- David White
- American-born Princess Keisha is a prominent figure among Nigerian royalty, through her marriage to Prince Adekunle “Kunle” Adebayo Omilana.
- However, Keisha – a successful model best known as “The Pantene Girl” – didn’t know her husband was a prince until two years after they met.
- It was Prince Kunle’s mother who broke the news to Keisha, who thought it was just a sweet pet name when the royal called her “my princess” when they first met.
- But unlike Meghan Markle and Kate Middleton, Keisha didn’t give up her day job after her royal wedding.
- Keisha worked hard not to let her royal status define her, after important clients in the modeling industry assumed she no longer wanted to work.
- She spoke to Insider about the extraordinary turn her life has taken since she became HRH.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Princess Keisha Omilana was trying to find her way to a model casting in New York City when her life changed forever.
Of course, she couldn’t have known then – 16 years ago, lost and standing outside the W Hotel – that the man who had just approached her was her future husband. And that he was a Nigerian prince.
“I could feel this presence looking at me, and I look up and see this handsome gentleman just standing there,” Keisha told Insider.
“And nobody just stands in New York City. Everyone’s on their way somewhere, moving, going.
“He came up to me and said: ‘You are the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen in my entire life. Would you do me the honor of having your number? I’d love to take you out.’”
- PATRICK MCMULLAN/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images
She said no – at least at first, anyway. After politely explaining that she didn’t give her number to strangers, she turned away from the man and continued on her journey. That was until, as Keisha explained, her “woman’s intuition” kicked in.
“The guy was nice. He spoke well, he looked decent. He wasn’t catcalling. I thought I should just give him my number and see what happens,” she said.
After turning back to the hotel, Keisha discovered the man “was still there, with his phone in his hand as if he knew I would come back.”
What she didn’t know was that she had just agreed to go on a date with Prince Adekunle “Kunle” Adebayo Omilana, from the Arigbabuowo ruling house in Nigeria.
And she wouldn’t know his true identity for another two years, until she met his mother.
Prince Kunle’s mom called Keisha ‘my princess’ when they met, but she thought it was just a pet name – not her future title
She was destined to become Princess Keisha, and she didn’t even know it yet.
Since Kunle hadn’t told her about his family, Keisha remained happily oblivious to royal tradition, protocol, and status throughout the first two years of their relationship.
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Happy Mother’s Day! ???????????????? Wishing all the women who are Mothers and who have mothered and nurtured another human being a blessed and healthy Mother’s Day. To my amazing Mother-In-Law who is the CREATOR of the most precious beautiful man that walks this earth, THANK YOU! I love you Mommy and appreciate how you raised your Prince. Your grandchildren and I are forever grateful for your hard work and sacrifices. You are appreciated. To my Mommy, the ARCHITECT, thank you for instilling in me self worth, confidence, self esteem, smart work (not hard), compassion for others and the importance of keeping God front and center in my life. I love you mean it!! Both of you women are the Architects and Creators of all that is GREAT in my life. Check out my IG stories to see all the amazing women who have helped raise me, teach me and love me from diapers to DIRAN and DIOR my beautiful children. SWIPE???????? to see my favourite picture of my Mommy, my sister and myself. xoxo KO #happymothersday #women #love #life #beauty #blessed #grateful #happy #momlife #mothersday
Instead, she focused on advancing her modeling career.
Originally from Inglewood, California, Keisha graduated with a fashion design degree in Chicago before moving to New York, where she would eventually become a successful model, working with the likes of L’Oreal, Maybelline, Revlon, Cover Girl, and more notably, Pantene.
- Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images
Her personal and professional life were about to become intertwined, however, when Kunle finally took Keisha to meet his family. She still didn’t know he was a prince.
“In Nigerian culture, when you know that you want to spend the rest of your life with someone or you want to marry them, you bring them to your family, and as far as the family is concerned, from that moment on you are engaged,” Keisha told Insider.
“I remember meeting his mom, she was just so welcoming,” she said.
“She wrapped me in her arms and called me her daughter straight away. She said, ‘you are my princess.’
“And when you hear, ‘princess,’ well, all moms call their daughters princess. So that’s what I thought she was saying. But then we sat down and she told me the story of who her son was, what his name means, where he comes from, and I was just like ‘oh my goodness.’
“I just looked at him like, ‘you don’t just forget to say something like that!’”
The working princess
Keisha didn’t want her life to change after her royal wedding. After all, she was still Keisha – a California girl doing her dream job in the big city.
But she had to work hard to make sure people still saw her that way.
“Everyone assumed that I would no longer want to work because I was married,” Keisha said.
“I’d book jobs and the people there were probably thinking: ‘What are you doing here? We thought you’d be on the French Riviera with Kate Middleton.’ That kind of thing. Navigating that was difficult.
“So as a result of that, my team and I have very vigorously denounced that and have continued to promote the hashtag #TheWorkingPrincess.”
She added: “I don’t know about you, but I love receiving deposits and checks in the mail that have my name on them. I’ve always felt it’s important for women to remain independently wealthy, and independently happy – even if and when they decide to marry the person of their dreams, their life partner.”
By this point in time, however, Keisha was used to proving people wrong – and taking their opinions with a grain of salt.
Just a few years prior, during her student days, she was told by a female fashion director in Chicago: “Some people are meant to be on stage and some people are meant to be backstage. You my dear, are meant to be backstage.”
If she had listened to the director’s advice, she wouldn’t now be known as ‘the Pantene girl’
Little did she know at the time, but Keisha was set to become the first African American woman to be cast in three consecutive Pantene commercials.
When the brand started the casting process for Keisha’s campaign, it was the first time they had sought out “curly, kinky, Afro-type hair,” she explained.
- Rod Leon
“My agency was always giving me a hard time about my big hair, it was always attached to me rather than something that was good or bad,” she said.
“For example, they’d say: ‘The client loved you, but they didn’t know what to do with your hair!’
“So finally, they were like ‘now we understand why your hair is so big, because you were going to book this job.’”
She added: “Any time you are the first to do something in history, especially when it has a negative background, is always a plus.
“Finally the positive outweighed all the negative I was getting for my hair. I went from the girl with wild hair to the Pantene girl,” she said.
From ‘the Pantene girl’ to A Crown of Curls
Flash forward to 2020, and Princess Keisha and Prince Kunle have two children together: A son, Prince Adediran “Diran” King Omilana (age 13), and a daughter, Princess Adediora “Dior” Isabella Nicole Omilana (age 6).
Now residing in London, Keisha still works as a model – only now she has her daughter, Dior, following closely in her footsteps.
The pair were recently shot in their first-ever joint editorial for Mocha Magazine, shortly after Dior was signed by Ray and Robin, a leading children’s modeling agency.
- Lol Johnson
But the 6-year-old’s modeling career started long before that, as the face of Keisha’s main passion project, A Crown of Curls (ACOC).
Keisha launched the hair care business for families with mixed-race children in June 2017, to show parents how to properly style hair that has a different texture to their own.
After being stopped on the street by parents of mixed-race children, who asked for tips on how to style their daughters’ hair similar to how Keisha had styled her own and Dior’s, she knew there was a gap in the market.
“I decided a supportive community was definitely needed, so I decided to create it,” she said.
“I started ACOC for children with mixed-race hair, but have since opened it up to all hair types and textures, whether it’s straight, curly, or wavy,” she said.
“Because at the end of the day, it was more about self-love and instilling that in young girls and women.
“You’re a woman, so I’m sure you can go back to remembering when you were 6 or 7 years old, and all these things that may not seem that important are so important to young girls.
“And it’s so important to instill that from a young age, so that way when they grow up and someone tries to tell them anything opposite of that, that would be foreign to them,” she said.
The parallels between being “the Pantene girl” and the Crown of Curls girl is not lost on Keisha.
“There’s really no better person to be an influencer or advocate for something than the person who was the first for that something,” she said.
‘I love that my children know what it feels like to have a driver, but then they’re not afraid to hop on the Jubilee line’
When it comes to family life, Keisha said she and her husband are hands-on parents – a direct contrast to what Kunle experienced during his royal upbringing.
“My husband grew up with handlers and different housemaids. If he sneezed, he had five people coming to him to wipe his nose but it was never his mom because she was the royal, she couldn’t be seen doing that,” Keisha said.
“So as a result, he wanted to be hands-on because it couldn’t be that way in his home.”
However, Keisha added that it was also Kunle’s experience with being a “prince of all people” that allowed them to give Diran and Dior experiences that other royal children may not be able to have.
“I love that my children know what it feels like to have a driver, but then they’re not afraid to hop on the Jubilee line every now and again,” she said.
“That balance, it also comes from how my husband was raised. In his tribe, he was raised to be a prince of all people, not just a prince of people who are well-to-do or who have money.
“So in any room he goes to, he needs to be relatable, he needs to fit in, he needs to be of service. He knows how to talk to someone who has nothing, and someone who has everything,” she added.
It’s not too dissimilar to the challenges Keisha faced when she first stepped into Kunle’s world.
It’s always been about balance, about being more than just that one-dimensional pre-conception that is often placed on royal and high-profile figures.
Keisha was forced to balance an almost accidental HRH title, and the responsibilities that came with that, with an independent life and career that she had always strived to make her own.
Before that – before she landed Pantene – there was the struggle that came with proving she belonged on the world’s stage in the first place.
And the biggest life lesson she learned along the way?
“Not everyone you love, admire, or respect will be supportive of your dreams, and oftentimes you will be your biggest cheerleader,” Keisha said.
“Therefore whatever you feel about yourself is what you will be.”
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