INTERVIEW: OSATO EMUMWEN
Model, Osato on history, heroines and how the beauty industry treats women of colour.
What women do you most identify with from history to the present day?
I think, as I’ve grown older and come to terms with who I am and who I want to be, I identify with women like Maya Angelou and how focused and dedicated she was to speaking out women and how we should be seen. The idea of ‘the feminist’ is kind of frowned upon in today’s society. And in the present day I identify with the messages women like Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie are speaking about for young girls. We have to be the writers of our own stories and it’s important for all women to understand this message from a young age. ‘The sky is the limit’ that kind of thing.
Tell us about a time you have felt threatened because you are a women?
I don’t think I’ve ever felt threatened, just uncomfortable. Especially when you’re in a predominantly male environment and you’re the only female you’re hyper sensitive and aware of everything you do and how you’re coming across. I tend to shrink myself down to look smaller so no one will pay any attention to me and you don’t get unwanted advances from guys.
Do you feel that brands aimed at women represent you?
Not at all. Being a woman of colour with a different look to most of the models in the industry, as a young girl you go through a kind of identity crisis. I’m from Nigeria originally but I’ve grown up in a Western environment. So you start to lose a bit of yourself and your culture. So as I’ve grown up it’s been important for me to embrace that culture and who I am. But it’s been difficult because the girls in the magazines or the movies all look the same; tall, skinny, most of the time Caucasian and nothing like me. I can’t relate to a girl like that. So it was really nice shooting for REEK, where the brand is aimed at every type of woman or gender, in all different shapes and sizes. Because that’s the reality of the world we live in. No two people look the same so I think that’s an important message to push to people especially young girls.
How does beauty industry advertising make you feel about yourself?
I used to feel like I had to change myself to look like those girls. It makes you question your beauty, because the girls they are using for these campaigns never look like you. Half the time they don’t look like themselves either because they’re so airbrushed. It would be amazing if there was more diversity. Nowadays fashion brands etc think diversity means adding one black or Asian model to their fashion show and all of a sudden they’re ‘revolutionary’ and paving the way for more diversity in fashion. Which is clearly not the case at all. And there are so many beautiful women out there who should be included in the messages these brands are trying to portray to help all women understand that not one size fits all kind of thing.
What makes you a Damn Rebel Bitch?
I think because I’m confident. I can be in a room full of people I don’t know and I’m able to have a conversation and get to know people. And my mentality makes me a damn Rebel Bitch. I’ve got a very ‘take me as you see me’ attitude to life.