“Ladybrille’s 15 Questions with . . .” is a feature that salutes some of the most important names in the fashion and entertainment industries around the globe, with a particular emphasis on Africa. We hope you are as inspired as we are with the brilliant men and women in these industries that make the world go round. Our feature today is with Chichi Dike now Chichi Emeson, founder of the Miss Nigeria in America Pageant competition. Enjoy.
LADYBRILLE.com: Describe your career. What exactly do you do?
Chichi Emeson: I love it when people ask me what exactly I do. I was a business major in college and with a concentration in Accounting. I have an MBA in Management and an MPA in Non-Profit Management and I am currently in a doctorate program for Leadership/Management. I am the CEO/Founder of Miss Nigeria in America (MNIA), Inc. and my focal point as the CEO is to cultivate programs that will help sustain the organization and assist in achieving our mission and objectives. I also work as an activist, speaking out on issues that affect women in general. As an organization, we speak out on issues that are silenced in the Nigerian society such as sexual/spousal abuse, the declining rate of education among women in Nigeria, awareness on health issues affecting women and the reality of HIV/AIDS in our society today.
I also have an entertainment outfit called Danick Productions. Through this production company, I hope to produce documentaries, TV Talk Shows and movies that create awareness on issues affecting women, show the beautiful side of the African woman they do not see and promote our strengths and contributions to the world.
LADYBRILLE.com: How did you end up in your chosen field?
Chichi Emeson: My love for education and women’s empowerment drove me to enter the non-profit sector so I could be of service to those who need me or my expertise. Working with women who need encouragement and support is my passion and what drives me to do what I do. A lot of people have asked me why MNIA, and why I speak out a lot on women issues. I always tell them a story when I was very young. I overheard a conversation in my village when a choice had to be made about who would should be educated.The back story was the fact that there were not enough funds to send all kids to school and a decision had to be made; and right there, the male kids were chosen with the reasoning that the girls will get married and their husbands will take care of them. Needless to say, I was very upset and I vowed to be a voice for women so that such an instance will never occur and that the value of a woman would NEVER be determined by marriage.
LADYBRILLE.com: You are now a wife and a mother, plus you are obtaining yet another degree. How has the balancing act been for you?
Chichi Emeson: I would say being a wife and now a mother has sharpened my time management skills. This has helped me in the business setting as I have to make sure that I do my mommy duties and then focus on MNIA, Inc. to ensure that everything stays afloat. As for school, I had to take a break to focus on my son in his (current) formative years. I also try to show that you can be a mother, a wife, and a business woman so (long as you) have the right mind set, the right partner and good intentions. My mother always taught me to maintain some form of uniqueness in life because when you are a unique individual, you are able to map out your own plans, work through them, and achieve the best results while doing them.
LADYBRILLE.com: What has been the most difficult challenge you have faced in getting to where you are?
Chichi Emeson: Well as a woman, one of two things normally happens when you decide to take charge and be in control of your business. 1) People get very intimidated and try to sabotage your efforts or 2) You get an individual/business that connects you to the right people, understands your vision and sees to it that you have the support needed to succeed. While I have been very fortunate to have number 2, there are still so many challenges that one faces trying to remain in the game and trying to work in a male dominated society. The most difficult challenge is trying to get some African men to believe that being an educated and empowered woman does not make you a feminist or as they say, “ah you are too much for a man to handle.” Also, getting monetary support to fund programs is very difficult as the name “Nigeria” is synonymous with fraud, and everyone seems to lump all individuals/businesses in the same pot. So I have to work extra hard and maintain integrity in everything that I do and I try to instill those characteristics with the people I do business with.
LADYBRILLE.com: How do you define success?
Chichi Emeson: Success is when a higher percentage of most of your dreams and goals are achieved. Success to me is the ability to use your talents also to effect and create change in an environment that needs so much to get going. Success is also the ability to rise above all challenges that life throws you and forge on forward, look past those challenges and rise and stay afloat.
LADYBRILLE.com: Why is it important to you, in America, to celebrate women, particularly the Nigerian woman?
Chichi Emeson: As you know, Nigeria is a male dominated society where there is a big distinction between what a man can do and what a woman can do. Women don’t have a voice in Nigeria and many times, we find ourselves being the subject of some form of abuse. In America, women have a voice… They can speak on issues affecting them, they can enact changes in laws and they fight for what they believe in. o knowing this makes me celebrate Nigerian women in America to show the world that if we band together, we can have a voice, and some day, we will be able to lead that change in our country (Nigeria) where there would no longer be a distinction in what we can/can’t do. When you celebrate a woman, you empower her and you give her the tools needed to help her achieve her goals. As I mentioned earlier, these are the core values of MNIA and that is what we try to instill
LADYBRILLE.com: Share with us your memory of the happiest moment in your life
Chichi Emeson: The happiest moment in my life was the day I gave birth to my son, Kenneth Onuoha Joe Emeson II. He was born on March 30th, 2011 and weighed 8 pounds and 3 oz. Having a son has made me cherish life. Not that I did not cherish life before but it puts everything in perspective. Everytime I am upset or agitated and I look over and see my son smile at me, I know it’s going to be a lovely day. (Smiles) He makes me want to succeed. Knowing he is a 2nd generation Nigerian-American, I need to make sure that I continue to fight for change in Nigeria and I champion causes that encourage these changes so that when he grows up, he would want to visit home and make that connection.
LADYBRILLE.com: What keeps you awake at night?
Chichi Emeson: The urge to make this world a better place and of course my son who for some reason wants a warm bottle of milk to calm him down. But on a serious note, I work better at night and that’s when ideas flow. Everytime I read the news about something in Nigeria that affects a woman, I work to see how and where I can help. I think it, I dream it, I lay awake for it until I can find some sort of solution to the issue.
LADYBRILLE.com: What drives you?
Chichi Emeson: I am driven by success and the need to continuously lend my voice to support causes that help uplift women. I am also driven by every delegate that has competed in the Miss Nigeria in America since 2004. I say this because every girl brings something different into the pageant. So when I read their biographies and the platforms or volunteer work they are involved with, it reminds me that there are so many great women on this earth and that there is still so much I can learn from them. They motivate me and they drive me to want to do more to continue to celebrate women.
LADYBRILLE.com: What makes you get up everyday to do what you do all over again?
Chichi Emeson: Just knowing I have mentored girls who wrote to me letting me know how much of an impact I made in their lives reminds me that MNIA is doing something to bring change. Knowing that sometimes I can lend my voice to a cause and that even though my voice may or may not be heard, I am able to speak up. This gives me the strength to want to do it again and again. I would not trade my passion or my work for anything and will always stand firm in what I do and believe.
LADYBRILLE.com: What are the daily principles you live by?
Chichi Emeson: Honesty, Integrity, Humility, Love, Kindness and Empathy. I preach these in my home and I try my best to live by these principles. Once you have a child, you want them to look up to you and emulate your character. For every habit turns into a character and once form some great habits, your character becomes you and you can live by those and be a good example to others.
LADYBRILLE.com: What inspires you?
Chichi Emeson: I am inspired by successful women such as Uduak Oduok, Michelle Obama, My mother, My sister, Auntie Ify Nwabukwu of AWCAA and any woman out there who is strong enough to dream and believe and make a difference in this world. I am not mentioning Uduak because her magazine is conducting this interview, but I mention her because she continues to showcase and celebrate the accomplishments of African women. Not only is she a fierce and great lawyer, she is a fabulous fashionista and a great individual. She truly inspires me.
LADYBRILLE.com: When all is said and done, what is the legacy you want to leave behind?
Chichi Emeson: I want to leave behind an organization that women can become a part of to help other women find themselves, encourage each other and have a healthy self-esteem. I also want to leave a legacy of hope for Nigerian women to always speak up for each other and for those who cannot speak for themselves or are too afraid or blinded by culture. Women have the power to effect change and I work to inspire women to encourage themselves, seek an education and be in charge of whatever curve ball life throws at them.
LADYBRILLE.com: When last did you pamper yourself and what did you do to pamper yourself?
Chichi Emeson: On my birthday, my husband surprised me with a hot stone body massage at the Le Petite Retreat Spa in Hollywood. That was very refreshing and for the first time since the birth of my son, I was able to relax my muscles and my mind. I would recommend that place to anyone.
LADYBRILLE.com: What’s your favorite clothing store in Los Angeles to shop?
Chichi Emeson: I will have to say the Guess store. I am not much of a shopper but whenever I am in the mall or on the strip and I see a Guess store, I walk in and walk out with a shopping bag. I also wanted to add that I am in the market for a stylist so if there is anyone out there willing to take me on as a client; I am ready for the season’s new fashion.
Watch one of MNIA’s older promo video clips for Miss Nigeria in America Pageant event