Unlike other beauty queens who immediately disappear from the social scene after their reigns, Mariam Elisha has remained in the limelight. As former Miss Valentine, she has continued to expand her pet project in addition to other engagements.
To her credit, her clothing line, Rikaoto and Urban Style magazine are fast becoming household names in Nigeria and beyond. She also has a foundation where she caters for the less-privileged children. In this interview, she talks about her modelling career, love life and plans for the future.
What has been happening to you?
Nothing much, I go to work everyday and do what I’m supposed to do. I’m managing my clothing line called, Rikaoto, and my magazine called Urban Style.
What informed your decision to go into fashion and magazine publication?
I naturally love to see people dress well and wear good clothes. I realise that in Nigeria, we do not have companies that make quality clothes that people can buy at their convenience. I wanted to be that kind of person that could make such clothes people need when they have occasions or other social events to attend.
Are your services meant only for the high and mighty?
Not really. Average Nigerians can afford it. My clothes are affordable, depending on the kind of fabrics and style required. We have the ones that are meant for the high ends, and also, we have the ones for the average salary earners. It depends really on what the clients want. In other words, we have the very expensive ones and we also have the affordable ones.
Where do you source your materials from?
I buy my fabrics anywhere I find myself or sometimes, I order specifically from where I know they have the kind of fabric I need at that particular time. I don’t have to disclose where I procure my fabrics from. That’s my secret but we have good fabrics.
Do you make clothes yourself?
I know how to make clothes myself. I also have people who do them and I supervise them.
Tell us about your Urban Style magazine?
It is about fashion and style. And as a fashion crazy person, I decided to do something that would celebrate the works of the fashion designers, showcasing fashion and style in a different way. How people can combine clothes and other accessories. I have a partner and things are actually going on since I started the publication.
How has the experience been?
It has been challenging but so far, I am coping with the stress. No work is easy as my mum would always tell me.
How challenging is running a clothing line as well as publishing outfit?
The challenge of becoming a fashion designer is enormous. Most of the time, there is no power supply, and we have to depend on our generating set. The tailors are not consistent. They are not ready to give you the standard for which you employed them most of the time. You always cross-check whatever they have done to ensure they have the meet the standard. When I came into fashion designing, I was thinking it was something I would cross my legs and fold my arms and probably pick up my pen and give someone instructions on what to do, and he gets it right but it isn’t so.
In fashion designing, you have to focus your mind, brain and come down to the level of the tailors for them to understand what designs you have and how to interpret the designs that you have conceptualised in your mind. Also, it’s really challenging dealing with different clients; the super rich and the middle class. On the Urban Style magazine, it’s equally challenging, publishing a special interest magazine;getting celebrities to adorn the cover of the magazine; putting the whole thing together including the adverts for that particular edition. Then the challenges of distributing your magazines.It is an easy task.
What else do you do aside your fashion outfit and your magazine?
I also have a foundation called, Save Tomorrow Today. I love charity and as an ex- beauty queen, I started a foundation during my reign and it’s still functioning till date. I love lending help to humanity whether I am a beauty queen or not. I have been able to cater for the welfare of these children under my care, and I’d visit different organisation soliciting support so I can help give them hope in life. It’s been working out so far and we usually hold different events about three times in a year. Most of the time, we don’t make such events loud because we believe in not blowing our own trumpet.
With all of these activities, what time do you have for yourself?
I just try to create time for myself. It is all about timing. When its time to be at Rikaoto, I will be there, and when it’s time to give attention to the Urban Style magazine, I do certainly that. I have people who work with me. I have already taught them what to do when I am not there. I can always come back for feed back. Though, it is not easy coping with the stress.
You recently contested the Miss Nigeria pageant, what informed that decision?
I have always loved the name-Miss Nigeria and I feel that being Miss Nigeria will provide me the needful platform to affect more lives positively. As you know, I’m into charity and I do a lot of things to assist the poor. At the moment, I have not less than 40 children under my care. It is really pretty difficult coping with these children. I feel I need more helping hands and being Miss Nigeria will probably give me more support to smiles to the lives of these children.
Are you going to contest again?
No, I think I’m done with pageant for now
Do you have any plan to organise your own pageant?
I don’t have any plan to organise any pageant but maybe, in the future
Tell us about your style?
I really do not have a specific routine but what I do is when I wake up in the morning, I ensure that I wash my face before applying anything I want to apply. If I want to apply make up, it’s probably when I’m back from work. I make sure I clean my face, using the facial removal but I don’t use any specific cream, its just normal baby oil. I use mild soap. I don’t use anything hard because my skin is very sensitive.
Your dress sense?
It depends on the occasion. Sometimes, I like to look simple, but very dramatic. I am always very simple. When I’m not in the red-carpet mood, I love casual wears.
What kind of books do you read?
I read all kinds of books, especially, motivational books and poetic works. My favourite author is Wole Soyinka. I love his poems a lot.
Who’s the man in your life?
I think my relationship is personal to me. I will marry at the right time. I pray it happens soon.
What kind of man would you love to marry?
I want to marry a God fearing man because I always dream of making heaven. I don’t care whether he’s tall , handsome or rich. As long as he has the fear of God in him, and has respect for womanhood, I will marry the person. He must take me for who I am. I’m okay with him.
How many times have you been heartbroken?
Once. I don’t want to talk about it please.
What do you hate about men?
I hate disappointments and lies. Disappointment, not in the context of when one promises to marry a lady and later on, he didn’t keep to that promise. I mean, when I trust you as a friend and I expect you to keep to that trust and never hurt my feelings.
How has it been as a young entrepreneur?
I don’t believe that because I’m young, I should fold my hands and wait for my parents to do everything for me. I believe that as an individual, you have the right to to give back to society whatever you have gotten from it. You can make a difference in your life if you believe in yourself and what you want to achieve in life. I have always been a hardworking person even when I was in school. I was combining my studies with modelling. It wasn’t easy but I tried as much as possible to strike a balance. Whatever you want to be in life, you can achieve it by remaining focus and committed to your cause.
Who supported when you started this cause?
My father supported me. Initially, he didn’t give me anything, but when he saw the zeal in me, he started supporting me. I started with the little money I saved. You don’t have to have billions of Naira before you can set out to achieve your dream. There are intelligent students from poor homes who are supported by well-meaning Nigerians. Just begin with something and help will come even from unexpected quarters.
How do you describe yourself?
I am simply amazing!