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Friday, 2 August 2013

Laila Jean - ‘At 60, I Still Get Overtures From Men’

Pretty, charming and passionate Laila St. Matthew-Daniel turned 60 on February 14, 2013. Her children organised a surprise praise-worship and breakfast at Four Points Hotel, Victoria Island, Lagos.

Laila is a woman of many parts who delights in touching the lives of people and changing them for the better. She is a life coach, emotions therapist, a trainer for peak performance and one who doesn’t stomach any form of violence against women and youths. She truly embodies all that makes for a woman.


Even at 60, the mother of four daughters, including Funke Kuti, reveals that she doesn’t feel different at her age, but opines that the fear of becoming less attractive scares some women about aging. And guess what! She still gets overtures from men, but her skill in diversionary tactics gives her an edge as the overtures are turned into brotherly friendship. Excerpts:

What else do you hope to achieve in life?

I intend to consolidate my NGO, ACTS Generation that caters for marginalised women and at-risk youths, especially in the areas of domestic violence and abuse. It is my intention, if finance is available, to have a holistic centre that will offer succour to women in need of emotional, spiritual and physical rehabilitation. It will be a reference centre for healing to make a total person. As a Life Coach and Emotions Therapist, I intend to offer empowerment coaching directed at the women entrepreneur.

What are the secrets of your youthful look?

The grace of God in my life is the secret of my look. I also try to keep good thoughts and rarely think evil of anyone. I always give people a chance to prove any negatives I hear about them. I rarely judge, keep malice or bear grudges because these things eat you up inside. I speak my mind and that is that. Also, when you try to avoid ageing, age catches up with you, but when you treat age with disdain and embrace it, it keeps its distance

Do you feel special being born on Valentine’s Day?

No, I don’t. Just as people born on festive days like Christmas day, Easter day, etc., you find that you only really celebrate your birthday, while other people have two celebrations. People sometimes joke that being born on valentine day, I must have had a lot of love. Not quite, I have my own story about that.

What does love mean to you and how do you demonstrate love towards other people especially on February 14?

Love is the very essence of our being. God is love and we are created in His own image. That is why when love is missing, a human being is not whole at all. My way of demonstrating love is to show care at all times – not just on valentine day. Love is a 24-hour, 365-day expression of being.

You have four daughters, do you feel like you are missing anything without a son?

No way! I love my daughters and don’t miss having a son.

What kind of experience do you have growing up?

Growing up was quite interesting because I encountered different kinds of emotions that have moulded me to being who I am now-love, rejection, pain, and wisdom. My immediate family is loving, caring and very supportive in all ways. I love them dearly.

If you have the chance to go back in time, what are the things you would do differently?

My encounters have made me who I am today and I love whom I am and what I am. So, I would not do things differently. The only thing I would have changed was my course of study. At the age of 7, I told my grandmother that I would be a lawyer, to fight for her if anyone disturbed her and to fight for other people too. Due to some diversionary interference, I went on to do Business Studies and later Project Management/Furniture Manufacturing. But, really and truly, I’m fulfilling that childish prophecy. Isn’t that what I am doing now? Fighting for those who do not have a voice and empowering people to become all they want to be.

In your opinion, what do you think scares women about getting older?

Different strokes for different women, but I believe it might be the fear of being less attractive. A woman is a creation of beauty both within and external. But most of us don’t realise that it is your within that controls the outer you which people see. I feel compassion for women who feel a need to dress or act far younger than their age rather than enhance their beauty, such behaviour accentuates their age.

It also shows there is a void and lack of confidence in who they really are. The wrinkles and the little bit of sag are your battle scars of life that shows you are still standing despite all. This confidence is what radiates, as you get older and you have your own personal swagger that says, “I know that I am older but I love who I am. So, take me as I am, wrinkles, etc.” After all, even men lose their youthful look as they age and expand, but they are not scared of getting older. Younger women admire women who are not in obvious competition. They look up to them for mentoring in various areas. I have quite a few lovely younger women of all ages around me. My confidence attracts them to wanting to tap into the knowledge there
As a pretty woman, do you still get overtures from men and how do you handle them?

Yes, I do, but I set boundaries. We are human beings and made for companionship but when you know your limits, you stay out of dangerous zones. At this age, I am skilled at diversionary tactics – turning the overtures into brotherly friendship.

How do you relax?
I love reading and writing and I enjoy my own company. A lot of times people get into emotional scrapes because they don’t know how to be alone with themselves.

What other things interest you as a person?
People. I love watching people and working with them. I enjoy deciphering people – their moods, their actions, their acting out and their pretenses.

What do you think every mother should know about raising children in this generation?
With the onslaught of all kinds of negative media and TV reports and films, mothers should try to find the time to talk with their kids, to bond with them. In trying to exist in this fast-paced age, financial goals are being put foremost and the bonding time has taken last place. Values and morals are not taught in the classroom, but at home.

You can’t say one thing and do another. Children are very perceptive and intuitive. Left on their own without guidance, they experiment with all kinds of things and being young, most times can’t really interpret the far- reaching ramifications of their actions. They need to be guided but with love. Love is the foundation of character building. Without love, children grow up dysfunctional and become problems to themselves, their profession, their future partners and the society too.

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