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My sin is that I showed compassion to models — Joan Okorodudu

By Remmy Diagbare

Marcia Okhai and Cynthia Omorodion , two girls from Edo State, who were second and  first runners up at the 2008 edition of Nigeria’s Next Super Model Competition have gone on Facebook to level accusations against Joan Ojorodudu, organizer of the model search.
Cynthia said that she was not given her prize while Marcia alleged that Joan did not send her abroad like she promised. But, they failed to write about an alleged misconduct. Mrs Okorodudu, in a chat with Allure, said that she had called the duo shortly after the event and they had behaved untowardly to her.  And, being an Edo person, she had asked me if I could step in and talk to them. Unfortunately, because of logistics, I could not get round to talking some sense into them, When she called a second time to say they fought on the street and the South African police were called in by neighbours, I advised her to dethrone them immediately. And so did every one she shared the problem with. And so she did.

So, why did she not make this public before now?  In this interview, she explains why and more…

First of all, nobody owes any model any flight ticket to any where. If any agency pays any plane ticket for any model, they will take your money and 10% commission. I have receipts of rent payments. When we first moved into the model house in South Africa, we started with two flats and finally ended with five flats.

I furnished the flats, from television sets to beds and everything to make the models comfortable.  It is so amazing that none of them have paid me rent. Even after 8 months, when some of them moved to their own accommodation, I was still buying things for them, including food.

Joan Okorodudu
Joan Okorodudu

I think, I have stepped on a lot of toes. Of course, just entering the industry and excelling is not going down well with a lot of people. It is a Nigerian brand, a national brand. It is amazing that some Nigerians would want to bring down this brand. Nobody owes any model feeding, transportation or even a free house. I employed a driver who ferried these girls to and from castings.  Did they pay me for this?

Unfortunately, I opened Isis Model Agency purely by necessity. I took my models to some agencies and they gave me huge bills to pay; from work permit to housing. When I calculated the money, it came up to what I would need to establish my own so, decided to do just that. The first year of Isis, we had about eight of our girls on the runway -  many people didn’t like that.

And, of course, Isis became very popular; it became a major issue – like, where did she come from?

Unfortunately, somebody in the media decided to spear head this whole thing. When someone in the media came to me to pay  money to quell Marcia’s story, I refused. I said to her that I will not succumb to blackmail. I am not guilty. I have receipts that I used to pay so many bills.

Then, there is also the angle of a disgruntled fashion designer; someone who is also in the modeling industry and runs a model search contest too. So, it is like a gang up. A bizarre conspiracy.

My sin is trying to help people. I have a girl who has just come back from Miss Model of the World – Tayo Ishola. I paid her for her flight tickets and gave her pocket money. Will you believe that she told me when she came back that this fashion designer went to her, to come out to say something negative about me.  But, she refused.

All my models are ready to talk. Anybody who cares can go and ask them.
I have been spending my money, sending these models all over the world.
Eunice Eyo  went to Miss Model of the World and she has her car. Isi Tagene, Olubunmi went  also,   I also paid.

It cost me 57000 rands in tickets for the girls to go to New York in February another 10,000 dollars as hotel bills. Calculate! Which agency does that?
How much do the models make to be able to afford this kind of trip?. For each fashion show, you are paid 1600rands. By the time you get your money, it’s 900grand. Even if you make five shows, that is less than 5000 rands, it is not up to 1000 dollars.

Is that the money they are making that will pay their bills? As a matter of fact, these girls are owing me. She said she did Chicken Licking advert. She was not paid because, she was not used.  Should I pay her when the client did not pay?  They are the ones owing me. That is why it is so painful; that this woman in one of the media houses goes about plotting to bring me down.

Why do you conclude that somebody in the media is behind this?

Unfortunately, she forgot documents with my name that revealed all her correspondence. That is how we found out that it is not just Marcia. It is all about a couple of people who decided they that they had to bring a Nigerian brand down.

I have flown the Nigerian flag so high. I have taken models all over the world and nobody has ever has ever escaped.  Unlike some other people who have taken people out and some do not come back. Every model that I have taken out comes back.

Nobody is talking about all that but you have people, in this country, who want to see this cave in. But, I have got news for them. It is not going to die.

A lot of young men and women depend on this. Bryan Ikenna Okpara just became the best African Male Model and also worn the Best Friendly Model award at the Best Model of The World Awards.  He has two plaques. Aisha Bello, the current winner, made the top 10 list. Aisha Bello was late because of visa issues. Bunmi Ademokoya was crowned the new queen.
So, what are we talking about? We have done the New York Couture Week, Mercedes Benz show.  Bunmi was booked for Mercedes Benz.  We have done Berlin Fashion Week. We have done Paris Fashion Week.

How did the issue of removing Marcia come up?

Last year, when they won – the two girls whom I dethroned; the winner, Cynthia Oronsanye, and the runner up, Marcia, they had signed a contract binding them to the rules of the competition. And, one of the rules is that, you had to conduct your self in a manner that was consistent with the profile of the competition. We have two sets of winners I took to South Africa to model, and who also got their cars. They were well behaved. Tthey lived in the model house and I had no issues with them.

But when these two Edo girls came in, it was a different game.  It was a nightmare from day one.  They fought, they drew daggers; they were going to kill each other . They were arrested by South African Police for unruly behaviour. It was terrible.

The allegations?

First of all, I have got my records. When Cynthia won, I had a sponsor who paid her ticket and also gave me a cheque, which I was supposed to use for getting their papers.  In front of them, he warned me that these two girls are trouble; that they are bad business. He advised: “I think you should cut them off now”. I said no, they are youn; they will change. He sent me loads of text messages, saying you are toying with fire.
By the time we went to cash the cheque, the man stopped it.  So, from beginning, I had my doubts but I kept them waiting to see if they could be redeemed. But, I was cautious.

When we got to Jo’burg and this fight ensued, I made up my mind to dethrone them.
Let me tell you, if we did not have four men there when Cynthia drew a dagger and was going to kill Marcia, we would have had a different matter on our hands. At that point, I said no way. After the police left, I called her and told her, you are no longer Nigeria’s Next Super Model. But, you have a choice, you forfeit everything.  I can make it public, which will ruin your career. I told her, “You better work away slowly and continue your career as a model. However, your disgraceful conduct has

disqualified you.”

That was the reason she did not get anything and she will not get anything. The girl has fought on the streets. They have used profanities and broken every rule of the competition.

Every time she broke a rule, she will get down to beg and cry, recounting her family woes. Out of compassion, I left her until the dagger and police issue.
There are rules to pageants and she broke all of them, so she had to go.

On money, how much did they make? The only shows they did were the fashion week, and how much does the fashion week pay?

The person who has brought money in for this company is Bryan Okpara. He has done Dwej; he has done Guinness twice. He has done Zain. He has done a lot of adverts and that is what brings in more money,  not run way.

They owe me money because, they only did runway. And the runway that Cynthia did in Cape Town because, she has just won, they were going to fly her down and deduct the money from her fees.  By the time she came back, there was nothing left.  And, this was translated to her.

As for Marcia, she was not entitled to anything except going to Jo’burg and to attend Model of the World Contest.  I have papers to show that her papers did not come on time. When she missed that, I decided to send her for another contest. Then, she began to manifest this unruly behaviour. I could not risk sending her out, after noticing her character flaws. She is erratic, she is crazy.

Cynthia claims that she did not go for any competition. How could I send her when she has two different passports?  I told her it was illegal. I am not going to condone you tampering with legal documents, because you want to change the date of birth.
I refused to take her out when I realised that she went in to get another passport. So right now, she is operating with two different passports, bearing different information.
They were just uncontrollable. Look, because of their bad behaviour, I sent Bisi Rahaman to China to represent my agency because, I wasn’t going to send any of these two girls. Bisi is not my model.

These girls have everything it takes to make it as models, but character wise, they are zero.

One of the accusations the girls made is favouritism. Is there equal opportunity for each model?

Why will there not be equal opportunity?  Was I the one that went to Turkey to make Bunmi Best Model of the World?  Was I the one who made them to choose Isi Atagame  in New York? When they go for castings, do I go with them to say, choose this and leave that?  I send pictures of everybody to every where. If they now come back to say this is who I want, is that my fault? And, no agency sends any model anywhere in the world unless they know that person is going to make it. My sin is that some of the models are working, while they have not yet been called.

But, this has taught me a lesson.  Apart from the winner, I will not take any model out of Nigeria again. If you want to model, find your way to South Africa, fend for yourself. You can walk in to the agency and register yourself, like other agencies do. As a matter of fact, I am going to close the model house. Let every model fend for herself.


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Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.