Life Lessons People

King Women: The 40 million Tara Fela-Durotoye story

King Women, Personality number 2: The face of the Nigerian cosmetic industry, Tara Fela-Durotoye.

Instagram and Youtube today is full of videos of how to apply different shades of make-up. It has become a thing to be a ‘MUA’, to the extent that anyone who can afford a decent colour tool box and a nice hand writing is considering taking up the art.

You almost take the role of a make-up artist for granted, till you listen to the story of she who, as a matter of undeniable fact, defined it in Nigeria.

Tara Fela-Durotoye is just 40 but it has seemed like she has been around forever. In the absorbing episode of Kemi Adetiba’s ‘King Women’, the trained Lawyer tells of how she turned some of the challenges of her childhood – being abandoned by her mother – towards creating her path to an enviable business and introducing credence to a new industry.

‘Half-loaves’ Beginnings

“My father had two wives when I was growing up, my mum wasn’t one of them. So I grew up with two step mothers. I was an only child of my both parents, so everything that I had was a half… I had two step mothers; one fantastic and one who wasn’t so fantastic.”

Determined to get the full loaf in future

“I had to build my own internal strength, I had to build my own internal confidence… I proposed in my heart that my marriage had to work; it had to work as I didn’t want my children to go through same experience that I went through”

I blew a fuse, to bring about truce

“Going into the summer, we had a big fight; it was the first time I actually spoke openly about how I felt. She was insisting on me doing something for her and I got angry because I felt she didn’t deserve what it was she was asking for. For the first time I expressed my anger. My husband was there and for the first time he couldn’t control me… My children were not in the house, so I said all the things I wanted to say to her. I did say hurtful things to her, and she cried; the crying for me was an apology and I took it and embraced it”.

Dad: Proudly Polygamous, but Passionate and Principled

“My father was a very loving dad. I make excuses for his polygamous lifestyle, to say women just loved him. He was very passionate about Nigeria. He worked as a civil servant, a superb civil servant; a man who would travel and return his estacode. He made me proud, and it’s funny that I never held him responsible for anything”

Beginning House of Tara: From Free, then some Fee

“Going into University, friends would say they would like me to do their make-up. And that’s how I started. I was doing it without a fee [but for the Law Dinners] I said I would charge for it and they wear willing to pay. I charged them N500. That was where the idea of the possibility of the service [came]. I got my first job to do the make-up of the Chief of Naval Staff’s daughter, and all her friends were about to get married, or were already in serious relationships where they were going to get married. and I had this number of customers back-to-back-to-back. I bought my kit at N15,000 and my first job,  I was paid N15,000… That’s where House of Tara started.”

The second part of the interview began with the story of transiting from a match-maker, to the match made for the acclaimed life coach and speaker, Fela Durotoye. Frankly, it is better watched than read.

From the romance to the consciously low-attendance wedding, she relates to the near-trauma of her first childbirth, the boredom of sex and the roller-coaster of elation and depression that came with it. All the while, the House of Tara was in it’s formative stage as the budding Lagos empire of the new millennium.

Growing out, to sprout

“We had a landlady was increasing our rent year in year out. At some point she was going to increase it so significantly, and we felt we couldn’t afford it. So I decided to do a survey, where I asked customers where they would like our location to be; 50% wanted us to remain in VI, while the other 50% wanted us to move to Ikeja. That was how we decided to have our first expansion plan”.

Set backs set us up with the right people

“We needed to find money to pay. I remember going to see Mrs Ibukun Awosika; we were asking for N500,000. She said she would call the MD of the bank on our behalf. She did call the MD of the bank, and he called me. It was amazing that he could pick up his phone to call me. So, I went to see him and he said to me; ‘tell me, tell me about yourself, tell me about your business’. I told him about how I started with N15,000. After looking at the accounts to see the discipline, to see the consistency in the deposits, he said to me ‘this is the kind of story that our bank will like to be part of’.

The Big Question, The Bold Request

“Then he asks, ‘but then how much money are you looking for?’. You can’t guess how much I asked for? I asked for N40,000,000. He was shocked!”

Well, he did not give her N40m; on the honour of “a name to protect” they negotiated to begin at 15, which compared to her initial plan of N500,000, is still an outrageously bold move. The name, today, is more than protected. The rest, history.


The transcript for the video has been produced to the best of our ability, with some sentences clipped and abridged. For a complete reflection of the King Women series, visit the YouTube channel for Accelerate TV.

Feature Image: Screenshot from ‘King Women’
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