Data Okorodudu: On life @ 60
Words By – Jemi Ekunkunbor
Armed with a degree in Mass Communication and other management training like the Advanced Management Programme AMPII from the Lagos Business School, Data Okorodudu broke into the Nigerian fashion industry with the establishment of her label, JD7 Couture. Her entrance was a breath of fresh air as she took couture and high fashion to a whole new level, gaining massive media review and acceptance that saw her travelling to fashion capitals to showcase her creativity.
She was appointed a fashion and lifestyle consultant for MTN and also a director for The Vane, a fashion and lifestyle e-commerce technology company with headquarters in New York.
With each milestone came recognitions and awards including; “The Woman of Merit Gold Awards” for Cooperate Management (2003), Fashion Designer and Clothing Manufacturing Company of the Year (2007) among others. At the peak of her career in 2010, when her designs brought joy to the runway, adorned A-list celebrities and lit up the red carpet of top events, the creative head of JD7 Couture lost her beloved husband, causing her to step back from limelight to take care of family matters. But yesterday, the glamorous mother and grandmother turned 60 and she couldn’t keep still. Family and friends rolled out the carpet as she stepped out for an unforgettable 60th bash. In the words of American singer, Diana Ross, it was like saying: “I’m coming out.”
In this encounter, she talks about life out of the limelight, life at 60, life as a widow and life being father and mother to her children and grandchildren.
You’ve been away from the public eye for a while. What have you been up to?
You get to certain stages in your life and weigh things and re-strategise, reorganise, and re prioritise. It’s just that simple.
I became a widow at the peak of my fashion career, and as the matriarch of the family, I had to reorganise the family businesses that usually, was very ably, handled by my late Husband. So, certain other businesses had to take a back seat. Priorities were made depending on percentage contribution to the overall family income portfolio.
I still do have my fashion business thriving, my passion and creative juices flowing, my very steady champions and enthusiastic patrons, and promising, growing new clientele. However, other bigger family businesses have to be taken care of too, so I have been crazily busy.
Didn’t you miss your place in the fashion scene?
In the eyes of my high-flying fashionistas, I haven’t lost my place in the fashion industry at all because I am still their couturier of choice anytime, anyway.
Not being in the news was very deliberate.
So, how has life been?
Life has been very interesting, challenging, and very, very busy, but I have my way of keeping it creatively exciting. God Almighty has been very gracious to me, my children and grandchildren, and I give him all the glory.
What is your assessment of the fashion industry in which you were once a heavy player?
I said it before and I will continue to say it- Nigerians are some of the most fashionable and creative humans on planet earth! They keep churning out fabulous, creative pieces in the face of a very harsh business environment. I just wish and pray that such creativity will be better oiled and encouraged in a stricter business sense because a lot of people in the fashion industry still lack the ever-growing importance of the business aspect of the fashion industry. We will eventually get there.
Yesterday, you turned 60. What was that milestone birthday like for you?
It was great to have family and friends come share this special date with me. I’ll cherish the moments we all shared together for life, and hope and pray that we all continue to have a course to celebrate very special moments at different times in all our individual lives.
What are you most grateful for?
I am most grateful first of all, for God’s love, divine favour and all his provisions. And then, for having the best family and friends in the whole, wide world.
What would you say life has taught you?
Life has taught me that if you put God first in all you do, you will naturally be inclined to do to others as you would want them to do to you.
Secondly, surround yourself with positive thoughts and positive people.
Thirdly, live, love, learn and while at it, keep your family strong and together.
You are almost as old as Nigeria that turned 61 two weeks ago. What are your reflections on the country?
Nigeria, my beloved country, is a year older than myself. I love my country and pray for her daily. I pray for peace, justice, and economic, political and social development and growth.
What can be done to make life better for Nigerians?
Honest and serious change starts with “the man in the mirror.” Both leaders and followers need a total overhaul of their mindset.
Those who govern will not continue to be corrupt if they don’t have their accomplices among the governed, who let them get away with it and it cuts both ways.
At 60, what are your priorities now?
To work towards always being at peace and in sync with my Creator, God Almighty, and also, with myself, my family and friends. Now, I have to listen to, and take good care of my body, soul, and spirit.Start a gradual, but, sure-handing over of active management of the family businesses to the children.
Plan towards kick-starting my other interests like writing, stargazing and visiting the various wonders of the world.
Which would you like to visit first?
I have visited The Roman Colosseum, and also visited the Taj Mahal. My next preferred wonder of the world that truly holds my fascination will be Christ The Redeemer Statue in Rio De Janeiro, and the Machu Picchu in Peru.
At the height of your career, you lost your husband and partner. What was life like walking that path?
After the passing of my dear husband, it hit me that I have to play the dual role of both mother and father to the family. Luckily, for me, my family has always been my number one priority. So, it wasn’t that much of a painful burden though. I’m totally blessed with the best children, grandchildren, parents, brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, relatives and in-laws in the whole wide world. A strong, reliable, and loving family keeps you strong and lightens the burden.
Most of all, God Almighty has been gracious and I give him all the Glory.
From your experience, what kind of help do you think young widows need to help them cope well?
You know individuals are different, and each person’s points of need vary considerably.
Whatever the case or situation, if every family member’s offering is from a point of genuine sincere love, then the rest is easier. Both the family members giving, and the widow receiving have different things they need and can give. Remember, nobody can give what he/she does not have. Love/affection and genuine loving care, financial support, jobs, business skills, scholarships for children, medical support, the list is endless; but it won’t mean much if it’s done without love.
It is not obligatory, but it should come from a genuine heartfelt concern and love.
I would advise any widow to put all her trust in God Almighty, remain strong and prayerful, and look for a job or a sustainable business that can pay her bills. Financial independence makes her burdens and responsibilities much more tolerable.
Stay positively and creatively busy.
At 60, what do you look forward to now?
At 60, I look forward to “living my life like it is golden.”
Absolutely not! Every experience in life-the good, the bad, the ugly are all part of life’s long journey, and we learn from them all.