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Hidden Millionaire by Becky O. Peleowo

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I accompanied Maami to my cousin’s wedding on her insistence that I should reduce my digital presence and pay attention to “urgent” matters. My cousin, Kiki is getting married at 28. Kiki, a fresh graduate has no job but her would-be affluent husband would take full responsibility for her needs. That was what mattered more in Maami’s eyes. I also needed to prove to our extended family that I was not an Ashewo, the classified prostitute every one of them thought I was. I didn’t refuse Maami’s request because it was hopeless to do so. Even a widely acclaimed attorney would not win an argument against her.

For Pete’s sake, why would my own family think I am a prostitute? Is it a crime to be a millionaire? Is it wrong to work from home rather than prance about town like a hunted gazelle? Or does driving a Lexus RX 350 and dishing out highly competitive content on social media make one a prostitute? What about being an author, a blogger, a TikTok queen and a social media influencer? I worked hard to earn my keep. Maybe Maami was right; Many Nigerians like to hear a simple-name profession. You have to be a doctor, a lawyer or a what-the-world-wants-me-to-be.

I feel for Maami as I thought of her trying to defend her 40-year-old single-mum daughter that earns enough to buy a home on the Island in a classy metropolitan like Lagos. I imagine her trying to explain to her untutored circle of friends that her daughter made her money from writing and making videos that promote adverts for companies. I imagine her trying to explain how much effort I put into these videos, how frequently I study late into the night and how tasking replying to followers’ comments can be. Perhaps Maami needs to change her social circle to suit the changing times.

Sitting on a decorated chair in the wedding hall with one of the flowers stands almost touching my head, I reminisced on how I started my journey to financial freedom. I used to be that jobless mother of one who had her CV in almost every organisation until one of the employers told me I was unemployable. What! Why?

He said I lacked modern skills that could get me a decent job. I felt lost. I had grown up with criticism all my life. Body shaming and bullying were two monsters that tormented me until I discovered the route to self-esteem and self-development.

I was born with bulging eyes that appear to be falling off their sockets when I spoke. In secondary school, I was always by myself because I did not want to be an object of ridicule to my friends. In my University days, I wore dark shades under the pretext of a sight defect just to ward off unpleasant comments. My sisters would call me “fish eyes” when I annoyed them. My mum would ask me why I was not as plump and curvaceous as my sisters. She would fret and lament how difficult it would be for me to find a man but now, I rock my “sexy eyes” and my petite figure like America’s next model as Donald would call them though I was closer to the floor in height.

I looked around to see if Donald had arrived. He is my world and I am already feeling bored at the frivolities that clouded a typical Nigerian party. I anticipated Donald’s arrival with impatience. When I met Donald, I found out that there was finally one person who saw things differently from the scrutinizing eyes of the world. Everyone, including my son’s father, saw a skinny, unattractive woman who had no hope of making it on her own. My sisters used to tell me how lucky I was to have attracted my ex. Later I discovered he only wanted to marry me to process his visa to the United States and then he broke off the engagement and never returned, leaving me with an unborn baby.

Donald saw a light in me that no one else saw. His first comment about my beautiful eyes still rings in my head and endears him to me. That he made me an independent woman and coached me into the creator economy was another reason Donald meant much to me. When we first met, I was shocked at how such a young guy could be so rich. He was a lab scientist but also a social influencer. He introduced me to digital marketing, then life coaching on Youtube and making content on TikTok. Currently, the best of our income comes from a partnership with companies on product advertisement and getting paid as social influencers. We created content on relationships, our daily life, health and many other topics that targeted the younger generation. Donald and I have been on for four years now and Maami thinks he might leave me for a younger woman soon. After all, why would a 35-year-old man dot on a 40-year-old woman with a child?

“Wine, Ma’am?” A young dude carrying a tray of drinks flashed his teeth at me in the corner where I sat hoping that one of my followers would not recognise me.

“Thanks,” I said, ruminating why the usher seemed jittery. I am not a celebrity, wait, maybe I am a digital one.

“I should thank you!” He said beaming with smiles.

“Why?” I replied

“Your content on TikTok is inspiring.”

“Really?”

“Yes Ma’am!”

“I follow you on Youtube and Instagram too. You’re Ewa from Ashes, right? I follow Don success too. I mean your boyfriend.”

“Oh, thanks!” I gave a humble smile hoping the young chap would disappear before a family member appeared. Where on earth was Maami who wanted me to socialise and get a husband on time?

“What’s happening here?” Maami always showed up when you needed her most.

“Just one of my fans from the social sphere.” I turned to the youth, “If you don’t mind, I need to speak to my mum.” The usher left reluctantly but not without getting my contact.

“Ewa, these boys are younger than you. They are only after your money.” Mama Balogun, a long distant relative gave her unsolicited opinion eyeing me suspiciously. Maami gave her a silencing reply before I could speak but I refused to be shushed.

“Aunty, it’s one of my fans.” I try to educate her rather than explain but her countenance showed she would rather believe the lie in her head so I gave up.

Hours passed and the whole wedding drama seem to have been staged against me until the bride had to throw her bouquet. All the members of the bridal train and every eligible spinster lined up to catch the colourful floral piece. I watched with disinterest until I noticed that the bride walked past the bevy of ladies and instead of throwing her bouquet, gave it to me.

“Sister Ewa, it’s your day too.”

“Excuse me…” I started to protest when Donald came from nowhere to pop the special question, “Will you marry me, Ewa?

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