Francesca Uriri – For Linda Ikeji and Our Collective Lessons In Vulnerability
Let me first start this article by saying that I don’t know Linda Ikeji personally, we aren’t close friends, and I’ve “met” her only a couple of times at social gatherings. Cool? Now that that’s out of the way, let me also say something else. I don’t always agree with her style of reporting, I feel that she can be unnecessarily crass, combative, insensitive and aggravating sometimes, and I can’t for the life of me, understand why she loves to play matchy-matchy with almost all of her outfits.
However with all of that being said, I also have a deep and abiding respect for her. Is that ironic? Perhaps. But I’ve come to understand that you can disagree with someone on something and still respect them. Whether you accept it or not, Linda has shown through her remarkable journey of being a blogger and opinion influencer, that she is an inspiration to countless people all over the world. She has boot strapped her way to success using a model that was once unpopular and scoffed at. She’s an Outlier, and manages to inspire, incite and baffle many all at once, and with fervour.
I can’t think of a lot of people who’ve run a modelling agency, an events company, a magazine and a bunch of other businesses, failed at them, and still kept pressing forward. I also don’t know of anyone else (at least not on this side of the planet), who is legally making tons of money by blogging. I mean, before Linda, whoever thought it was possible to buy a house in Banana Island, and open a string of media-related businesses gained from the proceeds of running a gossip blog? If the United States of America has the “American dream,” then Linda Ifeoma Ikeji has the “Naija Dream.” Strong, relentless in its pursuit of happiness and hope, and ultimately, successful. Here’s a woman who hit ground zero at some point in her life, and is back to level 100. You have to respect such grit and determination, because as my Sapele people will say “E nor easy.”
Linda or “Lin-Lin” as she’s fondly called by those who are close to her turned 36 years old a few days ago; and to mark her special day, she posted a 14-minute long video on her blog. Within hours of her posting this video, social media was buzzing with all kinds of comments and remarks about it – and I knew that I had to see it for myself. 3 minutes into the video, I wasn’t quite sure whether I liked it or not, because it came off as slightly insincere and scripted; plus Linda looked a little uncomfortable facing the camera. However, something changed shortly after – I’m not even sure what. But the veneer of coolness cracked, and something more warm, earthy, genuine and vulnerable spilled out.
And as Linda began to speak about her failures, her desires, her relationship with God, her belief in the validity of her dreams, her utter amazement at how her life turned out, and the affirmation that she still “plans to be around for a long time,” something in me also gave way to the hope and inspiration that she was sharing. And maybe it was an emotional moment, maybe that thing was fleeting, but I recognized it, and I felt it strongly. Because it was sincere, powerful and heartfelt. And in that one special moment, I forgot about all the times I disliked Linda, or all the annoying things she had done, and in that suspended space, between my laptop screen and her video, I celebrated with her. I cheered her on, and I desperately wanted her to succeed.
So you can imagine my irritation when people took just a few seconds of that video – of her desiring an amazing man for a husband – and turned it into an occasion for ugly banter, senseless rhetoric and hurtful remarks. How do you condense ALL she said, and narrow that down to just one segment of her video? What is wrong if she openly (and very honestly I might add), spoke about what she wants? Is her desire for a husband somehow less valid or shameful because she spoke about it in the open? If she had spoken about further growing her business or buying another house – would those statements be met with derisive comments? Is there not a quiet strength and dignity in such a guileless show of vulnerability?
When people honestly and truthfully open up themselves, the least we can do, the least we should do as human beings is to accord them the respect and dignity that they deserve.