Susan Eyo-Honesty is the deputy editor-in-chief of City People magazine. She started her journalism career with Vintage People magazine as Youth Corp member after bagging her first degree in English at the University of Lagos (UNILAG).
Madam, as she is called by her co-workers, cut her teeth on the fashion desk and has since moved on to establish her fashion outfit nine years ago. Reporter, Anthonia Soyingbe, was at her office recently and she opened up on her life, fashion business, background and single status.
It is so uncommon to see women of your calibre adorn iro and buba (wrapper and blouse) made with ankara fabric. What prompted you to dress this way?
I just have fascination for iro and buba, I just felt that it is good to dress down on Fridays. Everybody is doing skirt and blouse and I see it as too common. I also have fascination for iro and buba just to have the real traditional look. I feel comfortable in it. It is not about what you wear but how you feel in it and comfort is the bottom line in your outfit.
Is it that you are not a make-up person or you just decided to have a natural look today?
I am not an everyday make-up person; except when I have important events. Some people have concluded that it is because I have a natural good look and that is not it. It is an effort I don't know how to make.
How did you delve into the fashion business?
I have always been fascinated with dressmaking right from my early years. I did art in secondary school and I paint and draw. When ideas come into my head I sketch it and that was how my romance with fashion began. Even when I found myself in the media as a journalist along the line I was on the fashion beat and I really enjoyed doing that. As I moved on in journalism I began to do other things. I later found out that I have a passion for both journalism and fashion. I thank God because journalism allows me to marry both. My being in the media has exposed me to the world of fashion and I have travelled to countries where fashion blooms. I have realised that it is just like writing a story of an industry and on my part I have been able to interpret what I feel, I am open to new ideas.
Could you lead us more into your fashion outfit?
We have been on for nine years and we started off by making cloths for big women because we found out that a lot of fashion houses don't make cloths for big women. The excuse then was that cloths for big women weren't attractive. I started out by making corporate suits for women in this category and I found out that there are many of them looking for some stylish and not the common conventional designs and so they want something stylish that would enhance their look. I don't have any training in fashion but overtime I have been able to learn about the technicalities of the business. I can cut and I can equally sew, I cloth both male and female.
Do you take your client's measurement in your office or what are you doing with a tape-rule here?
When some people come here, they prefer me taking their measurement because they might need me to make cloths for them at any point in time hence they find it easier for me to take their measurement, whenever they come here.
Before the establishment of City People magazine, you were working with an already established national magazine, what inspired you to leave certainty for uncertainty that is leave TheNews magazine for City People?
I have worked with Vintage People, Tempo and before I came down to City People I worked with TheNews. I believe in Seye Kehinde, who was the brain behind the project. First, he is a friend of mine; second, he was like the engine room of the medium he was coming from and because we were friends we talked about a lot of things he would have wanted to do, which was a little bit different from what he was doing at that point in time, and because I came from a soft sell sector I understood his dream and his vision. He has a drive in him to succeed and he is not out to prove a point or to impress anybody. I just felt that life is about risk if you don't take a risk you can't get to the next level and I have always been a risk taker, I took that risk and I have no regrets. I take different risks; I take with friendship even when you tell me someone is bad I go ahead to find out myself. I don't base my judgment on what people tell me I find out things for myself.
What were those challenges that came your way at the initial stage when City People came onboard?
There were lots of challenges, we were coming into an industry where other people were well established with strong players and people who were there were people who didn't give us a chance. They were people who didn't see us succeeding in the industry. I have my own share of that experience and so I was not moved and I was working with somebody who has a drive and a passion in succeeding. He also had a team on ground that was ready to make sacrifice and everybody was determined to use that which people saw as a negative strength into a positive one. Sometimes salaries were not paid on time, sometimes we had salaries cut and yet we were determined to succeed. At that point all of us knew that there was something about City People that will catch on at the end of the day. There were times when we had to do the collating ourselves because we didn't have enough money and we were always coming up with ideas, which helped us to stay in business. There were times we asked ourselves again if we were actually on the right track.
What are your leadership qualities?
I am a no-nonsense person and I don't have apology for that. I believe that most times people see women as the weaker sex and they try to throw things at you. I read books where I am told that a boss is a boss whether you are a male or a female. When you are in authority you take up that responsibility of the office you are in, draw the line and let people understand the nature of your job. I have an open door policy and I adopted that from my boss. It wasn't a policy that I am use to but I realise that once you maintain an open door policy people will have access to you at every point in time. I accommodate some things and leave out some. People know who I am and they know that despite my strictness, I am still friendly and I am very flexible. If you don't let people know that you are in place they will take advantage of you. I am a strict boss, very compassionate person when I see a need for that, I could also be very comical and I am a very playful boss.
Often times when women are in position of authority, some men do come up with the notion, because of ego that women are not to be in the position. How do you react to this when you are faced with such issue?
Well, I don't know what kind of aura people who are faced with this put across. I have never experienced this because I respect you as a man. My male staff that are married especially those that are older than I am, I give them maximum respect by not calling them by their first name rather I add the title 'Mister' to their name and I don't talk to them anyhow. Anyone who wants to be honest will tell you that I am a very respectful person. I don't wear my office like a dress it is just a title and I am just blessed to be here. I have been very fortunate to have men around me who are my friends, they appreciate me as a woman and they respect me for who I am and what I do. When women say men are making passes at them I ask them if they are not giving something out before the men make passes at them. I am not saying that men don't tease me but I know how I handle such and I curb what I don't want at the beginning. I am lucky to have male friends who are like my brothers and mentors, who have helped me to make decisions that I have no regrets for. They are more open-minded than women and I can open up to them than opening up to a woman. I have few women that I could open up to without feeling that they would use it against me and I am very careful about that.
What is your educational background like?
I went to Salvation Army School in Surulere and I moved to Lagos Anglican Girls' Grammar School also in Surulere. I had my A' levels at Ahmadiya College in Agege and I had my first degree in English at University of Lagos, I did my youth service at Vintage People magazine. I have spent 13 years here (City People), which is so unusual of me because I am a very restless person. I have contributed to this place, it is just like you planting a seed and seeing it grow.
How was it like growing up?
It was very good; in a comfortable environment. I am not from a very rich home, I grew up in a middle class home and my story is not from grass to grace. I didn't lack anything and I went to the school everyone went to and I lived the kind of life everyone lived. I mixed with the right crowd, I never hungered to be somebody else because there was no need for it and my parents allowed me to express myself. I could easily walk up to my mother and tell her what was on my mind. The same thing applied to my late father. My mother knew all the people I have dated and I never hid my dates from them because they would come into my house and my parents would tell me their opinion of the person and leave me to act according to my mind. I had fantastic relationship with my siblings and we all grew up like a close-knitted family. God has blessed me with the right foundation and that has helped me to appreciate life better, things people count as important don't mean anything to me. My growing up has affected me positively. It has made me to tolerate people even when they don't deserve the patience. I am very temperamental and if I don't like you I don't pretend about it, I let you know my mind towards you. I have two brothers and two sisters. They are all married and my sisters have four kids each. My immediate younger brother has a daughter, we all keep in touch. Their children come to spend time with me when they are on holiday.
How soon will you start your own family?
There is a time for everything and I am still banking on the word of God that says "none shall be barren," I am not in a hurry and I won't go out of God's plan for me. I know when the time comes the devil will have no hand in it. When negative thoughts come into my mind about marriage issue, I arrest it with the word of God. I keep on remembering God about his covenant with me and I dialogue with him. Many people make jest of your single status and sometimes you might be down with it but I won't remake myself because I want to get married.