•ADAM & EVE Boss, MODUPE OGUNLESI
Have you heard the news that Modupe Ogunlesi is 70? It is true. She is. But she does not look that far gone in age. She does not look 70 in any way. She still looks trendy and still bounces like a young girl. She is as fit as a fiddle. She has maintained her trim look.
City People visited her recently to have her share her thoughts with us at 70. She is the beautiful wife of Lanre Ogunlesi, the Sofisticat Boss who is a great man of style.
What are her secrets for continually looking good? Is it her diet? Is it regular exercise? She says both. She eats healthy. She does not joke with her daily exercise. That morning of our visit she told City People she had done 4 hours on her treadmill.
What has life taught her at 70? “A lot. I attended a free primary school by the Federal Government. It was Awolowo’s free school scheme in Western Region back then. So, I went to this school near our house in Ibadan and everybody goes to that school. So, my father picked it because of proximity. One day, a boy insulted my father and I fought with him. My father heard about it and he called me. I told him that the boy said something insulting about you and he asked where it was written on his body. He also asked me for evidence of those insults. Then, he told me my action was irrelevant and I should not let myself be provoked that I should behave well outside, showing how I have been trained. No matter what you throw people out of the gutter, not into the gutter. As young as I was, I thought about it, I was 8 at the time. It takes time and conscious effort to be on the right path. So, when people annoy you it has reasons; first, it could be that you did something that the person does not like which pushed their reaction. With this, you should apologize. The other thing is that; have you seen a happy person spread unhappiness? No. If you are happy, you want the whole world to be happy. So if somebody makes you unhappy that means the person is unhappy. In the case you cannot help the person, understanding why, will help you in helping the person. The third reason is that, does the person feel that if I don’t pull you down, I can’t climb up? In this case, just leave it to God because the Law of karma is very strong. So every person who claims to be civilized must know how to control your anger and emotions. It doesn’t mean that you will let the person get away with it, but don’t let them push you to act contrary to how you will act. When you absorb what the person has done to you, call the person and let them know how you feel about it. But when you start screaming and fighting, you lose your argument.
As for marriage, my mother told me when I was about to get married, a man that is going to have children outside, there is nothing you can do about it, even if you tie your wrapper round his ankle, it doesn’t make any difference. So, it is better for you to live your life happily, let him live his life, so when you meet, you have more interesting things to talk about. That makes you an interesting person to be with, but when you tie yourself around him and he is feeling like you are an irritant, it becomes a problem. That’s what I learnt from my mother.
Then when you look at your career, I will go back to my younger days. When you get your report card, my father will ask you ‘’is this the best you can do?’’. It doesn’t matter if you came first or last, usually, if you look at it, the answer is No. When I was going to do my prelim exam, my father said ‘’I don’t think you are grounded enough to go’’. This time isn’t like now that they fly through school. I was 16 at the time but he bought me the form and asked me to go and try the exam. He told me that if I passed, I wasn’t going to attend and I agreed. So my father has this habit of driving you round the school to show you your hall, so you won’t miss your way when it is time for exams. So, that Saturday he drove me there, while we were at it, he asked me why I wasn’t revising for the exam, I asked him why I should, since I wasn’t going. In my mind I was just going to get to the exam hall on the day of the exam, grab the exam questions and head back home. He was so shocked at my response and said ‘’anytime at all, you lay your hands on anything you have to put in your best. So when you have an exam and you fail or pass, you will know that you have put in your best’. With this, he’s always asking me ‘’is this your best?’’ crystalized in my head that whatever you find yourself doing you have to do your best. So when it gets to my career, all the time it is my best that is good enough because it is same with Adam and Eve. My staff know, every time I pass through the doors, it is with the eyes of a buyer and as I pass by, I am changing things. When people come in, they ask me if I have experts come in to look at it, I say no because if today’s best is not better than yesterday’s best then you are not doing well. You must keep on pushing your own frontiers because if they say you are first today, you must keep on pushing because the fifth person might go past you before you are aware of it. So every day, you have to set that level and you must keep on pushing past that level.”
How does she feel being 70?
“I thank God for his benevolence, God has been so kind to me. I have a loving husband and I am happy in the relationship. I have lovely children I am happy with, I have a good relationship with them. I have a career that I love, so that at 70 I am not thinking of retiring because I still have the energy. There is so much to say Thank you for because 70 is God’s promise. A day after 70 is a bonus, even years after 70 are bonus years. My prayer to God is to continue to make me relevant so that in old age I can still bear fruits. I am surprised at the excitement because I am much more excited than when I clocked 60. 60 was a milestone, but 70 is God’s promise come to pass and it looks like He is giving me some bonus years because I feel healthy. It feels good to be here when you are healthy and your mind is at peace.”
How does she balance husband, children, and career?
“Well, I did not start out as an entrepreneur until my youngest clocked 10. So, when anything happens, he is smart enough to tell what happens. When you try to combine everything, when the children are young, it is very difficult to escape the guilt feeling because when anything happens, you won’t be in that mix. For whatever happens, one must believe in the Law of karma and I don’t want anyone to feel guilty because of something that happened. If you are meant to do it that way, God would have arranged for you to do it that way. The mistakes you make, there is a reason for it, the path in life are not straight, so when God wants you to go this way, something must happen to move you from your roots. I just want people to be happy, you don’t have to be selfish. What is done is done. So in future you can decide not to do it again in future. So if your child does something and you guilt trip yourself, you should remember that there are orphans who have turned out well. Who trained them? There are a lot of people weighed down by guilt and guilt causes diseases in the body. That is my advice for everyone.”
What made her go in the direction of Adam and Eve business?
“It was not my decision, I think God had a hand in it. I actually did not think I could be a trader, but when my daughter who was running Adam and Eve decided that it wasn’t a thing for her, as it was too sedentary, she did not want it. I knew that is me. I don’t go out, so when I call you out to my place, you have done 10 times better than me. So, I try to make you very comfortable in my space. Adam and Eve is all about that, it is all about Comfort, and the Value you place on yourself. When you talk Luxury, it has to be comfortable, it is beautiful but it has to be beautiful. I am glad I am in it because I bought it over from my daughter.”
We asked her to tell us about her lifestyle that has helped her look younger?
“I think it is because I don’t bear grudges, I tend to let things go very easily and I like to be pampered.”
How did she and her husband make their marriage work, as they both have different interests? One is outgoing, the other is homely.
“We are all in the lifestyle business. That makes life easier. It makes the conversation more interesting. The lifestyle has always been personal comfort; That is what lifestyle is.”
How have they both been able to balance their differences as he is more of the outgoing type and she more of the reserved side?
“Now, when they are advising you when you are about to get married; ‘’they say marry someone with the same taste as yourself’’. That is so funny because that isn’t what makes marriage. When you are thinking of marriage you must look at your moral standard, if it is similar, then you are good to go. Between my husband and myself, I trust him. But he knows that when he messes up, it will be very difficult to build the trust again. I sleep by 9pm and wake up by 6am, so by 9pm my phone shuts down, so if you call me during this time, you won’t be able to reach me. I go to bed early and wake up early. He doesn’t go to bed early and wake up late. So whatever he is doing, I have to see his face when he wakes up. So, I wake him up with a cup of coffee by 6am in the morning and have a conversation. When you share information about your day-to-day activities, you can’t be against it. You cannot keep me up at night with that.”
How did her growing up years prepare her for who she is today?
“My father ended up as a University Professor, Cornelius Olaleye Taiwo and my mother incidentally was a UMC-trained teacher. They were trained to be wives of the clergy. That meant that they had to be industrious, as the clergy were not well paid, you should be able to build a home. So the clergy then were group of educated men being bred to replace the British when they left. Luckily for my mother, she also got a scholarship to attend a finishing school in England. That is my home atmosphere. If your parents were teachers, teachers are trained to pass on information. So, you are very lucky. They will pass on what they want to pass on to you very clearly. You will understand their right and wrong. So the sense of right and wrong was very clear to me.
Another thing with my family was that my mother was insistent that we were siblings and should be able to tell each other the truth. So using ‘brother mi’ was going to make that impossible. In my house, if I find my brother with a girlfriend in a bar, he will go out through the back door because I will confront him. I think that is one of the things that has bonded us because of the Yoruba’s love for respect that you will be unable to tell the truth. My mother will say ‘’ you are like an ostrich with its head in the sand. Strangers will pass by but your siblings will ask you to take your head out of the sand’’. So, this was my relationship with my 5 siblings. It is a more relaxed atmosphere. So because my father was a Permanent Secretary, he had cocktails. So, we went to bed at 6:30pm but you did not have to close your eyes. You have your bed side lamp and a book. You can read up to 3 books before you sleep and they made sure we had that constant flow of books.”
What is the inspiration behind the annual Adam and Eve Annual Carol?
“My secondary school, St Anne’s Ibadan is the oldest all-girls school in Ibadan. As at 1969, they celebrated 100 years and the Christmas Carol was the highlight of the 3rd term. We practiced and did the 9 lessons and everything as we have in our annual carol service. It was a big thing for us and I used to enjoy it, because the Christmas lesson is so important. So each year, we have different Reverends to deliver a Christmas lesson which must always deliver a Message of hope. A new year is beginning so your heart must be filled with hope. You cannot be despondent, with the birth of Christ, you should know that something good is coming.”