This controversial fashionista who dresses to express her feelings, recently delved into the clothing line known as MGee Confidence because of her flair for fashion. Her line of clothing is not the usual. Hers is strictly under wears for men. In this interview, Muma Gee talks about her eclectic dress sense, her N.G.O. and what she would have been if she were not a singer.
Most of us know you as Muma Gee. What is your real name and where are you from?
My name is Chief Gift Owame. I’m a native of Odiabidi, an Epkeye tribe in Ahoada East Local Government Area of Rivers State. I am from a family of six and I’m the fourth child. My father wanted me to be a medical doctor but I chose music because of my passion for music. Music is what I know would make me happy in life and I have always known that I have talent in music that God created me with so, delving into it is to live my dream. Also, I realize that the society has given me a lot hence, I decided through my NGO (Muma Gee Kare Foundation) to do some humanitarian service, with the little I have, to give back to the society.
How long have you been in music?
I have been in music for more than ten years now but I have not really practiced it professionally. My first album was released in 2006. That is not because I didn’t want to release but because my kind of music is a different genre of music; a new one and I’m pioneering it. We have been doing a lot of research since 1998; doing recording, shooting of videos and sending to people to critic and back to the studio to work on it or to do another track. I have been doing a lot of this for so many years. In between these years, I took four years out to study Theatre Arts at the University of Port Harcourt; a course which involves music, drama and literature - not so much of music but, it goes with music. I chose music as a profession since 2004; not like other professions that you wake up in the morning, go to work and back and front. Music is your life - you eat it, bathe it, sleep in it and all that. It’s so indulging.
Who influenced your choice?
My mum. My mum influenced me tremendously. She sings a lot and she sings in the church choir till date. Music is something that runs in my family but I’m the only one doing it professionally. Though, initially they disapproved of it now, I have their full support of my family.
Which of your songs brought you to the limelight?
I have done a couple of songs so, I wouldn’t really know which of them now but, there was this particular video I did that was directed by Sam Dede. That was a niche for me and it really gave me that exposure. Also, 'Kade' was really nice. I have a new one now titled ‘Amebo’. Though, the video is not out yet; we are still working on it. There’s another one that is meant to be out later this year. Presently, I’m working on an event that I tagged “An evening with Muma Gee”. (It's a) Kind of peace conference, where the youth will have the opportunity to talk to me on some of the issues like what we are having in the Niger Delta now. Coming from the Niger Delta myself, it's a thing of much concern to me. I want to use my music during the meeting as a vehicle to drive my message across.
What are the challenges you face as a female artiste, in the music industry?
Well, I would say we are not given equal opportunity; the societal influence as well considering our culture. You know, culture relegates women to the background so, we grew up with that and still have that notion. But, civilization is taking over gradually though, the instinct is already in us; it’s inborn so, it’s difficult to change.
Even most of us, women, still relegate ourselves to do certain duties because we believe women are not meant to do a lot of things - all in the name of being women. So, that alone is a kind of pulling force, dragging us behind in the society; especially in the entertainment world. Most people see women in showbiz as wayward; useless in the society. And, that is why most of us took it as a challenge to go to school. That notion (initially) slowed me down but thank God, I had a starting point. I might look small but I’m rated as A-list in the entertainment industry and I’m working had to stay there.
How do you handle male fans?
My male fans are there. I love them and they have no negative influence. Though sometimes, you get funny calls, funny text messages and I just delete them. No problem. I just move on because it’s a field that I have chosen.
If you had not been a singer, what would you have been?
If I weren’t a musician, probably I would have been a full time housewife (laughs heartily). Maybe, I would have been a doctor because, initially, I wanted to be a doctor but that wouldn’t have worked out because I can’t stand the sight of a hospital. Probably, I would have delved into fashion which, of course, I’m into now because I love colours and the inspiration keeps coming and getting higher and higher as the day goes by.
So, categorically I would have been anything God wants me to be. We all, here on earth, are for a purpose and that purpose can only be achieved if we add our own effort to ensure that that purpose works. As for me, I still don’t know God’s purpose for me; I’m still working on it.
How was growing up like?
Growing up was strict, very strict. I will stop there because there are some children that are still experiencing such things in the society right now. In my family, there was nothing like party and all that; no going out and no keeping of friends. It really affected me because up till this moment, I still can’t keep friends. I try to keep regular kind of relationships because I know there are a lot of people that want to be close to me and I would have loved to be close to as well but, I can’t because of my kind of upbringing.
My upbringing did not give room for that. After school, it's home work on home work so, there was really no time for me to keep friends that I would have loved to keep. I remember when I was growing up, I was in charge of all the domestic work because my older sister was so much older than me that I even called her 'aunty'. She was so busy with other things so, basically I was the only girl in the midst of the boys, handling the domestic affairs of the home.
Ironically, that has really helped me in managing my home. I run my home as if I were a married woman. If you look around, you will see how well organized my office is and that is true of the biblical saying: “honour your father and mother so that your days will be long”; not being long on earth and be foolish but to be wise. So, growing up for me was tough but to my own advantage. For instance, my mother was a very industrious woman and that has influenced me too in delving into fashion as business because of the entrepreneurship skills I had acquired over the years
Talking about fashion brings me to the next question. You wore a very controversial outfit to the Nigerian Music Award (NMA)? What was the concept behind that dress?
Oh my God, that dress! The truth about that dress is that, first and foremost, I was crowned the African Queen of the NMA. As a queen, I needed to appear in a royal regalia to befit my personality and that was the expression in that dress. There were loads of material put together into that dress and it was really heavy so, for me to pull my self and move with the dress freely, I had to slit it from the mid-section to bottom on one side; showing my leg. People thought that I was just trying to expose myself sexually but, that wasn’t the case. I slit my dress sometimes, (depending) on how heavy the dress is and sometimes the character that I want to portray. Basically, I would say the NMA dress was very dramatic, so heavy, energy-consuming and very expensive too.
As a fashion-conscious person and now a fashion designer, how would you define the word: fashion?
Fashion is brings happiness; a means of building self confidence; a means of livelihood for a lot of people. Fashion means a lot and the list is endless. Fashion means a lot of things to me because even to the under wears that I put on my body is made to suit my body so, fashion is me and I’m fashion. I am a musician but a very fashionable one, highly fashionable one because fashion is the interpretation of who you are on the inside. Fashion is basically who you are on the outside and on the inside. I love colours a lot, I play around with colours all the time. Playing around with colours is my joy and my passion. Fashion to me goes beyond just being fashionable. You must have a passion for it.
How would you describe your kind of style?
My style is abstract word. Give it any interpretation you wish to (and) you are welcome. Depending on the perspective you are seeing it from, what interpretation you give to it, it’s acceptable by me because, sometimes I can’t really define what I wear fashion-wise. Sometime ago, some people had a critic on me and they said “fashion police said that you combine colours and all that”.
Africans are beautiful and their colours clash. So, if you say you are fashionable but can not update yourself with the colour clash at the moment, then you need to rethink. I could choose to wear a black skirt with a red top and the accessory to match, it's my own expression. You could give it any interpretation you want, it’s okay by me. As long as it gives me joy and comfort no problem; that is me. I don’t use my fashion inclination to criticize or assess people negatively but, if you assess me negatively, that is your business.
What are your fashion accessories?
I love my shoes though, shoes are borrowed culture from the white man and that is what I have accepted but for the clothing, sorry I have my African fabrics. I love beads and that is basically what I wear most of the time. Some beads you see me wear are plastic while some are made from elephant tusk. Some are from wood and bone which are the ivory beads, if well polished. I travel round the word to get my beads. Sometimes I go to Egypt to get my beads or when I go to Italy or Paris to buy shoes. I could buy between 50-100 pairs of shoes because I love shoes a lot.
Which of those items would you say is your most priced?
My coral beads. I don’t joke with coral beads and I have one worth some money. So, my most priced fashion item, I would say is my coral beads.
What would you say constituted a high moment in your life?
Music-wise was when I performed live with Mariam Makeba at Korean Royal Festival Hall in London a long time ago but it’s still the most cherished moment of my life. I was really happy because, Mariam Makeba happens to be one of me role models. Playing on the same stage with her was the greatest moment of my life.
Have you had any dull moment?
My dull moments come when I’m doing a show and the equipment are not working. You have a maximum capacity audience watching and you are on stage performing, suddenly the equipment just stop working. Oh my God, that is the worst moment for an artiste.
What is your beauty routine?
I have a gym here as you can see so, I wake up in the morning and go to the gym. I use the gym basically to stay healthy and okay. I don’t have a particular beauty routine for my skin. What you see today is natural. The only cream I use on my skin is idachin (palm kernel oil)
When and why did you decide to delve into making of under wears for men?
MGee Confidence started in December 2007. We are just seven months in the business and you can’t believe how far we have gone. We make under wear for men as well as shorts and boxers.
Why men only?
We decided to narrow it down to men because, we don’t really have many companies manufacturing under wears for men so I decided to do just that and we have not been disappointed at all. The acceptance has been great and the patronage is wonderful. I also see opportunity to provide jobs. So MGee Confidence clothing line is not only to provide under wears for men but to provide jobs for youths too.
Q: But when are you going to think about getting married?
A: I think about marriage all the time.
But marriage starts with getting into a relationship.
Not in all cases because I have had men coming to ask for my hand in marriage. They send their rings, they come and I say to them: no premarital sex. And they say they don’t mind. And I put forward my finger, they fix the ring and I say to them listen, I am an artiste I only wear costume rings; I can’t wear this ring on my finger. They agree, they understand. And at the end of the day, I say let’s see what goes on. And he goes no, no, no until I find one fault. And I conclude that this person is not qualified to be my husband. And I’d say: I don’t think I am the right candidate for you. And then I go into another one, you know; just like that. I have a lot of rings and sometimes I don’t return them. Very soon I am going to open a ring shop.
Q: So, how do you cope with these pressures from men?
A: They don’t see me all the time unless on appointment. We can censor some of those troubles. But sometimes, I don’t know how they get my numbers. And they call and al that. The best thing to do is to change the line. So I change my phone. I try to be serious at all times. And God knows I am not preaching about it; I am a serious-minded person. When you see a serious-minded person you may not be able to just come and mess around. Unless you have something very important to discuss with me.
Q: Why are you so much in love with the white colour?
A: White signifies purity. It is pure. Sometimes, your colleagues say they are fashion police. And there was a time I read in the papers that I was arrested by fashion police. When we had a preview of Amebo, we had about 20 journalists in the house. One of them asked because the fashion police had been disturbing me lately because of my colour riot and all that. And I said to them Africa is beautiful, Africa is colourful. I wear the reflection of my mind. Why I am wearing green now is because I feel green is fertility, reproduction, productivity and all that.
But people do not recognize that fact of life.
I like to wear what makes me feel good. I don’t wear those things to impress people; I wear them to give me the confidence that I require to be me at a particular occasion. So when I combine colours, they actually depict my mood,
I mean being sensitive to criticism, pain and displeasure.
I am sensitive in the sense that I love life. And I love to enjoy myself. Don’t get me wrong. By enjoying I don’t mean drinking alcohol and smoking. I go clubbing.
And when I am in a club I sit down and watch people. I eat food. And when my food is well garnished and well designed, that is my enjoyment. So I like to be happy all the time. And if you are going to make me sad, I will avoid you. When I am on stage I am a crazy person-wild and tough. I become superhuman when I am on stage.