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ANTO LECKY | FROM NIGERIA TO THE USA

May 4, 2020

Read the full interview on Flaunt.com!

Anto Lecky is far more than a reality television star or actress, she’s an entrepreneur in her own right. You may have seen her on Season 3 of Big Brother Nigeria, or most recently in movies Besieged and Dear Affy, but the Nigerian entertainer proves she’s just getting started. With a platform of over 908K followers on Instagram alone, she proudly wears her roots on her sleeve giving hope to the masses that they too can turn their dreams into a reality.

Real name Munirat Antoinette Lecky is a huge role model when it comes to education alone, obtaining her BA and not one, but 2 Masters degrees. Her background is actually in sports marketing, moving to Nigeria in 2016 and getting her start working for the first ever Pan-African basketball league as Head of Operations. Her biggest passons to date include health and wellness, sports, education, and women’s affairs.

Fast forward to 2020, the 30-year-old has her own haircare line and creative strategy company called Room 22 Agency, primarily focused on event management. As a model, she was recently featured in an exclusive pictorial styled by Angela Qehaja (Bella Hadid, Carine Roitfeld, Matte Projects, Philipp Plein) and shot by photographer Ritchie King (Cardi B, Taylen Biggs, Nike).

When it comes to her personality, she describes herself as “crazy, sexy, and cool.” Flaunt Mag caught up with Anto who was quarantined in Nigeria to discuss her upbringing in the States, shooting Big Brother Naija, her 3 businesses, the importance of mental health, and more!

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Born and raised in New Jersey to Nigerian parents, what was the household like growing up?

I’m 100% a Jersey girl. Even though I’m in Nigeria now and I’ve assimilated to the culture, I’m still a Jersey girl. I’m bilingual because my parents definitely tried to raise us very Nigerian-ish. I’ve met lots of people who were raised by Nigerian parents in America, their parents don’t really tell them about what happened when they were growing up. A lot of Nigerian kids don’t even eat Nigerian food or listen to Nigerian music, but my house was basically Nigeria in Jersey City.

We listened to Nigerian music, watched Nigerian movies, ate Nigerian food.

My parents were part of a Nigerian organization so every month, they’d meet with other Nigerians and talk. Us kids, we’d hang out. My parents did a great job of trying to keep us very Nigerian, which made it easy for me to transition here. I didn’t feel so out of place because I knew what to expect when I went to Nigeria. Having Nigerian parents but growing up somewhere like Jersey, I always say that Nigerian parents don’t know how to raise American kids.

Why do you say that?

I grew up in the hood. Kids were wearing Jordans, Timbs, Pepe, those fly things. My parents weren’t interested in spending $100, $200 on sneakers. That wasn’t what they wanted to do, but that’s what all my friends were doing. I was definitely: “oh, that’s our African friend. Oh, Anto’s not going to be able to come out because her parents won’t let her go out.” They definitely still raised us like Nigerians in Jersey, so it was a battle. [laughs]

With all that you do, what was your first passion? 

I wanted to be a dancer. I really wanted to be a ballerina, like a hip-hop ballerina. When I was younger, this girl with red hair used to play violin in all the rap music videos. I wanted to be that. I wanted to be a ballerina who still dances in hip-hop videos. That was my actual dream, but my Nigerian parents were not about that. They’re like “girl, I didn’t come all the way from Nigeria for you to be dancing. You gon’ learn this math and learn this science.”

My realistic goal was to become a cardiovascular surgeon, all the way through high school. In high school, I actually started running track. I started working with the basketball team. In my mind, I also liked sports management so I was battling between sports and medicine. At university, I was still on the medicine path. I started taking physics, chemistry, biology, I thought “this isn’t it for me.” [chuckles] So I switched to the sports side.

Talk about getting 2 Masters degrees and how important education is.

Getting a bachelors was like a high school degree, you need to get a Masters. I needed the Masters because I wanted to work in sports. I knew I needed to get more experience to get my dream job, so I applied to a bunch of schools with great sports management programs. I attended the Devos Sports Business Management Programme. The best thing was it’s a dual masters program, automatically you can go and get 2 Masters.

I chose that program because it had a sports management degree, also it has the MBA. Once you have the MBA, you’re good to go. I picked that program because they had a focus on social causes. Yes, I wanted to be in sports. I loved sports. I loved Lebron James, MJ, Kobe (rest in peace). But the main reason I loved sports was because of how sports made us feel. When we talk about our favorite athletes, we talk about them like they lived with us. Love them like they’re our best friends. Sports hold something deeper than the average business, so I was very interested in the social aspects of sports. We talked a lot about how sports can shape and move societies.

Your IG bio says Entrepreneur, what are all the business endeavors you currently have?

I co-own 3 companies. After I was on Big Brother Naija, I became a public figure. I tapped into all the dreams I always had, things I wanted to do. I love everything hair. As you can see, this is my natural hair. Even going from University of North Carolina to college, I always knew I wanted to do hair care. That’s been the ultimate dream. I wanted to own a salon, hair products. Once I got a little bit of money, I found a partner and we decided to launch a hair care line: the Anto LeckyxTaries Hair Builder. On Big Brother, lots of people loved my hair. They’re like “what do you do for your hair? I don’t have edges, I want my hair to be long. What can I do?” I’m like “this is definitely it.” Now I know that people actually want to take care of their hair, so I invested my money and said “here we go, we’re going to do this hair thing.”

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I also have a creative strategy and event management company, Room 22 Agency. In Nigeria, events are a big business. Everyone loves weddings, everyone loves parties. Everyone loves to have a good time. Even from university, I was always part of the social club. I was the person who’d organize the events, organize the hangouts, plans all my friends’ trips. I thought “let me use what I do for fun and turn it into a business.” Now I’ve been planning baby showers, bridal showers, weddings.

A spin off that, we also have a gifting and souvenir company O’Compatriots. If you want to get the perfect birthday gift, the perfect gift for a client, the perfect corporate gift, that’s what we do. That’s my entrepreneurial side. I’m also an actress, a media personality. Trying to do everything.

How do you balance everything?

Luckily for me, I had a corporate career. I’m used to being organized, doing schedules, having agendas. Even though I don’t go to an office anymore, I still keep that office mentality. I wake up, I know what I need to do, and I try to keep it going. Of course, you hire people to help you when you can’t. [laughs]

What’s been the wildest memory shooting Big Brother Nigeria?

With any reality TV show, every season is different tasks, different challenges. My season was the first season where they can vote back an evicted housemate. I was actually evicted, but then viewers voted me back in. It was almost a rebirth. I left during the 7th week, then they voted me back in and I ended up going all the way to the semi-finals. It’s great to be one of the first people to ever be voted back in. It made me a lot more popular. [laughs]

How does that show compare to the States?

Nigerian Big Brother is a million times more insane than American Big Brother. Nigerian Big Brother is on a television channel dedicated to Big Brother, so it’s 24 hours a day versus the one day a week. They see everything. They see us in the bathroom. Every argument, every challenge, every meal, they’re able to watch.

That’s why Nigerian Big Brother is so popular, why so many of us leave the show and become celebrities or superstars. People really feel like they know us, they watched us. They saw us wake up, brush our teeth, make breakfast, do all the challenges. The fans feel very invested. Because they spend money to vote, it’s more an investment. Any reality show, people always like to see the drama, the relationship aspects. Those things are still there but what makes it really different is the fact that they can watch us on TV all day. People are way more invested.

May is Mental Health Awareness month. Talk about the mental health platform you’re doing.

I grew up in America. Luckily, America’s way more in tune with mental health. Around the world, mental health still doesn’t get all the attention it needs. In America, it gets way more attention than somewhere like Nigeria. Because I was on Big Brother, I know about the actual Big Brother experiment. The social experiment of putting people somewhere, forcing them together, draining them until their last drop. Most think it’s a funny reality show, but I knew about the background of the Big Brother experiment.

In the house, I knew some of us were acting crazy. Some of us acting a fool. I talked about how this might not be our normal selves because we’re literally being experimented on. I talked about mental health, the importance of knowing what’s around you. Sometimes, things are out of your control. I came out and a mental health organization was looking for voices, people who could talk about mental health. I did a video with them and it went all over the place. People were talking about it: “what’s this mental health thing? What’s this about?” That video did really well. Ever since, I’ve become a mental health spokesperson advocate.

I was always passionate about it, but it really put me out here. I became a serious advocate for it. I’ve been invited to 2 different seminars. I went to South Africa, I went to the WHO Assembly to talk about the importance of mental health. Especially in a place like Nigeria where people don’t even believe mental health exists, they don’t even know what it is. I try my best to always talk about it, even in a funny way. It’s something very serious but everyone’s not ready for that conversation. Just finding ways to have those conversations.

How’s quarantine life over there? 

I have family that still lives in America. All my friends still live in America. Most of my friends live in Jersey.

Isn’t Jersey super impacted?

Yes, very infected. 2 of my sisters are still going to work. They’re essential workers, it’s freaking me out. I was already abreadst to the news but in Nigeria, it took us a little while before Corona hit. Even now, people aren’t understanding the extent of what’s really going on. I’ve been scared for a long time. I was already practicing my own social distancing, not going out so often. I started buying groceries 3 weeks before they locked us down. My house is stocked. I was ready for the lockdown, I knew it was going to happen.

They announced the lockdown, everyone wasn’t taking it serious. On Monday, they extended it 2 more weeks. It’s really serious. I live in a place where our health care systems aren’t great, which makes me even more cautious. I have to really protect myself because I have no idea if I’ll get the best care or treatment. Thankfully, Nigeria seems to be doing really well in containing it. Every single day they’re telling us we have 10, 11, 12 people who are able to go home from the hospital. It’s great people are being cured, but there are still way more people getting infected than people going home. It’s scary. I’m staying home. I’m doing the Netflix thing, doing the IG thing. Doing the usual, trying to stick to my normal self. A lot of people feel like their sleep patterns have changed, not for me. I’ve tried my best to stick to normalcy, because there’s so much going on. If I allow anything to mess me up, it’ll completely mess me up. I try to wake up at the same time, sleep at the same time.

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What time do you usually get up?

Depends on the day, but between 7am and 9am. Still try to keep it moving, because we don’t know when this thing’s going to be over. It’s really tough because the average Nigerian doesn’t have anything. They don’t have money or food. We’re having insecurities, people are robbing and stealing because they don’t have anything to eat. One of my girls messaged me today like “got my stimulus check.” We don’t have that over here. [laughs] It’s a tough time. I’m hoping everyone all over the world can figure this out.

What can we expect next?

I was in a movie that came out in February. I’m in another movie supposed to come out this month but because everything’s shut down. Whenever we’re back to life, the movie should be coming out. I’m going to be in a few TV series. I was always afraid of auditioning, but I’ve actually started auditioning for things. Luckily, everyone’s doing monologues. “Send us a monologue,” since we can’t do auditions anymore. I’ve been doing monologues. I’m definitely trying to be in another TV show, because I became famous from being on a TV show. [laughs]

I’ve always wanted to have a talk show. Now that everyone’s doing the IG Live thing, I’m finally launching it via Live. See how it goes. Hopefully if it’s great, pitch it to a network and go from there. Of course, I’m doing all my business things: my haircare line, my souvenirs, my event planning. I’m an advocate for mental health, an advocate for making social change. I’m trying my best to work with as many organizations to put out the word about COVID-19 and how to help people. People look to me as a public figure: looking for advice, looking for help. I’m always doing my best to change the world.

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