I had another interview in one of the leading newspapers in Africa, Vanguard of Nigeria. Here is the full text of the interview for your information.
Modeling has helped me with poise and elegance — Linda Ikeji
Saturday, January 07, 2006
Fashion Personality by Jemi Ekunkunbor
At only 24 years, Lanky, Linda Ekeji is already stepping down from the run way to help other models realise their dream . The English graduate of the University of Lagos, took to modeling at only 17 featuring in some of the most glamorous fashion shows in the country. Talk about St Moritz Style Selection, she was there. She has also been to ECOFEST and done several out door advertisements. The CEO of Black Dove, a modeling agency in Yaba is all set to launch a magazine FM&B to help the industry she is so passionate about. At her Yaba office during the week, the young executive opened up on why she is retiring very early and her seven years experience in modeling.
“Well, the truth is that you can’t do one thing for the rest of your life. I started modeling very early in life in 1998. By 2004, I realised that most of the people I modeled with had all moved on. Some had gotten married and some had left the country. I got tired of doing shows with new people. Some of these young models were coming to me to help them realise their dreams. So, I spoke to some people in the agency and they said they will support me. That was how I started Dove Modeling Agency.
I do not find the young models a challenge or a threat. I did Frank Oshodi’s Red Bold and Jazzy last year. I didn’t see anyone that would make me feel like I wasn’t good enough. I don’t think we’ve been able to breed a new set of fantastic models. My set was probably the last set of good models. I’ve been to shows and the new generation models aren’t doing too much fantastic jobs. Like I said, I retired because, I look around and I’m wondering, what am I doing here? All the people around me are all 18-19 years old and I’m 24. So, I felt it was time for me to move on, help others and be in the background.
Life after modeling
The age at which you retire, depends on how early you started. I started at 17years immediately I got out of secondary school. I was modeling with people much older than me. So it’s not about age but about the number of years that I’ve spent in the industry. You don’t have to retire at the same age as me. You can go on modeling for as long as you feel comfortable doing it. I know a model who got married in June and in July, she did a show. So, its not about your age, it’s about you and your passion for the job. I probably would still do a fashion show depending on who the designer is and how much they are paying me.
So far, my best show was the ECOFEST show organisd by FADAN at Asaba. It was one show where I got to meet a lot of people like John Fashanu and the late First Lady. We were there for almost a week and had a lot of fun. I also remember St Moritz Style Selection 2001. I had a good time because immediately after the show, people were calling me for interviews and I was like, why? and I was told that I was really outstanding. I think another show that I enjoyed was the Silverbird International fashion show that featured the then Miss World at Abuja. Those were great times for me.
Fashion in Nigeria
I thought 3-4 years ago, that by now, we would have gone beyond this stage. Instead the opposite is the case. I’m sorry to say that we are static. Designers aren’t doing their best. They are waiting for when V-mobile or any corporate organization who don’t even have the time to organise a show so that they can come and showcase their designs. It’s not the best. If I were a designer, I’d probably have 2-3 shows every year. About three to four years ago, Dakova used to have at least 4-5 shows every year. He doesn’t do that anymore. We used to participate in his shows and those he was invited to and they were almost every month. In fact, I feel sorry for upcoming models now because there’s no show for them now. When I was modeling, I was going to Abuja at least once every two months. Government was having programmes in which they incorporated fashion shows and FADAN especially came to showcase and the president and other heads of government will be there. I don’t think they do that anymore. Since the change of leadership in FADAN, fashion has gone down and it is their role to promote fashion in Nigeria. If they are not doing it, who will? When Mrs Alakija was president, they had shows regularly. I was modeling for designers from the North—Kano, Jos etc. They don’t do that anymore. So I think FADAN has to do something. They don’t have to wait for any corporate organisation before they can showcase what they have. In Europe and America, when a designer has a new collection, he calls journalists and a few members of the public to show case what he has for that season. Here, they don’t take a cue from what is obtainable abroad. It’s bad. But I think with time, things will improve. That’s why some of us are still in this country to help shape things.
I’m planning to launch a magazine called FM&B. It will help the fashion, model and beauty industry in Nigeria. I realise while writing for celebrity magazine that many young girls and boys from the ages of 18-25 are fascinated by fashion and modeling but the way magazines celebrate fashion in this country is not right. Fashion is not jsut about clothes, shoes and bags. What about the aspect that will help our industry grow? So, FM&B is going to help with all that. The first edition will be talking about the problems facing the industry and it will be a first step in solving it. So, this is not about who is wearing what and to what occasion? We will be addressing all these problems and discussing modeling in details. We are quite ready and hopefully in March, the magazine will be launched. I don’t want a substandard good. I want something of high quality like Genevieve that’s what I’m working towards.
Sense of style
In a sense, there is a way modeling affects our sense of style. I’m just a regular jeans and top person. I won’t wear a skirt and bustier except it’s a very special occasion and I’m obliged to wear it. But in terms of poise and elegance, modeling has really helped me because if I step into a place without saying it people just know that I’m a model. There’s this aura about me especially because of the way I walk and carry myself. The way I walk on the run way it is a bit unique from the way others walk. So modeling has affected me in terms of poise and carriage but when it comes to fashion, I don’t like lace and all that heavy stuff. I’m just a jeans person and I like my jeans very stylish. It has become my style for I see style not as fashion but that unique thing about you. Somebody like Debbie Ogunjobi, her style is the low cut that she carries. Other will do it and may not look okay. It makes her unique and its good for her.
Life as a model
Despite the fact that I’m a model, I’m a home girl. When I’m not modeling, I’m at home. I once met a girl. She was 17 and so beautiful. I thought she had potential. She said she was interested in modeling but I had to talk to her mum. I told her that if we have a girl like her daughter in the pageant we might probably be producing the next Agbani Darego. Her mother said no, that she doesn’t like the lifestyles of models, movie stars and beauty queens. She was afraid she will mess around. I said to her that it is not about modeling but about what kind of person her daughter is. My mother for example knows I’m a decent person. Its not fair to generalise that if you go into modeling people will say all kinds of things about you. It’s a matter of personal discipline. For me modeling is a fun life, traveling with friends etc.
I’m more passionate about the runway, being on stage and wearing clothes. But in terms of remuneration photography is better. I’ve been paid N400,000 for a bill board that is still running but there’s more excitement on the runway. If I have to make a choice, I think I’ll choose photography because of the money. A lot of models lie about their fees. The highest fee I’ve received from fashion show was N50,000 from St Morits Style Slection. If anybody tells you other wise, they are lying. How many models have cars of their own? We need to start telling the truth so that people will know that our lives need to be improved.