This week’s That Girl is Eli Homawoo, the uber-glam manager of Salon de Ning, one of Sassy’s favourite bars hidden away in the basement of The Peninsula Hotel… We sit down with Eli to find out about her love of bold jewellery, how her African heritage influences her style and her recipe for a killer lychee martini!
Can you tell us a bit about where you’re originally from and where you grew up?
I was born in Lome Togo which is in West Africa. I started school in Brussels in Belgium, then went back to Togo in 1992.
In 1993 I moved to Rome, Georgia in the US where I attended boarding school. I graduated in 1996 and attended Hampton University in Virginia where I studied Political Science. After graduation I moved to New York where I worked for various luxury hospitality brands. In August 2006 I moved to Copenhagen, Denmark where I lived for almost 2 years. I moved to Hong Kong in early 2009!
Where do you live? How have you made your home your own?
I live in Sai Ying Pun or Mid-Levels West. Although my flat is not very big, I think the space is very well designed which is often difficult to find in Hong Kong apartments. I have been in the same flat since I moved to HK and have made it my own with little art pieces and sculptures from home. My flat is definitely Africa meets the West with hints of Asia. I love pets but because of my work schedule I opted for plants instead… I consider myself a person with green thumbs! I have several lovely plants that bring a lot of life and warmth to my home. On my walls I have some West African Masks that are very much a part of my culture. One of my favorite art pieces in my flat is a painting of the Hong Kong harbour that was done by my little brother who used to live in HK and he made it at an Art Jamming session. Overall my flat very much reflects me because it has many different facades.
How do you describe your personal style? How does it evolve and change?
My personal style is very eclectic. I do like feeling sexy, which I achieve with a simple pair bell bottom jeans and a white low-cut tank top or paired with ultra-mini shorts and a loose top. I am very pro-sexy and very anti-cheap so I try to push the envelope without falling into an unflattering look. Though I grew up mainly in the US, my sense of style is very much a fusion of different parts of the world with an African influence in particular. I love fashion and my style constantly evolves and I never limit or restrict myself to one style. If I were to describe my style in one work it would be ‘bold’.
Where do you shop in Hong Kong? Any secret finds you can let us in on? Any labels we should be keeping an eye on?
My culture is very much reflected in the bold jewellery that I like to wear. I now have a shaved head and it seems my jewels have just gotten bigger and bolder since. I am not very much into shiny jewellery — I like silver, bronze, copper and wooden pieces. My favourite jewellery designer is Monies from Denmark who creates pieces that have a very strong ethnic influence. In Hong Kong I am very much a fan of niin jewellery by a friend of mine, Jeanine. I like the eco-friendly and earthy materials she uses in her unique pieces.
When it comes to shopping, I prefer small boutiques to malls and department stores. I do not have any one specific place that I shop. When I am walking around, it is generally the look of the window display that would invite me in. There are various designers who I admire and appreciate and whose work I love, but I am not hung up on labels. You can easily see me in a pair of Steve Madden boots, with an H& M top, a skirt from Maple, a Mark Jacobs bag and Chanel or “non” label shades. It’s always about the look itself verses the price tag or label.
What are your must-have beauty products? Where do you go for hair/nails/maintenance?
Firstly, a good facial moisturizer is key in the city. I love coco butter and shea butter body creams (I often get them in pure form from back home).
I never go out without eyeliner and gloss. I am a very big fan of perfume and my favorite is Allure by Chanel. I am also of fan of Shalimar, Ellie Saab and Narcisso Rodriguez. I love mature, sophisticated perfumes for women and I love classical scents like the ones my mother wore.
I shave my own head and I am not that into manicures, but I do enjoy an occasional pedicure and I love foot massages. I also very much enjoy using steam rooms because I love the feeling afterwards.
For fitness I enjoy dancing and doing Hot Yoga (actually more so the feeling at the end of the class!).
What is your favourite thing to do at the weekend?
I am usually only off work on Sundays so I enjoy sleeping, brunch with friends, going to dinner and I love going to the cinema. After work on Friday or Saturday nights even though I work quite late, I usually meet up with friends and go dancing.
Do you find it difficult as a black woman in Hong Kong? Do you have any advice or recommendations for girls who are new to Hong Kong who might be having a tough time?
Being a black woman in Hong Kong has not been particularly challenging for me. At least, not more than any other countries I have lived in. I think that Hong Kong is a pretty cool and easy city to live in so long as you are open-minded, light hearted and free spirited. Of course, the black population here is not vast, so there is obviously curiosity which can sometimes be mistaken for something else.
There are occasions where I may feel judged or observed in an uncomfortable way. That being said, as a foreigner a country (whether you define by race, religion or ethnicity) it’s important to not jump to conclusions or form general opinions about people of different cultures than your own. I have been lucky in my short life to live in Africa, Europe, America and now Asia. I love experiencing new cultures and I love travelling. So far my HK experience has been predominantly a positive one, basically because of my outlook and appreciation for cultures other then my own. I love Hong Kong!
What is your favourite restaurant in Hong Kong?
There are 2 restaurants I love — the first one is Kasbah which is a Moroccan Restaurant on Arbuthnot Road with fantastic food and lovely atmosphere. My second favourite restaurant is Isola in IFC. The food at Isola is great and when the weather permits, its nice to sit out on the terrace.
For me feeling being comfortable is key and I always feel welcome at Kasbah and Isola.
What is your favourite festive cocktail/drink? Can you give us the recipe?
I am not much of a cocktail drinker because I am not a big fan of beverages that are too sweet. My drink of choice is generally Champagne. On occasions however I do enjoy a nice Lychee Martini.
Eli’s Lychee Martini Recipe
40 ml Vodka
20 ml Lychee Liqueur
15 ml Lime Juice
3 pieces of muddled fresh lychee
(Shaken (ice) and served in a Martini glass)
How do you deal with your night-owl schedule? Do you ever fancy a quiet night in on the sofa with a cup of hot chocolate?!
I love my job, but I must admit that working nights on a six day work week is challenging. I am lucky to work for a company such as The Peninsula and if I have to spend 6 nights a week anywhere, I am glad it’s is managing a venue as lovely and as cozy as Salon de Ning!
All photos in the That Girl article above shot by the extremely talented Tim Chan – to get in touch with him, email [email protected]
Check out the rest of our That Girls here!