By Samira Bello
Do I have to introduce Olajumoke Orisaguna to anyone?
Should I even have to?
After all, she’s been on CNN, The Huffington Post, BBC and Buzzfeed. The proverbial story of the bread seller whose time it is to ‘shine’ and what not. It was fun at first, then it started to get somewhat ridiculous and now, its an outright farce.
Weeks ago, The Lagos Polo club had it’s annual event and part of this year’s line up, a fashion show was organized with several emerging and high profile designers showing clothes from their latest collections and there, this happened.
At the open call casting for the 2015 Lagos Fashion and Design Week, nearly 500 hundred models, a vast majority of whom had been in the industry for at least two years showed up to audition for one of the 75 slots open to models. Less than 20 percent got a slot. That is just a base idea of how competitive runway modelling is.
Of all the kinds of modeling there is out there ( and there are many), runway modeling is the most competitive, second only to advertising editorials in prestige and pay out. But to succeed as a runway model, you must either be well above average height or have a distinctive walk, the latter traditional models train for years to finesse and perfect.
With the right kind of training, Olajumoke Orisaguna can grow to become a decent runway model, but she will always be at a disadvantage to other models. In that way, modelling is like basketball, genetics are just as important as talent.
Right now, she isn’t even a passable runway model but the narrative that she is is being forced on us. Motivations aside, putting Orisaguna on a runway before she is trained enough to compete favourably for jobs with her peers is doing her- and us- a disservice.
Orisaguna is a beautiful woman, but she doesn’t have that thing that sets models apart from other beautiful women. There is no ‘edge’ to her, and she isn’t aware of her body the way a model is.
In her editorial with Layo G, (a heavily photoshopped project,) one could see how easily overwhelmed the former bread seller was when she is shot by someone who isn’t used to shooting amateurs.
She is rigid, and glares at the camera in an awkward pose, strange for an editorial supposedly aimed towards working class women wanting to exude ease and confidence.
In this cut-throat industry of ours, once the media circus around Orisaguna and her good fortune dies out (perhaps, the beginning of which started when the Ese Oruru story broke) she will barely be visible among the swarm of 5’11 models she is supposed to compete for jobs with, let alone become a coveted face.
Many might argue that her popularity is supposedly getting her jobs, but in high fashion popularity is detrimental to a model. A model is supposed to be secondary to the clothes he/she is selling at all times, and in the absence of training or experience or a face that is marketable to the discerning fashion crowd, what else does she have to hold on to other than her popularity?
It took Moyinoluwa Arowoshola, winner of the 2012 Elite Model Look four years to land an international modelling contract, and Ninioma Anosike two years to open her first runway season at NYFW and both women are stunning and mavens at modelling with walks that will always leave an audience spell bound. So what are the odds for dear Olajumoke as a high fashion model?
There are other kinds of modelling; print and catalog, brand endorsements (like her endorsements with Payporte and Shirley’s confectionery) and even fashion adjacent jobs like hair styling (which she already has some experience in). She can still thrive in the fashion industry without being a high fashion model.
I have seen many suggest that she takes as many endorsements and jobs as she can and stock pile what ever money she can lay her hands on before her ‘grace’ expires. When the realities of her odds are discussed, the concerned folks are dismissed as ‘haters.’
This mentality of opportunism is why the fashion and modelling industries are mere scaffolds hiding a rotten, ineffectual system.
Until this changes, all we will do is perpetuate a system that finds and milks (not so) talent only to discard them when they run out of potential opportunities for exploitation.
By Samira Bello