16th January 2023
Photography & Editor-in-chief: Owen James Vincent
Make Up Artist: Jessica McQuaid
Stylist: Megan Smales
Interview: Savannah Small-Swaby
Cover & Graphic Designer: Emily Curtis
From having her own radio show on BBC 1Extra, being named on Forbes’ 30 under 30 list, completing the phenomenal Gumball 3000 car rally in Dubai and rocking up to Buckingham Palace (with pink hair of course), Florence 'Cuppy' Otedola is a force to be reckoned with. Describing herself as a a multifaceted young Nigerian woman with vision, we spoke to the entrepreneur to hear about how her two homes of Lagos and London sparked a career like no other and most importantly, where to dance and grab a late night bite in the respective cities.
Jacket - Claudia Wang / Trousers - Claudia Wang / Gold Cowboy Boots - Asos / Nigerian Poncho - Cuppys Own / Blue Ring - Yaa Yaa London / Sunglasses - Cuppys Own
Where did the DJ name Cuppy come from?
I started my DJ career at 16 and I was so bad but desperate to get opportunities. Someone wanted to introduce me and asked me what I wanted to be called and my friend was like “everyone calls her cupcake”. From there it evolved to Cupcake, Cupito etc. It wasn’t until I moved to New York for a bit to work with Jay-Z and Roc Nation that I learnt properly about branding. I realised the Cupcake name was restrictive so I shortened Cupcake to Cuppy.
What musical influences did you have growing up? And how did they help influence your DJ career and brand?
If I think about my brand, it’s definitely a synergy of everywhere I’ve been. I was born in Lagos, Nigeria and one of the earliest memories I have is singing African legend Fela Kunti in the car with my dad. If you know Lagos, it’s notorious for its traffic so you can imagine how much time I spent listening to his music. Even in school, I was drumming before I could read and write. That’s the African way, using music as a way of communication.
When I moved to London as a teenager, I remember falling in love with places like Cargo and Egg and the first time I heard ‘Free from Desire’ and I was like wow. I’m also a massive Beatles fan. I put out an album called Original Copy a few years ago and that was definitely influenced by the musical legends I love who are unapologetically themselves. That’s what my brand is all about. I live by the quote “you were born in this world an original, so don’t die a copy”.
Earrings - Yaa Yaa / London Stripe jumper - Lowe Star / Joggers - Chinti & Parker / Shoes - Crocs / Rings - Cuppy’s own
How would you say the music scene in the UK differs to Nigeria?
There’s more of a synergy than you would realise and I think I represent that. I look at people like NSG and they’ve done a great job fusing the two cultures together and we have superstars like Burna Boy, Wizkid, Davido and they’ve made me think about who I am as an artist and what I give my followers (Cupcakes). Both music scenes force me to stay true to myself. The industry can try and put you in a certain direction and sometimes I was told my love of pink was too much or even going to Oxford while managing my music career was too much. I think I’ve done okay.
What does a good night out look like in Lagos?
Okay, so I’m going to give you what a night in Lagos with Cuppy looks like. You’ve got to kickoff your evening with a live experience at The Shrine. It’s Fela Kuti’s Afro beats hub and now his son, Femi Kuti performs there. After that, we could go for some Suya, which is fresh spicy meat and vegetables. We’d eat that at the beach and then we’d have some cocktails at NOK. NOK is like our Dover Street Market with phenomenal artwork and local fashion by designers such as Kenneth Ezi. You’ll end up grabbing some fresh corn from a street vendor to fully end the night — it’s our version of ending the night in a kebab shop.
Jumper - Uos / Jacket - Uos / Skirt -JU-NNA / Leopard print heels - Willa Phoenix / Ring - yaa yaa London / Earrings - Cuppys own
Okay, so let’s flip it. How would a night in London look for you?
Ohh we’d have to go to the Tate Modern. I’m a proud ambassador and I spend a lot of time there. I’m a bit of a romantic so we’d probably go round the corner to Shakespeare’s The Globe Theatre. I need stimulation so we’d grab some drinks in Clink Street in East London. If you really wanted to mix it up and be a kid, I’d go to Bally Ballerson in Shoreditch. Following that, if I’m being completely honest, I’d grab some food at Nando’s and then go out in central to one of my favourite clubs Reign London. And if I got homesick, there’s a cool Nigerian restaurant in the city called Ikoyi.
Not only is music a big part of your life, but you also set up The Cuppy Foundation. How did that come to life?
I grew up with a lot of amazing opportunities to grow and realise my passion, mainly because of coming from an entrepreneurial family. The reality is, Nigeria is a third-world country, so I’ve also known that my experiences were unique.
The Cuppy Foundation, which partners with Save the Children, prides itself on creating opportunities for those who don’t have them. We provide these young women a platform to have their voices heard and provide food for over 70,000 children. I really wanted to help young girls with education. You can’t help people without starting with education and it’s what has allowed me to be confident and not take no as an answer. Proximate philanthropy is very important to me — not just helping people from a distance. It’s been crazy to see places such as Cambridge University do a whole study on my work.
Dress - Madelene / Simon Glasses - Cuppys own / Ring - yaa yaa London / Boots - Agne Rainbow
With all these different entrepreneurial hats, how do you manage burnout?
It’s important to understand that burning out isn’t cool and being stress isn’t sexy. Do things at your own pace and learn to say no. While I sell success as being busy and productivity, the reality is sometimes those are the loneliest times of our lives. The worst part about burning out is that you don’t remember things. It’s important to think #wemove but also, #weselfcare as well.