Esther Otomi: “Hair is my art. Your hair is your crown, you are royalty.”

Esther Otomi, the 27 year old known on Instagram as GameOfFros, which gets its reference from the popular HBO TV series, is steadily making a name for herself in the world of natural hair care in Nigeria. Rising from the city of Calabar to styling the likes of Arit Okpo in Lagos, the self taught stylist who likens her art to “a game helping Queens fix their crowns”, is an image of what dedication and consistency looks like.

INTERVIEWER

Have you always been into natural hair care, and if not, what were you doing before you delved into it?

ESTHER OTOMI

I wasn’t always into hair. What I had was basic knowledge, from having to braid your mother’s hair. Never did I think of it as a profession. It started with choreography which I studied in my first degree after which I picked up photography. I was obsessed. It was all I knew how to do, all I was interested in, all I wanted to ever do. Then I went ahead with my masters which was in media studies. Class schedules didn’t allow me travel as much as I used to for filming and documentaries. Having happy fingers, my hands were always in my hair trying to create something. It caught the attention of people to my surprise. Here we are today!

INTERVIEWER

Why did you make the decision to you go into natural hair care? And how did you learn what you do?

ESTHER OTOMI

I believe every hobby is profitable if you develop a business model behind it. I believe if you’re good at what you do, you have passion, drive, you have done your research into how businesses are run, you know about customer service, you understand your environment, you have a few good friends who are supportive and structure your customer policy, you’re ready! I spent a lot of my time and money watching youtube videos. I created and tried to recreate. In an age and time where knowledge is at your fingertips, there are no excuses. I’m not big on replication. It’s a dent on my creativity. If I cannot imagine and remodel or restructure, I shouldn’t consider myself creative. And yes, I am 100 percent self taught.

INTERVIEWER

I’m aware of your recent move to Lagos. What inspired that move?

ESTHER OTOMI

Relocating to Lagos was the best decision I made. I needed more, to grow, to experience new people, to take on new challenges. I don’t want to be caught doing one thing every time. I get bored if I find myself doing particular set of hairstyles. For this to happen, I needed to move to a more populated environment with healthy economy. Most of all, it was becoming a ‘comfort zone’. Comfort zones are traps, a dark place that many do not survive.

INTERVIEWER

What inspired the OLORI hairstyle, and how did you realise you were on to something with the style?

ESTHER OTOMI

The OLORI hairstyle came to mind one afternoon when I was sitting around doing nothing. I thought let’s do something different. Enough with all the cornrows, twists, crochet. A detour. With one mirror in front of me and one behind, it started. I got compliments surprisingly. It didn’t come across as old-fashioned. It was a fresh thing to see amidst the weave culture. I realise that was onto something when I saw another stylist tried to replicate my work. I felt flattered that somebody would like what I do enough to try to replicate it. As the artist that I am if I can create this I can recreate it which is why OLORI can look different in 20 ways on 20 different people.

INTERVIEWER

I’ve seen pictures of the Olori hairstyle and how intricately woven it is, however, what would you say differentiates it from the traditional thread (Kiko) hairstyles?

ESTHER OTOMI

The technique is basically what the Yorubas call ‘kiko’ (threading) but a lot of work goes into creating the OLORI hairstyle. It starts from the partings. I am obsessively compulsive when it comes to hair partitioning. The difficult part is creating intricacy. Like a photographer, you must see the end result of what the hairstyle would look like before starting because that would inform how you part, which depends on the person’s facial proportion, and personal style. Some like it dense, some like it high up, some like it backwards, some like is simple or super intricate, some like circular, boxed, or triangular partings. To each his own.

The OLORI hairstyle. Courtesy: GameOfFros
INTERVIEWER

How do you meet up with demand?

ESTHER OTOMI

Our mode of operation is strictly home services based on appointments. I do have help. I try not to overwork myself. Meeting up with demands isn’t really a problem. I have found both a niche and a balance in my career and social life.

INTERVIEWER

What other services do you offer? Do you intend to own a physical space soon?

ESTHER OTOMI

We offer hair styling services. We do not offer salon services such as a washing, treatments or colouring. All our potential clients are informed in detail of our policy before date reservations are made. A look at our page, you’ll surely would notice long term protective hairstyles as our forte. Every customer wants their money’s worth. We are 100% open to editorial shoots, collaborations and movie productions.

INTERVIEWER

What does the future hold for Game of Fros?

ESTHER OTOMI

Game of Fros is going global. We envisage a future where natural hair would be cared for much more than we care for our weave, a future where natural hair is considered normal and acceptable (both in social and corporate circles), not a fashion trend.