The is not an evening-dress-wearing or red-carpet gracing celebrity. She is just Wunmi Obe. To her, fashion means just one word — comfort. “I love the comfort I get in jeans and t-shirts,” she says. Even with so many in her wardrobe, she can’t stop acquiring jeans.
“Not that I don’t wear dresses, I do, but on very rare occasions. I am still trying to be a lady but I can’t still do without my jeans!”
Married to Tunde Obe, they are an enviable couple who are popular with their music band, T.W.O. “There was a time I used to dress like my husband but that stopped when I got pregnant. I started craving for clothes that were more feminine. Now, we just share colours and I wear what suits me. You would not catch me wearing what would expose my ‘secrets’. And you would never find me in miniskirts! I wear what is more flattering for me.”
Born an Aboderin, she would not forget her teenage years. That was when she lost her father, Chief Olu Aboderin.
“I was 13 going to 14 when he died,” she reminisces. “I was in Queens’ College, Lagos, and was getting ready for second term exams when my sister came to pick me from school. I knew someone had died but I kept praying that it shouldn’t be my mother or my father. Nothing gave me the clue that he was the one who died and I was not really told about the extent of his illness. By the time I got home and knew, I still didn’t believe, as I walked to his room, locked myself up and waited for his ghost (if there was any) to come and explain why he died.
“For the first time ever, I refused to eat! In fact, my mother made a joke of it that she would always remember the first time I refused food. Of course, no ghost appeared and by the time his corpse arrived from London, it dawned on me that he was dead. I couldn’t cry but watched as others, including Shina Peters, cried. His funeral was unique because for three days, there was a lying-in-state and there were many ceremonies.”
Music runs in her blood. “Why wouldn’t it,” she queries. “My father loved music and party. Our mother was once a member of the choir. It was my brother who taught me how to play the guitar. My father didn’t make fuss about us studying engineering or law. He would lecture you on how to succeed as a musician. Still, he would always tell you to get a university degree because he always saw it as ‘something to fall back on’.
Now that she is also a mother, the 42-year-old musician admits to noticing some traits of her late mother in her. “Though our father travelled more often, we had our mother around most of the time,’ she recalls. She taught us the Bible and anytime we told her some of our mates called us Richie rich in school, she would tell us that we are not rich and should not look down on others.
“Now, I believe I’ve started talking like my mum to my kids. I make them understand that though they are privileged, everyone remains equal before God. Really, I would like to bring them up the way I was brought up, just that she didn’t educate us more on sex. Then, it was a topic parents shied away from.”
No make-up? For one, who runs Hair Afrique, a beauty palour, it’s strange she is not a make-up freak. “Well, I had it on my face but discovered that too much of make-up makes you look older. That doesn’t mean that I don’t use it at all. I do, but I prefer it when less is more,” she explains.
When talking with Wunmi Obe, you can’t but mention Jaiye Aboderin, her late brother. Wondering what the family is doing to keep his memory alive? “That was the reason for establishing Jay’ Search. Jaiye died on December 3, 2004 and he was a lover of the arts and encouraged lots of artistes, especially comedians when he was alive. So, we put together a bi-annual music competition known as Jay ‘Search for talents. They are given opportunities to showcase their gifts in music and winners are rewarded. It kicked off in 2009. Jaiye was just too alive and we all miss him,” she says.
As an artist, as the interview progressed, she brought a work of art, which she is working on. “I like trying my hands on everything,” she enthuses. There was a time I was a copywriter in an advertising firm. After my mother’s death (two weeks before I went for youth service), I ventured into business, sold Xmas hampers, tried my hands on supplies of sugar, cocoa, petroleum jelly but didn’t succeed at that. In fact, there was a time I had a stand at an auto fair in Lagos.”
On marriage she says, coming from a privileged background is another kettle of fish. “We are having our 14th anniversary this month. When I was younger, I dreamt of getting married early and taking care of my husband. I knew that I would be a wife whose roles would be dictated by the Bible and I try to follow that to the letter. That’s my guiding principle till now. Mind you, there is a thin line between being submissive and being doormat. As I became more mature, I realised that you can be submissive, but marriage is to be enjoyed and not endured. I always advised that nobody should marry for the wrong reasons. We all have our ups and downs but when you are in with the right person, you overcome.
“My husband and I? We work together while on stage but immediately we get home, I know he is the head and I leave him in that position. Do we quarrel? Of course! But that is quickly sorted out,” she says.
Wunmi is a plus sized woman and would not deny it. Remind her that she looked trim in her wedding pictures 14 years back and she replies: “I had my dream of what I wanted to look like on my wedding day and I worked at it. But you don’t expect me to be like that after three children!
“I have done all sorts of diet programmes but I discovered that it’s a lot easier to lose weight than maintain it. Just identify what lifestyle diet suits you and follow it. Currently, I’m on fruits and vegetables but I’m sweet-toothed! I can’t get rid of eating red meat and I eat white bread and rice. But my weight hasn’t deterred me from my job whenever I am on stage performing. I can stand for three hours, jump, dance and do all that a slim person can do.”
With two state-of-the-art studios to be launched soon by T.W.O, she attributes her inspiration to God, and the environment. “We always want our songs to have meanings even if you infuse comedy. Our new project for the year should be taking place in the studios,” she concludes.