International placement is now the fast-moving wave in the African modelling industry. with smaller modelling agencies working tirelessly to place their models in larger markets such as New York, Paris, Milan, and London while the modelling agencies in these larger markets are paving the way for acceptance of these new faces from smaller markets to clients.
Models who have been successfully placed abroad into one or many of the bigger markets have been travelling across different continents either for fashion shows, beauty campaigns, look books, magazine covers, editorials prints, or for commercial purposes. Being famous either for posing, cat walking or simply opening or closing a fashion show.
And to the standbys, it is a great career. More money, fame and more countries visitation. But is this often the case? Has the navigation and adaptation of models’ lives abroad built or reduced them? While this might be a controversial question, critical analysis is important.
Weather and Food
Starting with Common things like the weather and food. These are one of the first noticeable changes that hit a new model in the diaspora. On this, an early adaptation is paramount. In an interview with Simon (not his real name ), he had complained about almost freezing out when he arrived in London, and even after months of living there he’s still unable to go out of his residence without his coat because of the fear of freezing again.
Concerning the food models eat, with several African restaurants springing out, food won’t necessarily be an issue and even if you live in a city where there isn’t a native restaurant, it is much easier to adapt to the food of another culture especially when you are hungry.
Now, moving towards the more complex, beginning with the issue of racism towards dark skin models. Well, in the acceptance of dark skin or any skin type aside from white models, the modelling industry would be said to have won the race.
Taking cognizant of the just concluded summer /spring fashion season 23 in which it was seen to have at least 30 black models walking the runways, for top designers like Valentino, Off-white, Dolce & Gabbana, Fendi, and Amiri just to mention a few, and with notable black models are Mary Ukech, Precious Kelvin, Alaato, and Feyi May amongst others who were opening and closing shows.
Magazine, editorial, as well as Beauty campaigns, have also taken up the mantle of featuring models of all skin colours from Almond, Espresso, Beige, or Ivory to say the least.
Rapport in the modelling agency
Even, in the case of the intra-personal relationship between models and foreign models agent, a Nigerian model in Milan once acclaimed the relationship to be right and fair. In her words, “ I have never been discriminated against by my model agents or any of the clients I have worked with simply because I am black, I think they like black”.
Nevertheless, not being discriminated against by your modeling agents or clients doesn’t mean you will not see one or two persons in the street trying to act you down because they feel you do not belong. Still, it can be said that the modelling industry has fought against racism to a higher degree.
However, despite the love, care and fame, there are still crises in between. The crisis of sexual harassment, alcohol, drug, and the major being debt and going off the market.
Sexual Harassment and Drugs
It would be unfair to say sexual harassment takes place only in the larger market, models in the smaller market have also witnessed this. But to the statistics, as stated in Armstrong law firm 30% of models abroad have been harassed and majorly by photographers according to Fstoppers.
For drugs and alcohol, whilst these may be sparely used in smaller markets, it was discovered that some models in larger markets have taken refuge in the hands of drugs for strength to work tedious modelling Jobs, especially during fashion seasons when a model can walk for more than 4 shows a day and this can go on for weeks with long hours of waiting and practice time.
In some cases, models use drugs to avoid gaining weight, while some models tend take it when they are having a terrible experience of not coping abroad due to lack of modelling jobs whilst being choked by the piles of modelling debt in between.
Now to the Major, Debt. While this might be quite strange to new models, it should be known that models fall into the trap of being indebted to their agency for a long time, and if not managed effectively can lead to a loss of career.
Modelling debt could arise from the loan given to a model by her agency for settling abroad and for development which in turn will be deducted from the model’s jobs. This will mostly cover her visa, ticket, Uber, and apartment rent. Other things include having a website presence, composite card, model’s book, digitals, and couriers amongst others. Unfortunately, getting a modeling job is not certain and would be regarded as luck (although hard work, practice, and good modelling materials contribute greatly to landing more gigs). So Models who are not scouted regularly by casting directors are left with little to no money to clear up their debts not to talk of saving for themselves, thus an eventual loss of career.
This article might differ from the experience of each model, nonetheless, this is an axiom to the happenings in the modelling industry.