Allure Cover: Onyeka Udechukwu: Beauty is Skin Deep!
Onyeka Udechukwu, Founder and Managing Director, Hello Perfect Aesthetics and Laser Clinic, is a licensed Medical Aesthetician and senior laser technician trained in Texas, USA.
While pursuing her certifications in Texas, Onyeka worked at a Medspa, in Dallas, her excellent work saw her rise quickly to become the Head Aesthetician.
With experience in providing cutting edge treatments, as well as an excellent track record in delivering noticeable results, the former beauty queen decided to come back home to cater to the yearnings of Nigerian women, who now embrace the new wave non-invasive medical procedures.
In this interview with Allure, Onyeka speaks on cosmetic surgery, the misconceptions that have helped portray the procedure as a taboo in many cultures, laser usage, and the role Hello Perfect is playing to ensure medical beauty procedures are safe in Nigeria.
How did you start Hello Perfect? What inspired this?
I have always had a thing about this career path. I didn’t just wake up to this. Actually at a young age, right after high school, I did a year in nursing school. So there is a nurturing part of me that has always been there, a nurturing medical part that made me study Biotechnology at the University.
After school, I moved on to work in the finance world, where I worked with Heritage Bank, and I worked with Access Bank. I also had the opportunity of working as the Head of Business Development in Fifth Chuckker. So I’ve mostly been in Finance. But then, at a point you want to be who you are; I felt the pull to go back to the nurturing career. I decided to take professional courses abroad, and this was my first step into Aesthetics. I did my classes and then started working immediately after my training. I started as a junior consultant at a leading clinic in Dallas and became a senior consultant, but again the calling was there, and I knew I needed to come back to Nigeria. So, I came back and eventually started consulting, until it was time to set up my clinic and Hello Perfect was born, or at least, the beginning of what became ‘Hello Perfect.’
How has it been since starting your Clinic?
So far the journey has been very fulfilling. There were days I was scared; I’m not going to lie. I remember those days my heart would skip, and I’ll get agitated. I’ve had more good to any bad. I can’t even say there’s bad. Because, from the takeoff to now, the growth has been incredible, surpassing anything that I’ve planned. It’s been phenomenal growth, from the machines we’ve been able to acquire, the results of the treatments, the client base; it’s something we’re proud.
Why Hello Perfect?
Coming up with a name is not easy! When we started, we were ‘Living Beauty’ until we eventually went on to Hello Perfect. I woke up with that name. When I woke up with Hello Perfect, I knew this was my name. It sounds and feels right. And, it’s not just a name; we’re holistic. We’re not just treating, we’re building relationships, and these relationships have become families, and these people have come to be an extension of Hello Perfect. Hello Perfect is not just for the skin, it’s wholesome, and at some point, we’re going to delve into other things that will expand on the Hello Perfect brand, which is a great holistic approach, but in terms of our career point, we’re delivering on the name and what it represents.
What’s your opinion on cosmetic surgery in this part of the world?
There’s a whole culture in Nigeria, where we have to be careful the way we communicate ideas. We see a lot of cases where the client needs this treatment. Again, I’m not a plastic surgeon. I can advise you, but you need to get it right on anything, even if you’re buying clothes and you want a designer’s shoe, if you go to Alaba you will not get it right.
In the same way, if you’re not going to a professional to get your services and your procedures done, that’s the first step to getting something that intense in a wrong place.
In Nigeria, we see women who are excited about the new wave of beauty, because it ‘s the age of social media, and social media gives the face of a ‘perfect girl living an ideal life.’ We’re now jumping out of that into real life where people don’t want people to say “she no look as she be for her Instagram” and you want to defeat that, so you want to look as perfect on your page as you are in real life. So we have a high rise in the need for these procedures.
Two months ago we did the first Botox party in Nigeria, a Botox and Fillers Party, where we have botox and fillers at half the prices and the clinic was filled up! So if you think people are not getting procedures done, you’re very wrong. The exciting thing is, if you know where to get it right, then it’s safe for you, but if you’re not in the right place, you’re going to hurt yourself because these are things that go deep into the skin.
So I will not advise you get it done the wrong place. Burns yes, we are having a lot of people interested as much as some people want a private procedure, which we also offer, but either exclusive services or coming to the clinic to get it done, people are beginning to embrace this, and it’s only a matter of time it’ll become a whole lifestyle in Nigeria.
How was like working in Dallas, as a Nigerian?
The truth is, Americans have seen a lot of interesting black people, sometimes they’re hungry to see an actual classy, well put together, very focused young girl. I was received in my class, so well; my colleagues thought I was the most beautiful girl ever created.
Sometimes I overheard them talking about how beautiful I am, and this is because they’re used to the Jamaican style black girls, with their bouncy styles, so when they came across me, it was different, and you know they like foreigners.
I don’t think I have an accent, but my parents live all their lives in the UK, b I think my English is still very grounded, at least clean, but they would suggest I have this accent and how much they loved it.
So I was received very well; my clients loved me so much. When I was leaving it was like “girl, I’m going to Nigeria” while some would ask me why I’m coming back, but in all, they wished me well, and it was a good experience.
So as a woman, how has it been trying to run a business in Nigeria?
I want to say as women or men we’re all in the fight. I think in this generation women are beginning to push more boundaries than the men of our age and that’s being honest. Young girls are starting to make more money, but when it comes to talking about things like this, I don’t like to gender separate, so I’ll speak as a young person starting up in Nigeria not cheap particularly in the industry I am, it’s not cheap. The details of everything, the products we use are medical grade. The types of equipment we use are not .cheap, and right now, I’m happy to say that, Hello Perfect is one of the three brands with the laser equipment in Nigeria, and trust me, that machine is expensive enough to get me two luxury cars.
And then talk about location, you have to position rightly, and all these come together to be a significant cost.
I did not have all the money when I started; I had a big dream, and that’s the truth. Also, I was hoping for a lot of money. They were people I expected because of my passion, my dream, I thought they were going to support me, but, I was disappointed by these people. One thing was consistent; I knew that this business would take off with or without anybody. The day I walked into my clinic, I came in with my younger brother, we just knew this had to be the place and what we did was pray, from upstairs to the downstairs of the area. So, when we acquired this place, we started with the plan of just setting up a small place to start, but every day it grew, and I can say right now, that in every way we continue to grow as the leading clinic in Lagos.
What are some of the misconceptions Hello Perfect is trying to correct?
The first misconception is to let people know that we’re not about whitening. I love black skin, and as a child growing up I’m glad I never had to dabble into lightning my skin, up till date I still argue, ‘I’m black skin, and if the argument is too much I just say that ‘I’m caramel’ (Laughs), because I’ve always loved black skin and I’m grateful for that. So the misconception is that being white is beautiful or being white is having healthy clear skin; it’s not true. Your skin can be clear, clean attractive, healthy and glowing if you keep it right. And even if you want to lighten your skin, you can lighten, and not bleach. There are ways to give yourself ‘ a good shade’ but not to damage your skin. So, that is a misconception that needs correction, and no matter how expensive most of these bleaching creams come out to package themselves, they’re not healthy. Some people sell creams that come to my clinic for treatment, especially when their products start to turn on them, but, they’re still selling these products to their growing numbers on Instagram. So no matter how nicely packaged these products are, you don’t have to go for treatment first, talk to the consultant, let them advise you on what to use. And you mustn’t use medical grade products; I know medical grades products are expensive, mostly for my clients, if you need treatment and when we’re through, I can move you to a drugstore product that is still healthy, but with a fair price. Those aren’t just the misconceptions, but these listed are the ones presently ravaging the industry and need curbing.
How safe are these treatment?
It is only an arm of the many parts of the beauty industry at large, of which surgery comes as part of that. I don’t operate, although I can advise you and direct you right. About laser, I get asked that question often, about how safe it is, but the truth is, even now laser is being developed as the next future. There are surgeries right now where you can completely restructure the vertebrae and the bones in the body, just using a laser, and you don’t have to cut right through the skin to do that. The laser is very brilliant. It travels on a particular line, and it’s on what you want it to deliver. In cases of laser hair removal, the laser is directed to see the hair follicles, and that is what it goes to destroy. ‘So, is it safe?’ ‘Yes, it is very safe.’ Laser didn’t just start today; it’s something that has been in use for so many years and will continue in use.
You are not just into skin care, but also body sizes, what would you tell someone battling with confidence, due to their body size?
You know, interestingly, I wish I could send you pictures of the two women I did their body sculpting in Dallas, they’re two bodybuilders. The first day I met one of them, she was so buffed, and I was wondering what she needed me to do for her. These women told me they were going for a weight lifting competition, and there was some fat they needed to take off. So as buffed as they were, they still had that fat that refused to go, and these people, I’m talking about spending hours working- out every day. So you can work on yourself, and it’s okay. You can go to the gym and still need to do treatment; it’s still okay. But the best, first thing to understand is that loving yourself is the very first duty to your self, finding your beauty and enjoying the angles of yourself before you can let anybody like you.
For a beauty professional, what does beauty mean to you?
When they say ‘beauty is skin deep,’ it is. Beauty does not just have a perfect face. There’s an inner beauty you can’t deny. You can’t deny that a happy person is what that beauty stands for. So beauty is indeed skin deep. You have to be able to find happiness in your self. Love yourself. And, if loving yourself involves you getting all of this treatment, admire yourself more, being more flawless on your skin, having your fillers right, having your Botox in, find it, but be your self, beautiful from the inside.
How would you describe your style, when you are not wearing medical scrubs?
You’ll be surprised! My style is scrubs! (Laughs), I’m almost always on scrubs, practically forever. But in terms of the fashion industry, I love the style. I love fashion, and I like to dress comfortable and right for the occasion. I was once a beauty queen, so chic and beauty are some of the things that are dear to me.
What’s that one thing you can never be caught not having with you?
First of all, I think I’m addicted to using my sunscreen. So, if you understand the need to have that on, my sunscreen is one thing I don’t think you can catch me not having. I can never be caught sleeping with my makeup on. Any day I wear makeup, I’m obsessed with how I need to take out every bit of the powder on my face.
What’s the grand plan for Hello Perfect?
The grand plan is for us to build a reputable Aesthetic clinic, which we are establishing, but we intend to have a chain of this business that’ll cut across not just Nigeria but also in West Africa, and we can stand tall as an Aesthetic company.
By Linda Orajekwe