In honour of Black History Month this October, we thought what better way to celebrate than to talk heritage, culture, memories and inspiration (along with a few super cute snaps!) with some of our very own Nevs Fam..
In the first instalment of our BHM posts, we spoke with the beautiful Tope
What does BHM mean to you?
It's a celebration of our heritage; our resilience, our ability to get knocked down and pick ourselves up again, and keep moving forward with love, strength, and pride. We celebrate our ancestors who fought for our freedom, and our parents who fought for a better life, a better education, and continue to fight to show that we, as black people, are an integral part of society
Can you tell us a little about your family history?
My parents came to the UK in the 1970s from Nigeria. My mother was a midwife, and my father was an engineer. They had six children, all of which where born in the UK, but part educated in Nigeria. We travelled back and fourth between London and Nigeria before finally settling here in London
What’s your earliest memory?
My earliest memory was arriving in London aged 4 or 5 and thinking how cold it was, and how small our house was in comparison to our huge home in Nigeria! I also remember thinking how weird it was that all my friends had dogs as pets. In Nigeria we had two dogs; Whiskey and Brandy, but they were our guard dogs - animals are rarely seen in the house. We begged my dad to bring them in every time he came over
Tell us about your childhood
We celebrate everything! Birthdays, Christmas and weddings - Nigerians are very flamboyant! We have outfits made for every occasion, and we are known to change up to three times at one party. When we are all together it’s quite incredible to see. As a family we meet every other Sunday, my mum cooks Nigerian food and we all hang out - six siblings, wife’s, husbands, plus 8 grandchildren (with number 9 on the way).The house is packed and very very loud - We love it and we are like best friends
Are there any aspects of your families cultures that you are are particularly fond of?
Yes! The food mostly, and weddings! We have a traditional Nigerian wedding and an English wedding. The Nigerian wedding can be quite full on and very over the top, but bride and groom get sprayed with money so it kind of makes up for it. We have to buy the material that the bride and groom choose, and make an outfit using it, it’s so beautiful to see
What was it like growing up for you?
I grew up in East London, and had a mixture of friends from all different back grounds. Life was hard for my mum as my parents broke up; she was left to take care of 6 kids but she made sure we never went without. My older siblings helped to take care of the younger lot, and it’s only because of her that we are a very close family
What inspired you to pursue a career as a model?
I got scouted to take part of a competition called PRIDE face 95, which I won, and from there I then I joined an agency
Who is your own personal inspiration?
My mother. She did a bit of modelling when she was younger, but she worked really hard morning and night to keep a roof over our head. She made sure we celebrated every birthday, and Christmas was amazing - I never felt like I missed out on anything. As an adult, I now know the amount of work and hardship she went through. She also allowed me the freedom to model which is really unusual for a African mum, they are normally quite strict on education
Who would you consider to be the most iconic, pivotal or inspirational figure in black history & why?
Wow that is a hard one. There are a few icons who inspire me, and who were pivotal in making a difference in black history, but the ones that I identify with more are the beautiful, intelligent women that have, and continue to contribute to such pivotal and poignant moments in our history. Rosa Parks, who took the stand and refused to give up her seat for a white person. Oprah Winfrey, who continues to inspire me with positive mental attitude, fighting her way to the top and never taking no for an answer, and Michele Obama, who continues to fight for black rights in a country that still has so much racial tension
How important is your heritage to you, and in what way do you intend to preserve that heritage for future generations?
We pass our love for our country down to the younger generation. Although coming from a mixed back ground, we are proud to say we are half Nigerian. I am a strong believer that knowledge is power - if you know where you come from and how far you have come, you are equipped with that armour; a strength of character, and a willingness to fight for what you believe in, and can make such a huge difference
Follow Tope on Instagram: @topeoluwole