"I knew my family loved me but in my little mind, I always felt it was a love with conditions- if I was beautiful or had good grades, I would earn their love. Little seemingly harmless jabs at my flat nose or my dark complexion or my muscular arms (all of which I absolutely love now) developed a deep sense of low self-esteem in me. I realise now that it was because I couldn’t bring myself to love me so I wondered why anyone (including God) could" - Tosé
My name is Tose Umobuarie, going by the artist name Tosé. I’m a UK based singer and songwriter. I’m wife to Ose (who is my ministry/business partner and keyboard player at most of my gigs) and we are parents to 3 kids.
I was born to a Police officer Dad and a stay at home mum, you could call it a proper middle-class home. My schooling was mostly in Nigeria. Because of the nature of my father’s job, we moved around quite a bit. As a result, I went to 3 primary schools (one in Benin City which is where I’m from, one in Lagos and the 3rd in Portharcourt), 2 Secondary schools- one in Portharcourt and the other in Ondo State and then went to the University of Jos where I studied law. I am called to the Nigerian Bar
I’m the first of 7 kids (from my mom) and had to grow up really quickly though I was shy and quite introverted. I felt responsible for my siblings especially as my parents had a very difficult marriage. We weren’t a church-going family as such. My mum grew up as a Catholic but wasn’t really going to church. My Dad, on the other hand, was brought up as an Anglican but didn’t care too much about church either. When he did join a church, it was one I referred to as ‘spooky’ and that era was short-lived. I had an experience in that church which was eventually responsible for my general discomfort and cynicism about church in general, further down the line: I was made to do a dry fast at age 12 (first time ever) because someone ‘saw a vision’ of me that I’m guessing wasn’t a good one. The way the man who saw the vision charged at me like a bull, shouting at the top of his voice, left me traumatised for weeks!
Nevertheless, something about this ‘God thing’ pulled at me. I can’t really explain it. It could be because when I was 10, a friend led me to say the “Sinner’s prayer”. Don’t think we both had a clue what we were doing. I even asked my mum sometime later what this ‘born-again’ business really meant and I remember her telling me it was something old men and women in their 60s or older did. But even though I couldn’t explain it, I was ‘switched on’ to God. At the back of my mind, I knew He was there. However, with my little experience of church, I pushed that thought farther and farther behind and grew up quite the cynic. It is a wonder I am born-again today. That right there is a testament for me that God is real and truly works in and on the heart of the individual.
I can’t pick a certain date I got born-again. I must have said the Sinner’s prayer at least 3 times more since that first time, aged 10. Each moment always followed a deep sense of conviction. Now, I look back and I realise the real reason I held back and held onto my cynicism was because I was afraid of what committing to a Christian life would entail (I mean I had heard of convents and monasteries and I just couldn’t wrap my head around living like that. Sadly, this is still all a lot of folks know of Christianity!). I was a bird who didn’t like her wings clipped. I craved adventure. I wanted to fly, fly, fly!
When folks ask me how God got a hold of my heart, I still think it boiled down to one word- Love. His love chased me until I couldn’t run anymore. At the time, I didn’t realise how much love I had lacking in my life. I knew my family loved me but in my little mind, I always felt it was a love with conditions- if I was beautiful or had good grades, I would earn their love. Little seemingly harmless jabs at my flat nose, or my dark complexion or my muscular arms (all of which I absolutely love now) developed a deep sense of low self-esteem in me. I realise now that it was because I couldn’t bring myself to love me so I wondered why anyone (including God) could. So what does a young girl who can’t stand herself do? She goes looking for love in all the wrong places and when she finds something she thinks is love, tries her best, (often to her own detriment ) to earn that love. It was quite pathetic really. Thankfully, this period of my life didn’t leave me with an unwanted pregnancy or having to have an abortion (I celebrate) all those able to bear this burden. I don’t think I would have survived) but I got hurt. Too many times to count! Enter the unconditional love of God! My attitude was something like this: “Yeah, yeah, yeah, You take care of people’s messes but trust me, you don’t want mine. Can’t you see how broken I am???”
But He wouldn’t let go.
His favourite method of trying to reach me was through music. He knew how crazy I was about it. He knew giving the right lyrics and with a melody just like so, He would tug at my heart. And tug and tug and tug, He did until there was a tiny crack. The tiny crack gave way to a little opening that just got bigger and bigger and voila! LIGHT! With that light came a little understanding of this unconditional love of God and the more I understood, the more I responded with love in return.
With understanding came a deep sense of purpose. He handed me the gift of music but it served a different purpose now. It was no longer an end but a means- a tool- to reach THE expected end. I was no longer crazy about music (though I love it deeply). I was crazy about what God through music could achieve. People see me perform (or minister, depending on whether you are of the church or not) and wonder where I get my boldness from (remember I said I was shy?) and I say I am driven by a sense of love- first, the one God freely gives and second for the people He loves dearly and gave His life for. The journey has been one hell of a roller-coaster. Along the line, my parents died 2 years apart from each other and for a while, I felt lost. But I have learned to always look out for the love beacon- MY ancient landmark- and find my way back. But I think He knew it would be that way. I think He also knows He’s got me for good! Lol
Today, I am an ambassador of Christ using music and songs as my tool of trade and often times, my weapon. I believe I am called not just to the church but to show the world the love of the saviour who is Jesus. I take my role very seriously!
My parting words to you reading this is this: Find you, be you and do you. He loves YOU. Never lose sight of this and you will be just fine.
Here's the link to her latest single:https://youtu.be/CSWbuxgHv_8
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