Nigerian influencer, Toke Makinwa on the joys of womanhood and growing up without her parents

Toke Makinwa (Instagram)
Toke Makinwa (Instagram)

Nigerian media personality Toke Makinwa took us to church this weekend with powerful words aimed at black women.

It’s a blazing hot Sunday afternoon just outside Fourways in Johannesburg. The air is humid and it feels as if you could touch the sky if you just reached high enough. Celebrities, media personalities and influencers have gathered at a beautiful brunch in celebration of the Brutal Fruit Spritzer’s first birthday.

Actress and presenter Candice Modiselle is the host with the absolute most, and performances by Shekhinah and Thabsie entertain guests in between speeches and snacking.

Keynote speaker Toke Makinwa highlights some very important issues, but women uplifting each other is what her speech is all about.

Toke is a radio personality, television host, vlogger, lifestyle entrepreneur and author. She is known for hosting The Morning Drive on Rhythm 93.7 FM, a Nigerian radio station, and YouTube vlog series Toke Moments. She also released her book, On Becoming, in 2016. With over 3 million followers on Instagram, she’s reached and touched so many lives – but she says it’s only the beginning.

Speaking to DRUM, Toke recalls losing both her parents on the same day when she was only 8 years old. A gas cylinder leak led to a fire that took both their lives.

“Life after that wasn’t easy, as you can imagine. I felt like a burden to everyone. Even simple things like going to bed would spark anxiety because I would wait for my cousin to want to sleep before even thinking of going to sleep. It wasn’t easy even opening the fridge because I would have fears of ‘that’s not mine’ and things like that,” the vlogger says.

“But eventually I told myself that this will not break me, instead it’ll motivate me to work hard and be a successful woman that my parents would be proud of. But more importantly, I decided that for the rest of my life I’m going to be intentional about being kind and good to people, especially women,” she continues.

The YouTube sensation says rejection also played a huge role in her life – sometimes she’d go to auditions and not even be given feedback. “I’ve had the door slammed at me so many times, but the trick is to remember who you are and what you’re capable of, your dreams and how you want to get there.”

Toke says her heart breaks when she sees young women comparing themselves to other women on social media and wanting to end their lives because of the pressure they put on themselves.

“We need to remember that everything you see on social media, on Instagram, is controlled content. People are going to curate content in a way that will only show the good. We can’t use that as a standard to measure our own lives,” she stresses.

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So, what keeps this powerhouse motivated? “God!”

“I don’t do religion. I think religion is one of the shackles that needs to be broken in Africa. I believe in a deeper connection and I feel like just being able to give the heavens above more than a passing glance, and knowing fully that no matter what comes, God is still good.

“It’s a bit overwhelming, but also assuring in a sweet kind of way – realising that life will come with it’s up and downs and craziness, but you will be good.”

Toke is considered a fashion icon and admits to having a passion for fashion since the beginning of her memory. She shares the five items she thinks every woman should have:

Sunglasses “for those days where you didn’t get enough sleep and you just need to power through the day”. Lip-gloss, blush and a pair of flat shoes “because even when you’re wearing heels, you just need a cute pair of flats to get down and dirty sometimes”. And perfume. “I love fragrance, a person isn’t really complete if they don’t smell good,” she chuckles.

Toke also mentions that even though her work is infused with her pleasure, she really enjoys travelling. “It’s what I do for fun,” she says.

If she wasn’t living in Nigeria, she’d live in Paris. “I just love how beautiful it is out there, and the people are so nice and carefree. I know some people have negative reviews about the people out there, but I’ve never been a victim of anything like that,” she tells DRUM.

Toke says she surrounds herself with amazing, hardworking people who have their own goals and dreams, and encourages everyone to follow suit.

When it comes to relationships, she has her fair share of heartbreaks and beautiful moments, and after having been married and divorced, she advises young people to relax.

READ MORE: Five relationship mistakes to avoid

“Giiiiiiiiiiiirl,” she says rolling her eyes charmingly, “have fun, don’t take everything so seriously. Fall in love with yourself because knowing yourself is an unending journey. And if you know and love yourself, both you and your partner can stand in love. I don’t believe in falling in love, I believe in standing in love. And being with someone who complements the you that you’re working on, and vice versa. That way, you both bring good intentions to the table.”

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