[giggles]. I think a lot of it was me having to humble myself and not let my ego take control because at one point I actually felt defeated. I felt like I didn’t measure up. I felt like I was supposed to be this great person, who was supposed to have all this influence and I didn’t.
However, I didn’t realize I was influencing women in a different way. Although I wasn’t a lawyer people still respected me and people still respected my opinion. I realized people still saw me as an elitist in my career. If one was to judge my life based on social media, yes I’ve been to award shows, yes I’ve been in the homes of millionaires, hung out with celebrities and even saw them at their lowest moments. The perception is wow, she’s really thriving and she’s winning but that’s not necessarily the case. I have to tell people all the time when you’re an entrepreneur, especially in my field, sometimes I have to front some of the projects before I even get paid. So yes I am on a plane but I may have bought that plane ticket. I have to wait thirty, sixty, sometimes net ninety to get my money back. It always looks good but the reality may not be what it is. At one point I even felt like I was a slave. Like am I the help? Essentially I am here to get this person ready, to make this person look their best but they are reaping all the benefits of the make-up artist’s labor. Sometimes I feel like a fetcher, “you need this, okay you need that.” But in the back of my mind I am like but I have two degrees. So I had to humble myself and really realize it wasn’t about me but the purpose and the goal of what I do and how that resonates. Now that I am older, I see the bigger picture. Now that I am older, when I see a celebrity whose makeup I’ve done, I don’t think to myself, “wow she’s a millionaire and I am just a makeup artist.” I now realize that this image that the world sees, I attributed to that. Their greatness I attributed to that. For example, Teyana Taylor, I’ve worked with her but she can’t hit a red carpet without me, without the style and beauty team. At the end of the day I am behind the scenes but I am making an impact. Glam, stylists, hair stylists –Rihanna wouldn’t even be who she is today. Her glam team reinvented Pon De Replay. I don’t see it now as the celebrity is doing better than me, I see it as I contribute to their success. That was my “aha” moment. My ego was my darkest moment but I realized this is my purpose. Every time I would try to go to corporate America, God would shut it down. To the point where I was getting fired for trivial mistakes. As I started making strides in my career, He continued to elevate me and I never thought I’d be able to sustain myself financially freelancing and to do well among my peers with just doing makeup. I’ve been able to do it now for three years.
(I state “ten years”. Lola responds, “10 years but three years since the real money started rolling it.” We share a big laugh)
“Rihanna wouldn’t even be who she is today.
Her glam team reinvented
Pon De Replay.”
D. Almaroof: Best life advice you’ve ever received?
Lola: The best life advice I’ve ever received is there is no blueprint to life. I get a lot of questions or DMs of people constantly asking me how I got here, like what are the steps. I’m always like, there are no steps! Life just happens. It’s favor. Your position is just where God wants you to be. I believe once people realize there is no strategy to success –you are going to win sometimes, you are going to lose sometimes, some months may look shaky. Once you realize A, then B doesn’t always lead to C. One plus one doesn’t always equal two. Once you realize there is no blue print to it, that’s the biggest life lesson a person can get a hold of. That coupled with, you can’t look at someone else’s success and discredit where you are. I may see another make up artists that has two millions Instagram followers, companies are sending her clothing and she’s traveling; I can’t discredit my growth and what God has done for me because I haven’t reached that level of success. This may very well be my level of success, so you just have to own your position in life and make the best of that. You just have to learn this journey by making mistakes, wisdom from your elders, and always remember to be humble.
D. Almaroof: What is one of your life codes that you’d like to share with other female readers? I see a lot of women breaking girl codes. Something you may see on Instagram and you’re like, I am shutting this down today!
Lola: Blackness. In the beauty industry, us as women –like this whole light skin, dark skin epidemic. It’s ridiculous. People think, “she’s cute because she’s light skinned with long hair.” Just as women, I feel like finding the beauty in another women, I think it’s hard for other women to do that and appreciate another woman’s beauty. I find women who will compliment me and then say, “but I am not gay or anything.” It’s like, boo I don’t need a disclaimer, if you think I am beautiful, great and I am confident enough to compliment you as well. Because of the media, what we see, we kind of almost have created this very narrow standard of beauty. If another women doesn’t fall into that line of beauty, we might not find her beautiful. If I don’t look like a Kardashian, if I don’t look like a Rihanna, then I am not beautiful? But the reality is, if you strip them down of everything, they would be super super basic –super regular. We have to stop running around trying to be something that we are not. Own who you are. As a woman, I guess the code would be, don’t ever talk down or belittle another woman in terms of her beauty, “she’s not exotic, or she’s not mixed.” So that’s my code. My code may not be loyalty or one girl can’t talk to another girl’s guy. My code is we need to own who we are as women and stop belittling each other based on superficial features.
D. Almaroof: What is the greatest misconception about you and what would you like to say to that?
Lola: Everyone thinks I have it all together. I think people think that because of the level of success I have been able to reach. People see me and may think, “Oh she’s okay, and she’s not struggling.” And I am still insecure about certain things. I don’t have any hair, I am dark skin and yes I own it, so people are like she has it going on. Sometimes I am looking in the mirror like umm [laughs hysterically]. I think the greatest misconception is people think I have it all together and I don’t. I still am anxious about my life, my career, about steps I am taking to get to the next level or what the next level is going to look like for me. With my degrees, I wonder do people have a certain perception of my intelligence and who I am supposed to be. Yes I went to school but I am not the brightest. I went to school because I had to go to school. My parents were like, either you go to school or you get out, so I had to. I really do think people think I have it all together and I don’t. Ya’ll I don’t have it all together! There’s no blueprint, I am still learning, still failing but I am learning from my mistakes. I am still working on me.
“There is no blueprint to life”
D. Almaroof: Who is your WCW and why?
Lola: Can I do a famous person and a regular person?
D. Almaroof: Give me the regular person.
Lola: It’s you.
D. Almaroof: Really Lola?! Really! That’s so sweet!
Lola: Let me explain why. I think in this day and age for us as young women, to really confront our fears, what we are going through, our faults. I like how you’re young, you’re driven, you’re educated, you’re smart, you’re family oriented and you haven’t sold yourself out. I feel like you stay true to yourself. For you to acknowledge that you weren’t living for Christ and that you didn’t have it all together. But then for you to do a full 180, to try to get it right and then to tap into talents that you didn’t know were there is commendable. You’re not doing it to be glorified, you’re not doing it for the Instagram likes, and you’re not doing it for people to see you on the internet or brag about you. It’s genuine. I think when people reach a certain height, they make this big proclamation, like “new me, new in 2016, and I have decided to turn this new leaf because of this.” I think yours comes from an honest place and it’s exciting to see someone I know personally. It’s different to have a WCW from a distance, that’s not tangible, one who you can’t relate to. You don’t know the person but you find yourself saying I really want to know who that person is. The fact that you’re blood, I know you, I know what you’ve been through. Just to see you triumph to this –I don’t even know what to call it. I hold you on a pedal stool now and that’s why I was like, “okay God, I need to get myself together I have to call Deborah.” Just to see that progression, that’s what I’ve been striving to do. When people see me, they see my success from a business standpoint but I am looking to gain my success from a personal relationship with God. That’s why I say I don’t have it all together. But when I see you, I see she has her business in order but she has her life in order too with God. That’s what I lack. My business is in order and I thank God for even allowing things to come into fruition because I wasn’t praying, I wasn’t living right. To see Him do that when I wasn’t living right, I’m just like what is He going to do when I start living right! To see how God has been blessing you and to see your walk. I know you still have your faults and are still walking with God but to see it and know we lived similar life styles. With our family, we have the ones who are real spiritual real religious. We followed similar paths, we hung out, we went to the club, we had boyfriends, we did all of that and people kind of outcasted us. To see you now walking with Christ, to see your evolution, it’s admirable and it’s commendable.
D. Almaroof: Wow thank you cousin.
As a professional, we know that your line of work is the beauty industry. You are a professional and celebrity make- up artist. What is the best business advice you’ve ever received and the worst?
Lola: I’ll start with the worse. The worse business advice I’ve ever received was –I know someone in the industry that’s very closed off. They like to work with people they like to work with and that’s it. I personally and professionally feel that you should be open to meet new people and build new relationships. Yes I know not everyone has the best intentions but you get what you can get out of it and when you realize their intentions are not that great, you remove yourself from the situation. I think people who are closed off in the industry or don’t want to help new people, I think that’s wack. I have friends –well I have associates who won’t refer clients to me because they believe once they go to Lola she’s probably not going to come back to me. You can’t take a client, clients can only leave when they want. From a business perspective, I think that boils down to being confident in yourself and your work. So the worse advice that I’ve received or seen is not to be open to people.
The best advice, I have two. The best advice I’ve received comes from a financial perspective. Save save save. No one will invest into your dream until they see what you put into your investment. A lot of people want to do startups, they want to do apps and they want someone to back them financially but if you can’t bring anything to the table, it’s useless. The last couple of years, I’ve learned the importance of saving. The other is tapping into you network. That just goes back to what I said previously and not being closed off. Meet people, get their cards, and ask how they can help you and how you can help them. Sometimes it comes down to humility, humble yourself and have those conversations. What do you do and how can you help me. I have in my phone, numbers to CEOs, to millionaires, to VPs of fortune 500 companies. Diddy’s former assistant, who now owns a celebrity concierge business text me today just to wish me a Happy New Year. To know I have this network I can tap into, these people who will actually respond to me and if I need help they will help me, that’s major for me. So tapping into your network and saving is very important.
D. Almaroof: Proudest accomplishment to date?
Lola: I have two. My education, it was something I did for my parents but once I got to the finish line it was glorifying to know that I did it, especially when I didn’t necessarily want to do it. Just to make my parents proud because they sacrificed a lot; to have them be able to boast and brag and say my daughter did this. The second one would be – being able to step away and be on my own as an entrepreneur. I no longer have to rely on outside sources. I use to work at MAC, Chanel and several different companies. I needed to use that income to supplement my side work to make it all work. Now I don’t need that anymore. I haven’t freelanced at MAC for the last two years. So for the last two years I have literally been on my own. Whatever Lola brings to the table is it. I’m proud of that. I am doing this on my own.
D. Almaroof: What does a typical Monday like for you?
Lola: Mondays are typically slow. The average person who works a 9 to 5, their Mondays are dreadful because they are going into work but I look forward to Mondays because my weekends are typically dreadful. Not dreadful because I love what I do but Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays are peak for me. My Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays are the typical person’s Friday through Sunday. So I always look forward to Mondays because I am typically winding down. Mondays I lay in the bed and I won’t get up until about noon.
D. Almaroof: Who is your biggest motivation in life?
Lola: I don’t think it’s a person, I think it is an idea. Several things motivate me. I think it’s the bigger picture, the American dream. Being able to retire my parents. Being able to know that I did right by them and they didn’t do any of this in vain. To get to a point where I can say, Ma I got it, I got us, I got everybody. That is my biggest motivating factor. There is not a person I look at and say I want to be like them when I get older because everyone has their struggles and you don’t know how other people got to the top. Some people slept their way to the top, some people cheated their way to the top. I can’t be motivated by somebody else’s blue print because there is no blue print. I am motivated by the big picture – my family is straight, my parents are straight, my parents are retired and everybody’s just living well.
D. Almaroof: That is also my biggest picture, so do you think that is motivated by your Nigerian background.
Lola: Absolutely. I think for most foreigners the biggest dream is to be able to pay it forward but also backwards. You’re paying it forward because the people that are reaping the benefits are people that are behind you and backing you, which is family. For every one of us, there was a struggle, an apartment, that it was too many of us in the apartment. There was mommy working day and night. There was daddy being overseas or daddy not around. It was being called an African booty scratcher. It was you not having your hair done. It was you not having the Jordans everybody had. So it was always like when I get it, I’m living! It’s not even from a materialistic stand point, it’s just when I get it I want everyone to see the fruits of my labor. Our mothers are the matriarchs of our families and that torch has to be passed on. I want my parents to know that everything that they sacrificed and did, this is the fruits of their labor.
D. Almaroof: What keeps you up at night?
Lola: I am very cerebral. I think a lot. So that keeps me up at night. A lot of my thinking is what’s next. A little bit of anxiety, is this going to pan out? What’s my next move going to look like? Am I going to have as much work as I did last month? More from a financial stand point. Sometimes I get nervous. I am nervous this month [laughs].
D. Almaroof: What do you want your legacy to be?
Lola: Wow. That’s a good one. What I want my legacy to be – that she was a hard worker and I didn’t conform. One thing my brother told me, just from mistakes he’s made is that at the end of the day, you have to make your own decisions. No matter how people advise you, at the end of the day you have to be able to look yourself in the mirror and be okay with the decision you made because they ultimately only affect you. You don’t want to live in regret knowing that you made a decision based on someone else. So in terms of my legacy I want it to be that I didn’t conform to what everyone thought I should do or thought I should be. I walked in my purpose and I was hard working and ambitious. This generation is very lazy and everyone wants everything to be given to them, I work for every dollar. No one gives me anything.
D. Almaroof: Thank you so much for agreeing to sit and chat with me. What do you have coming up and where can people reach you for business and to support you?
Lola: I am working on some things that will help me transition over to more of a business woman in the beauty industry versus more of the physical work. People can look out for a new business venture from me. Of course my travel engagements, if you’re in a city nearby [giggles], you can hit me up. I’ll be in LA next week working on the Celebration of Gospel with BET.
D. Almaroof: So we all know that seven is the number of completion. So I want to complete our interview with Deborah’s Seven. Now Deborah’s seven are just seven very short questions, which generally require one word responses and lets the readers know fun facts about yourself and lets us have a little fun. Ready?
Lola: Let’s go!
(requires some probing) My friends call me Lo and my grandmother use to call me Lollipop!
Top beauty regiment?
I wash my face twice a day, no matter how tired I am, if I have one eye open. I am very strict about my skin care regimen.
Beyoncé or Rihanna
I think I am going to go against the grain. (long pause) Rihanna
Coke or Pepsi
Introvert or extrovert?
Who’s locked in your music player right now? Your current music obsession?
Travis Greene! Yes! He saved me! Travis Greene for 1000 Alex!
Your favorite book?
The bible, she don’t read too much.
What makes you laugh?
Plies. Bad Make-up jobs.
Well there you have it. Great interview with one of the stars of the next generation. Keep your beat to the street for our March 2016 WCW!
Until next time, I wish you..
Love & Happiness
Lola Okanlawon owner and CEO, inspired the vision of Lola’s Beauty Mark. Lola is a business driven professional who holds a Masters Degree in Business Management from University of Maryland University College. In addition to her business savvy, Lola dedicated eight years to develop her career path as a Professional Makeup Artist – with several years of training under a multitude of cosmetic companies including M.A.C., Chanel, Nars, Anastasia Beverly Hills and Bobbi Brown Cosmetics.
Lola’s passion for education and a caning talent for accentuating beauty are displayed at the Master Class she teaches for both Chanel and Nars Cosmetics.
Lola’s Beauty Mark takes pride in enhancing the beauty of many celebrity clients for print, television, fashion and film – while specializing in beauty and editorial makeup.
Lola’s Beauty Mark is especially known for its bridal makeup and personal appearance services.