She was not born into affluence. In fact, she swam through series of difficulties as a teenager moving from one end of Lagos to another, with no permanent abode. But today, Jane Michael is an inspiring story that is true.
“I want to be known more for my integrity and for the positive impact I made in people’s lives than for being a celebrity stylist,” she says.
“I started out by selling cuff links to people in their offices about ten years ago. But later started selling clothes when customers started requesting for some of the clothes I wore to their offices. I never dreamt of being a stylist. But I have always had it at the back of my mind that I must be successful at whatever I do.
“I did not learn to style from anyone. I acquired my skills on the go. I picked up styling by advising people I sold clothes to on how they should combine colours, materials and different forms of attires.”
Though being a stylist might have come to her accidentally, Jane Michael determined to rise above her not-so-happy childhood. Her family started facing financial challenges when she was just nine years old. As a printer, her father did all he could to stabilise the family. But nagging accommodation and financial crises forced Jane and her siblings to move around Lagos squatting with people in places like Bariga, Mushin and Apapa. Still, the temporary forced separation did not deter her from being in constant contact with her father.
“I was going to school on the Lagos Island from Apapa every day. After school hours, I would make sure I visited my dad at his office also on the Island. Sometimes, I would go with him to business meetings. At the end, he always explained the outcomes to me and what they meant.”
Jane Michael still refers to him in the present tense although he is dead. “For me, he still lives,” she says. Being around her father, Michael Ekanem, made her acquire certain business management skills that she confessed were later taught to her in Business Administration classes.
She says, “For every step I take in life, I look at the business side of it. Even if I sold sachet water, I will be more concerned about the financial side of that business.
“For someone who sold cuff links, I had a registered company name and a business card even though my friends told me they were not needed at the time.” Having a registered company even when there was nothing to show for it prepared Jane Michael for a chance of being the in-house stylist for MTN Project Fame along with her partner stylist, Jekwu.
“I was asked if I could be the stylist on Project Fame when the second season was about to start. Jekwu and I used to sell clothes to some of the organisers. One day, they asked us if we were interested in styling contestants and the hosts.”
But Jane Michael and Jekwu did not get the job on a platter of gold. They had to go through the same process as others who were interested in taking up the job. Mood boards and proposals were submitted.
“Our mood board and proposal were deemed the best and our prices were competitive. Though we ran at a loss when we started out, but the relationship with Project Fame has paid off.” She and Jekwu have been with the show since Season II.
“Project Fame is one the biggest consistent platforms we have in reality shows in Nigeria. And to be chosen among countless stylists in Nigeria is a privilege. Nothing gives me more joy than the commendation I get after doing each season.” Working on Project Fame has opened doors of opportunity for Jane Michael. She has worked with different A-list artists in the Nigerian entertainment industry.
She worked with Tiwa Savage, Yemi Alade, Chidinma Ekile, 2Baba and Seyi Shay. She was used to be the resident stylist for Capital Hill Records owned by Clarence Peters. Today, Jane Michael is a fashion entrepreneur with her easy wear fashion line soon to debut. Ultimately, she wants to use that business to empower her personal staff to realise their dreams. The same way she is assisting a young schoolgirl in her alma mater to reach for the sky. Jane Michael is providing a full scholarship to an SSS 2 student of Girls Academy, Simpson Street, Lagos Island.
“She reminds me of myself when I was her age and I felt she needed a lift. I want her to be her best. I was a bit proud when I was a kid. You can’t step on me and walk away. You must clean my feet. That was my childhood. But life has taught me that tables can turn. My life experiences have taught me the beauty in humility.”
Her story, she says, should inspire others to see failure as starting block.
“My story is simple; failing does not mean the end of the road. Imagine a child of nine years going through a lot on the street. I still see my old classmates hawking on the streets of Lagos Island. But my case is different and for that I am grateful to God,” she says.