My Friend Fola: Love, Even In Death
One fine Friday, I was tidying up my room and looking for what to wear the next day while Sex And The City was playing in the background. At some point, my mind drifted (as usual), and I started thinking about topics I’d like to write about here. I had an idea to write about a friend. My spirit wanted to write about someone who’s no longer with us, someone who wasn’t even my friend when she was here. So, I pushed it out of my mind. I would go on to look for outfits, but I’d still have “my friend…” ringing in my mind, only to finally ask, “Lord, who do you want me to write about?”
The next day, I woke up super early but feeling low. The outfit I had picked was looking at me like, “Are you really going for that thing?” But we both knew the answer.
Getting dressed, I dismissed my initial Saturday outfit and picked out a simple black dress. If you know me well enough, you’ll know I love bright colours, so I thought I’d add some colour. I looked through my crop tops and picked a loose-fitting, pastel-coloured, tie-dye crop top by Fola Francis. Suddenly, the pain from her death hit me all over again.
You see, Fola and I never really had much of a relationship, but her death hit me really hard. I saw Fola on the 10th of December. We had a great time at our mutual friend’s picnic. And on the 21st of December, she was no more? It was too soon. Fola had been so excited about her 30th birthday this year, and I was pained she wouldn’t get to celebrate that milestone with her tribe. Her passing also hit me hard because I felt I didn’t have enough time to know her better, and we could have been good friends.
The feeling got too overwhelming, so I started working on a solution. I lit a candle and made myself some tea—self-care.
I cosied up in bed with my cup of chamomile and lavender tea, picked up my phone in my other hand, and started scrolling through Instagram. One page led to another and then another, and I stumbled upon a TV presenter’s page— she hadn’t posted in about two years. I noticed a reel from her 30th birthday party was one of the last things she posted. I clicked, I watched, I saw Fola.
I sent Fola’s page to one of my best friends and said, “Still can’t believe it.”
Preppin’ to go to my friend’s house, I had to go through our saved messages to be sure of her house address because I tend to get my numbers mixed up. Was it 35 or 36? While scrolling through, I saw Fola’s bank details because I wanted to buy items from her business. I saw her full name, Folajuwon Francis. I couldn’t believe it. I had just seen her video on a random page I don’t follow, and now I’m seeing her full government name. Hmm. I said a prayer; it was getting weird.
I got in the car and arrived at her place. Ate dodo and literally told her, “This is food for champions, and I know because I’m a champion.” Carry your affirmations everywhere you go, sweetie!
While eating, her housemate (one of my favourite fashionistas ever) came into the room and mentioned it was Fola’s memorial today and asked if we were going. I was in absolute shock. After everything I had experienced today, leading up to this moment? Wearing her crop top, seeing her having fun at a party, seeing her full name? I knew I had to go.
I explained everything to my friend, and she too was convinced I had to go so she got up and got dressed.
Her photos, her friends’ words, cries, and tears filled the venue of the memorial. It was palpable. Fola was everywhere that day. A friend of hers spoke about feeling like a fraud because she hadn’t known her as long as her other friends that were present. I felt that. She mentioned how Fola would always invite her out, but being the introvert she is (much like myself), she’d hardly accept them because she always thought they had time.
Love out loud before time runs out.
Other friends would go on to sing and say more heartwarming things about Fola Francis. “Fola lived in a way that was ridiculously audacious.” “She knew who she was and who she wanted to be.” “Fola takes friendships so seriously.” “She made me comfortable to say I love you at the end of every call. Even when she’d say it and I’d cut off, she’d call me back and say, ‘Bitch, I said I love you, say it back!’”.
“When the world was unfair to her, she created a safe space for others.”
That last part got to me. Being selfless enough to find joy in giving others what you were robbed/deprived of. There’s something to learn there.
We did tequila shots as is customary Fola Francis’s behaviour. We took photos and had cocktails and food. My friend asked if I wanted to write something on the memory wall, and I said, “No, I’d write it all in my column because I KNOW Fola wants me to write about her and my experience here today”.
My friend Fola was never really my friend when she was here, but whenever we saw each other, she made me feel like we were. If I went to an event, and the only person I knew there was her, she made this socially anxious girl feel welcome and at home. I was comfortable with her. I admired her, and I loved her style. We both loved fashion, and we both loved to be happy. And from all I heard on Saturday, we both loved deeply, and I wish we had more time to explore what our friendship could be, but I get the feeling Fola knew that too, even before I’d written this. Even in death, I felt Fola’s love that day.
We miss you.
Song of the week:
Pink + White by Frank Ocean
On our way home, this song played in the car, and this part stood out to me;
“Just the same way you showed me (You showed)
If you could die and come back to life
Up for air from the swimming pool
You’d kneel down to the dry land
Kiss the Earth that birthed you
Gave you tools just to stay alive
And make it out when the sun is ruined
That’s the same way you showed me, showed me
You showed me love.”
Fola, you showed us love.
Eki Ogunbor has a Vogue Fashion Certificate from Conde Nast College of Fashion & Design and also attended Central Saint Martins, London College of Fashion and the University of Kent. Eki headed the Design Operations at a top Nigerian womenswear fashion brand before developing her own brand, KISARA. She is the Editor-At-Large at THEWILL DOWNTOWN.