Munirat Antoinette Lecky is a Nigerian entrepreneur, model, actress and social media personality, but you all probably know her from her delightful days in the Big Brother Naija house, as Anto Lecky. Born and raised in the U. S. A., Anto is the third child, in a family of five kids. Growing up in a house with three sisters, her love for natural hair was birthed.
Even though she was raised in America, her parents made sure that Anto and her siblings never forget their African heritage. Enjoying the calm comfort of certain American household amenities, like 24/7 power and fast internet, Anto was introduced at an early age, to the West African ways of Nigerian food, prostrating for elders and even bathing with bucket.
With an original mind-set to study Medicine, Anto changed her mind once she started “those difficult” science courses (her words). She later went on to study Sports Science and Business Administration.
Originally from Edo state, Anto moved back to Nigeria when she turned twenty, to do her dream job, in what is a male-dominated industry. With no space for laziness, an avid lover of going to the beach, dancing and cooking, Anto found her way on Big Brother Naija: Double Wahala.
With her Western mentality- being herself, Anto wasted no time growing a considerable, international fan base.
Now a haircare entrepreneur and natural hair enthusiast, Anto Lecky is our cover girl on this month’s edition of The Cover.
Showcasing her craft in a salon/hair care themed photoshoot, Anto posed for pictures and revealed her craft, plans and drive to Accelerate TV.
Watch her delightful interview below:
WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO PARTICIPATE IN BIG BROTHER NAIJA?
“Well, anyone that lives on the African continent, knows that Big Brother is the “biggest” entertainment platform in Africa- plain and simple. People from all over Africa watch Big Brother Naija. (It originates from) our small, little country here, but people have fans in South Africa, Namibia, places that I don’t even know if I would reach in my lifetime, people know me there, so why not?
Big Brother does expose you to the world. But I did have to think about it for a while, because a lot of people view Big Brother like, “see these kids, misbehaving on TV”. That’s the vibe people give of Big Brother, but it’s really not. It’s about what you go into the house to do, and what you decide to take out of the house.
Before I went into the house, I was managing an office of fifteen people, so I wasn’t going to go there and be doing ‘bad girl’ things. I just needed the platform to take me to that next level. #NextLevelThingz.”
SO WHAT WAS YOUR EXPERIENCE DURING THE AUDITIONS?
“There were a lot of people there. I was like number two thousand- and something, I went on Sunday, it usually lasts like two days, and I went on the last day. Thinking ah, I will go on the last day, people would have auditioned on Saturday. I got there by 9 am, and the queue was still up and around.
I waited my turn, and it wasn’t too bad. (It was) Basically like a job interview – who are you? Why are you here? – You know, you sell yourself. I’m used to talking about myself, being able to tell the world who I am, so it was easy, and I made it.”
SO ON THE SHOW, WERE YOU PLAYING A CHARACTER OR WERE YOU YOURSELF?
“I was myself. I think, especially now that we are doing the reunion, everyone’s like, this one was this, this one was that. I think people don’t realise that it is a game. Yes, it is reality TV, but it is a game. You are trying your best to win the game.
As humans, we all have our different selves – we behave one way with our parents and a different way with our pals. So I don’t think, just because we were acting one way, one time, means that’s your real self. At times, you know how to code or bend or, you know… as Nigerians, we know how to react to the situation that we’re in.
I wasn’t always my real self, but most of the time, I was myself.”
WHO IRRITATED YOU THE MOST IN THE BIG BROTHER HOUSE?
“Who irritated me the most? Big Brother. Yes, Big Brother, the voice, the it, the being. You know, when you’re watching the show, you’re entertained by it, and you think to yourself, ‘oh I can do this’, but it is not until you are actually inside the house and you realise, it is madness. It is a mad house.
Imagine you just minding your business and a loud voice comes out of nowhere, telling you to stop what you are doing. It is actual madness. So people expect you to say, ‘this person annoyed me’, but nah, we were all reacting to dealing with people we don’t know, not having our phones, when your upset, you don’t have an outlet, just staring at the “MoFo” that pissed you off. So it is Big Brother, forcing us to do things that we normally wouldn’t do, outside the house.”
WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO NIGERIANS WHO BET IT ALL ON THE BIG BROTHER HOUSE?
“People need to be very cautious with this thing called stardom and fame. It comes with a lot more than what you see on Instagram and Twitter – that is an entertainer’s office, that is our work. Our work is to present ourselves in a certain light. So most people are not going to go on there and be like, ‘oh I am having a bad day’, or ‘I am not making money’.
We just saw the Waje video that came out, she is talking about how she wants to quit music. Yet, people are out there abusing her. She is crying about her craft- something she loves, something that she LOVES, and people are saying, ‘ah why is she crying, when she is not Tiwa Savage, she should work harder’.
What the F does that mean? Just imagine, you are telling people about something you love, but is not going well for you, and they tell you that you should work harder- which kain rubbish be dat? Let’s be frank- in Nigeria- most people are not getting the money they deserve- let’s be for real. Bankers are making 40k, but they are counting other people’s money.
Even in entertainment, we are giving people something that they love, we are literally giving of ourselves. Especially in music, it’s coming from people’s personal experiences- you telling the world your business, and you can’t even bank on it.
Let’s be honest, half of these people that put out so much content, it’s not just because they love it, it’s because they need to keep pushing content to make money. Everyone loves Nollywood because we have ten thousand movies out. One actor, should not have to act one hundred movies in a year to break even. When was the last time Halle Berry acted in a movie? And I’m sure she’s chilling, she is okay. That one movie she made twenty million dollars in, she doesn’t have to act ever again.”
DO YOU THINK THAT THE NIGERIAN ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY IS FLAWED?
“Yes, I definitely do, especially because there is no structure, so everyone has their own rate. Oh, for one hour of performing, I will charge you 1 Million or 350, 000, everyone has their different range.
So people are like, ‘ah if I don’t want to spend 1 Million, then I’ll go to the person that will collect 350, 000’. Instead of just encouraging someone’s craft. Everyone is different, everyone is not going to be fine taking the same rate.
So, when you are trying to build your brand, people are like, ‘ah I am giving you an opportunity now, come and do this thing’. You don’t know how many hours the person has put in the studio, or in acting school or even in the mirror, learning their craft, you have no idea.
So if someone is saying that their value is ‘this’, understand it. If you can’t afford it, then that’s fine, go away, but don’t make me feel like I don’t deserve what I am saying that I deserve, that one won’t work.”
SO, WITH ALL THIS HAPPENING, WHY DO YOU CHOOSE TO COME BACK TO NIGERIA?
“Why did I want to come back to Nigeria? Because the difference between Nigerians and Americans, is that hustling spirit- that is what makes Nigerians, Nigerian. The fact that people wake up in darkness and can still leave their house to hustle, is something most people on this earth, can’t even imagine, talk less of doing.
More than half of Nigeria, is broke. And when I say broke, I mean, zero and they still get up and find a way to go somewhere. It is miraculous. Nigerians are the poster children for an amazing character. You know, forget about our madness, talk about us from the basics.
We do things that most people can’t do, some people will just be at home, crying. But we (Nigerians) just get on with it- which is a good and a bad thing. Because we know how to work in madness, so many people are just not striving for better, and that is the underlying issue.
So yeah, I came to Nigeria, hoping that I can use some of my small book knowledge, some of my small compassion for the world, to help society. It is not easy oh… I would be lying if I said I didn’t want to go back, I think about it all the time. But it is just that I have something inside of me, that sees enough Nigerians that want better.
So let us- that want something good- let’s keep doing our thing. Each day, we will add one more person to our WhatsApp group. We’ll get there in the end.”
WHAT WILL YOU SAY TO THE ‘ELITES’ IF YOU COULD SPEAK DIRECTLY TO THEM, RIGHT NOW?
“I think it is a basic thing- are you proud to be a Nigerian?”
TALK TO US ABOUT YOUR HAIR PRODUCTS.
“My baby, my child. Growing up, I always loved hair. In my house, it was like, four girls- plus my mum. We just always did our hair. Back then I used relaxers, braids, weaves, the whole thing, we just did hair. I always had long hair, and even my friends wanted long hair, I don’t know what brainwashed us into thinking that long hair is IT, but we all wanted long hair.
There was a time my mother cut my hair, I was crying, ‘oh I don’t have hair anymore’, because hair has been something that has just always been in my life you know. Some people are bald, and bald is fine. There are plenty of bad, bald, b*tches out there.
But I didn’t really realise the importance of haircare until my hair began to break off. The fact that it is more than just the products you use, or the style, it is more about your lifestyle that affects your hair. I was in my first or second year of university, stressing out, not doing so well in school, guys were worrying my head, you know the whole thing, and my hair started to break off.
I was like, ‘this long hair, is no longer here’, what happened? That is when I became more invested in my hair and taking care of it. Luckily there was a hair school not too far from my university, so that is where I used to go, to get my hair done. One, it was cheaper, and two, the teachers around would be teaching their students, and I would also be listening. That’s when I realised that this hair thing, this is me, I love it, and I knew, one day for sure, I wanted to have my own line of hair products, or own a hair salon, it is just something I knew I wanted to do.
At first I started doing my own formulations and researching different oils and products and how best to do things, and then, everyone was doing the natural thing, so I was like, ‘let me try it’. I tried it, and I went right back to using relaxer. Then I ended up trying it again, and since then, it’s been seven years and I’m still holding on.
People would tell me, ‘oh your hair is so nice’, but I just knew I had hair. I mean, I like hair, I like hairstyles, but I didn’t really realise that people have different hair styles and hair struggles, so it was more about trying different things, learning more about products and coming to the realisation that this is what I really, really want to do.
So of course now that I had the Big Brother platform, I was able to launch my entrepreneurial self, so I saved some money. But I knew I didn’t know how to do it, so I looked for a partner. My partner is Tara, she has her own business, been around for years, she has her stores, products, etc.
At first, I wanted to do it solo, but I needed someone who understood it. She was telling me how things were going- showing me invoices and bills, I was like, ’ah I have money, but not that much money’. Just in learning what I wanted to do, she decided that we partner up.
That’s how we launched. It has been an experience. One is that, I am an entrepreneur now, I don’t have the 9 to 5 anymore, so every hustle is the hustle, looking for money- left, right, centre, everywhere. But at the end of the day, you are launching something, so I have learnt that it is not just based on the hype, or that, I am Anto from Big Brother with the nice hair. It is more of, the actual strategy. Is your product actually good? Is it worthwhile? Who is going to buy it? What are you doing to convince people to buy it?
Lots of times, people say, ‘oh we’re sold out’, and everyone thinks that it is selling out, that is the key. Me, my product has not sold out, why, because it was manufactured in China. An actual chemist came up with the formulations, all the way down to the precise ingredients and packaging of the product. I consider it as a luxury product. I want people to see my product and see that it looks as good as the moisturizers and conditioner’s from “the abroad”.
We know that with a lot of Nigerian products, they may feel good, but the packaging alone is not… I just wanted something that looked sexy. We shipped everything from China, and because of their MOQ (Minimum Order Quantity), for hair products, we brought in about two thousand. So, unless you are a Kylie Jenner, you are not going to sell out.
I may be exposing someone’s business, but the reason people say that they have sold out is because they have made five hundred products max. But no one was hitting one thousand. If you are hitting one thousand, you definitely belong to the Kardashians. So yeah, I’m definitely selling, but we haven’t hit the one thousand mark. But one day, I believe that we will.”
WHAT WILL YOU SAY TO YOUNG PEOPLE THINKING ABOUT QUITTING SCHOOL AND BECOMING AN ENTREPRENEUR LIKE YOU?
“Stay focused on your studies. I won’t lie- finish school. Even if you don’t want to go through the whole thing, ending up studying electrical engineering, have something on paper. Where we are in Nigeria, you need an education. You can still be a creative and go to school. You can still do music and go to school. It may not be as easy, but please, have something to fall back on.
We are hopeful that Nigeria will get somewhere, but we don’t know. So let’s look on ground today, have a back-up plan, do that NYSC, even our artists are doing NYSC now- are they stupid?”
Check out more photos of Anto Lecky in the slides above.
By Timayo Ogunro