Tara Fela-Durotoye is one of those women walk into a room and there is a pause in every activity because of the respect and authority she commands. On the morning of my interview with her, I get into work early as usual and Ono-founder of OnoBello.com says to me, “Adesola, you have to go alone to interview Tara as I have to run an errand for my dad. I will send a text to her now to let her know”, this for me meant I had to leave the office as quickly as possible and head to the Lekki Phase 1 area of Lagos where we had scheduled to have an 11am interview at one of Tara’s studios.
I got there a few minutes earlier than 11am and wait for Mrs. Fela-Durotoye to come in. Not long after she walks into her office looking casually chic wearing a blue peplum blouse and black tailored trousers with tan block pumps. It was quite surprising for me to see that she had little or no makeup, as I had expected her to always be decked up in all the works being that she is a beauty entrepreneur.
Everyone in Nigeria and beyond knows Tara Fela-Durotoye as one biggest beauty and makeup entrepreneurs in Nigeria with her “Tara Orekelewa” brand. Orekelewa is a Yoruba word that means beauty, and the strive for beauty and perfection is evident in the Lekki branch of “House of Tara” as each staff is beautifully made up to look nothing short of gorgeous and wearing a signature branded “House of Tara” shirt. It was evident that everyone in working there is genuinely polite even if its in just the way they speak to one another and every customer that walks through the door.
Tara Fela-Durotoye (born March 6, 1977) is a makeup artist and lawyer. A pioneer in the bridal makeup profession in Nigeria, She launched the first bridal directory in 1999, set up international standard makeup studio, and established the first makeup school in Nigeria. She is the founder and current CEO of House of Tara International, the creator of the Tara Orekelewa Beauty range, Inspired Perfume and the H.I.P Beauty range.
Albeit intimidating, Mrs. Fela-Durotoye took her time to ensure that the interview was as casual as possible and since she is in every sense of the word a mentor and motivator, she also took time out to draw her makeup artists and other staff around into the interview so that they could learn more about her and the business, all I could see was one big family.
Once we got the interview on the way, it felt like I was having a mentoring conversation with a big sister, I never wanted it to end. We talked about almost everything from her life as a business owner, wife to a very handsome man, a mother to three lovely boys then moved on to all her latest projects -“100 Voices”. Trust me when I say I left there with big dreams in my head.
Sit tight and enjoy our exclusive interview.
OB: How have you kept your business in a competitive industry since you started in 1999?
TD: I think it’s multiple strategies, multiple endeavors: One of them first of all is creating a business, and taking a decision. When you have a business it helps you to keep your focus. My husband always says that “Focus erases blindness”. What a vision does for you it gives you a place where you can focus and take steps everyday to go and move forward to achieving that goal. Two, it stands that no matter how gifted and intelligent you are; your people are your assets. And so they have to be treated with a lot of you knowing they are assets because when something is an asset to you, you take care of it, you care for it, you cherish it, and you develop it, so that the value can increase. As the years went by, from doing bridal makeup people started asking me that they wanted to train, so makeup school was created as a result of a desire to respond to the market needs, and from the makeup school we created a product line because our students needed products that they could practice with. That’s how the product line was created. In doing all these things you are able to stay competitive and continue to thrive.
OB: You went into producing your own beauty ranges, Tara Orekelewa beauty ranges, H-I-P beauty ranges and more, what should we expect in this area in the near future?
TD: In terms of content development we will consistently grow in line, with the intention of always remaining relevant to our market, to our core market which is the woman of colour. We will continue to create lines of product that will help them to feel more beautiful, to enhance their looks much more, and to provide a wider range of products both for our school and the general consumers.
OB: What is your goal as a makeup artist and an entrepreneur?
TD: As a makeup artist, it is to consistently ask – what is the trend that our customers would like to see, and develop ourselves to be able to achieve these trends. As an entrepreneur, it’s to build a company that can outlive me, build a company that is sustainable because in Nigeria for example you find that a lot of businesses startup and they die because their founder either lose sight of their vision or they pass away. I’m trying to build a business that is structured so that it can outlive me and other people can take over from me. I’m not trying to build a business that my children will take over from me, for whatever reason I don’t know if they will even be interested, but I’m trying to build a business that even if it wasn’t me that is running it we would have competent people that can carry it on so that we can continue to be employers of labour, so that we can continue to bring value to Nigeria as a whole and to Africa.
OB: You have been recognized for your contributions and have numerous accolades under your belt; recently you were recognized as a “Young Global Leader”, what does this mean for you?
TD: I think one of the things that it means is an affirmation of my vision, because the World Economic Forum recognized the House Of Tara vision to be a globally respected beauty company with African origin, and was one of the reasons why I was nominated for that award. I think that most importantly, for the business the award is going to give us a lot of international profiling. We’ve profiled the business already, for instance CNN recognized and mentioned the award, and even had my picture on their website for at least three weeks as a result of the World Economic Forum award. We are going to Cape Town for our regional conference and already, international media are trying to speak to us because of what we are trying to do in Nigeria. I think that these are just some of the steps that that position is going to do for us. And for me I’m even more excited because we are trying to launch a business internationally and so I think that this is a good direction.
OB: You’ve successfully various projects such as organizing bridal seminars, training hundreds of makeup artistes and Tara Orekelewa beauty representatives. You are also a highly sought after speaker at entrepreneurial platforms, tell us about your latest project “100 Voices”.
TD: In December of 2012, we decided that one of the things we wanted to do was to appreciate our reps across Nigeria. We went from state to state, the idea behind going to those places was just to be there, We gave out some gift items such as washing machines, gas cookers, fridges, deep freezers, all kinds of gift items to just say “Well done”! During this at some point, some of them took the microphone and began to share what you’ll call testimonies, and they were really stories of transformations. Some of them had stories of enterprise, in other cases stories of courage. The stories were endless and of different types of courage, I had beauty reps in Borno and Maiduguri who in spite of the crises in their state are still going out every day to market and sell products. That kind of commitment and dedication, I felt needed to be recognized, I thought the world needed to hear. We need to change that narrative and we need to say that there are Nigerian young women and men who in spite of this Nigeria that you all see have chosen that they are going to develop enterprise that they are going to employ one person, some of them employ two people. They are able to fend for themselves as a result of this enterprise and I felt that those stories of courage needed to be told; the world needed to hear it and the mindset of Nigeria has to change. That was what “100 Voices” project was all about.
OB: Where do you see the “100 Voices” Project in the next two years?
TD: I think that we will evolve to a real highlight in Nigeria as a whole where people will be listening and wanting to hear more stories. I think that those that didn’t share their stories before who know that they have a story to tell but are shy to do so will have more courage to share their stories in coming years.
OB: How will you measure the success of the “100 Voices” Project?
TD: When it becomes a highlight in the Nigerian calendar, and it will be.
OB: As one of the most creative and prominent makeup artists of today, you are renowned for your inventive makeup and beauty looks, what beauty secret can you impart to our readers?
TD: That’s why it’s a secret now…I don’t want to share it.
OB: Any little one at all?
TD: No. I don’t want to share the secret so I can remain beautiful.
OB: You and your team of makeup artists have been part of international fashion shows such as Arise, what tools should a professional makeup artists always have with them backstage during the show?
TD:*referring to one of the makeup artists present*, Cynthia, you that you’ve backstage, tell me what tools should you always have?
CYNTHIA: Your makeup kit, it’s a tool and without it you won’t be able to do anything.
TD: I think it is your composure. You need to be composed. Because of the brevity of time, and there are certain goals when you are backstage at a fashion show. So that you are able to express the heart of the designer, in a way that when she or he is sitting out there in the audience and is watching models come out, they see that she created is what is being seen. What you find out is that designers are as crazy as their models, they are crazy because there is so much to do in such a short amount of time, and they need to treat the attention of their audience, and that treatment, if you’re not composed you’ll get overwhelmed and you’ll not be able to deliver on what you are actually good at, just because you are not composed.
OB: As a mentor to makeup artists and small business owners what is the most important advice you always give out?
TD: Stay true to yourself, stay true to what you are trying to achieve, otherwise you get distracted. Side comments, how people think you should do things, and I think that everyone wants to hear their own voice so you need to stay true to yourself. Before you come out of your house you have to decide, yes this is what I want to do. You still need counsel but you should be able to apply counsel to your own decision to be able to take insightful steps.
OB: You are considered a veteran in the beauty industry, and a pioneer of bridal makeup in Nigeria, what is your honest opinion about the industry, what is it still lacking and how can it be improved?
TD: My opinion of the industry is it’s become a very vibrant industry, very active and very vibrant. I am very proud of what it has evolved to become as opposed to when I started. I am very proud of the contribution of beauty practitioners from bloggers like yourself to makeup artists who are being trained across the country to hair dressers and fashion stylists. I’m very proud of what they’ve done; I still think that we need to begin to define what we consider to be good makeup as opposed to being dictated by what the international trend is. I still think that we need to create our own trends within Africa as a whole, such that New York, Paris and London carry it.
OB: On a personal note, how does it feel to be married to Fela Durotoye for almost 15 years? Has his support made a difference to you as a person, your business and humanitarian projects?
TD: Definitely, I think it’s exciting to be married to someone, I’m not married to the Fela Durotoye that you all know, I’m married to an amazing man who cares for his family, committed to God and committed to Nigeria and his vision. I feel very blessed to have a husband who is very committed to me and my own purpose and destiny in life. I feel very lucky and privileged to have someone who is also committed to ensuring that I’m happy, and so is looking out for the things that make me happy constantly. Consistently trying to improve himself so that he can remain relevant as a husband. I feel very blessed by that, and sometimes I have to pinch myself to say “Is this real, can I really be married to someone that can love me this much and care for me this much”. He’s made a difference to me because of the type of person he is first of all, he’s also made a great difference to me because of his consulting background. As a business owner, I’m consistently being counseled and advised by him on things to do and things not to do. As someone who is very passionate about Nigeria, I find that I’ve become addicted as well because I am married to him. Humanitarian, I guess I came with it before I got married to him. I’ve always been very passionate about empowerment and developing people. And it is this combination of passions that we have been able to bring together into what people are now calling the dynamite couple.
OB: You and your husband are blessed with three lovely boys, how do you all unwind as a family?
TD: Well, I don’t know about unwinding as a family, we all like different things. I think some of the things we do in common that we all love is picnicking, going to the beach. My husband is afraid of the beach sometimes. But picnicking, going to the beach, swimming together, and traveling together. My kids always look forward to it because they have me 24/7, I’m not going to any office and I’m with them the whole time so they love vacations, my husband and I protect it with all our souls.
OB: What are some of your favourite spots to travel to?
TD: I think as a family, Florida is always a hit for everybody. Florida and Dubai is always a hit for everybody because it is family oriented.
OB: Lastly, what is your expert beauty routine?
TD: Don’t go to bed with makeup on, Never!! Never allow Lagos to let you go to bed with makeup on.
Desola Ade-Unuigbe (OnoBello.com's Fashion & Beauty Editor)
with Tara Fela-Durotoye
For more information on Tara Fela-Durotoye follow on twitter @taradurotoye
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