- Modelling is full-time job but not in Nigeria
At a modelling casting to choose exceptionally talented young, aspiring and established models for upcoming Lagos Fashion Fair in collaboration with African Fashion Week Nigeria, one of Nigeria’s most renowned model instructor and fashion entrepreneur, Joseph Adebayo Adegbe, popularly known as Modela, walked in with his models. Though his face and physical appearance bears the mark of many years of toiling and hard work, the awe, the surprise and especially, the whispering among journalists showed that his name still has its worth in the fashion industry. Running into Modela, a man who dedicated most years of his life to mentoring young talents, goes a long way to show how backward Nigerian system is in recognizing and rewarding genuine hard work. In this interview with IFEOMA ONONYE, Modela, who was among the pioneers of modelling agencies in Nigeria, speaks about the three decades he watched the Nigerian modelling industry evolve, why it seems like he went off the public eye for a while and why this may be the return of the almighty Modela
For a while now, it seemed like Modela disappeared from the fashion industry. People had the impression that you must have relocated abroad. Where have you been?
I have been around. I am still in Lagos and still trying to do our things like we used to do them. Though, I had an accident and I am still trying to recover.
We understand that the accident was recent. When did it happen?
The accident happened in February this year 2022. I am still going through physiotherapy for my left arm to move as it used to.
For some of us that have been following your work for over 20 years, there was never any fashion show or any fashion week that there was no Modela. Did you take a back seat?
I did stay back a little. The economic situation of Nigerian is not smiling to everyone. Even with the situation, we were still doing what we could, the little way we see fit.
What is your level of involvement in the up and coming Lagos Fashion Fair in collaboration with African Fashion Week Nigeria?
I and my team will be using some of the Adire Odua to make a collection for this edition. We will be showcasing about 10 to 12 pieces of the Modela collection. I am also producing the show for African Fashion week Nigeria 2022. I am working with a team to make it a success.
If we are to have a roll call of the names of the models that you have trained in the Nigerian modelling industry or that have passed through you, some of them may have grandchildren now. What do you think about your role so far as one of the pioneers of this modelling industry?
I feel the Nig e r i a n Modelling Industry still needs a lot of investment. Up till date, the models are not well paid. The remuneration is still not what models are expected to get at the end of their job. I still see people pay N10,000 to models. By the time agencies take their commission from such money, it becomes bad business for both parties.
For photo shoots, it takes up to two months, three months before the models are paid. When we started setting up models for billboard adverts, the first set of billboards we did with MTN network, even Globacom network, the models were paid, from N300,000 to N500,000 as at far back as 2003 but now, 15 to 20 years after, models are being N100,000. So, it is not encouraging at all. Models need to be adequately compensated.
They should be well paid for their services, so that they can adequately take care of themselves. I cry when I see when models accept peanuts for jobs that are supposed to feed them for half of the year in other countries.
Also the COVID 19 pandemic did not favour the modelling industry like other sectors. It slowed down a lot of things that were trying to pick up. We hope that as events are gradually coming back and jobs are coming up little by little for models, that things are going to change.
Can we say that this is like the return of the almighty Modela?
I believe so. I am looking at it as a new starting point for us to come back into the business and see what we could do again. After the COVID-19 setback, it is a new return for models; it’s a new re-
stakeholders, who are hopeful for a better tomorrow for the industry.
In these few years that it seemed like you took a back seat from the public eye, did you leave training models to do other businesses?
Not at all! I did more of training models than the featuring in fashion shows. I started as a modelling agent, managing models, training models and so on. It is the modelling jobs that I do more than the fashion.
During the pandemic, there were no fashion shows but there were companies that still did adverts online. There were still companies that did photo shoots for online campaigns, for calendars. So, I worked more underground to bring out professional models that could deliver for those jobs.
Would you say that you have achieved the dream you had back when you started training and managing models?
I am still not happy with the pay checks that models are receiving.
The remuneration is still very poor. I want situation where a young girl or boy would wake up and say, ‘mummy, daddy, I want to be a model’ and the parents would say, ‘Yes, it is a good career that you have chosen’, but that cannot put food on your table.
In Nigeria, you must be doing modelling as part time. Modelling has not become a full time career in Nigeria. It is still a part time business.
Are you comparing Nigerian modelling industry to what other countries are doing in terms of modeling career?
If you compare Nigerian modelling remuneration to what other models in other countries, cities around the world like, Kenya, South Africa, Milan, New York and Paris are being paid, you will know that there is a huge difference. Models in these cities live like kings and modelling is a full time career in these countries, but here, in Nigeria, modelling is a part time business.
Many people have different misconceptions about modelling career. It may shock you to know that there are a few that still view them as cheap; even worse in some cases as sex workers. Tell us about the potentials of a professional model…
A model is a professional person that is employed from time to time, anywhere all over the world, to use his or her God given gifts of good looks, image and personality to help sell products and services to clients.
There is so much to be done by a model to keep in shape, maintain the good physique, keep the skin glowing at all times. Maintain good Public Relations, maintain a healthy diet, keep out of bad image, dress well and keep being photogenic all the time.
So, you see, a model’s job is not just a walk in the park. It’s a full time job. We can get rid of these perceptions by making the modelling business more professional.
Have more registered ID card carrying members and model managers. The Association of professional models regulating the codes and conduct of the trade, making a guild for practitioners, introduction of more standard modelling Academy, government making a bill which will discourage non professionals from the industry.
Back in those days before you started managing and training models, what career did you first launch yourself first?
I started as a model as well. So, with my own experiences and training, I decided to train other young people, who wanted to be models, so they can use it as a career and better their lives but it has still not become a profession.
I started Modela modelling agency in 1990. So, it still bothers me that it has not become what we dreamt for it to be.