Arts + Culture

The Slumflower on Making a Career Out of Her Passion and the Complexities of Black Womanhood

Writer and motivational speaker Chidera Eggerue speaks on her successful platform, The Sunflower and how to find strength as a black woman.

In a world where messages tell women that being “unique" means being like everyone else, it can be difficult to truly embrace and love oneself. However, there are women like Chidera Eggerue, also known as The Slumflower, who live on their own accord and remind other women to do the same.

As a black woman, finding young authors who tell stories that you can connect with can be difficult, however that changed when I found Eggerue. Her tweets like, “They don't tell you that the REAL glo-up begins with mentally de-shackling yourself from what once held power over you," reminded me of the value of self-exploration and how it is key in success. For me, it was unique to see a young Nigerian woman be vulnerable and use her personal experiences as a canvas to create a brand and message. This inspired me and reminded me that's storytelling was a gift that should be used to uplift others.

Her style, bubbly personality and words attracted people of all backgrounds and publications like Vogue, Galore, i-D and CNN. As a blogger, writer, speaker and creative director for vacation rental company Innclusive, she uses her platform to connect with people on a human level. Although she has a very clear target audience, Eggerue's message transcends race and gender and is received by thousands of her fans who visit her page daily to get their dose of inspiration from The Slumflower.

Eggerue is developing a new hustle without a clear formula nor path. She has created a brand so strong that companies now reach out to her to curate unique experiences that attract like minded audiences. It is clear that she has made a career out of her passion.

I got a chance to chat with Eggerue and talk about black womanhood, growing up in a Nigerian household and some of her favorite books.

Amarchi Nwosu for OkayAfrica: You started out as a style blogger, why did you make the transition into writing and motivational speaking?

Chidera Eggerue: My content revolves around female empowerment and social issues and this made me realize that if I'm connecting with women online, there are also women offline who will be able to relate to me. Writing is something I have always been interested in but I never felt like a 'writer' because I didn't study English at graduate level. This may sound like a silly reason but there are a lot of people who feel like they can't do something without formal accreditations.

I decided that as long as I enjoy what I write, I am a writer for an audience of one. What surprised me, was when that audience of one became an audience of 100, which multiplied into 1,000 and before I knew it, has now exceeded 10,000! I've realized that the situations I've found myself in are situations a lot of people are currently going through and I feel like if I had the clarity I have now then, that I have now, my life would have made sense earlier, but everything happens the way it's meant to. I want to be the voice I wish I had, for someone else.

Photo by Manny Jefferson. Courtesy of Chidera Eggerue.

You also work as the creative director for Innclusive, can you tell me a little more about the work you do there and the brand initiative?

When Innclusive's founder Rohan Gilkes experienced first-hand racism on Airbnb, he decided he'd finally had enough of hosts declining his accommodation requests whilst accepting the exact requests from his white counterparts. Innclusive was born out of this frustration six months ago and has quickly grown to be the vacation rental company that allows people of color to 'be yourself wherever you go.'

My job as Innclusive's creative director is to control the social media accounts and curate mini social media campaigns, which include video and photo content to convey the Innclusive ethos and lifestyle of being a free-spirited traveller. Being a young person who is incredibly social media-savvy, I am able to implement modern and innovative approaches to utilizing not only social media, but also contemporary ways of delivering content e.g. via mini travel vlogs presented by me as a personality. Through closely monitoring our social media engagement, this allows me to understand what users and potential customers prefer to see based on the relationship between the amount of 'shares' and the amount of sign-ups we receive.

What is the most powerful quote you have ever heard?

“Silence can never be misquoted." —Mum

In your writing, you often reference black womanhood, why is this so important for you to address?

Being a woman is hard. Being a black woman is even harder—in fact, the hardest thing to be in this world is a black woman. No matter how much pain we are in, our expression is always labeled as 'bitter,' 'angry' and 'aggressive.' We are constantly having to minimize ourselves to please everyone else. I simply want black women to know that it is very okay to be angry; it is very okay to believe you are the best; it is very okay to take up as much space as you want.

Do you feel like social media has been an instrumental part in exposing the complexity of black womanhood today?

Definitely! Colorism is one thing I know social media has highlighted. From the fetishization of 'light-skinned babies,' to the prevalence of bouncy, curly 3C hair textures in black hair product campaigns goes to show that there's only one shade of black a woman should be in order to be digestible and desirable. I see so many natural hair movements which I strongly applaud but this narrative is always being led by the same type of woman: a light-skinned lady with bouncy, fluffy curls. What about the dark-skinned women with tight, coarse 4C hair? As a dark-skinned woman with 4C hair, I still feel like women who look like me are only desirable when we are oiled up and naked with that 'melanin glow.' But don't get me wrong: I appreciate the newfound love of melanin but to me, it heavily comes across as a convenient fetish on social media.

To you, what makes a strong a woman?

A strong woman is a woman who knows herself, her purpose and her value, regardless of how many people, situations and circumstances have tried to convince her otherwise. A strong woman is a woman who chooses to rise through it all, no matter how long it takes her. She does not beg to be accepted and she is aware of her power. A strong woman will not wait for you to validate her.

Photo by Manny Jefferson. Courtesy of Chidera Eggerue.

Are there ways in which your Nigerian upbringing has inspired your craft?

My mother always taught me: never believe anybody is better than you. You are who you need to be and nobody can replace you. She was a pageant queen and has always been an influence to all her mates in terms of her style, makeup and demeanor. It was from her, that I learnt how to be confident and how to navigate this male-dominated world.

Who are some of your favorite African artists or authors right now?

Chimamanda is my ultimate number ONE. She was the reason I introduced feminism to my household—probably the hardest thing I've had to do in my life. Trying to educate a Nigerian parent on why Nigerian culture is partially flawed and is only in the favor of men, is like trying to prove that water is not wet. How on earth do you teach your mother that the way she was raised is 'wrong' without offending her? It's a battle but it's worth it. We still argue over it. She still uses the 'because you're a girl' answer but I think she's slowly learning. We are never too old to be better.

I also adore the work of photographer Manny Jefferson who I shot with when I visited Nigeria last summer. His work shows how multi-faceted Nigeria is as a beautiful nation. With a touch of vulnerability and a heavy awareness of self, his work screams 'I will not be defined by my surroundings'.

Are there any self-help books that changed your life?

Alex Elle's Words From A Wanderer was the first self-help book I ever came across when I was 20 and it genuinely saved me from my downward spiral. I was going through a very rough period of feeling like I was allowing other people to tell me who I was. I was lost and confused but as someone who has lived through damage and has grown through it, Alex reminds me constantly that it's okay stumble again and again until you finally get it right.

If you could give your younger self any piece of advice, what would it be?

You're going to embarrass yourself today but you're going to get it right tomorrow and that's all that will matter.

Despite the obstacles you face as a black woman, what keeps you going?

Knowing that as a black woman, I am and always will be, the source of the sauce. I will always be in demand for one reason or another. I will always be able to rise through anything above all the institutional obstacles set in my way. White women wanna be us so bad. But only when it's convenient for them. It's okay to want darker skin, thicker hair, fuller lips and wider hips but taking on the burden of constantly having to prove yourself and defend your right to exist? Of course not. I know that's really wild to say but there's an elephant in the room and the elephant is getting bigger as the room gets smaller. It's damaging to constantly pander to and coddle white feelings. The truth needs to be told. The conversation needs to be had. I'm willing to start it.

What's next for The Slumflower?

You'll be seeing me on TV, ad campaigns and on the shelves of your favorite bookstores soon. I'm writing a very important book.


Ethiopia's New Cabinet is Made Up of 50 Percent Women

The move is the latest sweeping change made under "reformist" Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed's leadership.

In an unprecedented move towards gender inclusion within the Ethiopian government, the country's lawmakers have announced a new cabinet made up by 50 percent women.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed—who has been described as a reformist, due to landmark changes that have occurred under his leadership—made the announcement on Tuesday. "Our women ministers will disprove the old adage that women can't lead," he said in Parliament. "This decision is the first in the history of Ethiopia and probably in Africa."

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Op-Ed: Kanye West In Africa Is Music Marketing At Its Worst

Scream all you want. Feel the euphoria of Kanye moving to our drums, but don't forget he's here for marketing.

One of the most interesting parts of the music industry is the marketing of an album. In developed music markets, accomplished professionals and creatives sit in a room and decide how best they want to sell the music. It's the norm. Many people deliberate and develop a roll-out plan that is improved until it's perfect for execution.

When JAY-Z rented out billboards for 4:44, with everyone wondering what it meant around the world, that is marketing. Mr Eazi drawing a towering mural of himself and Giggs in London, was another marketing tactic to push his single "London Town." Falz created an entire movement filled with conventionally attractive men, and named it the 'Sweet Boys Association,' because he had a single that needed to be sold to fans. Perhaps, what takes the cake in the world of African music marketing is one crazy move by a little known Nigerian artist named Skibii. You see, this guy died and rose again from the dead, just like sweet biblical adult Jesus. He had a single somewhere that needed the attention. Death and resurrection was his thing.

Kanye West is in Africa for marketing. The US rap superstar is holed up at the Murchison Falls National Park in Uganda, surrounded by his friends, colleagues and family. He is here because he has an album to release named Yandhi, and somehow, he found his way to the Motherland, where's he's built two outdoor domes, as his working studio. He isn't working from inside a house like a mere mortal. He's in the wild, connecting to Mother Nature and nourishing foliage. This is Africa, Kanye West is an African-American. His ancestors came from this part of the world. He has a claim to this soil.

Kanye West was supposed to drop his ninth studio album on Saturday, September 29. After two days of waiting, three Saturday Night Live performances, one tweet from Kim Kardashian-West and an appearance on TMZ Live, Yandhi was pushed back to Black Friday, November 23. West admitted that he "didn't finish" the album in time, and a member of his management staff suggested pushing the release back.

"I started incorporating sounds that you never heard before and pushing and having concepts that people don't talk about," West said. "We have concepts talking about body-shaming and women being looked down upon for how many people that they slept with. It's just a full Ye album and those five albums I dropped earlier were like superhero rehabilitation and now the alien Ye is fully back in mode… We're going to Africa in two weeks to record. I felt this energy when I was in Chicago. I felt the roots. We have to go to what is known as Africa."

In Africa, Kanye West hasn't laid low. Photos from his arrival hit the internet, and somehow, he was filmed listening, dancing and vibing to African music. Those songs include Mystro's "Immediately," and Burna Boy's "Ye." The videos have gone viral, Africans are wowed by Kanye's interaction with their music, reactions and takes, Africa is moved by Kanye West interacting with our music. Somehow, I used to think we are over this type of event. The event where an an American superstar, who has a huge fan base in Africa, dances to our music, and we lose it. But I was wrong. This content format still has power.

Scream all you want. Feel the euphoria of Kanye moving to our drums, but don't forget he's here for marketing. His album is about to drop, and he's publicly alerted the world that he needs to be in Africa and its strong cultural influence to complete the project. Everyone is watching, the conversation has global traction, and Africans are supporting him. Since Kanye got heat for his infamous "Slavery was a choice," comment, I knew Africa will become a part of that story. The past week has seen him visit President Donald Trump at the white house, and further moved away from the love of his African-American base in the US. Black people are not behind Kanye West right now. The media is tearing him to shreds. Celebrities are in a social media race to dissociate themselves from him. Many fans aren't proud of their icon. But he is in the Motherland, dancing to its native music, and we can all cheer.

"I'm in Africa recording," he says in a 9 minute video on Twitter about mind control free thinking and his greatness. "We just took them to the future with the dome. The music is the best on the planet. I am the best living recording artist. We, rather, because the spirits flow through me. The spirit of Fela, the spirit of Marley, the spirit of Pac flows through me. We know who the best. We know."

On the surface, Africa appears to be a gimmick. A play by a great artist to expand the story of his album for marketing talking points. Yandhi is already anticipated, and generations after us will study his art and point to this project as the one where Africa played a direct role. This black continent is a marketing tool for Kanye. Son of Fela Kuti, Seun Kuti, has already disassociated Fela Kuti's spirit from Kanye's claims. "On behalf of the Kuti family, I want to state that the spirit of Olufela Anikulapo Kuti isn't anywhere near Kanye West," Seun announced on Instagram.

Perhaps marketing isn't Kanye's only reason for his African trip. Maybe, the world is too harsh on Kanye West and his new level of introspective vibrations. Maybe we aren't seeing the bigger picture. Oh gosh! We might all be victims of this grand mind control programme that West talks about! What if Kanye West is on these shores for some actual influence? Africa has a rich spectrum of sounds, laden with enough culture, soul and character to influence any type of music. From Cairo down to Lagos, there's enough music to add colour.

A clear way for justification of his African trip is perhaps for Kanye West to give back. He is connecting to the 'roots' after all. He is soaking in the energy for inspiration. Perhaps he might actually get to work with an African artist while on the continent. Already, Perhaps Africa's contributions to the project will be anchored by an African. Already, in his creative dome, Ugandan producer extraordinaire, Benon Mugumbya, has been pictured. If he gets some of that Yhandi shine, it wouldn't hurt.

Kanye officially has to be the first hip-hop star to make a trip to the continent for direct inspiration since Africa began to hug the spotlight as an interesting market for global music players. Recent years have witnessed the penetration of African music into global pop spaces. Africa has become the new cool. And as her sonic influence grows, more artists would continue to find new ways to interact. Kanye is making a splash with this. Perhaps, he will be the inspiration for more exchange between Africa and Europe.

Perhaps, his music isn't his true reason for this trip. Maybe Ye just wants to get away from the madness from the USA, and go find Wakanda. Maybe he will discover Ye-Kanda. Either way, only the final version of Yhandi will contain the answers that we seek, and Kanye West's true intention. For now, he is already winning. All those marketing points are already helping the project.


Belgium's First Black Mayor Is a Congolese Immigrant

Pierre Kompany, who came to Belgium from the DRC as a refugee in 1975, was elected mayor of a Brussels borough this week.

Pierre Kompany, a Congolese immigrant and father of professional football players Vincent and Francois Kompany, has been elected mayor of the Ganshoren borough in Brussels, BBC reports.

This is a history-making moment, as this victory makes Kompany Belgium's first black mayor.

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