On this shoot day, the skies are dropping beads of rain. Somewhere in Ogudu, Simi is having her [very little] makeup done for Genevieve’s first Beauty issue. She’s a picture of calmness as the makeup artist goes to work on her face while the hair stylist attaches beautiful, soft petals to her braids. The brief from the Editor for this issue is ‘nude, clean, and soft looks.’ You would call it the ‘barely there’ look. In between giggles as she plays with her phone, Simi finds time to occasionally look in the mirror to admire what the beauty experts are doing with her. As a recording artiste, she is definitely familiar with these procedures.
“Champagne or water?” asks one of the G-Team members on hand to ensure the smooth running of the shoot. “Water” she replies, as she nibbles on her cupcake.
For this shoot, Simi has walked into the studio wearing a sports top, crisscrossed at the back, over a pair of jeans. She’s easy like Sunday morning. Makeup done, she responds to the call of the stylist and fits into her first look – a brown cloth wrapped around her – that’s it! As the photographer sets his lenses, Simi says with a little excitement, “Are you ready? I am ready!” A smile plays on her lips and a little pout is formed. Is she excited about this edition? The twinkle in her eyes says she is but then Simi is no stranger to Genevieve Magazine as she has not only previously been featured as a Personality, but has also played the role of the interviewer when she had a conversation with Adekunle Gold for our February issue..
“Were there things about your body you didn’t like when you were younger?” I asked as the interview commenced. “I wished I was a bit bigger because I was very tiny!“ She responded smiling. Ok, let’s get straight into insecurities then.
Did you feel that insecure about any other aspect of yourself?
I felt as if people were taking me for granted because of my size. People would often treat me like a child,, and my tiny voice did not help matters. I remember when I was 27 and had gone to pick up a cake for my birthday, [there was a queue and] this lady began acting rude towards me because I told her to get in line. I didn’t have any makeup on so I looked much younger than my age and she began talking to me like it was a child who spoke to her. There were days I wished that my voice was a little deeper than it is. There was this time I was on the bus with my mum and I said something that only a grown person would say and one of the passengers looked back to see who had spoken and I heard someone say “I thought she was a child.” I used to be embarrassed about it and had wished that my voice had more authority but that was then.
Is your body frame a family trait?
I don’t have a standard of comparison because I’m the only child of my mother and I grew up with boys, but I was definitely the tiniest in my house. My mom is not exactly tall but she isn’t tiny either. Maybe she was tiny before she gave birth to me but since I’ve been aware, I’ve always been the tiniest in my family.
Do younger guys hit on you thinking you’re a “small girl”?
(Laughs) Yes! I remember getting advances from Secondary School boys still in their uniforms even after I had graduated. I would just laugh at myself when things like that happen,; Ah, see my life, I don suffer! But, because it happened to me a lot, I got used to it over time. I can’t change it.
Did you face any bullying because of your frame?
I’m very hard to bully and the credit for that goes to my mum. I didn’t grow up in a house where bullying was allowed. Nobody ever tried to make me feel like I was less than them. I always knew how to speak up for myself and people around me. And if anybody tried to bully me, I somehow found the strength and will to shut it down.
And society? Do you find that it tries to bully us? About our size, our skin, our looks… To the extent that a lot of people lose confidence in themselves?
To answer your first question, definitely, society itself is a bully. The idea of societal confirmation or validation is bullying. People think that their opinion of how you look should matter. Colourism exists in societies where there are different races, and colours and this makes people think that light-skinned people have a better advantage to get things to work for them. I’ve never felt like that. I feel like the level of attention we give to such issues makes them worse. For example, if someone tells me that I’m dark-skinned and still beautiful. I always tell them that I know. You don’t have to tell me. I love being dark-skinned, I like dark-skinned guys. Having great, healthy skin matters more to me than the colour of the skin. Society’s standards affect people. Depending on how strong or thick-skinned one is, it could affect them, bring them down, and make them want to change who they are. But they can decide to brush it off because, at the end of the day, people will have their opinions.
What’s your take on toning, skin lightening or bleaching, which has become the new normal?
I’m a big advocate for self-love and I think, personally, that people tend to feed off the value that you have for yourself. Not everyone can be taken for granted. Some people can take you for granted because you let them. If they treat you terribly and you continuously accept it, there’s a tendency for them to continue to treat you that way. But, if you are the kind of person who puts their foot down and rejects such treatments, it’d be harder for people to treat you that way. If you are filled with self-love, those conversations won’t get to you. They might start it, but when they see that it doesn’t get to you or affect you, they’ll pull back.
A lot of people have said that the reason they bleached was because light-skinned ladies are more beautiful…
I’ve heard that, but I don’t agree. I don’t think they’re more beautiful or less beautiful. I think you’re as beautiful as you are. The end. If you’re dark-skinned and beautiful, the end. If you’re light-skinned and beautiful, the end too. If I see a light skinned girl who’s beautiful, I’ll say it. Same applies if I see a dark-skinned beautiful girl. We put too much attention on things that don’t matter. I’ve seen a lot of ‘melanated’ people and wished I had their skin. It all boils down to perspective and letting society dictate the narrative. We’ve been doing that for so long and it’s getting worse.
So what does beauty mean to you?
To me, beauty is when a person is comfortable in the way they look. Beauty is relative. What’s beautiful to one person might not be beautiful to another person. Every individual is their own standard.
Do you think that there might come a time when you would consider some invasive and non-invasive beauty procedures?
Personally, I’m comfortable in my skin, but I don’t know if I’m going to want to use any procedures in a few years.
People have often criticised your fashion choices..
I have never identified or claimed to be a fashionista, it’s not one of my strengths. When I go shopping, I get tired. I don’t expect to be on the list of the most fashionable people, I’ve never expected it. I believe that everybody – celebrities and all – has room for improvement. Everybody has a right to not be good at something and improve at it. But, I don’t know how people expect me to feel about their opinion about my fashion. I understand that we learn everyday. I’ve worked with different stylists, I’ve not liked every single thing they’ve brought to me. Some people make fashion choices that other people don’t like. Personally, when I pick an outfit, what is more important to me is comfort. I like to be comfortable. I don’t like to wear heels because I get tired and take them off. I like sneakers and jeans, and that’s my comfort zone. But when I’m going for a red carpet event, I have to dress accordingly. Social media has made some people a bit crazy, they take your story from you and make it into something else. I remember attending an event, just to perform, and I didn’t want to put on my stage outfit to walk into the venue so I wore something else. On my way into the venue, I avoided people who were trying to take pictures of me as I was not dressed yet. But someone, an artiste or a comedian [can’t remember exactly], managed to get me to take a picture with him. The next day, everyone was saying that I wore that outfit on the red carpet.
Things like that reaffirm that no matter what you do, people will always have something to say. I know some people don’t believe me when I say it, but I honestly don’t lose sleep over comments like that because I know that there is always room for improvement and I’m willing to improve. People have the right to say what they want to say anyway.
But some of the comments are insensitive. Like when you performed at an event and people assumed that you were pregnant?
I was bloated, I already had an outfit we had already agreed on, and the performance wasn’t in Nigeria so I couldn’t just change my outfit choice. I had earlier had a knee injury and a side effect of one of the medications I was on, was bloating. But I couldn’t start explaining it.
People say what they like without knowing what you’re going through, you just have to have thick skin. Things like that don’t hurt me, it’s just talk. Insults about my fashion sense do not hurt my feelings.
On that particular day, I just laughed it off. Someone even went on Twitter and said something like “Why does Simi look fat in the tummy region?” I replied that it was because I’m fat in my tummy region. At the end of the day that’s what it is, just talk. So I laughed it off. I think people expect that people in the limelight are not human beings. They’ve set a standard for us that’s not attainable.
What’s your favourite makeup look?
I like to go nude. I really don’t like [to wear a lot of] makeup]. I have really sensitive skin so the less makeup I wear, the better for me. I feel like I look better with nude makeup. Even when my makeup artist tries to do something different, I discourage her.
We are still savouring Meghan Markle’s less is less make up for her wedding. Is that the kind of look you would like for yours?
I don’t think she had any makeup on. (General laughter) I’m sure I’ll have makeup on my day. I honestly thought she didn’t have any makeup on her face because I could still see her freckles and everything. She’s a body-confident woman. And again, it’s not their way to have lots of makeup on anyway. The most they do is, maybe, too much eye shadow. They hardly do lashes, and brows. But here, even N10,000 will get you a full face beat. I think I’ll have makeup on my wedding day, but not too much. Anyway, I think, to each his own. If you like a lot of makeup and it makes you happy, great. If you don’t, great.
What’s your go-to beauty product then?
Lip balm. I tend to lick my lips a lot and it gets dry.
And if you had to wear foundation, what do you go for? Full coverage or light cover?
I use a mix of everything. I use Mac foundation because it was the only one where I found my exact shade in. I have started using some new brands. I’ve used Lancome before. I liked how light the foundation was. I really liked it. I can’t remember what my Lancome foundation shade was though.
Growing up, what was it you wanted to be and, is that the person you have become in terms of your career?
I wrote my very first song when I was 10 years old. I started with Gospel music. I was in the teens choir but after that, I didn’t join any choir. The funny thing is, I didn’t really listen to music because I didn’t come from a house where people were really into music. I did most of my singing in the corridor because it echoed. I really enjoyed music. I was in this group called ‘Outstanding’ in church when I was a teenager and I used to go for rehearsals like 2-3 times every week and that was how I began to hone my love for music. From there, I knew that was what I was going to do.
Who were the early people that believed that this was going to take you somewhere even before it manifested in all these colours?
My mum. She doesn’t really know music but she’s always rooting for me.
And your dad?
My parents were separated when I was really young so he didn’t have as much input but he knew.
How many years after you started singing did this ‘Simi Phenomenon’ kick off?
Actually, you remember I was doing Gospel music first. I started mainstream music in 2014 and my first single did really well. So, I would say that was when I started doing mainstream music. That was the beginning of our success story.
Recently, Wizkid sold out a concert at the 02 Arena, filling up a 20,000-capacity arena. What a goal to achieve. What is your big goal?
I want to sell out stadiums. But my biggest goal is to win a Grammy. As part of that big goal, is there any one you wish to perform with?
There are so many people. So many. If I begin calling their names, I would leave out so many people and it’s not even about priority. There are so many. I mean, depending on what they’re doing at the moment, like right now, I would love to do a song with Wizkid. For international artistes, I would love to do a song with Rihanna. It depends on how I’m feeling in the moment.
One thing that people speculate about but you have not commented on is your relationship?
(Laughs) Yes. Because that is a part of my life that belongs to only me One thing I’ve realised is that, once anything gets out there, it doesn’t belong to you anymore so you can’t complain if anyone says anything because it’s not yours alone anymore. It’s now everybody’s business. I feel like, because my career, which is a big percentage of my life, is out there, people have opinions about it. People have opinions about my fashion because it’s out there. I understand that it comes with the territory. But my personal life belongs to me and I’m very protective of it. Not because I’m trying to hide it, but, as much as I understand that people have an opinion about different things in my life, I feel like nobody should have access to that part of my life.
What are you most frightened of?
I think what I am most frightened of is not being the most that I can be. I’m not afraid to fail because I feel like you never know until you try something so I am all for experimenting and trying stuff, messing up and trying again. For me, it’s just not doing enough, not making the most of potential and just settling. I hate to settle. So as long as I’m getting a push, I just keep trying.
Do you think you are more driven by fear or motivation?
Why is that?
…Like when you asked of what I am most afraid of, I feel like no matter what you do, sometimes you will fall, sometimes you are going to mess up and fail. I am more driven by “oh, what can I do with this; how can this work out? how can I make this better; ooh what can I do to change it?” I think it’s pointless to worry or be afraid of something because it might happen, what matters is your response.
One of the reasons I asked that question is because there is a fear of failure that exists in Nigeria, from very early on. That fear kind of follows you and I don’t think people shake it off quickly.
What’s funny is that people are afraid of the wrong things. They are not afraid of failing at what they like but afraid of disappointing other people, which is weird because at the end of the day, it’s your life.
I think that’s the luxury of freedom, to actually come to that conclusion that it is their life, especially as a woman where society has dictated that it’s: marriage + child = complete.
Yes, you have to want to fight for it because people will not fight for it for you, that’s what I found. I remember when I finished school – my mum has always been supportive but like most parents are – she was worried about me. She was like “Simi, why don’t you just go and get experience in one company?”, I said, “experience to do what? I’m not planning to do this music part time.” To me, the fact that I’m confident in what I want gives her confidence. If I wasn’t sure of what I want, it [would be] easy for people to tell me what they think I should be doing.
So parting words to a woman who is on the fence about making that leap to be confident enough to be say, I believe in this and I want to try it, what would you say to help her?
It’s definitely not easy, but in summary I would say that, it’s ok to be afraid but don’t let it stop you,, don’t let anybody stop you from being you, be the most you can be and if you fail, try again.
This interview was first published in Genevieve Magazine June Issue. Click HERE to purchase.