It is another Konnect Africa interview, and today we have on our hot seat, the charming Miss Ashan-wa Aliogo, an amazing young Nigerian who is using her blog as a platform to promote our beautiful continent using African prints and wears.
She shares with us her story, her inspiration, her perspectives on being an African in the diaspora and more. Grab a seat, read and be inspired… Let’s roll!
Who is Ashan-wa Aliogo? Family, Age, ethnicity, education, hobbies…
I am 18 years old and the first of five children from the Ika tribe located in North-Eastern Delta State. I was born in Dallas, Texas but I have lived in Nigeria with my family my whole life. My past education includes graduating from Lekki British in 2011 and The Bolles School in 2013. Currently I attend Duke University and my hobbies besides the ubiquitous eating, sleeping and watching TV shows include reading, travelling, blogging and yes, shopping.
You are promoting African culture through fashion, even as a student in the diaspora and at a young age. What has been your experience so far?
It has been a great experience so far because seeing the amount of change Miss LAJA has gone through in just a year makes me look forward to what the next ones have to offer. I started Miss LAJA to promote African culture starting with myself as a Nigerian because her portrayal in the western media is too one-sided; too negative and while Africa (like every other continent) has their challenges and setbacks, I felt the positive aspects weren’t being celebrated enough. There was a lot of trial and error but this made the journey a lot more fulfilling for me because I learned a lot along the way and I’m happy I get to control this space where I can create/present what I want.
You are a student and a blogger. How do you maintain a healthy balance between your studies and your blogging?
A challenge is being able to consistently produce quality content because as of now, I wear multiple hats in the production of mine. I take my photos (yes, with a tripod and shutter release remote haha), edit them, write the articles and promote them and on top of that I also have to balance that with school. I stay consistent by having a schedule for when I publish each week and sometimes I shoot/write multiple posts over a span of days and I release them accordingly. This is especially helpful for when school/life “happens” or when I’m suffering from creative/writers block. I’d hate for my academic or my site to suffer for any reason whatsoever so I always hold myself accountable and try to use my time wisely.
I also work out and eat healthy to stay sane and keep my stress level at bay and God has been ever grateful so I hold onto him really tight. Blogging is really an outlet for me because I get to use a different side of my brain for something I really enjoy while escaping school. It’s hardwork but it’s something I’ve become passionate about J
How are Ankara and other African prints faring in the competition with foreign materials?
I’d say ankara here in the (United) States is seen more as a seasonal trend because I have seen a lot of designer brands that create (stunning) collections based on African prints but they are usually out of style by the coming season. I often question if there’s a story behind these collections but that’s an issue for another day. However, there are great African and US based designers that I strongly admire whose primary materials are African prints and they are faring very well. It’s definitely growing but I don’t think it’s quite there yet.
What/Who inspired your personal blog, misslaja.blogspot.com.
In addition to the negative portrayal of Africa and her culture in the Western media, I always wanted to have something of my own so that was a driving force. Both my parents are entrepreneurs and my mum especially pushed me to start Miss LAJA. I was jotting down ideas one night on my goals for the site, I came up with the name and that ended up being my first post! I definitely had doubts and fears about what my focus topic would be and if people would be interested in what I had to say but when I dedicated myself to it, it all felt so right. I’m glad I did.
What does Miss LAJA mean? what does Miss LAJA stand for?
My initials are ‘LAJA’ which stands for Lisa Ashan-wa Joannah Aliogo. Miss LAJA represents strength, confidence and acceptance as a woman, an African woman. She isn’t trying to claim perfection since there’s no such thing but is trying to show that imperfection shouldn’t hinder you from being the best version of you. So, Miss LAJA is my not-so-alter ego 🙂
How effective has blogging been in helping you spread your message?
Miss LAJA has been and still is growing but it has been effective. I strive to promote my Nigerian/African roots through fashion, beauty and writing. Through fashion and beauty because I wear a lot of African print and I style it in ways that stray from tradition by adding a modern twist to it. Through writing, because I give my spin to traditional adages to motivate my readers and also help them learn traditional African proverbs, of course! I include my travels and personal experiences and I just embrace culture in general in hopes that my audience will do the same. Miss LAJA is a community for learning, enlightening and inspiring. She has evolved a lot and I am excited to see where everything goes. There’s a lot I want to do but I always remind myself that I’m one person, haha!
As an African studying abroad, what are the challenges you have encountered thus far?
A challenge for me when I first came to the States was really finding people I could relate with. I went to a predominantly white high school and I can confidently say I was the only Nigerian/African student. It really did push me out of my comfort zone because I had to relate with people of different ethnicities and cultures as opposed to if there was a black population I could naturally turn to for solace. I made a lot of great friends from very different backgrounds and it’s something I greatly appreciate today. Another issue was getting people to understand me because of my accent but that’s something they had to get used to because I refused to change the way I spoke. A funny story, I remember sneezing in class and my teacher genuinely thought I was dying. I was so shocked because he was really alarmed, it was priceless.
An increasing number of Africans youths are having their higher education in the West. Do you think foreign study is over-rated?
I don’t think it’s overrated because there’s a lot to learn and appreciate in seeing how different people operate in different cultures and countries under different conditions. I believe this exposure is advantageous because the world is becoming increasingly globalized due to improved technology and it makes you think. You get to see things from multiple points of views as opposed to one. Plus, there’s a significant difference when you see and experience a place for yourself as opposed to when someone tells you about their experiences. For me, I appreciate my culture a lot more when I see how different countries put in so much effort and money to preserve their historical artifacts. In as much as experiencing different cultures are important, a huge turn-off for me is when Africans (or anyone in general) try to erase evidences of their roots when they arrive in new country. Yes, it’s good to acclimatize to your host country but you have something new to bring to the table and burying that denies them of what you have to offer. It’s really annoying.
Many African youths studying abroad don’t look forward to coming back home after study. How can we change this narrative?
I can understand that some of the issues back home in Nigeria discourage some from wanting to return. Plus, there are a lot of conveniences that come with studying and living abroad for example basic necessities like constant electricity. However, I believe it boils down to remember your roots no matter where you find yourself in this world. If you really think about it, if those who are fortunate to study abroad are keep leaving and not returning (also known as brain drain), those back home miss out on what they have to offer.
What words of advice will you give to the African youth who is considering higher education abroad?
I love travelling and I highly recommend it if you’re given the opportunity. Stay open and try new things however stay true to your roots and who you are as an individual. Never ever get carried away and forget where you’re coming from.
Racism is often an issue with Africans living abroad. What is your take on the subject?
I’ll speak for in the US because that’s where I am and yes, it is an issue because you are automatically categorized as black when you set foot on US soil. That comes attached with a lot of stereotypes but I see it as you can allow them hinder/define you as an individual or you can strive to be the best version of yourself and prove them wrong. This isn’t to say you need to prove your worth to anyone because you don’t but a lot of these silly stereotypes stem from ignorance. It shouldn’t allow it hinder you from pursing what you want because you taking that first step could be enough motivation to push others who didn’t have the power to do so themselves. You’ll never know if you don’t try. lol
How do you think Africans in the Diaspora make a positive difference back home?
Acquiring the knowledge from their experiences outside their native countries and positively giving back to their motherland in any way possible.
Where do you see Ashan-wa Aliogo 5 years from now?
By God’s grace, in 5 years Miss LAJA’s community would have grown a lot more within and outside Africa. She will continue to enlighten people about the beauty of Nigerian (and eventually African) culture through the current means and more. Then, I’ll be done with my academics so I would love to have a business of my own, more specifically a fashion line. There are other things but I’ll just leave it at these two for now, haha. Just know I have a lot in store for Miss LAJA but we’ll see where God decides to take me.
I have a lot but off the top of my head are my parents, bloggers like Kristina Bazan, Michelle Phan and Chiara Ferragni, Beyoncé and Chimamanda Adichie.
Africa will rise when……
We understand that making use of our resources to help drive our economy and improve our countries is as (if not more) important than being dependent on external funds from other countries (which I have nothing against, by the way).
Inspire a young African in a sentence
Explore, be inspired and be your best.
Thank you sharing with Africa, Ashan-wa
You are most welcome.
You can reach Ashan-wa –
- Blog: misslaja.blogspot.com
- Facebook: Miss LAJA (https://www.facebook.com/misslaja)
- Instagram: @miss_laja (http://instagram.com/miss_laja/)
- Pinterest: @misslaja (https://www.pinterest.com/misslaja/
- Tumblr: miss-laja.tumblr.com
p.s. Would you like to share your story and experiences on KonnectAfrica.net? Then, shoot me an email – firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you.