The first Mnet Face of Africa and renowned supermodel, Oluchi Onweagba-Orlandi is no stranger to the limelight as she found international fame at an early age. Wife, mother, businesswoman and now founder of LuLu, she sat down with GUARDIAN WOMAN to talk about what it means to be woman amongst other things.
What does being a woman mean for you personally?
I have always wondered what it truly means to be woman. Not “a woman” but “woman.” You don’t choose to be born female, you literally wake up one day and realise that you are.
Oftentimes it is because growing up especially in Nigeria, there is a constant reminder of what you should do, how you should act, what you should think simply because you are not male.
Little wonder that a lot of young girls grow up not knowing who they truly are because they have been moulded into these beings that have never really discovered their true essence or worth because culture and society have provided all the answers. Everyone knows me as the 1998 winner of the first MNet Face of Africa. Needless to say that after winning the competition, my life changed forever.
But when I reflect, as I tend to do, I realise that as much as I have enjoyed so much success and the stuff that dreams are made of on a global stage, one thing remains the same and that is being “woman”.
I am definitely one of those people who believe that women have super powers, call it female instinct, the ability to multitask, the power to love and nurture deeply and all the other things that women are incredibly good at. I actually have far simpler ways of describing the phenomenon that is woman.
You say that women have super powers, what are those powers?
I would say that the female super powers are intuition, maternal instinct and the menstrual cycle. These powers distinguish and unify the female species all over the world, across skin colour, geography, income and status. On intuition, research shows that women have an enhanced ability to read facial expressions and emotions; a woman is more likely to pick up on subtle emotional messages like tone of voice and body language much better than a man would.
Sometimes, I wonder if these enhanced abilities could be as a result of centuries of being domesticated and silenced as “less powerful” than men? Could it be that we developed this keen sense of observation from having to internalise our feelings for so long and having to figure out things on our own as we acted how we were supposed to and not the way we really felt? Let’s not allow ourselves to be robbed of this tremendous power simply because it is popularly scoffed at, as its use is typically enhanced in relationships with men. I vote that we harness it, learn how to listen to it, and act when it’s speaking. It’s like a spiritual connection you can’t get anywhere else and the deep connection you have with your inner being.
On maternal instinct, blame it on the Oxytocin. Chemically speaking, the famous “feel good” hormone is one of the most powerful reasons for maternal behaviour. It plays a variety of roles in mammal reproduction, including pair bonding, womb contraction, and the release of breast milk.