Mother pursues American dream through fashion, works with Beyoncé

Azeezat Abiola Amusat, 42, is an award-winning, Nigerian fashion designer and make up specialist who designed pieces for critically-acclaimed films such as Beyonce’s Black is King and Eddie Murphy’s Coming to America 2. Amusat designs ‘gele,’ a fashionable headscarf with unique designs worn traditionally by African women at weddings, birthdays, and religious events. “Everybody wants to meet the ‘gele’ lady, the Yoruba lady that ties Beyoncé. Once people see me they say, that's her, she did that,” Amusat said. Chris Torres/The Signal
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Azeezat Abiola Amusat is originally from Lagos Island in Nigeria, but moved to Santa Clarita to pursue the American dream of prosperity and opportunity for her and her family.  

Amusat, 42, was one of seven children and grew up with a sense of determination instilled in her by her parents. She would go to college and obtain a bachelor’s degree in philosophy. Additionally, she would join the Nigerian National Youth Service Corps to help the country’s development. 

After winning a diversity visa lottery, Amusat moved to California and initially went into nursing, focusing on hospice care.  

“I take care of old people, people dying, from one house to another, and I have a relationship with all my patients,” Amusat said. 

The job can be stressful and overwhelming, so she chose to go out and dress up in Nigerian fashion for a party one day. When she paid for a woman to do her gele she was surprised by the rude customer service and vowed to learn the technique. 

Azeezat Abiola Amusat, 42, is an award-winning, Nigerian fashion designer and make up specialist who designed pieces for critically-acclaimed films such as Beyonce’s Black is King and Eddie Murphy’s Coming to America 2. Amusat has won multiple awards for her contribution to the African culture including ‘Hollywood Signature’ from the American Film Awards and will be receiving an award for Nigerian cultural ambassador of the year. Chris Torres/The Signal

A gele is a fashionable headscarf worn traditionally by African women and they often have unique styles and designs. The outfits are worn for weddings, birthdays, religious events and a night on the town.  

It’s normal to see many African women have uniformity in dress and gele design, similar to matching bridesmaid dresses. 

“Most of the time they have a uniform, for example, they might have 50 pieces of fabric, and they will sell it out to their friends with everybody designing it so it’s to their own tastes,” Amusat said. “They will hire me as a designer to come and dress everyone’s gele.” 

Amusat had to learn how to design and organize the geles, eventually getting to a level of success she was comfortable with achieving. She kept improving and working on her craft through her positive attitude and encouragement.  

The uphill battle of juggling taking care of three kids, a husband, a mother and working multiple jobs never stopped Amusat, who said gele designing is a passion of hers that keeps her putting energy into the work she loves. 

“If you love it, you will not give up, that’s what has given me joy today because I never gave up, because that’s what I’d love to do,” Amusat said. 

The determination to succeed and persevere was always a part of Amusat. She said her parents pushed her and her siblings to be educated because of the many opportunities that would open up for them. She said that you couldn’t be cheated because you’re educated and can succeed on your own. 

Amusat’s business was like many businesses that experienced disruption and financial hardships due to COVID-19. The lack of community parties to showcase the gele fashion hurt many business owners like Amusat. 

When people were no longer allowed to have social events, many began calling Amusat for photo shoots. The photo shoots included birthdays, Christmas and other holiday themes. 

Amusat said she appreciated the business and always remained optimistic about God’s plan for her. Finally, doors would begin to open for Amusat, who never gave up hope. 

It took a chance opportunity from Atinuke, owner of Lagos Fashion in Los Angeles, where Amusat goes to purchase her fabric. Atinuke would recommend Amusat to people looking for help with authentic geles, and on this occasion it was a film production that needed help. 

“They went to one of the African stores where they can buy the African wraps, in preparation for the video shoot. They called me at midnight and said, ‘We needed somebody to do the work,’ and that was how they contacted me.” 

When Amusat arrived at the set, she thought it would be an interview process, but they put her straight to work. The filming was for “Black is King,” a Disney musical film starring Beyoncé. 

Amusat described Beyoncé as gorgeous, humble and a dedicated worker; it was always a wish for Amusat to meet Beyoncé, and she accomplished that goal while working on the film. Additionally, Amusat has contributed to Eddie Murphy’s “Coming to America 2” and has work featured in an exhibit at UCLA, where she presented the cultural legacy of the gele.  

“Everybody wants to meet the gele lady, the Yoruba lady that ties Beyoncé. Once people see me, they say, that’s her, she did that,” Amusat said. 

Amusat, who has won multiple awards for her work, is excited to continue growing her business and push the African diaspora culture forward to a level that all can learn and appreciate. She remains positive and humble and appreciates how the opportunities have unfolded. 

Amusat’s mother, Alimot Shadiak Ashubiaro Amusat, is proud of her daughter for working hard and pursuing her dreams, and she often tells her family back home how successful her daughter has become with her business of passion.  

“I told my family and they are very happy about that,” Alimot said. “She’s been taking our family names higher every day.” 

You can contact Amusat through her business Abiola Beauty Concept at 818-290-9443 or via email at [email protected] 

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