Victoria Thomas is an award winning and BAFTA nominated filmmaker who has just made a documentary about Lagosian men who tattoo their lips.
I Believe in Pink will be showing at Beyond Nollywood in London on November 19 as part of the British Film Institute’s Black Star season.
We talked to the filmmaker about the project.
Why did you decide to do a documentary about men who tattoo their lips pink?
It was a very boy-scout always-be-prepared moment. I was on a recce for a fiction film in Lagos but had my camcorder with me. I came across the salon in the market.
Once I observed what they were doing from a distance, I had to talk to them about filming them instead of using their salon as a potential location.
I felt like the story that needed to be heard by someone else other than me. Good thing I have a background in TV news so I am used to shooting on the spot and being an all-rounder. It was an interesting experience and an adventurous way to make a documentary.
Who did you meet or film that touched you most?
We are all products of our environment so I am always drawn to stories of survival. The different ways we cope can be funny, inspiring, tragic or downright disgraceful.
In the world of movies, that makes for good stories. So what drew me to story was the fact that at the heart of it, someone was surviving. Coping! John the salon owner encapsulated the experience of living and working in an African city.
His beauty references were all men like D’Banj and Wizkid.
He is doing business the way he knows how and what the environment facilitates. Everyone around him in that same environment responded with less surprise and intrigue than me. I was an outsider so it was different. To them, it was normal.
Why do you think it’s so important to tell their story? What does it say about masculinity in Lagos?
I like survivors. So in many ways, I like the fact that John does not feel restricted in anyway by resources to pursue his dream. He is interested in beauty and cosmetology and he is going for it and doing it the way he knows how.
His methods are rudimentary but let’s face it, the beauty world is going back to traditional beauty rituals from Africa and Asia, repackaging and selling them at a premium price and with an exotic tag. He is probably on to something with the massage techniques for breast and hip enlargements.
When it comes to masculinity, I think pink lips in some quarters of the local context is associated with manliness. It is interesting because, for me, pink lips implies lipstick which I would equate with feminity. I am not sure that in a country where homosexuality is illegal, men would openly do something that implies anything other than being super macho.
His beauty references were, interestingly, all men like D’Banj and Wizkid. All the magazines they were looking at, to admire the beauty of pink lips, had Caucasian women. They are committed to being good-looking men. And good looks include pink lips.