By Their Looks, You Shall Know Them

by Vera Ezimora

There is something about a Nigerian woman that makes it impossible to not spot her. She may be properly dressed (and I use the word ‘properly’ sparingly), but there is just something about her that is very Nigerian. It is in the way she looks. There are so many aspects to this, but I will try to tackle them all.

I will start with the aspect that bothers me the most: the eyebrows. Seriously, is there a rule that says it is wrong for women to keep their eyebrows? What is up with shaving it off completely and replacing it with eye pencil streaks? As if that is not bad enough, these streaks come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. Some are thin and curvy; they even go so high that they are almost touching her hair line. Some are thick; they make her look like an angry witch. Some are straight and thin; they are so straight that they look like they have been drawn with a ruler. For goodness sake, who came up with the idea of straight eyebrows? They’re ugly and unnatural. I must mention however, that some drawn-on eyebrows do not look so bad, but more often than not, they look terrible.

While the size and shape of the eyebrows are scary enough, some people also feel the need to paint them. I do not understand the logic behind having red, burgundy, or gold eyebrows. I can understand the need to match your shoes, hand bags, jewelries, and make-up to your outfit, but why must your eyebrows compliment your outfit too? And while I am on the subject of eyes, I would like to make it clear to all Nigerian women – regardless of your complexion – that black women do not have blue eyes! Apparently, contact lenses are now part of our Ankara and Swiss laces. Yes, your eyes must now match your outfit. What happens when your outfit is pink or purple? Do they make contact lenses in those colors?

What about the hair? Why do Nigerian women think they look good with bright blonde wigs and weaves? A light skinned woman hardly looks good with a blonde weave, but a dark skinned woman looks worse. The embarrassing thing about the blonde weaves and wigs is that the women wearing it never wear it well – not that wearing it well will make it look good on them. What exactly is the point of wearing a blonde wig when your black hair is clearly visible under it? And maybe I am dense, but I cannot comprehend the sense in having pitch black hair and attaching a blonde synthetic pony tail on it. On a serious note, how does this work?

I want to address the issue of clothes a little bit. When it comes to pants (trousers), Nigerian women seem to think that all pants have to sit above their navels. Not only are these pants sitting high, but they are also afraid of touching the ground. In other words, they are always ‘jump up’ pants. Somebody needs to tell our women that it is not okay to wear white socks (or any kind of socks for that matter) with open-toe shoes. It is also not permissible to wear knee-high panty hose with a skirt that does not reach your knees. And if the elastic band in your knee-high panty hose is no longer elastic, please throw them away! Wal-Mart sells four pairs of knee-high panty hoses for only one dollar!

When it comes to jewelry, there has to be a rule that one must wear all her rings to any single event. I do not know why Nigerian women wear at least one ring on each finger, and these rings are huge and expensive. Oh, and also very ugly. If she does not wear all her rings at one time, she will not feel complete. If she does not wear a huge, ugly, expensive necklace, she will not be able to breathe well. She must always adorn her beautiful body with as much jewelry as it can handle.

Have you ever met those women that cannot seem to let go of their youth? After much observation and deliberation, I have come to the conclusion that the problem is not that they cannot let go of their youth, but rather that during their youth, they did not have much fun. I think they must have lived somewhere in the village during their youth, and all of a sudden, like a jack in a box, they have been let out and released into the city life – whatever that may be. Why else will grown women be dressed like teenagers? What is the essence of putting on a five hundred dollar lace and accessorizing it with colorful plastic jewelry from the dollar store? What is the sense in a voluptuous, curvy woman forcing herself into a pair of red skinny jeans and wearing it with those Italian shoes they usually wear with the laces? Why, oh why will a woman who has had five children and breasts that have succumbed to gravity feel the need to leave the house without a bra?

Make-up is a beautiful thing – when done right. There is no rule that says every woman must apply blush on her cheeks. But if she chooses to, does she have to look like she stuck a very red slice of pepperoni on each cheek? Must the eye shadow also extend into and beyond the eye brows? Must she really use the eye pencil to create cat eyes – or the pitiful equivalent of it? Must her lipstick really come in unnatural colors like purple and lime green?

When it comes to foundation (alias ‘pancake’), some of our Nigerian women seem to think that everything that can be applied must be applied. That is why they first start with the liquid foundation. From there, they take it one step up to the liquid-to-powder foundation. After that, they apply the pressed powder, which must then be followed by the lose powder. And of course, she must also use the concealer – whether she has something to conceal or not. By the time she is done applying the pancake on her face, she weighs at least ten pounds more. If you look at her face carefully, you will know where her face ends and where her make-up starts. That is never a good sign. Your foundation is supposed to blend in. It is imperative that our women learn that the amount of pancake that goes on the face is highly dependent on how much coverage is needed – not how much pancake she can lay her hands on.

While there is such a thing as too much make-up, it is also possible to not have enough make-up. This is evident in the women who confidently leave their homes looking as if they had just emptied an entire can of Crisco on their faces. There is so much glare on their faces that you can literally see your reflection. Their faces are so bright that one will need sunglasses with 100% UV protection to look at them. God forbid that they directly face the sun. The impact of that will be equivalent to a mirror facing the sun and beaming its reflection into someone’s eyes. These women’s cheeks and eyes are so puffy that they look like they have just emerged from an intense physical battle which they lost. But alas, they were not in a physical battle. They just believe they look too good to use make-up. Make-up only serves to enhance what one already has.

One Nigerian accessory that I absolutely adore is the scarf. When done right, the scarf can be the icing on the cake. It is almost equal to the crown that sits on the Queen’s head. The scarf is often the first thing that foreigners notice and compliment. It is imperative that you note that all scarves are not created equally. Some women tie their scarves shallow and wide. I do not mind it at all. In fact, I love it. Some women make theirs narrow and tall. Again, I do not think this looks bad either. The ones that boggle my mind are the big ones that look like they were rumpled and placed on the heads of the wearers. If you stare at those scarves long enough, you just might get busy. They are as shapeless as an amoeba. What about the little ones that are so small that one could mistake them for hats? Why did the wearer not just wear a hat? Some scarves are so flat that they look like the wearers had been carrying heavy buckets of water on their heads. Some are so flat and boring that one would think the wearer was trying to achieve a ‘wrap’ hair style on her head with the scarf. Must the scarf be so lifeless?

This is not to say that Nigerian women are not fashion-conscious. Those who are fashion-conscious are fashion-conscious. Likewise, those who are not fashion-conscious are really not fashion-conscious. In other words, the good ones are really good, and the bad ones are really bad. The next time you attend an event – Nigerian, African, or whatever else, take a minute to inspect the women around you. By their looks, you shall definitely know them.

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AmiTaf May 18, 2010 - 1:13 am

Funny how a humorous piece like this makes people start dissecting its various ‘ramifications’ in detail. It’s not to be taken THAT seriously, for crying out loud! I thoroughly enjoyed reading it, anyway. Five stars!

chiomze April 24, 2010 - 4:21 pm

This is funneeee!!!! LOL

A little exagerated but I get the humor.

Aladi July 25, 2008 - 11:58 pm

This is just straight to the point and true. I totally agreed with everything especially that blonde wig wearing thing nigerian women do. The worst is when you see it in nollywood movies. Eucharia is another topic with her eyebrows. This is an excellent piece, i wish you could be a fashion host in nigeria.

Angela June 13, 2008 - 8:02 pm

Humm quite interesting!You really do make sense,but not to those who believe beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.You really can,t blame those who go out of their way just for fashion sake.They tend not to believe the truth when told,rather they are more satisfied with what they want to here(you look beautiful)even when they don’t.

Jela Omesha May 19, 2008 - 4:45 am

I absolutely love this piece!!! It is amazing and so true! Why do Nigerian women think that more they put on them the more the look great? I mean, look at some naturally beautiful young girls! They are so natural and pretty but later they have this weird need to destroy themselves with tons of cheap make-up and their skin is wasted…or the clothes…if she is a big sized woman why is she wearing clothes that are at least 4 sizes smaller than her real size….sometimes i still wonder how she can put all that fat into that itsy-bitsy skirt or trousers that look like they would give her yeast infection in a minute! wow…i think it is gonna take long time till 9ja women realize that less flasy and less generally is better! I always enjoy ur articles Vera! Keep up the good work! 🙂 Peace!

Ada Jesus May 14, 2008 - 8:52 pm

I absolutely loved reading this piece…However, I would beg to differ when u only relate some of these mis-fashion to Naija women as most of these issues are also common among African-American women. Realistically speaking, a lot of Black females have succeeded in accepting most of the stereotypes that have for a long time been associated with their physical looks. I would like to identify this largely as a result of our self esteem. Nevertheless, I do not think that fashion wise, Nigerians are doing a bad job. Its just that sometimes, one bad one can just make u forget the one millon good looking ones…But anyway…Thanks for the thought provoking piece

Rosie May 10, 2008 - 1:37 pm

Funny piece. Thankfully I don’t subscribe to the fashion mode of Nigerian women. When I went home for my sister’s wedding, they did not stop hassling me over my ‘lack of’ make up. It was either too light or my eyebrows were not done right. They almost made me lose my self esteem. Hmm, now I know why.

dynmma May 9, 2008 - 12:50 am

I couldn’t help laughing as I read this article.Images of various Naija parties and the women who were there kept flashing before my eyes.It is hilarious when you see these things-that’s mainly why I go to some of these parties.I’m so happy I’m not the only one who has noticed the various fashion trends amongst our women.Blonde wigs and blue eyes-that one takes the cake.Rotflmao!!

Patricia May 8, 2008 - 7:43 pm

Interesting piece. I was wondering if you are a professional designer in which you have studied body types and the entire package whereby you have the cridentials to make such assessments and corrections. I admit some of the things you pointed out sound rather well unique (for a lack of a better word), but people wear what they feel looks good on them–even if it does not. Fashion and fades come and go, but we do not have to adopt everyone of them. I just say to each her own. If someone wants orange eyebrows, blue eyes, and blonde wear, that is their business–as long as I am not forced to do it. I love various shades of wear (blonde would not look right on my complexion), and blue contacts is something I would not do. But if I wanted to try a color, it may be hazel or something like that . .(I don’t need glasses, so it would be for beautification sake), and I prefer natural eyebrows, but I work with a woman who had her eyebrow and eyeliner permanently tatooed to her face–again not my thing, but she loves not getting up daily and applying makeup. To each it’s own. As long as the woman feels good about herself, how can one tell someone you look horribly bad? For when you do that (unless you are on a show whose job is to give you a make-over), you are personally attacking that person’s personal taste, and people do not take well to that kind of criticism. But you made some points.


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