In South Africa she’s known as Nicole Fox, however, 7 years ago the vivacious and much-loved radio presenter and ‘it’ girl left her home country and everything she knew to followed her heart further north on the African continent to Lagos. Now wife to Ramzi and mom to Deen, Nicole Mansour explains how giving it all up has helped define who she really is.
If you met Nicole 7 years ago she was a self-confessed career woman firmly entrenched in her (very successful) profession as a journalist in entertainment media. As with many of us, she was defined by what she did, juggling a full-time radio presenting career as well as freelance television presenting, voice over artist gigs, corporate MC-ing and Club DJ-ing. She describes her past job as incredible and says she loved every second of her career. She was able to travel the world interviewing movie stars and traveled her home country a few times over doing work in a field that she was absolutely passionate about, and giving her the opportunity to meet so many interesting people. But after meeting her husband and after almost a year of dating long-distance they got engaged and they decided that Nicole would make the move to Lagos, Nigeria, as that is where her husband’s business interests are. She laughs saying, “It wasn’t an easy thing to do but was the most logical step to take – the things we do for love right?
Giving up her career, moving countries, leaving behind everything she knew and loved and redefining who she is took some work. But now, after living in Nigeria as a stay-at-home mom she says,”she happily and confidently introduces herself as a fellow human being.”
“I’m a mom passionate about being present for every single moment with my three-year-old son, a wife thrilled to laugh and love with my husband, a friend madly-crazy about my divine friends all over the world and a woman endeavoring to leave my mark of kindness and service with those around me, I no longer define myself by what I do but rather by who I am.”
On Moving countries
“The move and adjustment was challenging on many levels and it certainly took me a long time to get used to how things work in Lagos. Giving up my career, home, friends, family and all things familiar in one shot was tough. I had a bit of a difficult time at first as my mom passed away soon after I moved to Lagos and then I fell pregnant with my son right after that, so those two events brought about quite an emotional time for me. Of course it was difficult being away from my family, especially then, but luckily my husband has some family here which does help. Having a child as an expat was probably easier for me as it gave me a network to access via playgroups, schools and other moms. Lagos also has its own rhythm and only once you tap into that do you find things to flow much smoother.”
“Lagos really is a hustling, bustling, frenetic city with all sorts of quite unbelievable things coming your way. I spend my days dealing with issues such as power, generators, diesel, water, and other supply issues. I look after my son and the household and make sure everything is running smoothly. Lagos has definitely taught me to roll with the punches because the most inexplicable things happen here that one just has to learn to navigate with grace. I have been involved for many years in a charity organization called Small World in which a group of female volunteers rally support from up to 35 different country women’s groups to stage an annual festival and stage production, full proceeds of which go to supporting Nigerian charities. It’s the most satisfying, rewarding and fun experience working with such dynamic women and I have received the most unbelievable support from these friends. We have a very cosmopolitan society here, a diverse expat community and it’s wonderful meeting people from all over the world. Because everything is so intense, one makes really tight friendships in a very short space of time. I am lucky to have the most awesome tribe of women as my friends; we have become each other’s family. However, Lagos is also very transient as expats move on either to new destinations or back to their home countries so one also has to get used to saying goodbye very often. It is probably a very concentrated lesson in extreme love and loss and certainly in ‘letting go’.”
On missing South Africa
“I miss my family and friends of course although thank goodness for technology and social media which makes staying in touch much easier. I also do miss the convenience of shops like Woolworths where you can just get pretty much whatever you want whenever you want. Availability of products here has improved a lot however there is still a lot we can’t get and grocery shopping takes a lot of planning and a lot of time as imported items are only flown in once a week. One learns to live with much less and appreciate more – which is a good thing!”
“My son teaches me something new every single day but the most profound lesson I have learnt from him has been to truly understand appreciate and live in the present moment. He is a beacon of light in my life because he always brings me back to simply loving being ‘in the moment’ with him. I sometimes think he is more my teacher than I am his.”
There have, of course, been some first-time mom challenges, Nicole explains, “I suffered quite a bit of post-natal depression after my son’s birth, I think largely due to losing my mom so recently before that on top of the stresses that come with being a first-time mum in a foreign location. Thank goodness I have such a supportive husband who really helped me to heal in a holistic way. I started with exercise and looking after my nutrition and after that I started to socialize more when I joined, and volunteered at, a playgroup with my son. On a lighter side there were some funny moments too, such as me having to walk kilometers home in my trusty pair of Havaianas due to the traffic being completely gridlocked one afternoon so that I could make it home in time for bathtime. Or the three months I bathed him in heated mineral water due to a nasty stomach bug he picked up – never a dull moment!”
On fashion, style and shopping (all the important stuff!)
“Due to the heat and relaxed nature of life here my style is now almost exclusively casual. I no longer own warm clothes as we spend South African summers in Johannesburg and Cape Town with my family and European summers in Beirut and Dubai with my husband’s family. I do most of my shopping when I travel abroad which we do about four times a year during school holidays. There is a lot of local shopping available here in the markets, amazing fabrics and some incredibly talented tailors to do up whatever you want.” Nicole explains that negotiating is very much part of the deal, “It took me a very long time to gain the confidence to negotiate and I’m still not particularly good at it. I just go in with a price in my mind of what I’m prepared to pay for the item and I try not to go over that.” She has also renovated two of their homes already using local carpenters and upholsterers sating that she’s definitely gravitated towards the colours and and styles of African designs.
Nicole and her husband, Ramzi, are also investors in the African fashion brand Kisua, an online retail environment which showcases the continent’s brightest design talent, She winks saying that, “I would say that if you’d like to do some shopping you should visit our online store!”
If you visit Lagos …
- Lekki Market – it’s the quintessential Nigerian market shopping experience. You can find just about anything here from jewelry to bags to clothes, furniture, baskets, art and other home items plus vegetables and groceries.
- The Legacy group’s Wheatbaker Hotel in Ikoyi for a fabulous massage followed by the best cappuccino in town.
- The Sky Bar on the top floor of the Eko Hotel next to Bar Beach for a bird’s eye view of Victoria Island plus the new Eko Atlantic development project which is turning part of the Atlantic Ocean into a megacity complete with residential and business properties, schools and hospitals. It’s quite unbelievable to think this land was once ocean!
- Alara fashion and design store in Victoria Island which houses fashions, furniture and accessories from all over Africa and the world in an entirely modern and chic building.
- Izanagi Restaurant for the best sushi in town, our regular date night resto.