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Wednesday, October 18, 2017

NIGERIAN MODELS OWNING INTERNATIONAL RUNWAYS AND CAMPAIGNS: THANKS TO BETH AND OTHERS

Mayowa Nicholas: A fresh faced,natural African beauty


I am sure I am not the only one who loves tall and beautiful people. In the course of my career as a creative working in the fashion industry, I have been privileged to work with amazing and beautiful humans. As someone always on the lookout for interesting finds and inspiration, I have walked up to people on the streets and at events and asked them to model for some of my runway shows, presentations and photo shoots. Interestingly, I also met some of them at national fashion competitions I have entered. Some of them have become like family and it is always a designer’s delight when you get that human ‘mannequin’ that embodies your collection and breathes life into your clothes and accessories. 

Elohor Elizabeth founder of Beth Models Africa Image credit: The Will

When Elohor Elizabeth an ex-model in the UK and one time winner of Miss Nigeria UK, returned to Nigeria in 2001,she was encouraged by several people to continue modeling. According to her, she didn’t find proper agencies so she decided to start her eponymous Beth Models Africa in 2004. It was great to have another agency which I hoped would be fair to models and not rip them off by taking the lion’s share of the models fees. My ears were filled with some unpleasant stories told to me by some girls I worked with. Several agencies already existed before Beth and most of their founders of their founders were ex-beauty queens, former models or professionals working in the beauty business. ‘Modela’ a former model and fashion designer ran one the few model agencies then and he helped in launching some faces. Same for Joan Okorodudu with her Isis Models agency which even held an annual modeling competition. The winner normally got an international modeling contract which came with a lot of exposure on national and international runways, campaigns and magazine editorials. Even Oluchi Onweagba our Face of Africa started her O modeling agency in South Africa which some Nigerian models have also benefitted from. There are other agencies like Few who launched the international modelling career of Elizabeth Ayodele. She is signed internationally under IMG models the same Kate Moss was with for several years. 

Elizabeth Ayodele at Fendi A/W 2017/18 Milan Image Credit: Bella Naija
Steven and Tobi winners of Elite Model Look Nigeria 2017 Image credit: Pulse
Chika Emmanuel the winner of Elite Model Look Nigeria 2010 Image credit: LadyBrille.com
10 years ago, Elohor started the Elite Model Look Nigeria and this competition over the years, has landed some of the winners on coveted spots international runways across all the fashion capitals and also major campaigns for top fashion brands. They have worked with a lot of Nigerian and African designers and magazines as well. Charity begins at home. Some of the winners have also been featured in editorials of international magazines like Vogue. For the first few years, the competition focused only on girls but in recent years, it has included boys. As a result of throwing in boys for good measure, this competition produced the first black model at the Elite Model Look World in 2016—Davidson Obennebo a 20 year old Nigerian undergraduate. He won in the Elite Model Look Nigeria for boys and made history as the first black person to win since the competition started in 1983. Not even an ‘African American’ has achieved this feat. I suppose it is time for Africa finally. It always gladdens my heart when positive lights are beamed on this country of mine by people flying our flag high across several industries.

Cindy Crawford 80s and 90s supermodel
Cindy's first Vogue Cover in 1986
Cindy, husband and children
 
Cindy 51 and daughter Kaia 16
Cindy, Mum and daughter in a JC Penny shoot for Mothers Day 6 years ago
Kaia hits Calvin Klein Spring/Summer 2018 runway

The Elite Model World competition launched the careers of 2 of my top 15 favourite models of all time—Gisele Bundchen the Brazilian Bombshell and oh-so-cool Cindy Crawford the 80s and 90s supermodel with the famous mole. The apple does not fall far from the tree as Cindy’s daughter and son have also joined the modeling fold. Good genes in the family I guess since her husband and the father of these 2 children is also an ex-model. 

Gisele Bundchen Image Credit: Hola! magazine
Gisele in a Chanel ad Image credit: Chanel
Mayowa Nicolas, Victor Ndigwe and Davidson Obennebo have further proved that we have beautiful people in these parts (not that we needed external validation though) who can work internationally. Many international fashion designers have seen there is no sense in having ‘white out’ runways and campaigns. Fashion is for every colour or race and their clients are actually from every part of the world. Some models really suffered in their era and had to literally break new grounds and pave the way for others. Iman comes to mind. When she started her modeling career, she had to do her hair and makeup herself because the lame excuse given by stylists then was that they didn’t know how to handle black skin and hair. 

Younger Iman
Iman with models of other races on the cover of her book
Older Iman Image credit: etonline
Iman decided to create a makeup range for women of all colours and even wrote a book. Recently Rihanna Fenty has launched her makeup range for virtually every skin tone. Even supermodel Naomi Campbell had to fight and so did Tyra Banks and several others. Not that racism in the industry has been completely extinguished but things are so much better. When the late Franca Souzzani, the editor of Vogue Italia launched the widely successful A BLACK ISSUE (they had to do reprints of that issue) of an all black cover and editorials with the black girls making fashion interesting, tongues wagged and wagged. It’s tokenism! It’s a publicity stunt! We even heard that some companies who sent adverts and campaigns wanted to pull out. So much for adding colour and spice. I think many people eventually got the memo and decided to be more open. The world is made up of different races and looks so deal with it!

Jourdan Dunn, Naomi Campbell, Sesilee Lopez, Liya Kebede on the Black Issue cover
Naomi Campbell and Sesilee Lopez on one half of the cover
Sesilee Lopez in the magazine
Tyra Banks in the magazine All image credits above: Vogue Italia/Steven Meisel
Over the years, there has been a greater demand for diversity on the runway and back in the day, late Yves Saint Laurent and Gianni Versace were some of the few designers working with black models in their shows and campaigns.  

Yves Saint Laurent with Mounia one of his favourite models Image credit: nyt.com


Last Autumn /Winter 2017/18 Donatella Versace and her team put Davidson Obennebo in super duper spotlight. He opened and closed the Versace show! This is big because normally, different models open and close shows and it is a great responsibility put on a model’s shoulders as he or she sets the tempo for the show. Fashion journalists always take note of the show openers and closers outfits, models and all. He, Mayowa and Victor also walked or stomped through a dizzying array of shows across New York, London, Milan and Paris. Victor was the first Nigerian male model to appear on international runways and land major campaigns. He has worked consistently across the past seasons and same goes for the other two.The video below from the Beth Model Africa Vimeo channel shows Davidson opening the Versace show, Mayowa and Victor in a Balmain shows. 

Victor Ndigwe in Missioni Men Spring/Summer 2016 Image credit: defuzemag.co.uk

Victor in United Colours of Benetton Holiday 2016 campaign
 
Davidson Obennebo's  opening and closing looks at Versace Autumn/Winter 2017/18 in Milan
Mayowa Nicholas at Balmain Autumn/Winter 2017/18 in Paris


Victor Ndigwe at Balmain's Autumn/Winter 2017/18 in Paris


video 
Davidson and Mayowa at Versace, Victor at Balmain's Autumn/Winter 2018 shows

Mayowa in MiuMiu Campaigns
Mayowa with Karl Lagerfeld after the Chanel show in Paris

In Miu Miu

In Dries Van Noten

In Bottega Venetta
In Paul Smith
In Max Mara

Davidson in the Versace Jeans Autumn/Winter 2017 Image credits: Versace.com

These youngsters are living their dream in their chosen career. Elohor, you have done well for these people, the country and for yourself. Keep it up but erm, do you work with middle-aged women that are slightly below 5ft 9inches? (laughs!)

I do hope I will be able to share Davidson’s story here pretty soon but it is safe to say, he is a pleasant, down to earth young chap who has not allowed all the fame and fortune get to his head. I met and spoke with him for quite some time at a recent event and I hope he continues this way and stays grounded. Stay tuned folks! 


Davidson leading the pack

Image credits not stated: Instagram