He is one of Britain’s most celebrated cosmetic doctors whose treatments have helped people across the country to feel beautiful and confident.
Dr Tijion Esho has been the voted the UK’s best aesthetics doctor every year since 2014 and was this year named most influential doctor in the beauty industry.
With the rich and famous flocking to his clinic for treatments like his 24-ct gold champagne facial, he is known to many as the A-list’s best kept secret.
But while he helps many feel confident in their own skin, Dr Tijon – whose popular ESHO brand has made facials available to everyone – often felt out of place as he pursued his career in the cosmetics industry.
At medical school he was one of only two black students in his year: “I remember a girl coming up to me and she was just staring at me and she said, ‘I know this really sounds weird, but you’re the first black person I’ve seen in real life and not on TV’.
“I just thought that was weird, what world am I coming into? Coming from a diverse community to here where people were so limited. Also at the time. I was worried in terms of classism because a lot of people there were from generations of doctors. I was like, am I on the back foot here?
“In the end what showed through was talent. When you’re working through, you gain respect and you move through and you blaze your own path through things.”
Growing up in North London’s Edmonton, he knows all too well the importance of having positive role models and exposure to different career paths. His parents emigrated from Nigeria and they were made to sacrifice their own dreams in order to earn enough money to support their children.
“My parents came here in their 20s from Nigeria and they had me and then had my sister. They were educated people, my Dad was an accountant and my Mum was a teacher but when they came over here their qualifications weren’t recognised and they worked in a tiling factory. We lived in council state housing. They did a lot of sacrificing to put me and my sister through education.
“My Dad always said, ‘you have opportunities here son, you have to grab it with both hands’, and so I’ve never wanted to sit on my hands. I’ve always wanted to push to do as much as I can because then I feel like I’m paying back my parents for the opportunities and the sacrifices they made for us.”
Initially wanting to pursue a career in graphic design, Tijion’s plans were challenged by his Dad who wanted his son to chase something in STEM.
What is Black History Month?
The UK began celebrating Black History Month, an idea first spawned in the United States and then also adopted by European countries including Ireland and the Netherlands, in October 1987.
Black History Month helps give context to modern life and the country’s history, while championing the experiences and celebrating the contributions of Black Britons here in the UK.
The observation was first organised through the leadership of Ghanaian-born analyst Akyaaba Addai-Sebo. He served as a coordinator of special projects for the Greater London Council.
Consequently, Akyaaba created a plan aiming to recognise the contributions of African, Asian and Caribbean people to the economic, cultural and political life in the UK.
“My dad was said you can pick between being a doctor, a dentist, a lawyer, engineer or an accountant. These are careers where you’ll have security in the future’.
“We didn’t see eye to eye at that point because I couldn’t understand why he would push me from something that I loved to these things that I knew nothing about. In retrospect as an adult looking at it, I can see he was seeing the sacrifices he had to make, and was trying to get me in a position to be secure enough to provide for a family.
“When I went on work experience, I saw the art in what the surgeon was doing on people’s faces and bodies. I saw it and I was amazed and I thought okay, we have a compromise here. Plastics became my thing because I loved the art, I loved the finesse and the attention to detail.”
Turning down a private school scholarship in favour of going to the local state school with his friends, Tijion says his Dad pushed him and enabled him to get the million pound career that he has today.
“If it wasn’t for my parents, medical school might not have happened because at school I was discouraged, I actually wasn’t pushed. I remember meeting the head of the year when my dad and I said medicine was the way to go and her saying, ‘Have you got any alternatives, because that might be a bit difficult’. There wasn’t a push to it or a ‘let’s give you access to it.’ It was a no. My dad was hyper aware that for a lot of young black guys, the push was towards sports.”
Now the doctor wants to build a laboratory for his products in the UK that will offer black students career inspiration and opportunities in both medicine and pharmaceutical fields.
“I’m not just doing this for my family or me, I’m doing this on a community level now and I need to try and do my best to give opportunities to people like me to have access.”
The drive to inspire can be heavy though with an emphasis on perfection, precision and appearances – much like cosmetic surgery itself.
“If there’s a mistake, you’re no longer the UK’s leading cosmetic surgeon, you are the Nigerian doctor. I think every black parent tells you that you’re going to be scrutinised differently. You are going to be judged differently, you have to work hard and we know that early. We’re told that so early.”
Social media trolls come with the territory too with Tijion receiving abuse aimed at himself, his son Roman, 2, and his partner Laura.
Dr Esho – Instagram)
“When people saw that my partner was white and my son was mixed race, some people took that as a negative thing.
“When my son was born, I got these inboxes from unnamed accounts and they said, ‘Your kid, even though he’s half white, he could never not be black, he’s still a monkey.’
“I built a thick skin for things coming towards me but for stuff to come towards my missus and my baby? That really affected me because all you want to do is protect them and for people to love them.”