This is an interview with Lola Rae from our September 2016 Edition.

“Lola Rae is Prada.” The exact words from the fashion editor that had us sold on why Lola Rae should be chosen as our cover girl.

Deciding who makes the Genevieve cover can sometimes be a breeze. Other times our opinions are as different as night and day. It was so, when we needed to pick the cover girl for this September fashion issue. The direction for the issue was a fresh face with a fashion edge. One half of the team were insistent on Lola Rae while the general response from the other half was, “But do people really know who she is?” A week passed and we still hadn’t made a decision, but for every other person we considered, Lola Rae still came out the clear lead. The Editor-in-Chief was convinced and a few clutched on to the direction.

Mine was rather slow but with those words from Ifeoma, the fashion editor, everyone was sold.


And so was I. 

Research revealed that British-Ghanaian singer Lola Rae is indeed Rachel Funmilola Garton, Funmilola, a name she adopted based on her long stay in Lagos, Nigeria where her parents had lived for 50 years. “I consider myself Nigerian. I only stayed in Ghana for one year. Nigeria and England are all I know”


The afternoon she was to be interviewed, Lola came into the Genevieve office wearing a white crepe co-ord set that showed off her gorgeous legs. She is glowingly beautiful even though she had been in several interviews that day and was stuck in the legendary Lagos traffic hours before. “I am so sorry I am late”, she apologised profusely.
I couldn’t help but notice the fact that there is such a dichotomy between Lola’s on screen act and her actual personality. 
Meeting her, she reminds you of a warm fuzzy animal, frequently looking down and squinting her nose when she is about to make a statement. “Are you a shy person?” I asked? “Very!” she confirmed doing the nose squint again. 
“So how are you able to perform and sing so confidently?” I enquired as I had seen her debut single “Watch My Ting Go”, which at the time of going to press had over 3.3 million views. “I usually have an asthma attack before going on stage, it’s like a normal thing, but as soon as I go on stage I am fine, because I remind myself that this is my job and I do not want to do a 9-5.”
She shared that her shyness was borne out of a lack of confidence in her ability as a singer. As the middle child of two sisters who are incredibly talented vocalists, she was the only one who never got professional voice classes. “I was told that I couldn’t sing so I became the fashion student that danced. That’s why when I told my parents I wanted to do music they were very surprised.”

If a person’s path in life could be predicted, Lola’s certainly was. “Music has always been in my family,” she recalled. Growing up she lived in Obalende, a popular Suburb of Lagos State where artistes like Lagbaja would attend her parent’s parties without his mask. “In fact my father was such a lover of music that he was offered a record deal at a very young age.”
And as she went through life she frequently got prods and pointers to the path she would now walk. “While I was a student at Lekki British I recall one of the music teachers heard me sing for the first time and asked me to pursue music.  I was about 13 or 14 at the time. I was scared but I knew from then I was going to try and work towards it.”

As if that wasn’t enough motivation, the most recognised judge on the British talent show Britain’s Got Talent, Simon Cowell said to her “I think you’re really good”

At the time Lola was studying fashion textiles at Central Saint Martins, London, when she signed on to a 13-strong dance group with a twist called Myztikal from South East London. 

Her dad was driving her to the tube station when she announced to him that she was not only dancing but singing as well. “He literally stopped the car on the road and said, what the hell are you doing? Please don’t embarrass us because this is on national television and there are so many people watching.” 

The group’s performance started out very strong and Lola, who at the time went by her first name Rachel, sang a solo during the performance, an Amy Winehouse number, “You know I’m no good”.
Simon who thought Rachel was lip-syncing asked his co-judge Amanda Holden during the performance “Is that her singing?” “Yeah!” Amanda replied, “She has got her headset on” 

Unfortunately Simon ordered the group’s performance to a halt midway through another female group member’s solo. “If you want to continue to sing you are going to have to sort out amongst you who can sing and who can’t.” Amanda stated and Simon was inclined to agree. Looking in her direction he asks “What’s your name with the orange tie?” to which she replied “Rachel” “I think you are really good with cues” and her eyes greeted him with the most astonished expression.  “My problem was when the others started to sing as well it was abysmal and someone here has compromised what you’ve done. Although Piers Morgan gave them a no, Amanda and Simon were convinced to give them a second chance.

As the group celebrated their victory, Lola mouthed the words “Thank you very much” to which Simon gave a short wink. 

Simon’s compliment set off a chain of jealousy and fights that eventually led to her exit from the group. “It was a good experience because that was my stepping stone but behind the scenes everyone was fighting. I just couldn’t understand because we had such a good opportunity. We got signed to Simon Cowell for 2 years but by then I had already left the group. I couldn’t do 2 years of fighting because that’s not who I am. So I simply went back to school.”   

Even before she went on the talent show, Randy Jackson had heard her singing on the shop floor whilst she worked at Selfridges and offered her an opportunity which she thought was too good to be true. “It was too good to be true. Even though it was Randy Jackson, flying to a guy’s house in America didn’t sit right with me. So I didn’t take it.” She still thinks informing the Myztikal leader about that opportunity fuelled the jealousy.
“I am glad I left the group but I’ll always be grateful for that experience because it built my confidence in my ability”

“After Simon Cowell told me I a good voice I held on to it and till this day I practice my vocals and sometimes go back and watch the video. It gives me a kick!”  

Lola returned to fashion school, but nurtured her ambition to one day become a music star.

Whilst studying fashion textiles, she felt the need to reflect her culture and history through her style. “When I got to fashion school I wore a lot of African prints because it was representative of where I am from”. For her, moods severely play a role in what she wears. Some days she is uber chic in a long tailored blazer and fitted trousers and on others she is in trainers and a snapback. “My style has drastically evolved and it keeps doing so. I went through the dancer phase; trainers and tracksuits. The fashion student phase; bohemian chic! And now I’m going through the One Time phase; young, fun and fresh”

Fashion, she remembers, had always been a part of her. Her earliest fashion influence was her mum. As a little girl she would sit at the edge of her mum’s bed and watch her doll up for parties. “I remember just staring at her in awe”.. 
Fashion was also influenced by her music idols. “My dad and I were big fans of Diana Ross and Micheal Jackson and maybe that’s where my love for sequins and big hair comes from.” she chuckles. Her parents, she says, were key in helping her find her style as they happily helped her play dress up. “While I was at St. Saviours Primary School, my parents helped me put together an outfit for our fancy dress day. I came in as Princess Jasmine from Aladdin! I even came in with a mat as my magic carpet. Oh the memories!”


It was this intense relationship with fashion that led her on the ride to studying it at University. Unfortunately her love for music superseded it. Her desire to create good music eventually drove her to record her debut single. 
At the time EME record label was looking for a female artist but though she submitted her demo, Niyola was picked over her. With that second ‘failure’, she realised she had to take things into her own hands and she decided to record a video for Watch my Tin Go and paid only £200 for promotion. “I sent the video to a few people from the industry and one artist in particular said it’s a crap video and it’s not going to go anywhere, but by the second day the video already had 40,000 views and he came back to apologise. I didn’t expect people to accept it and if I knew I would get that number of views I would have had a second single ready” 

“So what was your initial dream career?” I pressedI’ll be very honest it was always music but I was too shy to proclaim that to anyone so fashion was always my  back up! “ she replies frankly.

By the time her debut single had racked up over a million views she knew she was ready for the industry. But nothing prepared her for the tragedy that would occur in her life. 

Her father passed away. 

“I was in Nigeria doing some press work when I got a call that my dad was sick but nobody wanted to tell me that he had been diagnosed with stage four cancer.” Her dad was in England at the time and she had felt a strong prompting to remain there with him but her father insisted that she should go and chase her dreams. “I didn’t even know what he was going through at the time.”

Lola who is openly religious shares a spooky experience on the flight to Nigeria
“I remember meeting a Caucasian guy on the plane whose name was Brian (my dad’s middle name was Brian) and he was telling me he just lost his dad to cancer. I desperately wanted to sleep but I felt a strong urge to listen to him. He told me about how he had to be the strength of his family. When we got off the plane, I pulled him through because I always have a policeman waiting for me. After getting my luggage and dropping my stuff in the car the policeman went to get him but the man wasn’t there. Even the number he gave me hasn’t gone through till this day”. Lola thinks he was an angel sent to comfort her and prepare her for the perilous days ahead.

“When I flew back to London, my dad couldn’t walk anymore but my mum asked that I keep praying. He couldn’t speak much either but in the days leading to his death, he gave his life to Christ and his last words to me were to take care of my mum and sisters.”

 “His death took so much from me that for the longest time I didn’t want to do music.” She says looking in the distance.

But just as the strange man on the plane had predicted, Lola had to be strong for her family “He was a great father and our financial support. My mum had never worked a day in her life. Luckily my dad had saved and bought property and my extended family supported us. But we all had to work really hard, my mum also had to get a job and we all just had to grow up.”

“Is that why you are passionate about being successful?”

“Definitely, 100%” She cuts in. “I am doing this for my family. My dad would have loved it, if he saw me do this. We also went through trying times financially when my dad passed and I never want my family to go through that again.”

“Being openly born again and a sexy pop female artist is a controversy waiting to happen. ” I reminded her but she was not troubled “My relationship with God is incredibly personal. If you get to know me you’ll realise the sort of person I am. The entertainment is all about performance and Lola Rae happens to be one of the many artists. “

“I am not as high maintenance as everybody thinks.” she rebuts “I do basically everything myself; Makeup, hair, cooking, cleaning, you name it. I am a neat freak. I am also a high street girl but I like high end shoes and accessories.”
“That’s why I really hope to create affordable high street fashion someday, something like a West-African H&M but whatever I do will have to be built around my music.”
“You know in Nigeria today most of the high street brands are quite expensive in comparison with the income people receive. I want to mass manufacture here in Nigeria, train young girls on how to sew, which will act as an educational scheme that will put young girls through school.  I hope it ill be called A.B.G (All black Girls)” 
But for now, Lola Rae is focused on her music; creating sounds that people can dance to.
She feels prepared for the industry because before her big return, she studied the music of Tiwa Savage and Wizkid. “I really look up to Tiwa Savage,” she states.
And in ten years, “I see myself being like Shakira who is the Colombian artist in America, I could possibly be the Nigerian/Ghanaian artist in America.”

Right now she is working on her collaboration with artistes like Davido and spreading her music across Africa. Lola is ready for the industry. “I have enough songs for 2 albums all written by myself.”

“So what do you want to be known for?” I asked

“I want to be known as the girl that made Africa dance!”


What was your dream career?
I’ll be very honest it was always music but I was too shy to proclaim that to anyone so fashion was always my back up! 

Did your parents accept you doing music?
Initially no. No parent wants his or her child to go through any sort of hardship, you know. However they warmed up to the idea when I showed them, ‘Watch My Ting Go’ and they saw how serious I was.

Worst experiences working in Nigeria
The fact that people think I lie about my age. y weight was also a problem until until I dropped to a size 8. I also hate how people call you a diva when you are opinionated but if it were a guy they would call him a boss.

Who are your favourite artists and what are your all time favourite songs?
Beyonce (Lost Yo Mind & Save The Hero), Rebecca Garton (Voices & Same Old Shit), Spice (Needle eye) and Tiwa Savage (Before Nko & Wanted)

What do you do to stay glowing?
I definitely do not glow! (laughs) That’s for sure. But I have heard daily exfoliation works!

Can you give us some of your tips for making high street looks, high end?
Stay away from things that are in trend, go for classic pieces and neutral palettes like nudes, blacks and white and also buy high street brands that last like Zara and Topshop.

What would we always catch you wearing?
 Wearing my wig

And if someone tries to yank it off?
I sincerely hope they don’t. (laughs)

Your staple beauty products are…
Taos Liquid Lipsticks, BleuRibbon Hair & SK Lashes

High street or high end? 
I am more high street than I am high end! I have an appreciation for the time and workmanship that goes into the high-end clothes but I do love a high street buy!

Who are your favourite designers?
My favourite designers are always changing but right now I love Gareth Pugh, his structuring is simply amazing! I do love Deola Sagoe, I love looking at her pieces. Lastly Tag Heuer watches!

As cliché as this sounds… What is style to you?
Style is an expression of who you are and how you feel at the moment.

Your oldest fashion item is
Yikes! I am the absolute worst I lose things all the time! Nothing lasts for long *Covers face in embarrassment*

Which celebrity wardrobe would you raid?
It would have to be Rihanna’s!

What is your fondest memory
Ikoyi club dinners with my dad every Friday night!

Your most embarrassing moment
Almost falling on stage – my face pretty much said it all!

The most surprising fact about me
I’m an introvert… extremely shy!

Personal mantra
Regardless of the job always give it a 150%. 

My biggest life ambition is
To be fulfilled and never settle. 

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