In 2016, 27-year-old breadseller, Olajumoke Orisaguna, a mother of two, was pounding the streets, carrying her wares on her head, eking a living to save her family from starvation.
Unawares, Jumoke walked into a street photo shoot and was caught in the background. While editing the pictures later, photo-journalist TY Bellow was so smitten by the breadseller's photogenic beauty that she determined to find her.
Ms Bellow posted the picture on instagram and successfully tracked Jumoke down and offered her a job as model. This the beginning of an inspiring rag-to-riches story that has held Nigerians spellbound for years. Fans couldn’t get enough of her, and hope spread among desolate millions in the streets that one day their luck will change.
The picture of Jumoke that made her famous
Because her parents were too poor to send her to a formal school, Jumoke had trained as a hairdresser. In 2010 she met and married a craftsman, but their combined income wasn’t adequate to feed their two children. To haul the family out of appalling straits, she moved from Osun to Lagos, with one of her daughters, to work in a bakery. It was hard work, on foot each day with a tray laden with loaves of bread on her head. Yet, come rain or shine, she kept a smile on her face.
On the afternoon that changed her life Jumoke was walking past people talking pictures; unconcerned, she smiled and hurried on, calling for customers. Little did she know that Lady Luck saw her.
She has since become a runaway success, yet she remains inwardly unaffected by it, humble and straight talking. Her reality TV show is filled with great street wisdom and is the darling of YouTubers.
In one of the episodes, she spoke with her usual frankness of the shocking things she had seen on social media, things like a man getting married to a man and a woman marrying another woman. With the candidness of a child she expressed her amazement at what seemed utterly “unNigerian” and unthinkable.
She was simply expressing her opinion, she isn’t a lettered woman, and besides, as philosophy professor Peter Kreeft of Boston College has said, “There are certain falsehoods that you need a PhD to believe.”
Yet, the floodgates of hate and cyber bullying were immediately flung wide open and attacks on her person and family began. Orchestrated and led by a Ghanaian self proclaimed transsexual who continues to smear her, intent on ruining her, and getting her blacklisted by modeling companies.
Not satisfied with trying to hound her from her job, they have turned on her husband and marriage, spreading vicious rumours that she was sleeping with other men and disrespecting her husband.
Yet, come hell or high water, Jumoke is refusing to succumb to threats, and continues sharing her hard gotten wisdom with Nigerian youths, who adore her. And she is not all talk, often swinging into action when she comes across women in dire straits. She recently convinced her promoters to intervene and build a house for an aged woman she saw being evicted from her home.
Yet, young people had best remember that Jumoke’s success wasn’t entirely of her own making. “Lady Success” lent a hand whilst she was busy with her ordinary work selling bread, for love of her husband and children.
How true, as someone said, that true success is really carrying out the duties of everyday and the little things of each day well, with a smile if possible and always elegantly. For it is along the ordinary paths of life that we meet our destiny.
The fact is that Jumoke's success is an unlikely story for millions of indigent youths. A rare combination of luck and the goodness of a relentless photo-journalist had made her what she is today, and many Nigerians may never have such luck. They should not be disheartened, however, but continue working well at whatever job they can get and throwing in a smile along, even if their work is never acclaimed in this life. It will still be a path to happiness.