Ekiuwa Asemota, 33, has parlayed her lifelong love of dance, art and design into a career. After graduating from Hofstra University in Hempstead in 2004, she created a jewelry line -- "Eki's Famous" -- three years later and more recently launched "Your Queens," a costume entertainment company that educates children and adults about ancient African royalty through storytelling, song and dance.
Asemota lives in Brooklyn. On Thursday, Feb. 26, she returns to her alma mater to present "Rhythm Through Movement: A Dancer's Story" at 8 p.m. in the multipurpose room of the Mack Student Center.
Tell us about your name and how it's pronounced.
It's pronounced "a-kee-wah." Ekiuwa is an African name that means "joy." So I'm all about spreading peace, love and joy.
Through jewelry? How did you get started?
My parents owned an African cultural shop on Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn. They sold artwork, pottery, jewelry, books, clothes. I'd help them in the store after school. We'd also do a lot of cultural events and festivals, from New York to D.C. We'd have a booth and sell things. I started selling my pieces there.
That developed from a hobby into a business?
I was a fine arts major at Hofstra. In 2006, I took a six-month seminar in business education and development through the (former New York Knick) Allan Houston Foundation. The program taught me how to get into business, how to target the right audience for my business ... how to turn my creativity into making money. So after that, I started Eki's Famous. We make one-of-a-kind jewelry. I don't mass-produce. I might do, say, a small collection for fall and winter.
What inspired you to launch this new venture "Your Queens?"
My grandfather was a chief, very well-known in his community in Nigeria. So my father would always tell me, 'I'm a princess.' I was interested in our history and began doing research. I learned about these amazing women in African history like Cleopatra; Queen Amina; and Makeda, the Queen of Sheba. So when you hire African Queens we educate you about this lineage.
Do you portray a specific person?
I play Makeda. Her story is in both the Bible and the Quran. She traveled all the way from Ethiopia to Jerusalem to learn the wisdom of King Solomon. And this is interesting: Her regime lasted 3,000 years. Haile Selassie, the last emperor of Ethiopia, was descended from Makeda. And he died in 1975.
What did you learn from this long-ago person?
Two things stuck out to me about her story: her faith and her journey. I feel I can try and mirror that in my life, which is evolving all the time. People try to put you in a box. At age 33, I've learned not to put myself into a box.