Irene Eribo-Ani, who was crowned ‘Ebony Queen 1 of UK’ in 2016, recently became the brand ambassador for Ankara Meets Adire Festival (AMAF), an event taking place September 2 in London. She is a multiple award winner in skills empowerment and the CEO of Irensmart Limited and Irensmartconcept Charity.
Eribo-Ani’s creativity and flair led her to teach hair-braiding and sewing at a local charity outfit. She also facilitates workshops for different communities in London. She is the organiser of Miss E.B.O.N.Y Ambassador Beauty and Creativity pageant, in collaboration with Nnagbo Production, NA Salone TV and Global Base TV.
In this interview in London, she spoke about her involvement in charity work and others.
You have been involved in charity work for years. Could you tell us the thing you have been able to do?
My journey in charity work started in church as a children’s teacher in dance/choreography, years back in Nigeria. When I moved to London, United Kingdom, I continued my charity work in church but this time as a Sunday school teacher, called Grace Givers. I volunteered to teach hair-braiding at a local charity in North London (Africa Cultural Association). This went on for years even while studying for my degree in Health and Social Care. I volunteer at World of Women free skills empowerment workshop, organised by Veronica Olabisi Obadara. I later moved to Volunteered for Africa Child Trust as their public relations officer. During that period, I partook in a 10-mile marathon to raise funds for this charity. I personally organised free skills empowerment workshops all over the UK.
Who influenced your career, your dad or mum?
My career was not influenced by my parents but by influential women doing great things in the community and the thought of wanting to be an influential lady myself. This pushed me to do what I am today. I launched out one of my initiatives, Miss E.B.O.N.Y Ambassador UK Beauty and Creativity Pageant, four years ago after volunteering as one of the facilitators for a skill empowerment workshop organised by World of Women. I owe a lot to the organiser of that event because she was one for the people who pushed me out of my comfort zone.
As the brand ambassador of AMAF, what are your specific roles?
As the brand ambassador of AMAF, my specific roles include: To promote Nigerian fabrics in the UK such as ankara and adire; put African prints in the limelight; encourage investors to invest in Africa prints; create awareness on the different uses of ankara and adire; and encourage people to use more of African fabrics for designing classic wears.
What plans do you have for the upcoming AMAF events as a brand ambassador?
I am working with the organisers of the event to make it a huge success. I have encouraged some of the young people I work with to be part of the fashion show, as well as encouraged designers to be among the exhibitors. I have spoken to a few media personalities to be there to cover the event. I will be helping the models with the hair-do as well as promoting the event on my platform.
As a charity, what has your outfit done since inception?
My charity (Irensmartconcept) is known for skills empowerment. As I stated earlier, we run skills empowerment workshops all over the United Kingdom. We have covered places like London, Reading, Leeds, Milton Keynes, Bradford and Basildon. We have organised Miss E.B.O.N.Y Beauty in Creativity Pageant three years running. This event is mainly to empower African youths in Diaspora, the United Kingdom, to be precise.
What lessons have you learnt about life?
I have learnt not to give up on my dreams, have good role models and surround myself with good people. Also, giving back to the community is my watchword and for that reason I joined different groups that share my interests and beliefs, such as World of Women, Universal Peace Federation, Central Association of Nigeria, United Kingdom, Igho Ladies, Grace Givers at International Gospel Church as well as partaking in 10 miles marathon to raise funds for the African Child Trust and organising free skills workshops. I also created a group called IrensmartConcept Giving Back on Facebook (with more than 13,000 followers), a forum for creating awareness on health issues, educating people on their human rights, a platform for debates and campaign as well as helping to promote human dignity and respect for the rule of law.
What do you like to wear in terms of fashion?
I wear all sort of attire that fit me, but I love all that is made with African prints.