Chioma Ikokwu always likes to stand out. Her closet, which viewers got a peak of during the second episode of season two of The Real Housewives of Lagos, resembles a designer boutique. When she steps out, either for the red carpet or a simple radio tour, there’s a fashion statement to be made.
“I don’t think I have ever walked into a room and heads didn’t turn,” Ikokwu tells OkayAfrica, matter-of-fact. She admits even her own head has to turn when she walks by the mirror; if it doesn’t, then the outfit isn’t giving and she won’t be going out. “I have to feel perfectly comfortable and confident in my outfit before I step out, and if it means being late sometimes, let’s say we are going [to be late].”
As a successful businesswoman who’s used to the limelight, Ikokwu has been experiencing new heights of visibility and popularity as a cast member of Showmax’s The Real Housewives of Lagos, the first Nigerian iteration of the widely-watched Bravo franchise. With season two well underway, she’s adapted to being on a hit reality TV show that’s edited for peak entertainment value.
Known mainly for her Good Hair brand, a company she created with her friend Kika Osunde while still practicing law in Nigeria, Ikokwu also co-owns the upscale restaurant, Brass and Copper. Entrepreneur life gave her the freedom that law didn’t.
She spoke to OkayAfrica, one breezy evening in Lagos at the Good Hair Space on the posher side of the city. Wearing a gray mesh two-piece ensemble with plain white heels, designer shades atop her hair, she is unintentionally flamboyant even when she thinks of it as a simple work outfit.
The interview below has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.
You’ve done two seasons of The Real Housewives of Lagos. Are you now comfortable with reality TV?
Chioma Ikokwu: My headspace in season two is miles away from what my headspace was like in season one. I feel like in season one, I was a bit guarded because I didn’t want to offend anyone. I didn’t want to say anything that would come across as rude or mean. You know, because I’ve come from England and I’m slightly privileged, everything that I do is going to be misconstrued. I was very careful, but now I don’t give a s***. Yes, I’m successful, have money, and come from a good home; this is who I am. You either hate me or you love me.
In reality TV, we love people who are themselves and authentic, like you and Carolyna were loved because were very genuine and real.
So, this is the problem: I’m being real. I liked her, and our friendship was authentic and genuine. But then it got to a point where it was becoming toxic. If I were to be a TV girl, I would have continued the friendship regardless of what was happening in reality because I knew that people loved it. It was cute, it was nice, it was genuine. So I could have continued that way, both of us still being besties and not really being true to myself, but giving the audience what they want, but that’s not me. I don’t act on people’s perceptions or opinions.
Do I miss her sometimes? Yes, I’m human, and I’m not going to lie, I do miss her sometimes. What we had was real; it was authentic. We had great times.
Photo credit: Lagos Paparazzi.
In season two, you settled with Toyin quite quickly, after that bitter fight in season one.
She apologized so quickly. I didn’t see that coming because I didn’t see her for like a year, and it was war. Trust me, it was war because you don’t try to hit somebody for no reason, do you understand? From episode one, where I said, ‘I’m never going to speak to her, and I don’t want to be around her,’ I wasn’t joking. I meant it.
But I have a really soft heart. So that one small sorry that she said completely diffused me. And I was so angry because I didn’t want to make up with her. I was ready for her. I was like, ‘You, this girl, this season is me and you. I was ready to finish her.’ But then she just came and she was like, you know what, I’m really sorry. I just melted.
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You speak a lot about good vibes, but didn’t you think asking Faith her age would cause trouble?
First, that was taken completely out of context; the same thing I said with editing on the show. They have a way they want the show to be, what they’re trying to put out there, and what they want to create talkability on. So they’re going to edit it how it pleases them.
A lot of conversation was had prior to that, and that particular question came with context. I literally wanted to know how she looks so young and fabulous. How do you have an 11-year-old? How old are you? It was a genuine question, but I guess she took it some type of way, and they edited it to look some type of way. Plus, where I’m from in England, it’s not a big deal when you ask somebody how old they are. It really isn’t a big deal.
Do the ladies ever agree to keep some things off-limits?
I know a number of times they’ve always said, ‘Keep children off-limits, don’t talk about children.’ I think children are probably the only thing I repeatedly heard them say, ‘Let’s not talk about.’
People are very sensitive about their kids, so they don’t like to bring that up in an argument, and even in a conversation, they’re very careful.
Aside from that, even if you tell them something is off-limits, they’ll still talk about it. These women are not people who listen or care; they will say whatever they want to say. Where it hits you the most, they will do that.
Has the show put you out there more and brought more opportunities your way?
It has because naturally being on TV puts you out there a little bit more, so it does help in terms of opportunities and visibility, in terms of endorsements. I feel like when people see you and watch you they feel like they know you, it’s almost like they’ve met you.
They almost feel like they know your personality, your character, your do’s and your don’ts. And so naturally they trust you. They believe that you can work with them or work for them. It just gives them an insight to who you are. So yes, it does help in that sense because it definitely gives me access to certain people that maybe I wouldn’t necessarily have had access to if I wasn’t seen by them.