Iconic Women

Taiwo Ajayi Lycett

By Editor | May 26, 2022

Taiwo Ajayi Lycett is a Nigerian actress, journalist, television presenter, and cosmetologist. Lycett is a feminist and was the first editor of Africa Woman magazine in the 1970s. Taiwo Ajayi recently won the 2022 AMVCA industry merit award. 

Early Life

Taiwo Ajayi Lycett was born as the first of a set of twin girls on  3 February 1941 in Lagos, Western Region of Colonial Nigeria; her father was of Awori heritage. She was educated at Mt Carmel Convent School, Lagos, before proceeding to Methodist Girls' High School, Lagos.

To further her studies, she travelled to London to study business and administration. In London, she took courses at Christine Shaw School of Beauty Science in London, where she received a certificate in cosmetology. She also attended Hendon College of Technology, obtaining a Higher National Diploma in Business Studies in 1969.

While studying, she worked as a waitress at Lyons Tea Shop, then moved to the Post Office and later advertising. In the Post Office, she started as a personal secretary in 1962 and later worked as a senior secretary in the office of Lord Hall. 

Career

She was later moved to the company's advertising department and was in the personnel department of the advertising firm Young and Rubicam. She then worked as a personal assistant to the managing partner of Gresham Broad and Co, an accounting firm. She first became a mother at the age of 15; this caused her parents and family to ignore her, but she enrolled herself in an evening class. In 1959, She had the opportunity of going to the United Kingdom through her friend David Akinduro, whom she later married. However, the marriage eventually broke down due to domestic violence. After her divorce from Akinduro, she married Thomas Lycett, and their marriage was a long-lasting one. 

Her acting debut was in December 1966 in Wole Soyinka's "The Lion and the Jewel", a two-act comedy directed by William Gaskill at the Royal Court Theater in London. Her acting debut was not planned; she was in the rehearsal hall of the play when Gaskill asked her to be a participant. After the encouragement she received following her performance and the invitations from producers that followed, she decided to make a career in acting seriously. She enrolled at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.

In 1972, she left her corporate career and joined the Traverse Theatre Group for the Edinburgh Festival. She was later in a string of television and stage shows. In 1973, she was in Amadu Maddy's play, "Life Everlasting" at the Africa Centre, London. Later in the year, she was in Peter Nichols' "The National Health" during the Festival of British Theatre. In 1976, she played the lead role in Yemi Ajibade's "Parcel Post" at the Royal Court Theatre. Together with the actor Louis Mahoney and the writer Mike Phillips, she was a director with the Black Theater Workshop in London.

She returned to Nigeria in 1971. She has featured in several notable Nigerian films, including Tinsel, the award-winning Nigerian soap opera. Taiwo Ajai-Lycett also featured in other famous works such as the Nigerian movie Oloibiri,  an action thriller film released in 2016. Oloibiri was directed by Curtis Graham, produced by Rogers Ofime and starred  Olu Jacobs, and Richard Mofe Damijo. The film tells how government agencies, along with oil companies, exploited the newly discovered oil in the historic town of Oloibiri.

TAL’s career as a performer started on stage. She recalled that it began in 1971 at the Dublin Theatre Festival with her appearance in Conor Cruise O’Brien’s "Murderous Angels". Since then, she has not looked back as she has performed in some of the world’s famous theatres, such as the Royal Opera House, Hampstead Theatre Club and the Palace Theatre, Westcliffe. She has also appeared in numerous UK Television drama productions for the BBC (TV & Radio Drama), ATV, Granada and Thames Television.  In 1975, Taiwo Ajai-Lycett was invited to join the staff of Africa Magazine, published by Raph Uwechue. Later, she became the pioneer editor of Africa Woman magazine, a women's magazine for Africans in the diaspora.

As an editor, she participated in the United Nations International Women's Year. She had a film appearance in A Warm December, starring and directed by iconic Oscar winner Sidney Poitier and several television appearances, including Some Mothers, Do ‘av ‘em and Crown Court.

Back home in Nigeria, she found a home on the live stage and screen. Some of her stage appearances include "Song of a Goat", "Death and the King’s Horseman", "The Lion and the Jewel", "The Divorce", "The King Must Dance Naked", Wole Oguntokun’s "The Inheritors", "Shylock", Laolu Ogunniyi’s "Winds Against My Soul", Jab Adu’s "The Young Ones", "The Honourable", "For Better for Worse", Rasheed Gbadamosi’s "The Mansion" and "Hear Word".

She became the founder and president of Talhouse Worldwide Limited, a firm she established after the death of her husband Thomas Aldridge Lycett in 1993 for the promotion of the Arts and the training and nurturing of young artists, except for one or two quality Nollywood productions like Tunde Kelani’s "Dazzling Mirage" that has had the benefit of her expert portrayal.

She was honoured with The Industry Merit Award at the 2022 Africa Magic Viewers Choice Awards (AMVCA) on the 14th of May 2022. The awards event was held at Eko Hotel in Lagos.