Champagne corks popped and glitter sparkled like a thousand little stars in Lagos, Nigeria’s economic capital, where an international model cast was looking for the face of the future.

Elizabeth Elohor is sure it will be an African. The former supermodel established Nigeria’s first modeling agency in 2004, when there was no fashion week on the continent, very few local designers, and little high-end fashion.

Now with his cast “Future Face Africa”, Elohor hopes to extend the search for future talent from Nigeria to the rest of the continent.

Before the 2000s, there were few black faces on the covers of women’s magazines except for iconic figures like Naomi Campbell, Donyale Luna, and Beverly Johnson.

In Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa with over 200 million inhabitants, the few who dared to venture into modeling at the time were independent, vulnerable and had to distribute their own portfolios to companies specializing in modeling. event planning and advertising.

When Elohor returned from London in 2004 to found Beth Model Agency, she was innovating, said Marius Isikalu, a barely 30-year-old former top model who now works alongside her.

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“Elizabeth was a pioneer. She signed all the models known at the time and she said ‘If you want to use them, that’s how much you’re going to pay, and those are the terms,” ​​”Isikalu said standing on the floor. red carpet event.

“She set the rules, the prices, she set the pace.”

The turning point for the modeling world in Africa came in 2010 when South Africa and Nigeria organized fashion weeks that were recognized internationally as “select” in the fashion world.

The recent “Black Lives Matter” movement and leading advocates of black female beauty are also helping to change trends around the world. But the reasons are also economic.

“International designers like Louis Vuitton, Dolce & Gabbana, Balmain … have started to realize that a lot of their clients are actually from Africa,” said Elohor, seated in a mustard yellow armchair of a designer. Nigerian.

“Back then, out of 50 agencies, you probably would have had five models and now an agency can have as many as 10, 15 African models.”

Beth Model Management, one of Nigeria’s leading modeling agencies, has started the process of finding and training potential models, in order to showcase Africa’s different shades of beauty and vibrant African fashions. Photo: AFP

“Africa is the future”

Tobi Momoh is one of the new generation of models. Smiling and full of life, the 19-year-old goes from table to table in her fitted black dress, greeting the stars of the Nigerian Nollywood film scene, the royalty of Afropop music or the stars of reality TV.

“I grew up thinking that I would be like all the other girls who struggle to find a job after school. But Elizabeth saw me on the road, she asked my mother’s permission to sign me in her agency. and now! Look at me! It was so simple, “she said.

Tobi was only 15 when she won the Elite Model Look Africa competition, which propelled her to the catwalks in Milan, Paris and several international agencies.

“We have the beauties to rock the catwalks,” she said. Elizabeth knows it too. And even if she no longer has time to walk the streets or the markets of Lagos, her passion for unearthing rare pearls of African beauty remains with her.

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Through “Future Face Africa”, a huge cast first via social networks and then face-to-face, she wants to broaden her research to the whole continent and make fashion move in Africa.

The growing sector has allowed the emergence of many actors, designers, make-up artists, but also photographers. Famous Nigerian fashion photographer Kola Oshalusi has also witnessed the explosion in demand and professionalization of modeling in Africa over the past decade.

Even Nigeria’s growing security concerns, high inflation and economic hardship cannot take away the glitz and the sense of hope.

“Africa is the future,” said Oshalusi, wearing a stylish beige hat and cotton jacket. “Nigeria is Africa. Nigerian models are confident, they bring so much energy to the catwalks, they know what they want, and it has helped to build an incredible reputation on the international stage. ” – AFP


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Hazel J. Edmonds

The author Hazel J. Edmonds

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