Modelling is one act which has been glorified in many African countries and the developed world, but in Nigeria this industry seems to be struggling to survive, OGECHI OKORONDU writes.
Modelling industry in other parts of the world is striving but in Nigeria the industry seems to be sleep-walking with no defined structure. Breaking into and working in the modelling industry can be extremely difficult work. The constant pressures related to models’ looks and lifestyles are nothing short of overwhelming in many cases.
The business is highly competitive, and getting noticed often requires a great deal of resources, both monetary and personal. While all careers have their pressures, being successful in the world of fashion sometimes comes with strings attached.
There is perhaps no pressure discussed and scrutinised more than the pressure on models to maintain or lose weight. Many well-known fashion models appear unhealthily thin, and super-skinny models are in high demand from clothing designers, who often feel that having a thin model who won’t fill out the clothes allows for a better presentation and focus on the clothing itself.
The pressure for models to keep their sizes down as low as possible can extend to others as well. For example, a 2009 study conducted among 32,000 British teens revealed that 26 percent of 14- and 15-year-old girls skip breakfast, and 22 percent do not eat lunch because they feel they need to lose weight.
The modeling industry is often singled out by those concerned with the rates of eating disorders, and the distorted body image many young girls have.
Models’ overall looks are constantly under heavy scrutiny. While models of all ethnicities and facial features can be found on the runway and in advertisements, some agencies and designers have specific features in mind, and many models feel pressured to keep a youthful look.
Supermodel Erin O’Connor stated in an interview with Mail Online that she was pressured to have plastic surgery done on her nose and breasts. She refused, and is still working as a model, but many other women and men in modeling undergo expensive and potentially dangerous cosmetic procedures to alter their looks so they can remain competitive and desirable in the industry.
Breaking into modeling can be extremely difficult, and many aspiring models feel the financial strain while they are waiting for their big breaks. Professional photos to send to agencies can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars, and aspiring models often spend large sums on hair care, makeup and skin treatments to keep themselves looking as good as possible. Most major modeling agencies are clustered, so new and aspiring models often spend large sums on airfare and accommodations to attend meetings and casting calls.
In Nigeria as earlier mentioned, the modelling industry has no defined structure. Commenting on the state of the modelling industry in Nigeria, former Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria, Miss Afoma Fiona Amuzie said despite the striving modelling businesses in most countries of world, former Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria, Miss Afoma Fiona Amuzie has said there is actually no modelling industry in Nigeria.
In an interview with Nigerian Pilot Saturday, she explained that modelling exists in Nigeria but the industry is not organised.
“I don’t think there is a modelling industry in Nigeria. There are so many individuals who are trying to make the business of modelling work in Nigeria but it is not yet organised.”
She added that in other parts of the world, people take on modelling as a career and they excel because there it exists as an organised business with eligible structures.
According to the queen the sizes being taken into consideration for one to pass as a beauty queen or model matters a lot.
“Certainly there are criteria for being a beauty queen. Being beautiful starts from the soul and it reflects outside of you. I have seen so many fat women grow very beautiful and they look gorgeous. But one can’t deny the fact there is a standard for being a beauty queen. I am so happy that today we have pageants that celebrate different categories of people. We have the “Bold and Beautiful Pageant” and I feel like these pageants are ways of expressing different kinds of beauty. Michael Jackson propagated this notion in his song when he said you are beautiful no matter how you look; short, black, white, brown or fat, I mean we are all beautiful.”
Similarly, 2011 winner of Mr Nigeria, Deji Bakare has expressed dissatisfaction over modelling industry in Nigeria. He explained that models are not respected in Nigeria like their counterparts in the advanced countries.
He lamented that modellers are only recognised on the runway, which he says should not be so.
“Modellers abroad are respected unlike here in Nigeria, where we see them as ushers and most modellers believe modelling is all about the runway thing, but in abroad, it is not it. Modellers are icons to be respected when sighted,” he said.
Deji Bakare urged the Nigerian models to be well educated, saying it is only best way to improve and be exposed as a model.
Managing Director of an entertainment and fashion firm, Create Ur World Agency, Mr. Tunde Afolabi has said the high interest rate by banks had retarded the growth of the fashion industry.
According to Afolabi investors were being discouraged by the high interest rate by commercial and microfinance banks. He said the industry needed funds to boost the contributions to Nigeria’s economy and appealed to the Federal Government to provide financial assistance for the industry.
“Funding is the major challenge we are facing in the industry.” He added that if the industry is well developed in Nigeria its development would result in more employment opportunities and increase national revenue.
Pressures related to getting the best jobs and representation are common in the modeling industry. While many agencies are completely ethical, some models, particularly females, feel pressured into compromising their principles.
A 2008 article written by an anonymous model on the “Jezebel” website highlighted several stories of models, some in their teens, who had affairs with men in positions of power in the fashion industry, feeling it would help them get ahead in their careers. It can be difficult for young models to resist these pressures, believing that succumbing to someone with connections can help them find a place in the modeling world.
In spite of the challenges confronting the modelling industry in Nigeria, some Nigerian models are making it big out of Nigeria such as Nigerian model, Daniel Agbodji who is now the new face prestigious fashion brand, Calvin Klien. This is a rare opportunity for Nigeria as it is not often that black models, and especially black male models, are chosen to represent huge brands.