Top musician Essence recently had a chat with Joan Omiona Wele, about her career, and life story. Read on.... Oh, her real name is Okoro Uwale, Essence is her stage name, ok, read the interview below....
You’ve been around for a long time. How was it like starting as a female in the Nigerian music industry?
I would say it was very difficult. It was like trying to cultivate on virgin soil. You didn’t know what sound to go with because there was basically no sound. R&B was a hit-or-miss case, unlike now that it’s widely accepted. I should say we suffered for what is now being enjoyed. But we thank God.
How did you get into the Nigerian music industry?
I started music professionally in 2004; but before that, I had been doing background vocals for various artistes and soundtracks for soap operas, including Super Story, Dominoes, Secrets and Scandals.
What has Essence been up to lately?
Essence has been diversifying into other aspects of entertainment. I am also venturing into hospitality, because I have my own ushering outfit called Hello Events.
What is your fashion indulgence?
Perfumes. I can’t do without them. I also love to read; I have a lot of books.
How often do you pamper yourself?
I will confess I don’t pamper myself at all. The most I do is curl up and lose myself in a good book. I don’t like massages, because I don’t like strangers touching me.
What’s your typical day like?
My typical day starts at 6:00a.m. I wake up, pray, do some exercise, make relevant calls and pursue them if need be. If I need to go to the studio, I go.
What outfit do you feel most comfortable in?
I’m most comfortable in long, flowing gowns these days.
You once said that the music industry is unfair to female musicians. What exactly do you mean?
The industry must have heard my pleas because more females are being recommended for jobs and endorsements. So, my complaint worked, abi?
What have been your highest points as a singer?
I’m still looking towards that high point as my sight is set higher than my current achievements. I’ve performed before presidents and governors and, most importantly, my fans. Those moments have been memorable.
What’s your educational background?
I am a graduate of Performing Arts from the Delta State University, Abraka.
What can you tell us about your growing up days?
I am the last of seven kids and so I was a ‘mommy and daddy’s girl’. Growing up was an adventure and very physical. We played lots of games on our parents; on ourselves. We also got punished and rewarded for various wrongs and rights. It was fun.
What’s your definition of style?
Style is personal. People don’t have to understand it and no one has the formula. I remember earlier in my career, I was on a blond weave and some so-called style experts gave me grief over it; but what is prevalent now? Even before Keri Hilson started her two-toned blond and black, I wore it; but people who didn’t understand that style is art trashed it. Now they are rocking it and calling it ‘Ombre’. Style is an expression of you; so, nobody has the right to diss.
How many tattoos do you have?
I don’t have any tattoos. I fear needles.
How much of your skin can you bare for music?
I can bare my legs for music – I said legs, not thighs o!
What’s your view on nudity generally?
Whatever you think is all fun and game now will come back and bite when you are sober.
Can you do a tummy tuck for your fans?
If I choose to, I would; but remember I fear needles.
When will wedding bells chime for Essence?
When Essence gets married, she gets married.
What kind of man sweeps you off your feet?
Only children get swept off their feet by men. I’m a woman and my man would solidify everything about and around me before anything.
We hear you are planning to change your Toyota RAV4 for a bigger toy. Are you also one of those celebs who believe they need to be flamboyant to compete with peers?
If I choose to change my car, it’s for my own comfort. I’m not a kid. Kids compete on mundane things. A car is a means of getting from point A to point B. I have no need to prove anything, but that does not mean that when the need to change my car arises, I won’t.
How did you manage to scale through that rumour that you were Kenny St Brown’s lesbian lover?
I always scale through any stupid rumour by God’s grace. It has taken a while, but I’m very comfortable now.
If you could, what would you change about yourself?
I wouldn’t change a thing about myself. I am very comfortable in my own skin.
You’ve been keeping a low profile for a while now; why is that?
I keep a low profile because that’s what creative people do. I’m not a socialite.