Unfortunately not.
Only the following day I made a phone call to Caroline Marsh, the UK-based Zambian millionaire and property tycoon who was also featured on Channel 4’s Secret Millionaire back in 2008, to arrange an interview. She picked up the call herself, no PA, no skivvy, no airs and graces and asked me if I would be okay with a 4pm interview. Calling back at 4pm, I found her enjoying family time, watching her son play in the garden and having a cup of tea while her husband was in the next room working. We had a 15 minute chat and she was ever so polite to take time out from her busy schedule to agree to a meeting the following week.
Also on the same day, I was on the phone to arrange another interview with another inspirational lady, 2009 CNN Hero, humanitarian Betty Makoni, the founder of GirlChild Network, a charitable organisation working towards the empowerment of girls in Makoni’s native Zimbabwe as well as Uganda, Botswana, Namibia, Swaziland, Ethiopia, South Africa, Sierra Leone, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the U.S.
Even before speaking to her during our 40-minute interview today which ended up becoming more of a chat, I was inspired by Makoni’s story. Raped at the age of 6, orphaned at 9, Makoni never gave up, fighting obstacles and circumstances to not only get to where she is today, a motivational speaker, respected global figure, CNN hero, wife and mother but also to help girls from deprived or disadvantaged backgrounds who suffer poverty, inequality, harmful traditional practices, sexual abuse. On the phone, speaking to this inspirational women of strength and substance, I was even more inspired by her wisdom, her positive energy and above all her modesty.
Betty Makoni touched my heart in much the same way as Noella Coursaris, former model who strives for the education of girls in Congo with her Georges Malaika Foundation and Anna Getaneh, former model who built a school in her native Ethiopia 17 years ago to provide education as well as food and care for disadvantaged and orphaned children, and many many other women, some famous, some nameless who strive, fight, contribute to the welfare of others daily in their small or little ways.
In an age, where a young generation of girls aim to be ‘IT’ girls or footballers’ girlfriends or trophy wives, not having to work a day in their lives, and a woman’s potential to be a role model is measured by the length of fabric that makes up her clothes or the width at which she has opened her legs, isn’t it time we looked beyond the radio waves, column inches, cupboards of skeletons or glass houses breakable by stones at the true worth of a woman and what she contributes to her community?
I do not have anything against Toke Makinwa (whom I have never met before) but I do not agree with her decision to announce who may or may not be considered a role model on a public platform. We all have women and men we admire and choose as role models and it is all well and good to announce who these people are from the rooftops. On the other hand, if Toke or anyone else feels someone is not a good role model, unless they are seeking some form of publicity, there is absolutely no reason to air it to the world.
I have only met Linda Ikeji twice (Once during my second trip to Lagos, hanging out with Mr Fab at Silverbird Galleria, and the next time a year later I had to re-introduce myself). I have no issues with her responding to Toke’s criticism on a ready-made online platform; however I do not see the relevance of the personal anecdote she felt the need to share in her response. Much like I do not see how someone’s past – no matter how filthy or how spotless – should have an impact on where they are today. If the intent was, as some suggest, to imply Toke’s alleged sins, then who is Linda to put Toke on the dock? And who are those who instruct Toke to not ‘cast the first stone’ when they may too have sinned in their own way? Why is someone bleaching their skin coming into this online debate?
In the end, I take a laissez faire approach – everyone is free to choose who their role models are, be it Toke or Linda, Rihanna or Nicki, Noella or Betty. What ticks us and inspires us all is far and wide under this sky as we all are. However, I believe, in a world where morals are so askew, people prone to deceit, disloyalty and disrespect, it is also our common human denominator to follow in the lead of women who inspire us daily to live well, to do well and to speak well of each other instead of trying to pull each other down at every opportunity.