Banke Meshida Lawal gained prominence with her makeup artistry during her undergraduate days at the University of Lagos. She boasts a clientele that reads like the high society’s who’s who from the late Mariam Babaginda to the First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan, and the likes of Halima Abubakar, Abimbola Fashola and Oluremi Tinubu. She spoke with journalists about nurturing her craft and managing the intimidating presence of society’s most powerful women. ORUKPE NELSON was there
In the beginning
As a child, in the primary school, I took art lessons. I have always enjoyed drawing and painting. I see makeup as an extension of fine arts because it is also about mixing colours, sketching and creating designs. I would also say that my parents encouraged the artistic elements in me one way or the other. But I actually wanted to be a diplomat. I used to dream of travelling around the world. For me, makeup came about by chance. I always found myself doing it in the university, so it became natural to make a business out of it. I would wear makeup and people will ask me to help them out. I did that for strangers and friends without hesitation. So, after graduation, I got too busy and booked for makeup jobs. It then became the next thing to do. I enjoy makeup and everything that has to do with beauty.
Creativity in the blood
I grew up in Ife. I had fun while growing up and my parents were liberal. They allowed us to do things we wanted to do, but they also instilled values, hard work and discipline. They made us to realise that we cannot always get all what we want in life. We are six children and we have musician, motivational speaker, lawyer and banker. Though my siblings are all artistic, some of them do mainstream jobs. I think we took those traits from our parents who are also artistic. Though my father is an engineer, he plays the violin well. He went further to teach us all how to play the violin and classic music enriches the mind and develops the brain. Coming from such a background helped me to be where I am today. We relocated to Lagos when I was in my primary school. I went to Queens College in Yaba, Lagos, for my secondary education and later proceeded to the University of Lagos.
Life as an undergraduate
I would say I have been blessed to do things I enjoyed. I enjoyed reading, so I studied English at the University of Lagos. Since most of my courses were about reading novels and appreciating them at the end of the semester, all I did was to read my works at the right time. So, the fact that I was always helping people to do makeup didn’t affect my studies.
The creation of BMpro
When I thought of starting my company, BMpro, the truth is that I just wanted to do makeup; I wasn’t thinking of anything. So there were many things I didn’t do at the beginning. I just wanted to make people beautiful when I started the whole thing. I didn’t even think makeup will get to the level it is now. I am very happy with the way the industry has grown and I keep striving to give quality. I hear mediocre works but I know that they exist in all industries. So, it is left for you to continue to create and upgrade what you do.
My brand is not for the elite alone; that misconception is because people feel that when something is quality, it has to be expensive. And this is because we are used to having poor services around us. You will be surprised that what we charge is as same as or lower than what others charge.
But I don’t pay attention to things like that; I just want to position BMpro as the reliable and consistent brand. BMpro means Banke Meshida Professional. I was not in marriage when I started the company, I didn’t want a name that will be hard for people to pronounce or remember. At BMpro, we have a makeup line; we do makeup for occasions, we have a training school and we do advisory too. We also recently introduced an online magazine to showcase what we do and our clients. I have worked with a lot of beautiful women, so it is just a way of showing the world what I am doing and what these women are doing too. I would only rest the moment, 10 out of every 13 women have BMpro makeup.
Dining with the powerful and mighty
When President Goodluck Jonathan came into power in 2011, my studio in Abuja was contacted to do makeup for the First Lady, Patience Jonathan. Though I was not around, my staff members stood in until I returned. I later worked with her for a while and the experience was quite humbling because I met people who were from different backgrounds. Despite all the odds and protocols, you must do a good job. Working with her was a teaching experience as well because I learnt a lot about protocols and all sorts.
The First Lady was very simple to deal with; the people around her were often the problem. You know she is the First Lady, so there has to be a lot of drama. You either play by the rules or get out. I learnt that when you strike a deal you must have a good rapport with some certain people to make your job easy. I don’t do makeup for her again. Nothing really went wrong actually; she was too busy and I couldn’t always be available. And like I said, they are always people around them who offer solution to things. I wasn’t new to the experience, though. Prior to that job, I had worked with Mariam Babaginda and Mrs. Titi Atiku. The first job I did that humbled me was the wedding of Halima Atiku Abubakar.
I cannot remember the year, but they were in power then too. After the traditional rite in Yola we went to Abuja (Aso Rock) and the entire protocol was amazing. There were many people who wanted to go, but I was among the few that made it into the private jet because I was taking care of the bride. It was a good experience; I travelled a lot during my early days on the job. It also prepared me to run my business today. I still work with many personalities, including Dakore Akande, Lola Omotayo Okoye, Anita Okoye, Oluremi Tinubu, Dame Fashola, Bolaji Balogun, Ara among others.
Except when I had administrative issues, I don’t think there was a time I wished I had done another profession. The makeup industry in Nigeria today is one to reckon with. The business terrain in Nigeria could be tough, but we have been able to create a makeup industry.
You have management problems, rent, electricity supply, etc which are unstable. You would be using a property and the next thing is for the owner to increase the cost without justification. The ability to just switch off has helped me. It is something I had to learn how to do. If I cannot fix something at a particular time, I would just give myself a break and take that thing off my mind. If I have my way now I would love to work in a company before starting a business. I lacked some skills that I had to learn in a hard way. On the job too I have ugly tales.
There was a time my makeup fell and broke and there was a stampede. Also, there was a time I travelled to do makeup and materials didn’t leave Lagos. The airline didn’t carry them, so I had to hurriedly go shopping because I couldn’t let my client knew what had happened. When I was supposed to be dressing up I headed to the mall. All these things destabilize and provoke a makeup artist.
Staff and its headache
I have more apprentices than staff because they go and come. I don’t disturb myself about that because if a staff member leaves, I would still do makeup. I see myself as the livewire of what I do, though I have been able to build a fantastic team that I am proud of. I have people who share my vision and ready to help position BMpro to greater heights. So, when some people tell me they love to go, I don’t hold anything against them. The only thing I always tell my staff is that if anyone has to leave it should be on a good note. The major problem with staff turnover is that some will either steal or leave due to dishonesty. Some of them end their careers the moment they leave, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Even if I decide not to do the job again, I have a team that can run things.
Makeup could either make or mar you
Though my brand was still running, I was away two years ago in the United States of America due to family needs and health issues. But suddenly, I started seeing some unpleasant makeup that was gaining ground. People were beginning to accept it. I said this is an industry I and some people worked hard to create and I couldn’t just stay back and allow things to go wrong. You should wear makeup; it shouldn’t wear you. I feel bad when clients say their husbands don’t allow them to wear makeup.
But I can actually understand where such man is coming from. Some people wear makeup and you wonder why they look in such a way. I shouldn’t enter a room and the first thing I see is your makeup. Your makeup should complement you and be a final version of you, not the other way. So, I did my best to make sure that things were normalised by letting people to know how makeup should be. I shouldn’t touch your face and my fingers will form holes on your foundation. Your makeup can actually make you look horrible or beautiful. When it is nicely done, you will also know by the comment you get from people around you. Makeup has more to do with confidence too and one should be careful of hypocrites. I, however, admire the tenacity and invention of some of the younger ones; they have decided that they are joining the industry to leave a mark. A lot of my students are doing well too and I feel so happy when I see the work of their hands.
Makeup unnecessary for men
I only encourage my husband to look polish and tidy; men shouldn’t waste much time on makeup. He uses the right moisturiser and facial wash. But it also depends on the kind of work the man does. If your work has a lot to do with appearance, you might want to go extra miles.
Keeping family, job together
There are some days I spend entirely with my six years old and 20 months daughters. I don’t work on Mondays, though few cases I do. My man is an epitome of husband; I met him in the university. He is so supportive of my dream and encourages me too. When I don’t get home early he takes care of our kids. One of the high points of my life was getting married to him. Watching my children grow too makes me happy. I am happy when my baby says something new to me or sings a song.
Between marriage and makeup
You cannot tell me to choose; I enjoy what I do and my life doesn’t revolve around my husband alone. If I leave my job what would I do? We would probably irritate one another and he would ask me to go back. In this case, however, I would choose my husband but I might be dying inside. I had done some crazy things for love. When we were dating I always spent every single day of the week in his house. I resumed and closed there, Monday to Sunday,
Love for fashion
Fashion is what you do to project a good exterior of yourself. I like being comfortable and stylish. I go as far as working with fashion advisers and stylists to help me out because I know I might not be able to put together a good outlook, especially when I have events. But on a normal day, I like to wear black dresses a lot because I feel comfortable with them. I cannot do without my music too.
Counsel for the up and coming
Emerging and young makeup artists should focus on the arm of makeup they want to do and do it well. They shouldn’t try to be someone else because they can never be another.