Wednesday, 2 May 2012
While D’Banj was in London recently, Max got an interview with the Koko Master for her radio show on one of the UK’s leading radio stations, Choice FM.
While they were hanging out, they talked about the usual suspects, Kanye West, Big Sean; and also talked aboutSneakbo, kokolettes and so much more.
Nigeria’s Next Super Model (NNSM) came out of the blues and knocked other beauty competitions clean out of the waters. Six years after and with its winners all over the globe, the competition is getting stronger with more industry shaking plans in the works. Pulse.com.ng caught up with the brains behind the competition, Mrs Joan Okorodudu for a little tête-à-tête.
What was the idea behind Nigeria’s Next Super Model (NNSM)?
I went to Ford Model contest in New York with Lexy Mojo. I was taken aback by the American Model search. I thought instantly that we could do this in Nigeria as it was not as complicated as it was made to seem. I returned and spoke to Lexy about it. Everyone suggested I get the Tyra Banks franchise but I was insistent on NNSM being indigenous. Amazingly, before I started nursing the idea of NNSM, my pastor saw something in that light but I didn’t pay too much attention to it. Not too long after was the trip to New York that gave birth to the NNSM competition and I remembered what my pastor said. Shortly after, I met Bunmi Ademokoya and Eunice Eyo who was our first queen and also a model for House of J’ola.
How did you fare coming into the fashion industry?
It fared very well actually. Bunmi Ademokoya was our first and she won Best Model of the World in 2007. Dr. Odunlami Koladaisi was a great help in the birth of the competition. He saw the vision instantly and financed us. National sports lottery, Power Horse and Amigos were the first major sponsors we had. After the first edition here, the girls who won went on to represent us at China and Turkey respectively. It was an amazing and satisfactory feeling when I see the girls doing so well all over the world.
You read political science in Boston University. What prompted the move to fashion and beauty?
I practiced Political science briefly after school. I joined UPN and worked with Awolowo and Ambrose Alli. It was very exciting working closely with them. I had a brief fling with fashion and modeling in Boston University and the fuelled the need to do something with the resources I had here. But hopefully eventually I would get back into politics, maybe in 2015.
What are the challenges of your trade?
Well, it’s been a tough ride. Most people don’t know how we are being financed. But my husband has been very supportive of me and my project. Also another thing we have to deal with is the way that models are treated, especially local models. There is the general belief that whatever is white is better than black. We have no belief in ourselves and our products. There was no support from the Nigerian government for a competition that represented the nation so well at Turkey and China respectively. If we were adequately financed, we would have taken over the world. When we first started, an office I went to for sponsorship told me blatantly that they were not interested unless it was Tyra Banks. Last year which is 6 years after, she saw me and let’s just say that that she was singing a different song.
What fuels your belief in Nigerian models and do you think that Nigerian models are ready for international fashion standards?
I see that there is a huge potential for the Nigerian modeling industry. The problem however is in the black race. We are still wallowing in oppression and slavery and until we break that chain we will still remain where we are. I believe in Africa and Nigeria. The mentality resident here is so depressing, as we don’t even believe in our ability to be as good as our foreign counterparts. Do you know that Italian Vogue does not regard Nigeria as a fashion tourist destination? Ankara wasn’t anything until foreign designers started using the fabric and now everyone is crazy about Ankara. South Africa, Angola and other West African countries are treated way better than their Nigerian counterparts. If you place yourself in a box, that how you’ll be treated and we have obviously done that to ourselves. I mean you see models that put themselves on a low pedestal and go ushering or doing side jobs where they are underpaid and maltreated.
What is this year’s theme ‘Shades of Me’ about?
This year’s competition has been tagged ‘Shades of me due to the different shades of color available in the Africa. While we are all classified as black, there are all kinds of shades of color and this year we are celebrating our beauty and richness of color.
Do you think you’ve been able to impact on the local fashion and beauty industry with NNSM and ISIS Models?
ISIS Models was resident in South Africa before I came back to Nigeria and we are registered in London, New York, South Africa and Nigeria. My girls have been able to win major fashion shows around the world and they are used for cover girls on major magazines like Marie Claire and I think that’s good for the competition and ultimately for the Nigerian modeling industry. We are flying all the way to Paris now for a photo shoot now and I am proud of myself for all the hard work that has gone into this. I had what I consider my biggest challenge in 2009 with a few of my models but with His grace, we were able to overcome.
You own NNSM, ISIS Models, House of J’ola, Lagos Ageless Clinique and still find time to work with other organizations. How do you manage?
I try to. My husband is very insistent on taking vacations every three months where there are no calls or work related things to distract us. I come from a family with very strong work ethics. My mother who is 76 still works and drives. It might seem like a lot but God is with me and gives me the strength I need to carry on.
What is the plan for NNSM in the next few years?
I would like to see ISIS and NNSM take over the modeling industry. I’m training a few girls in that line, some of who are already partners. NNSM is my dream and I hope to see it as the biggest modeling competition in Africa. Already this year, a lot of girls from all over the world are asking that we bring NNJSM to their countries so we are working seriously to bring the maiden edition of Africa’s Next Super Model.