An Elegant Fashion And Beauty Legend
Dr. (Mrs.) Adebisi Elizabeth Osinsanya (OON), (JP) is the founder of Elegant Twins School of Cosmetology and Clinic. She is also the founder, National Hairdressers’ Association (NASHCO). She shares the story of the 62-year-old school that has grown to become a tertiary institution that awards diplomas and certificates.
DR (Mrs.) Adebisi Elizabeth Osinsanya, (OON); (JP), founder, Elegant Twins School of Cosmetology and Clinic started it all when she established the first school of cosmetology in Nigeria 62 years ago and made beauty the way modern Nigeria knows it today – not just as a look-good affair, but as a source of livelihood. She created the tempo with which the beauty industry has grown and become a part of the financial sector. In those six decades, she set up the Elegant Twins School of Cosmetology as a vocational school, an institution that was to get the government’s approval soon afterwards.
Today, it operates as a tertiary institution, not just with the award of diplomas and certificates to students, but many Nigerians who are seen to be worthy have received fellowships and honorary degrees from the school. It has since gone into partnerships with notable manufacturers of beauty products in other parts of the world to produce for the local market.
The “beauty” of it all is that not only have many hairdressers and other beauty professionals passed through the school, many men and women alike continue to learn at the feet, or through the hands of the legend herself. In this case, as was evident the number of times The Guardian was there; she was busy because she had classes to teach which made an interview difficult.
When she could talk eventually, Mama, as she is fondly called these days – many people refer to her as an institution by herself – says that the school has lived up to the dream she had back in 1953.
“It began as Elegant Twins School of Cosmetology in 1959, in a small way. It opened at 28 Ondo Street, Ebutte Metta West, Lagos. There were 12 students at the time,” she remembers, adding however, that with a rapid growth, they relocated to a bigger compound at 26 Calcutta Crescent, Apapa.
“We trained about 1,481 students between 1959 and 1971. We came to Surulere where we are today from Apapa. The school was approved by then Commissioner for Education and Community Development, Lagos State, the late Chief Adeniran Ogunsanya.”
In 2013, it was with funfair that the institution celebrated 60 years of existence. In retrospect, Osinsanya describes this period as “vintage performance in the practice and education of cosmetology and beauty therapy.” She adds that the climax of the celebration was the institution’s convocation ceremony.
It has been success from the beginning, she reveals, and said that within the first year of existing, the school had been recognised as a member of the Caribbean and Afro-Society of Hairdressers. The school has membership of World Federation Of
Supreme Hairdressers, London. She was accepted in those early days too; it was not recognition handed them on platter, she remembers, adding that the late Professor Alfred Morris who was the President of the World Federation of Supreme Hairdressing Schools, led a delegation, which included the head of the Dutch branch, Mr. S. Verger to inspect the school before approval was given. But the Europeans have been part of the school since those
early days and have been taking part in all their activities ever since, she stated.
There is also Ogee Elegant Twins House of Beauty Products Ltd., which is a marketer of beauty products and hairdressing equipment. “In 1976, Elegant Twins invited Ogee from London, and Colmer from Spain to join us in setting up a company (the first in the country to do so) which would sell these products. The products were launched both in Lagos and Ibadan in 1978, she remembers.
Mrs. Osinsanya wanted to be the best in her profession; she wanted to give hope to those who could not read beyond the basic education. The aim, she said, was to provide additional source of livelihood to graduates who “cherish the value of works of their hands”.
She added: “We understand that everybody cannot be a doctor, a lawyer, an engineer or an accountant. We are proud that we produced first class and outstanding hairdressers throughout West Africa. And among are doctors and these professionals erstwhile considered to be too serious to be concerned with beauty training.
“Our big cities abound with big names in hairdressing and beauty who now run their salons or who work in reputable salons all over the country.
“Since recognition in 1973, we have produced 7,000 graduates; they include students from Sierra Leone, Cameroun, Togo, Ghana and other countries in the sub region.
“The school creates its own hairstyles. Being pacesetters, we follow events in the country to match or commemorate social,
economic as well as political occasions”.
Mrs. Osinsanya published a booklet; Nigerian Traditional and Cultural Hairstyles, a book that contains an array of African
hairstyles made for special nights and great occasions. They were her offering to the Festival of Arts and Culture in 1977. The
offering set the theme of hairstyles for Festac ’77.
The styles were hailed as breathtaking then, and they have made braiding popular among Africans. With these achievements, she did not want to rest on her oars, she says, and added that the next step was to see that hairdressers have respect and recognition in Nigeria.
She subsequently formed the first ever National Hairdressers’ Association (NASHCO) of which she is the Chartered President and Life Matron.
She says that the association has given professionals the confidence to dare to set up business. It has given them a pride of place in a society which believes that erudition is the only way to success, she posited.
When it was pointed out that the explosion of salons may have led to below-the-standard in the practice of some beautician, she referred this reporter to a paper with the title; “The Ethics of Professional Hairdressing: The International Perspective.” The paper was delivered by Joy Phido (SRH), Chief Executive Officer and founder, World of Braiding and Extensions Ltd, United Kingdom.
In the 10-point address, Ms Phido enjoined hairdressers to get professional hair education and training before going into business. She stressed that hairdressing as a specialist field ought to be handled by people who have the requisite skills.
Mrs. Osisanya says the school also organises workshops, seminars and debates for schools of cosmetology in Nigeria to bring them up to date on current skills in the industry.
We understand that everybody
canot be a doctor, a lawyer, an
engineer or an acountant. We are
proud that we produced first class
and outstanding hairdressers
throughout West Africa. And
among are doctors and those
considered to be too serious to be
cocerned with beauty training.
The four walls of her office are lined top to bottom with certificates, plaques and trophies she has won or honoured with over the years. In 2014, the Lagos State Technical and Vocational Education Board honoured her as one of the state’s Enterprise Legacies. Among other contributions, Elegant Twins School is said to have trained students from vocational centres which include Idi Araba Girls Approved, SOS Village, Maranatha School, Kirikiri and Wesley School for Deaf and Dumb.
She won the Gold Trophy and Gold Scissors of European Hairdressing Schools in 1973. She won the Grand Prix Oscar for Enterprise, Spain in 1990. She also won the African Women Achievers Award in 1994.
In 2003, Osinsanya was recognised for the Pioneering and Development of the National Women Conference; the same year she received the honourary Doctorate Degree in Cosmetology from the world Federation of Supreme Hairdressing Schools, London. In 2005, she was decorated with the national award, Officer, Order of the Niger (OON). She has a Life Achievement from the Lagos State government.
She gives Almighty God the credit for all the success she has achieved, including her good health.