By Olalekan Bilesanmi
Having modeled in Nigeria before moving to South Africa, Uju Chimezie, South African-based Nigerian model, knows a thing or two about the modelling landscape in each of the two countries.
Her assessment: The South African modelling scene is miles ahead.
“There is a huge difference between South Africa and Nigeria. In South Africa, things are better organized. In Nigeria, modelling is not really considered a job. We don’t seem to believe that one can live exclusively on being a model.
“When you tell people that you are a model, they view you as a prostitute. It should not be that way. There are models that do modelling for a living in South Africa and actually live and pay their rents through modelling full-time. They respect models there compared to Nigeria,” she said.
Also in South Africa, explained Uju, there is a job for everyone, with specific looks and heights for each job.
“You don’t have to be skinny to be a model in South Africa. Whether you are fat, skinny, tall or short, there is a job for everyone. If you are good, you are good. In Nigeria, it is ‘scratch my back, I scratch your back,’ she stated.
As a model in South Africa, Uju has worked with David Tlale, Sun Goddess, Thabo, Black Coffee, Mantsho, Thebe Magugu,, Rich Factory, Liz Ogumbo, Africab Style Story, Sober, Loayo Art and Creations, Sies Isabelle, Keys Fashion and Speero among others.
She has also been part of many private shows with major designers.
“I have worked for the famous French designer, Danny Atrache and international brands like Diesel, Polo Africa, Macro, Kevro, Avon and I’m the first Nigerian model to do an underwater shoot,” she revealed.
In Nigeria, her portfolio includes the Lagos Fashion Week and Design Fashion Week, where she worked with designers such as Jewel by Lisa, Deola Sagoe, Tiffany Amber, Lanre da-Silva, Andrea Iyamah, Mai Atafo, Ejiro Amos Tafiri, April by Kunbi and Toju Foye. She has worked with Copa Lagos, Music Meets Runway and other private fashion shows.
She has also been featured in Vogue Italia, Bona Magazine, True Love, TW Magazine and Complete Fashion. Uju is a brand ambassador, I Do Weddings, Grey Velvet and Iconic Rage. Television commercials form part of her repertoire, having featured for clients like MTN, Old Mutual, Builders Warehouse and Heineken.
Curiously, Uju never desired to be a model. The third of five children, the University of Port Harcourt Biochemistry graduate just wanted to be in business. Things changed when she won the Most Beautiful Igbo Girl Beauty Pageant, which she was virtually forced by friends to enter for.
She started modelling in 2009 and to get going, she said she had to work on many things: etiquette, runway walk, looks.
“These are very important,” she said.
Uju advised models to always know what suits them, as there are different fields.
“There are runway models, fashion models, commercial models. Work on yourself, your body, your etiquette and how you present yourself. When you fall, just stand up and keep going. Also be ready for rejection, but just get up and keep moving,” she counselled.
Uju’s ambition is to work everywhere around the world.
“In Europe, I want to do the Milan Fashion Week, Paris Fashion Week, more of New York Fashion Week and I want to be known everywhere in Africa and globally,” said the model.