'I'm the editor of Pop'Africana, which was originally a biannual magazine, but it's taking on a new form and has now gone digital. Basically, it's serving as a reference point for understanding the types of ideas and innovations that are happening within fashion in Africa. It is also documenting and showcasing contemporary African experiences and interests globally. So, it's very cosmopolitan—not just for the African, but also for any fashion enthusiast who just wants to see a different cultural perspective.
I’ve tried a few things over the years with my skin, but I feel like the best skin remedy for me is the sun. I know that sounds weird, but I drink more water in hot weather and the sun makes my skin glow; it evens out all my dark spots. I share my time between New York and Lagos, Nigeria, and whenever I go home and come back to New York, I can see the difference in my skin. I even have to change my foundation because everything has changed, my pores are tighter, everything.
In terms of products, it took me a long time to figure out what kind of lotion works for my skin. You grow up using anything your older sister or mom had around—you don’t really think, ‘Oh, what do I need for my skin?’ until much later. The first lotion I figured out that worked for my skin was coconut butter from Philosophy, but it was discontinued. I remember going into Sephora and crying, ‘What am I going to do now?’ Then I found the Olive Body Butter by The Body Shop; I've been using it for three years now. It’s lotion, but heaven—it’s butter. And now I don’t take a chance. Every time I go to The Body Shop, I ask them, ‘Are you going to discontinue this? Let me know now so I can start figuring something out.’ They say, ‘No, we’re never going to discontinue it.’ But every time I go to the Body Shop, I stock up because I’m scared now.
For my face, Philosophy's When Hope Is Not Enough Facial Firming Serum and Replenishing Cream work wonders. The serum is light and refreshing when I don't plan to have makeup on, and the moisturizer is rich but doesn’t feel too greasy. It just nourishes my face underneath my makeup.
I really only wear heavy makeup in the winter, when my complexion starts to get a little discolored. I'm a big fan of Bobbi Brown's Oil-Free Even Finish Compact Foundation, and Natural Hue Liquid Makeup from the Queen Collection from CoverGirl [Queen Latifa’s line]. [Laughs] I don’t even care, as long as it blends in very well. And I’ve always lined my eyes since I was little with black pencil, which in a way feels like tradition for every woman. I'm not really particular about the brand of pencil, as long as it's really black, glides easily, and doesn't smudge...too much. I just discovered Givenchy Phenomen’Eyes mascara, the one with the ball brush. It hurts when you make a mistake but when you get it right, you can get individual lashes and I love it. I found out about it in Lagos while doing last-minute makeup in the car on the way to a friend's party. I was like, ‘What the hell is this? It’s a ball! It's so cool!’ Usually most of my friends who can travel out of Nigeria stock up on products when they go to New York or London, and then come back and tease everyone. So the first thing I did when I came back to New York was go straight to Sephora, and I was like, 'Oh my God, it’s here, it’s real!’ I got it, and it works! And I've also just discovered Benetint from Benefit—finally, blush that actually shows up on my complexion!
I’m obsessed with nude lips and for a long time, I couldn't find the perfect shade. I went all over the place and finally I discovered two: Film Noir lipstick from MAC, which I'm wearing now, and Photo by MAC. Sometimes I do two-tone, with Photo on my top lip. Call me crazy...why not? Makeup and beauty products are so much fun, but I will say this: black soap, Shea butter, multivitamins, fruit smoothies, real coconut water from the West Indian spots in Brooklyn, and sleep are my staples.
Everyone who knows me well knows they can’t trust me with my hair. One minute I have super long braids, and the next I have super short hair. My braids are diva. I only get them put in when I go home, where they can get the attention they deserve. I’ve tried getting them done in New York a few times, and I come back crying, sometimes even cutting off my hair out of frustration for spending so much on such nonsense. Back home, you can see it’s actually a real craft, and these girls take real pride in their work. Anything you want can be achieved, and I love getting home service. So, when it comes to braids, it's either Ms. Fumi and her girls in Lagos, or nothing. In between styles, Moroccan Oil hair products are amazing, especially the Treatment and the Restorative Hair Mask.
Of course, braids grow out and then you just have to take them off. I always say this to my friends: ‘For me, success would be having enough money to travel back and forth whenever I want to get my hair done at home, or flying someone in.’ [Laughs] I feel like hair has always been important for any woman of any race, but for black girls it’s different. People always think it’s so easy having natural hair, but I think it’s challenging, even this short. It gets to a certain frustration length, when you don’t want to perm it, weave it, put a wig on, or cut it—and mine’s getting there. This time I promised myself that I’m just going to let my hair grow.
I just ran into a friend, and she was like, ‘Oroma, I didn’t even recognize you! Where’s your braids?’ I just said, ‘Look mama, sometimes I’m going to have braids. And sometimes, if I don’t go home, I’m going to have short hair.’ But knowing me and my hair, who knows what's going to end up happening.”
Oroma Elewa, wearing a top and shorts by Maki Oh, photographed by Emily Weiss in New York.