Mon 07 Mar 2016, 15:00
The latest African Voices on CNN International (401) travels the continent to explore the growing influence of successful and independent women across Africa.
African Voices meets three African women who are using their talent and profile to try and empower others to do the same.
In Lagos, the programme meets Jane Ekanem, a stylist who has reached the top of her profession in less than a decade. From the red carpet to the front pages of magazines, Ekanem is a stylist to some of Nigeria’s biggest celebrities.
However, despite her current success, Ekanem has undoubtedly been moulded by the environment she grew up in. She tells African Voices: “I was born in Surulere, Lagos. Surulere means home. Surulere means peace. Surulere means happiness.”
Ekanem takes the programme to her old childhood home where she was forced to leave at the age of nine due to financial turmoil. It was this period of her childhood that motivated Ekanem to pursue a career in something she loved, fashion: “What gets me out of bed in the morning is my past. Remembering that I don't want to go back to where I started from.”
Ekanem offers an insight into her motivation, telling African Voices: “I don't want to be hungry. It gets me up on my feet and I have to move. I was able to understand what poverty meant.” Initially selling clothes, Ekanem found success as a stylist alongside her friend and long-time collaborator Jekwu Mbaebie.
As with her motivation to succeed, Ekanem tells African Voices that her love of fashion also has its roots at home: “What made me think I'd be a good at fashion styling and designing was first myself.”
“I thought that I was able to dress right and put myself together right. Most times, whenever I put myself together to go out, people tend to compliment and tell me that they like… not just liking what I am wearing but they also want what I am wearing.” As African Voices follows Ekanem to meetings with clients, it is clear that confidence is undoubtedly at the heart of her style.
As the Lagos fashion scene expands even further, Ekanem hopes this mentality will develop further stylists like herself. She tells the programme: “My advice to the up and coming fashion stylist would be for you to be yourself.”
In the same programme, African Voices visits South Africa, where the programme meets Moonchild Sanelly, a musician, designer and model. From a young age growing up in the coastal city of Port Elizabeth, Moonchild knew she wanted to be in the public eye: “I grew up on stage… I started modelling at six months, I was an Edgar’s catalogue baby and then from there I started doing Latin and ballroom dancing.”
However, it wasn’t just modelling that influenced Moonchild from an early age. She tells the programme: “I grew up in a house where my mum was a jazz singer before I was even born, so jazz music was constantly there. My brother was a hip hop producer so we had a studio set up in the house.”
She explains to CNN viewers how much her own music is influenced by Kwaito, a genre of House music which exploded in Africa during the 1990s: “My cousins did Kwaito dancing so they’d be rehearsing. So it’s those are the three things I could definitely not escape, those three genres, they were just there every day of my life.”
However, as African Voices discovers, Moonchild is not solely interested in music. The programme accompanies her to a fashion shoot, where Moonchild models several outfits she designed herself. Moonchild has been recognised by fashion publications as a modern representation of African beauty, most notably with her iconic blue mop hairstyle.
Moonchild explains the significance of her hairstyle to the programme: “My mop creates an interest for people to find out what I do. You either love it or you hate it, but you are still going to find out what it’s about.” Whilst fans throughout South Africa have copied Moonchild’s signature hairstyle, she explains to African Voices how ultimately she just wants people to recognise the different ways to be beautiful and ultimately be yourself.
African Voices also meets award-winning Ghanaian presenter Anita Erskine, who uses her programming to inspire girls and women across the continent. Erskine hopes to use her position as a broadcaster to highlight social issues, and she is quickly becoming a powerful media figure within Africa.
Watch African Voices views on CNN International on Tuesday 8 March at 06:30.