What does it mean to be a man? Surely, it’s not one thing. It’s a series of little moments that add up.
“Man Like” is a weekly Zikoko series documenting these moments to see how it adds up. It’s a series for men by men, talking about men’s issues. We try to understand what it means to “be a man” from the perspective of the subject of the week.
The subject for today’s “Man Like” is Micheal Okoh. He’s a makeup artist and a content creator. Micheal tells us about discovering his love for makeup while growing up, struggling with anxiety, and some of the requirements for living a happy life.
Everyone gets their “man now” moment. Do you remember yours?
I’m going to break the answer into two parts. My first realisation happened in JSS 3/SS 1 when I had my first wet dream. I realised that something was changing in me, and I was becoming a different person. The next realisation was when I couldn’t recognise my face after I caught my reflection in the mirror. Until that moment, I hadn’t really observed my face closely. Staring at my face in the mirror, I was like, “Yup, you look old. You now resemble a man.”
Interesting. You sound like you’re scared of getting old.
LMAO. Even though I don’t like to admit it, getting old scares me. It seems that the older you get, the more pressure piles and life starts to kick you. Also, the body changes that come with old age scares me — I’m usually shocked whenever I see how much adults I grew up knowing have changed. Change is crazy, and it’s still something I struggle to accept.
Same. Does anything else scare you?
I’m scared of failing. There are many things I should have done but didn’t because of the fear of failure. Sometimes even saying out my plans is scary because I keep asking myself: what if? I’m scared that life can just hit me hard and leave me asking, “Wow. What just happened?
What are some examples of things you’ve failed at?
Hahaha. The first incident that comes to mind is secondary school. There was this term where they mixed everyone in the set and we took exams together. In my own class, I used to come fourth or fifth. However, this time the school decided that instead of ranking class by class, they’d rank everyone in the set. That’s how I suddenly moved from fourth to fourteenth. I told myself: “This is on you because you didn’t prepare.”
Damn. What’s something you’re scared to fail at?
One place I’m scared of failure is with makeup. For the longest time, I’ve had the idea to hold a WhatsApp class to train people on how to do makeup. But I’m always scared of starting because I’m like, what if people don’t show up? What if I don’t train them well enough? What if I don’t agree with them? It’s just this year I finally decided to do something. I’m going to hold my class next month and stop worrying about whether things will work out or not.
Energy. Tell me about your makeup journey.
It all started in 2016/17 when I was living with my sisters. I remember thinking one of them was a makeup artist because of how good she was at it. My sisters spent so much time doing makeup that they always made us late for church on Sunday mornings. What struck me was how they always looked like different people when they were done with the makeup. That was when I started to fall in love.
There was also the era of PicMix where people would do before and after photos — it was magical seeing how makeup transformed people. I wanted to know the trick, so I started watching a lot of Youtube and Instagram videos. I also started practising on myself and my sisters, and I could practise as many as three times a day because of how eager I was. During that period, I saw one before and after video of a bride on her wedding day. Just looking at her dress, her tiara, the background music, I was like, this is perfection. At that moment, I was sure that makeup was something I wanted to do for life.
I don’t know about you, but Harmattan makes me cry.
Did you experience any pushback from your family?
I grew up effeminate and that helped. In the beginning, when I started makeup, my family was against it. They were worried about my chosen path and kept asking why. However, they realised I wasn’t stopping because I was spending all my pocket money on buying kits and equipment. I’d also show them my practice videos. I think all that seriousness eventually won them over.
It wasn’t easy like that. My mum wasn’t fully in support. I’d catch her making a face anytime I told her I was going to do makeup for someone. I’m thankful that things improved. These days she’s always asking whether I have jobs or not.
Lmao. Love it.
Funny enough, the pushbacks I’ve gotten are mostly from external sources; like social media. In 2019, when I started posting my makeup content, while the reception was mostly good, I got one or two negative comments from Twitter and IG. I’ve generally learnt to ignore negative comments and focus on the positives. Sometimes when I’m in public, I see people giving me nasty looks and some of them even point at me.
It’s very exhausting. I struggle with anxiety, and when I get paranoid, being outside can be triggering. Anytime I’m outside, my face is usually covered with a mask and sunglasses so that no one recognises me. When they do, I don’t know how to react: Do they like my video or don’t agree with it? It’s always a struggle trying to figure out what they want and matching their energy. If they like my video, I never know what to say, so I just keep thanking them over and over again.
Did I hear someone say celebrity?
How do you define masculinity?
I really don’t think masculinity is a real thing. I feel like it’s a term that people developed to give something a name. It’s interesting because everyone has different perspectives on what it means to be a man.
For some people, if you try to date a girl and she turns you down, you must chase her. Failure to do this means you’re not masculine enough. Other people believe that if you don’t open the door for your wife, you’re not masculine enough. Honestly, there’s no set in stone definition and everyone can be masculine in their different ways.
Has anything threatened your definition of masculinity?
Yes. One way I define my masculinity is that one man is meant for one woman. I believe that seeing other people outside of your partner is disrespectful. Many times I get pushback because there are quite a number of men who believe that men should date as many women as possible. Some even go as far as saying that it’s not possible for a man to date only one woman. When I try to reverse the script, they get angry and claim their partners are meant for them alone. It’s tedious getting these men to see their double standards. After a while, they always end up saying: “You sure say you be man? You should have just come to life as a woman.”
Lol. It’s fine.
Growing up, did you have role models?
I wouldn’t say I had role models, but I had people who influenced me — my sisters. I remember spending a lot of time in my sisters’ room because that was where I felt I belonged. I liked the way they reacted to stuff, especially their emotional intelligence. I didn’t have male role models because I sensed that the men around me were different from me.
In what ways?
Let’s just say we didn’t agree on some things.
Interesting. What do you think is different about being a man in Nigeria?
You’re not a Nigerian man if you don’t have more than two girlfriends and break women’s hearts. LMAO.
On a more serious note, I don’t think there’s one “single” thing. Whether male or female, we all have our good, bad and ugly sides.
Fair enough. What do you think are some things necessary to live a happy life?
Just be yourself. Live life on your own terms and not for anyone. No matter what you do, people will both love and hate you. Take the good and ignore the bad. In addition to hard work, God should also be a part of your journey because you can’t do it alone. It’s also important to have a source of income. Money is not everything, but it’ll pay your bills and that ensures that you’re not sad.