THE EVO­LU­TION ‘CUPPY’ OTEDOLA

(IN HER WORDS)

THISDAY Style - - COVER -

To­day is my 26th birth­day… My house is al­ready amassed in cards, flowers, and presents con­grat­u­lat­ing Cuppy. But who is Cuppy? We’ve all heard about this Cuppy girl, both the good and the bad, but do we re­ally know her? I mean, you may think you know who I am, but who am I re­ally? Be­fore Cuppy, there was Florence the teenager, and be­fore Florence there was Ife­oluwa the child. In or­der to re­ally un­der­stand the evo­lu­tion of Cuppy and soul be­hind the brand, you need to look at my story from the very be­gin­ning…

I was born in La­gos on a hu­mid Thurs­day at Cit­i­zen Hospi­tal­lo­cated at 86 Nor­man Wil­liams Street in Ikoyi on Novem­ber 11th 1992. That year, of course, was hec­tic year for my fam­ily with my grand­fa­ther, Sir Michael Otedola in power as Gov­er­nor of La­gos State. Whilst I was shielded from the po­lit­i­cal side, my mother re­calls be­ing in the hospi­tal show­ered in gifts and vis­its from peo­ple she didn’t even know. Ife­oluwa, daugh­ter of Nana and Femi Otedola had ar­rived! And what a merry child I was, ab­so­lutely full of joy! Cheeky but cheer­ful is what every­one re­calls about Ife. At the time, we lived in Ilu­peju then moved over to GRA Ikeja where I at­tended Grange school for most of my pri­mary. In be­tween swim­ming lessons at Ikeja Coun­try Club and prayer­ful evenings at Foun­tain of Life Church, the main­land was al­ways my child­hood haven. Vis­its to the Is­land al­ways used to in­fat­u­ate us, I over­whelmed once we cross Third Main­land Bridge… Boy, I did not know what plans God had in store for my life.

When peo­ple ask me where I feel nos­tal­gia the most, I tell them in Epe. Odor­a­gushin in­side Epe is my home­town and where our Otedola fam­ily legacy was cre­ated and will al­ways be con­served.

I have so many fond mem­o­ries of play­ing with pigs on our fam­ily farm whilst learn­ing Yoruba songs and eat­ing ogi and akara. Epe al­ways re­minds me of stress-free life, I go there to es­cape La­gos wa­hala; my fa­ther does the same. That is the rea­son I de­cided to have my pho­to­shoot there, specif­i­cally in my late grand­fa­ther’s home. I couldn’t think of a bet­ter way of cel­e­brat­ing my new age than pay­ing ho­mage to my past.

My grandma, Lady Doja Otedola is Cuppy’s big­gest fan, she is truly the strong­est wo­man I know - she taught me to have a voice. My up­bring­ing is truly the ra­tio­nale be­hind my suc­cess. It’s a story con­sist­ing of strength and seclu­sion. Here is my story, in my own words…

I re­mem­ber mov­ing from La­gos to Lon­don, more clearly than I re­mem­ber mov­ing from Ikeja to Vic­to­ria Is­land. You see, things hap­pened so quickly. My mother founded Gar­ment Care LTD in 1996 and my fa­ther es­tab­lished Zenon Pe­tro­leum and Gas LTD in 1999. By the start of the new mil­len­nium, the year of 2000, our whole life had trans­formed. Be­ing eight years old as the daugh­ter of two bud­ding en­trepreneurs meant I en­joyed life, but it also meant I had to grow up fast. My three sib­lings; Ola, Temi, Fewa and I; all found our­selves in Eng­land for board­ing school leav­ing our beloved Nige­ria be­hind. The ra­tio­nale for this was, as most par­ents claim, bet­ter ed­u­ca­tion, how­ever we all know the schools in La­gos are great. Look­ing back now, I re­al­ize that both Nana and Femi Otedola needed their chil­dren in board­ing school so they could fo­cus on their de­mand­ing busi­nesses; a sac­ri­fice cer­tainly worth mak­ing.

Eng­land was cold, the ac­cent was con­fus­ing and the food was bland. Luck­ily, I had one es­cape: Mu­sic. I can­not be­gin to tell you how pow­er­ful and heal­ing mu­sic is. Board­ing school in Eng­land came with its chal­lenges be­wil­der­ment, bul­ly­ing etc. I would al­ways curl up in bed after a long day and lis­ten to mu­sic from Nige­ria.

My cat­a­logue as a teenager was al­ready vast - from Fela Kuti to Pa­suma to 9ice. Other stu­dents al­ways used to laugh at me be­cause of my short Afro. It’s funny that now the same kids are the ones beg­ging for tick­ets to my ‘Cac­tus on the Roof’par­ties. Board­ing school as ‘Florence’ was not all grim, I have to say I was a bright child and loved to learn, I al­ways flour­ished aca­dem­i­cally and built a dis­ci­plined spirit through ed­u­ca­tion, one I still have till to­day. Hol­i­days were al­ways ex­cit­ing as I got to

go back to La­gos, but ev­ery time I went back things were dif­fer­ent, my fa­ther’s empire was rapidly grow­ing. A newer car would pick me up from the air­port and each house we moved to was get­ting big­ger and big­ger.

The sum­mer of 2007 is when the ac­tual Cuppy you all think you know was birthed. Hav­ing cre­ated a rep­u­ta­tion for my­self as a ‘mu­sic geek’, we had all just fin­ished our GSCE ex­ams and a friend was hav­ing a party, so I was asked to DJ. There is only one way to de­scribe my DJ set that evening- atro­cious! Ev­ery­thing from my beat match­ing to mu­sic choice was wrong, but that gig was un­for­get­table for me as it’s the day I knew I had fallen in love with mu­sic. The re­main­ing years I had in school turned into an ob­ses­sion of fill­ing my free time with ev­ery­thing mu­sic - I learned to play the vi­ola, I took up Mu­sic as a A-Level, and even de­cided to start my own band. My par­ents could see my pas­sion very quickly deep­en­ing and my fa­ther be­gan to or­gan­ise in­tern­ships for me in trad­ing com­pa­nies in or­der to steer me in a more con­ven­tional path. After a few more hor­ren­dous per­for­mances, I ac­tu­ally got my first paid show at 18 years old, it was for a wed­ding in Lon­don and my fee was £50 which was about N12,500 at the time. I played for about six hours and impressed the cou­ple, (I played Azonto six times!), so I was able to get more gigs off that. I can­not tell you how good it felt be­ing paid for some­thing I would have done for free any­way; my eye re­ally opened that day to the pos­si­bil­ity of mak­ing a ca­reer out of mu­sic.

Ten years down the line, I’ve been able to go from strength to strength, I’ve gone from be­com­ing a global DJ that plays songs to one that makes their own songs. To this date, my DJ skills have taken me to over 30 coun­tries and I know this is just the be­gin­ning!

I started my com­pany, Red Vel­vet Mu­sic Group LTD in 2013 whilst I was at­tain­ing my Eco­nom­ics de­gree at King’s Col­lege Lon­don. De­spite my love for mu­sic and cre­ativ­ity, en­trepreneur­ship was nat­u­rally my back­ground and I saw a gap in the mar­ket for an African com­pany that could con­sult in the Eu­ro­pean en­ter­tain­ment space. Mov­ing to New York re­ally opened my eyes fur­ther to the global mar­ket.

Whilst do­ing my Mas­ters at New York Univer­sity, I adapted a hustler men­tal­ity. Stu­dent by day, DJ by night I was jug­gling two lives and it was tough. Luck­ily, it wasn’t all in vain - my com­pany now has three of­fices in Lon­don, La­gos, and New York and l have been lucky to work with some of the big­gest brands in the world.

A lot of peo­ple ask me how I am able to achieve so much and I ex­plain that Cuppy is ran as an in­ter­na­tional en­tity not as a lo­cal artist. My songs (Green Light, Vybe, Cur­reny, and Werk), may be catered to the Nige­rian mar­ket but I will al­ways have a global edge.

My jour­ney is full of achieve­ments, but not with­out ad­ver­si­ties. I re­cently got my­self in a bit of a pickle whereby I claimed I wasn’t a fem­i­nist. Here’s one thing about me - I don’t as­so­ciate with what I don’t know, I was raised that way. How­ever, hav­ing said that, look­ing at my ca­reer and things I have had to over­come, as I wo­man I now un­der­stand that fem­i­nism is fab­ri­cated within the Cuppy DNA. You see for me, I al­ways felt that we gave men too much at­ten­tion by seek­ing their ap­proval through fem­i­nism. How­ever, we all share a com­mon goal: to de­fine, es­tab­lish, and achieve po­lit­i­cal, eco­nomic, per­sonal, and so­cial equal­ity of sexes. In my job, ev­ery day I am faced with chal­lenges be­ing a fe­male in a male dom­i­nated in­dus­try. Some­times I have to shout just to get heard. I can­not lie to you, be­ing a Nige­rian wo­man is some­times ex­haust­ing.

Most of my ca­reer, I’ve felt mis­un­der­stood, and I still do.

Some­times I feel like peo­ple ex­pect Cuppy to be a cer­tain kind of per­son, an ‘omob­aba olowo’ (a rich man’s child), a brat, and when they don’t get that, it’s al­most an anti-cli­max. Well, I’m sorry for the dis­ap­point­ment but I am truly a young Nige­rian liv­ing and try­ing to make it big just as much as ev­ery­body else.

Some­times I have to re­mind my­self that I’m not su­per­woman and I can’t do it all.

One thing that frus­trates me is the per­ceived per­cep­tion of per­fec­tion towards the Cuppy brand. Here’s a fact; I cry some­times, I make mis­takes, I hurt - I am hu­man. Re­cently, I de­cided to make a con­scious ef­fort to be more open on my so­cial me­dia so peo­ple could get a bet­ter sense of who I am. Be­ing open does come with ex­po­sure to crit­i­cism, but I am extremely thick-skinned! It’s a God given gift! Al­though, one gift God hasn’t quite given me yet is a hus­band, but I know that’s in the works!

Whilst do­ing my Mas­ters at New York Univer­sity, I adapted a hustler men­tal­ity. Stu­dent by day, DJ by night I was jug­gling two lives and it was tough. Luck­ily, it wasn’t all in vain - my com­pany now has three of­fices in Lon­don, La­gos, and New York and l have been lucky to work with some of the big­gest brands in the world.

I’ve de­cided to leave things to God, not just say it, lit­er­ally do it. I’ve al­ways felt called to help oth­ers and this year, I fi­nally es­tab­lished my char­ity, the Cuppy Foun­da­tion.

As I’m get­ting older, I’m also see­ing the im­por­tance of per­sonal ful­fill­ment. The sat­is­fac­tion I get in send­ing a blind girl to Uni­lag now matches that of win­ning an award for DJing.

I feel like I have been brought into this world for a rea­son and I now have a destiny to ful­fill. When peo­ple ask what’s next for me, I al­ways tell them the truth - I have no idea. I’m still on an ex­per­i­men­tal path but re­gard­less of what I do, I want to make sure I change the rules for young peo­ple in this coun­try whether that is with or with­out mu­sic! The fu­ture of Cuppy is un­cer­tain, but cer­tainly bright... Maybe I’ll be Pres­i­dent one day. The 2019 elec­tions are com­ing up and we must take Nige­ria’s fu­ture in our hands, any­one read­ing this, please VOTE. Nige­ria has done so much for me grow­ing up, she de­serves that same love back.

To­day turn­ing 26 is a mo­ment of re­flec­tion for me. I feel more em­pow­ered, more ac­com­plished, but most im­por­tantly more ready to con­quer the world. My motto is ‘Cuppy On A Mis­sion’ it al­ways has been and al­ways will be. What mis­sion you ask? World dom­i­na­tion. The princess of Epe is com­ing for the in­ter­na­tional throne!

To­day turn­ing 26 is a mo­ment of re­flec­tion for me. I feel more em­pow­ered, more ac­com­plished, but most im­por­tantly more ready to con­quer the world. My motto is ‘Cuppy On A Mis­sion’ it al­ways has been and al­ways will be. What mis­sion you ask? World dom­i­na­tion. The princess of Epe is com­ing for the in­ter­na­tional throne!

CUPPY WITH GRAND­MOTHER

CUPPY WITH HER BAND

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