By Christy Anyanwu
She’s adventurous and loves to multi-task. Aside entertainment and fashion, she also has a knack for culture and tradition. That explains her involvement in the prestigious Nigerian Festival UK, an event aimed at showcasing, celebrating and conserving the cultural richness and unique heritage of Nigerians.
In this interview, Irene Eribo-Ani opens up extensively about herself, career, love life and other issues. Enjoy it.
Can you briefly tell us about yourself?
I am Irene Eribo-Ani. I was born into a family of five children and I am the second child. My parents are from Edo State but I am married to an Igbo. I currently live in the UK but my early years were spent in Nigeria. I am a mother of two boys and I love adventures. I wear different hats. I have taken up several roles as a trainer, workshop facilitator, stylist, event planner, community development specialist, correspondent and human rights activist. I am the founder of Miss E.B.O.N.Y Creative Contest and co-founder of Nigerian Festival UK.
You and your colleague are hosting Nigerian Festival UK in June. Tell us more about this event and its benefits to Nigerians both at home and in the Diaspora?
The Nigerian Festival UK is a daylong event aimed at showcasing, acknowledging, celebrating and conserving the cultural richness and unique heritage of current and future generations of Nigerians living in the United Kingdom. Our existence is deeply rooted and inspired by the need to bridge the cultural gaps amongst Nigerian/African youths, and adults who have not had the opportunity of learning the customs and traditions of their motherland due to being far away from home.
What are the other things you do that occupy your time?
My time is fully occupied that I wish I had more than 24 hours a day. Through my organisation, Ebony Ambassadors, we engage in different projects. The planning and executing of these projects are time consuming. As the CEO of this company, I see to the smooth running of the activities. To be sincere, I work round the clock, sleep late and wake up early because 80 percent of our staff are volunteers. I look forward to when we will have 80 percent full time staff and and 20 percent volunteers.
You have a platform where young, beautiful ladies emerge as Ebony Ambassadors. How did this start and to what benefit is this to the contestants?
This contest was birthed in 2016 due to my desire to have more skillful youth representatives, by empowering young Africans in the Diaspora through different skills empowerment workshops, and to change the narrative of beauty pageants. The Miss E.B.O.N.Y Ambassador Beauty and Creative Pageant, which is now called Miss E.B.O.N.Y Ambassador Creativity Contest is actually the first of its kind in the United Kingdom. Miss E.B.O.N.Y contest represents elegance, boldness, originality, nobility, and youth ambassadorial contest. It`s being organised to crown a lady of African descent to be a youth representative to her own country, and a role model with the view that there is power vested on a crowned queen to reign.
We need more youth role models, which is why one of the many goals of the contest is to empower the contestants, given that any one of them can be the crowned queen. The winner of the pageant will have an all expenses paid trip to a country in Africa and a project named after her. Every contestant will have the opportunity to model for a clothing line. All contestants will develop their confidence through public presentation, and have the opportunity to become brand ambassadors. Also, the contestants will have the opportunity to feature in Nollywood UK.
If I guess right, you started off as a beautician in the UK. Tell us what influenced that decision, and what are the gains and pains of being a makeover artist in the UK?
You are right. I started off as a hair stylist, a skill I picked up while growing up in Nigeria. I did not choose this part but my handwork spoke for me. I do hair styling for family and friends as fun as well to pass time. When people see the style on them, they want me to make theirs. That is actually how it started. I moved on to teaching and organising hair braiding workshops, which I do till date. There is no pain but gain as it gave me extra cash and launched me into being an entrepreneur. I am now a boss lady. Looking back, I thank God for blessing the work of my hands. It is always a win-win to have a skill. It is definitely going to pay off one day. The journey was the reason I started the creative contest seven years ago.
You’re married; tell us how you met your husband. Was it love at first sight?
Yes, I am married. I met my husband on social media. I think he was attracted to my profile picture. He made the first move by messaging me for a date. For me, I don’t believe in love at first sight. Relationship is to be nurtured to grow into love
Even as a married woman, you look gorgeous, how do you handle male admirers?
To be honest, I don’t give room for such. To be admired with no strings attached is a good thing. It shows you are taking care of yourself and you still slay. I love to remain a slay mama or slay queen. I am known by the slogan, ‘Na only one life, live it to the fullest’. I dress to impress. However, I am good at blocking any man that approaches me sexually knowing that I am married.
What have been the lowest and greatest moments of your career?
The lowest moment of my career was in 2019 when I almost cancelled that year’s Miss E.B.O.N.Y Ambassador contest grand finale. For now, my two greatest moments are when I was recognised as a young achiever by Universal Peace Federation at the UK Parliament, and last year when I hosted dignitaries from all over the world including First Ladies, governors and high commissioners.