Nigerian gospel singer, songwriter, and renowned photographer, Toyin Sokefun-Bello, better known as TY Bello, is the cover star of this week’s edition of TheWill Downtown Magazine.

We are particularly crushing hard with her face-framing voluminous Afro taking space on the cover and paired perfectly with soft glam makeup featuring defined brows. To up the ante, TY Bello opts for a red look with a gigantic green pendant taking centre stage.

In this interview with Downtown’s editor, Onah Nwachukwu, she talks about her creative dexterity that has seen her alternate between the pen and lens effortlessly and how she uses them as a tool to spread love and humanity.

Here’s the editor’s note:

Several art forms have been employed to tell stories over the years, but one that genuinely elevated media and immortalized special moment is photography. Although written words have done a great job of narrating and documenting culture, traditions and even memories, a picture provides a visual presentation that immortalises whatever the subject is—there is a reason why its worth is in a thousand words.

Like music, photography stems from the heart; we could say he composition of both art forms is similar and one person who juxtaposes both worlds seamlessly is Toyin Sokefun-Bello, widely known as TY Bello.

For most established photographers, their signature finishing is embedded in their work; one look at an image, and you immediately know who was behind the lens. But it takes years of finding yourself with each picture you capture before your heart and soul finally come in perfect harmony with a particular finishing style.

The same is true for TY Bello, whose work usually garners comments on how she captures the true essence of her subject. It comes from the heart. She is a spiritual romantic who loves her work and extends that love to the people she photographs, such that you look at the portrait and feel like you know them. So it was no surprise when her response to being our cover personality was, “I have to check with my spirit to see….” Needless to say, we were equally yoked.

Read excerpts from the interview below:

On her transition from being a student of economics to being a hairdresser and a makeup artist, and then to the creative space: 

As far back as I remember, I have always been creative. Every creative endeavour was the one thing I would excel in. I used to paint as a child, represent my school in competitions and win all the prizes. That was one place I excelled; I never knew art as a career option. Growing up, you either had to be a lawyer, doctor or accountant. I tried to figure out how to make it work, and I decided the only way to do it was to actually please my parents, study what I knew was acceptable and then jump right in and do the things I wanted to do—photography, songwriting and being a beautician. They are all tied up into the same thing—it is you creating something out of nothing, and I have been able to go back and forth between them.

On why she choose photography over art:

I had a very good teacher who was a mentor. He left my school when I was 13, and I dropped painting altogether. I was always curious about creating again and figured photography was a way to go back into painting without having to physically paint again. Although last year I picked up a brush and paint and started painting again. Photography, for me, was a way to go back and create visually without having to pick up from where I left off when I was much younger.

On how she started songwriting:

Oh, it’s interesting. Outside of painting, one of the things that I started doing very early in my life was songwriting. I was that melancholic child that would sit in the corner and piece words together with sound. Though I was generally very shy as a child, I remember every single time that I was on stage or given the microphone, it was like something would come over me, and I wouldn’t feel any kind of fear or insecurity. I would just feel like I owned it, and I would be spontaneous and own the stage. It’s something that I believe I was born with. I believe that writing music is a gift and a craft, so of course, over the years, you would improve and hone it, but I believe it’s a gift that I’ve had since I was a child.

Read the full interview here.