Three months ago, I’d have asked if you lived under a rock if you hadn’t heard that Olajumoke Orisaguna has ended her contract with her modelling agency, Few Models.
The news broke on several platforms a few days ago and suggested that Olajumoke hadn’t landed any high profile contracts since she signed with the agency. Several of the posts also link her with Elohor Aisien’s Beth Models, though there has been no official confirmation from Elohor Aisien or the Beth Model Africa PR Team.
I personally struggled with writing this article, as there was an overwhelmingly negative response to my first article. But Olajumoke is an ideal case study of the unconventional model and the ways the industry seeks to milk them.
In the maelstrom of uncertainties, we are sure of two things.
- Olajumoke has been unable to land any high profile modelling job.
- Olajumoke is currently a free agent.
The question then is; what is a high profile modelling job?
Depends on what kind of model you want to be.
For a runway model, it would be getting cast to walk for a high profile showcase like Africa Fashion Week Nigeria or the Lagos Fashion and Design Week. For a print and editorial model it would be fronting commercial campaign for mega brands like Lisa Folawiyo, Deola Sagoe or Tiffany Amber. For a catalog model, it would be landing a high profile catalog editorial for a mega brand like ASOS, Argos or Konga. There is no single identifier for critical success as a model and many models juggle several portfolios to make a decent living.
Olajumoke is what you would call a ‘personality’ model, a few notches lower than a celebrity model, but working on the same premise. A ‘personality’ model for whatever reason enjoys a lot of good will from the public and is expected to use that good will towards selling products for a brand (which if you bring it down to brass tacks, is what all models do) for a fee. As a personality model, Olajumoke is doing quite well. She has endorsements with Payporte, Sujimoto and Shirley’s Confectionery. It might not be glamorous but it definitely gets the bills paid.
In light of this, the whole drama with ending contracts and announcing new agencies seems a little premature. Part of the argument offered by Olajumoke’s lawyers is that she wants to move to an agency with better and wider experience, and that Few is too young an agency to know what to do with her.
It might be true that Few Models might not have known what do with her, but why this is so, is clear to anyone with a smidge of experience in the modelling industry, one of the most conceited and physically obsessed industries in the world. She simply doesn’t have the look they want. The modelling industry is obsessed with youth and the illusion of perfection, and believe it or not intelligence.
Have you ever considered what it must be like to work with Olajumoke?
Her stylists, make up artists and most especially her photographers must always either speak fluent Yoruba or have a translator with them to guide her through a shoot. This is an extra limitation many design labels already trying to limit costs would rather circumvent. I know this sounds preposterous, but a quick google search will reveal to you that most successful models are at least tri-lingual, to deal with this very problem.
Then there is the dilemma of the sample size. Most designers create their conceptual sample for a predetermined size set (5’11, 34 -26-36.) Asking them to create a completely different sample collection that cannot be reused simply so they can book Olajumoke is an extra expense most label’s cannot and will not justify.
Because Olajumoke simply isn’t desirable to their target market. We conflate being happy for Olajumoke’s ‘miracle’ with her being influential enough to sway our buying habits. Olajumoke is no Mayowa Nicholas, or Chika Emmanuel, or Olamide Ogundele. We don’t want her body, or the clothes she is wearing. We root for her when she is gets a modelling job but more because it extends the narrative we have built around her.
We hear that Olajumoke wants to start a charity. While even that is premature (she isn’t quite out of her old life yet,) this is the first inspired decision we have seen the people around her make.
As time has proven, the best thing to do with a fantastical story, is tell it.