Our editor – reGina Jane Jere – caught up with the Ghanaian beauty, actress and talk show host Joselyn Dumas, for some frank-talking. Here are snippets: Please do not adjust your screens, the deeply spiritual and uber-talented Joselyn, – IS that beautiful!
On women’s representation, equity and empowerment
I personally don’t think women need to be empowered – we are already empowered. Once you make all these noises and strive to be heard, then you are not empowered. But if you are empowered, you just get things done, you don’t even need to say it. The era of putting women on the back burner is gone! Thank God. Women are excelling in all fields including those that were once just male-dominated – astronauts, engineers – I am not trying to be seen as just a feminist here, but everything a man does, a woman can do, even do it better because we multi-task. Therefore we do not even need to make a noise about being empowered, because we are already empowered. We do not need to be equal to anybody.
My Mum always says, look, the man is the head, the woman is the neck and without the neck, the head is not going to turn anywhere! So why would anybody tell me I am not empowered, I am already because I control the head. Women need to realise the power that we already have within us and use it, we don’t even need to be reminded of that. Our empowerment doesn’t need approval. What we probably need is to work together as a unit. A unit not to fight our men but to complement each other to strengthen our continent.
My Mum always says, look, the man is the head, the woman is the neck and without the neck, the head is not going to turn anywhere! So why would anybody tell me I am not empowered, I am already because I control the head.
What is an ideal African beauty?
Ideal African beauty is that which comes from within. Beauty inside first, the beauty inside you. Going back to my Mum’s words, in the animal kingdom, there is an elephant family and there is an antelope family, and so forth. We can’t all be the same. Regardless of your colour, your size, your shape, your height, you are an African woman and you know you are beautiful. And if you are confident with that and in yourself, it shows on the outside. You don’t need anyone to define who you are, you need to define yourself first and once you do that, whatever anyone else says, it is just music to your ears.
I get a lot of people who say my hips are fake, that I have been wearing fake pads. I have heard all sorts, but you know what, I know who I am. Within me I am confident in whom Joselyn Dumas is. I know I am a beautiful black woman, so whatever anyone else says, I really don’t care because I know me. All of us African women need to instil that in ourselves. Do not let a man, do not let someone else define whom you are. Define yourself first, then even if anyone else has comments, you pick want you want to pick out of it and chuck the rest, because at the end of the day, you know you.
However, someone can also be a beautiful woman, but when she opens her mouth, it’s foul – I don’t think that is a beautiful black woman. Your beauty and how you poise yourself, the way you speak have to complement each other – you have to speak well and also be a good listener, know how and when to speak. At the end of the day, your beauty shows, you don’t even have to say anything.
An ideal African woman is very relative, but importantly, it is whom you define yourself to be, and our beauty is diverse.
In the animal kingdom, there is an elephant family and there is an antelope family, and so forth. We can’t all be the same. Regardless of your colour, your size, your shape, your height, you are an African woman and you know you are beautiful.
On culture and traditions
There is nothing wrong with culture and traditions. They steer us in the right direction, what to do and what not to do. Some of our cultural traditions have held us back as women, but things are changing. You can’t tell me that Ghana of even 10 years ago is the same Ghana of today. Culture also evolves, it does not have to be stringent, it has to go with the times. At the same time, despite being in the Facebook and Twitter generation, we can’t throw some of our values away. There are certain values that I was brought up on that I would still instil in my child – for example not having pre-marital sex, but I would not tell my daughter to get circumcised, or to get fattened up to be eligible for marriage, no no no. But give her values that will give her a healthy mind and the sense to know what is wrong and what is right, so that that sense of knowledge will make her safe, even in cyber space, which is part of the current generation’s lifestyle. We need to have a fine line between western culture and our own culture, and our children need to be taught where and when that line cannot be crossed.
On fake beauty and aspiring to some ideal form of beauty
I think African women are the most beautiful on Earth. But I go back to the story of Esther in the bible. Queen Esther was very beautiful. But before she was sent to the King, she was adorned with stuff, beautiful necklaces, her make-up was flawless, her hair nicely done. So yes, we are beautiful, but we can enhance that. Some women do too much to enhance that, however, and it’s not just African women, but women generally across the world. But once you know you are beautiful the way you are, you don’t need to do too much.
African women do not need to be westernised to look beautiful, we work what we have and we make it look good. It’s all about moderation if you choose to enhance your beauty. Please don’t bleach!!!! We have the most amazing, diverse skin colour tones, just so beautiful and amazing. Let’s keep it that way.
Every now and then I put extensions in my hair. Every now and then I have relaxed my hair, but it’s all about moderation. Don’t go over the top because we are already beautiful.
As part of my beauty regimen, I drink a lot of water, and when I am not on set, I don’t put on any make-up at all. It’s only when I am getting camera ready or am about to shoot a movie that I use make-up. When I am at home, no make-up at all, I just let my skin breath. But what I don’t do is leave the house without mascara, I have to have my mascara and some lip colour – that’s it. For my skin, the only thing I use is shea butter, I live by that, no matter how bad it smells! (laughs). I also eat a lot of vegetables and fruit.
Health and fitness and weight loss
It’s not been easy, wow. I would like to say my Mum brought me up really well. I think I am very grounded. It’s all about mind and body. And when I make up my mind to doing something, I always want to do it right. That’s just the way I am. Having been big five to six years ago, I realised that is not who I wanted to be. Even though I thought that was who I was, I wanted to get healthy and better, so it started from there. I woke up one day and said, “Jocelyn, this is not you, you are too big, you need to work on your weight”. Don’t get me wrong, there are people who are naturally big and those who are naturally small.
My Mum always said that in the animal kingdom there is always going to be an elephant and an antelope, so you need to find where you fit. Definitely I wasn’t the elephant (laughs), so I needed to do something to get to be maybe the lioness or the tiger or somewhere, but of course not the antelope if you know what I mean (laughs)! So I made a conscious effort to change my lifestyle. There were certain things I started doing, I would cut back on calories, no cocktails, no fizzy drinks, I cut back on carbohydrates. I didn’t have enough money to go the gym at the time, so I would walk. I walked and walked.
In the first few months I did a cold turkey – I said, let me see what is actually adding on the weight. So I first cut back fizzy drinks, and I realised within two weeks I lost about 15lbs. Fizzy drinks are actually bad for you, especially as a woman, because we retain salt and fizzy drinks contain sodium. And you do not wanna do that. I also realised that eating carbohydrates after 6pm, they sat around my waist and on my arms. So I said that if I want to eat any carbs, I have to do so before 6 o’clock, after that forget it. It’s all about being disciplined and making that effort in your mind to understand what exactly you want to achieve. That mindset is what has helped me keep the weight off the past six years.
There are times when I am tempted not to be disciplined, but each time I want to put something in my mouth I ask, is this food good for me? It’s all about a mindset, not any fad diet. It’s a lifestyle change – it’s not about wanting to fit into that dress. But it calls for discipline, discipline, discipline – that’s my secret, to be honest, although I also work out in the gym a lot; thank God I can afford to go to the gym now. So working out and eating right is part of my wellbeing and lifestyle now. I do give myself a chocolate treat now and then though… sensibly.
On being sexy and the sex symbol tag
You know what, that’s a tough one. I think every woman should feel beautiful and confident from within and once they feel that way, it shows on the outside – their beauty and sexiness comes out. I think I am a very confident woman. One thing that my grandmother always told me as a child was that every morning after I woke I should look in the mirror and tell myself: “Jocelyn, you are beautiful. You are fearfully and wonderfully made.” So it’s something that I do and tell myself, that I am a beautiful African woman, I am the mother of the earth, and queen of the universe, there is no stopping me. Once you stick that mantra into your being, you will walk out there, and regardless of how you look you are considered to be very beautiful, because you are confident. Remember that if you are not confident with the way you look, it will show.
I would not even call myself a sex symbol to be honest, I just think I am a beautiful black woman and God made me beautiful. And I thank God, my mother, my grandmother for instilling that confidence in me. If people think I am sexy, hey, I take that as a compliment – it’s an amazing compliment.
Acting or talk show hosting?
My first love has always been acting. But being a TV presenter and a talk show host is something that I have always liked doing. When I was a little girl I would pretend to interview my aunties. Being a talk show host also involves some acting as well. My biggest strength is in acting, but I love talking. When I was in school I always got into trouble for talking too much in class. I was made class prefect because my teacher thought that by making me prefect, I would lead by example, but it didn’t work. Motormouth was my thing. I love both talents, but acting is my better strength.
I was brought up in a family where my grandmother was a deaconess. I was brought up to know good and evil and the doctrine of Jesus Christ. I believe I am where I am now, not because I am beautiful or super-talented, because there are so many people out there who are more talented than me, I therefore believe I am highly favoured, and who gives that highest favour – it’s God. So I owe everything and where I am today, to him. There is a God out there who loves and wants to see me do well. I am not perfect, but I always have that little voice in me telling me, “mmmm girl, what you just did is so wrong, you don’t say stuff like that to people”, and that little voice from God keeps me very grounded. Although I am always working on myself, it’s my little guide.
African fashion design
I think we have taken over the fashion world. African fashion design has evolved and is being embraced by the world. It’s not just about the kente, Ankara or bubu, no no. African designers have become so creative that they are not solely using the Ankara, they can use anything that is in trend – leather and all. But as long as I hear that it’s by an African designer, I am good.
TEAM: Dami Oyetade – Photographer; Vientty – Fashion stylist; Imelda Ladebo – Make Up Artist; Adeola Olasebikan – Hair Stylist