Uzo, Owner of ANKA, on the Importance of Self-Love & Self-Expression
In the words of Uzo, “Do not to be afraid to express yourself every day, because the world is big enough for all of us to shine.”
Uzo’s ambitions led her to combine her love for fashion and her desire to inspire and create a platform that empowers women to walk in their purpose.
Read more below as Uzo opens up about her insecurities, her business, and her future goals in an exclusive interview.
What was your childhood like? How has it shaped the woman you are today?
My childhood was very blessed. I lived between Owerri, Imo state, Nigeria and Calabar, Cross River State, also in Nigeria. Most of my memories are from the latter. I remember being able to run around as often as I wanted, or ride my bicycle, which was way too big for me, or just hang out at my neighbor’s house randomly.
I also remember that my mother planted her vegetables, herbs and nuts all around our house and I loved helping her pluck them when it was time for harvest. In simplest of terms, my childhood was filled with love and happiness. With the exception of the craziness that happens in every primary school, I loved every moment of being a child, and not just any child, but a child to my parents.
The woman I am today, I must say, although a work-in-progress, is a true manifestation of God’s promises, words I said to myself and constant encouragement and prayers from my mother. My mother is my biggest supporter. Right from childhood, she believed in whatever we said we were interested in and she always took it to the altar to bless it for us.
The one concurring statement she says is: “I will see you all on CNN; you will all touch and impact lives!” It was impossible to forget and she still says it til this day! Having such a strong and constant support system as a child, always made me feel like I was walking on air. This is what shaped the woman I am today: my mother. I learned a few things growing up but the ones that resonated with me the most are: no one is better at achieving your dreams than you are, do not lean on your own understanding, pray and consult God for wisdom, knowledge and understanding and believe in yourself!
What insecurities did you face growing up? How did you overcome them or how are you dealing with them today?
Honestly, I didn’t face a lot of insecurities as a child, I am from a family of 6 so between my parents, my siblings and I there wasn’t a lot of time to nurture any insecurity. My family also knew how to turn a negative into a positive, they still do.
I had chronic asthma growing up and this had never been an issue in my household. I was constantly reminded that I am fearfully and wonderfully made and the devil was only testing the greatness within me. So each time I had an asthma attack, it was in the back of my head that I couldn’t let the greatness in me be killed. It was not until I got into secondary school that I saw a different side to life and humans as a whole. Asthma then became my biggest insecurity.
Children did not know a lot about it, some people thought I was faking it and was seeking attention and I remember trying to explain the severity of it to them. I often found my classmates taking puffs out of my inhaler and treating it like a cigarette. I hated it! Interestingly I loved sports, so imagine my sadness and disappointment when I wanted to play football and I couldn’t run as fast because I didn’t want to faint and have other students laugh at me.
How did I overcome this insecurity? Simple, I realized the God in me is greater than the asthma. I stopped asking God the “why me?” question. I stopped pitying myself. I stopped feeling like asthma made me less than a person. I started hanging out with people who did not see the joke in asthma. I just took a moment and told myself, there’s more to you than this silly disease. I still take my inhaler and tablets with me wherever I go, but I often forget that I suffer from asthma.
What led you to start ANKA?
Impact! I always knew I was not a 9-5 person, but I also knew that whatever capacity or role I filled had to be one where my impact would be felt.
I always wanted to be a fashion designer, and I still do. But for me, fashion design was not the best communicator of my passion for seeing women fully become themselves and thrive doing so.
So I took a moment, with the help of my coach Lanre Olusola and my mentor Tomilayo Aluko and constant support from mama bear and the gang, I decided I was going to start ANKA. I decided there was a way to make positive impact and empower women through their personal fashion and style choices without designing clothes for them yet and that’s what I did!
What inspired you to specifically focus on women and empowerment? Why is that important to you?
Honestly, my focus was on inner beauty and self-expression. Women empowerment came a few months, after I started the brand. I realized that women, especially the women in Nigeria, regardless of their age group, felt like something was missing from their dressing and this caused them a lack of self-confidence.
Now, I’ve always been someone who wore what I wanted and I always dressed based on how I feel but also considering the impression I wanted to create. So it was alien to me to see that a lot of people really wanted to do this but did not know how. I decided to start from the woman within each of these women, to teach her the importance of self-love, self-worth and ultimately self-expression through fashion and style. This is how the women’s empowerment grew, I realized that a lot of people had been waiting for ANKA and we just had to find them.
Women empowerment is now a very importantly factor in ANKA; the inspiration came from all those women, the ones who reached out and the ones who were too shy to do so.
Women and women empowerment are very important to me personally because I finally feel like I have stepped into my God given and God ordained purpose and I have finally begun my journey. I feel so privileged and proud to be not only a woman, but to be a woman in a time such as this. I feel like I have created and I am a part of something completely larger than myself and I get to do it through the medium I love the most – fashion & style.
What are your ultimate goals?
My ultimate goal is to live in Milan. I also want ANKA to champion a cause and change the mindset around self-expression through fashion and style. I want ANKA to create a tribe, a community and a safe haven as it were for all the women. I want ANKA to be the place they come to for constant empowerment, uplifting and expression. I want ANKA to be the release to a lot of women who are suffocating within themselves. But the ultimate goal is for God to use ANKA to touch lives for His own glory.
For more about ANKA visit AnkaOfficial.com and follow them on Instagram, @theankaofficial.