Tell us a little about yourself and your modelling career.
Hello, my name is Zainab Yunusa. I’m 23 years old and from Kwara state. I was born and bred in Kano State and moved to Abuja when I gained admission into the University of Abuja, where I graduated with a second class upper degree in Microbiology (in 2015).
Being 5”9 and a size 8, I usually receive ‘model-like’ compliments even before I started modelling. Several times, random people would stop me on the street and suggest that I consider modelling as a career. At first, I was not interested because I was a very picture – shy person and definitely do not exhibit, in terms of footsteps, the mannerism of a model.
On a random day in February 2013, while grocery shopping in the market, a lady met me and persuaded me into join a modelling agency she runs. I decided to give modelling a shot and got signed to XQZT modelling agency. After a few months of catwalk training, I summed up courage to attend my very first runway show audition which happened to be ‘RUNWAY 4’, the biggest runway show in Abuja at the time. I made it to the show as the only model selected from my agency. That wonderful stroke of beginner’s luck kick started my fashion modelling career. I walked and showcased outfits by top Nigerian designers like Iconic Invanity, Dzyn, E4MA designs, Wanger Ayu and Rabesque. In the following year, I participated in the Africa Fashion Reception, hosted by the Nigerian Ministry of Tourism and held in Bayelsa State. I showcased outfits by Zizi Cardow, Keto Couture, Hall of Peters (Ghana) and Keepeekee (Sierra Leone).
By December 2014, I joined Zahara Model Management which is currently one of the biggest modelling agencies in Nigeria and my current agency till date. It has been another journey of amazing experience since then. From securing a look book shoot with designer Sally Intiego, on my very first day of being signed by Zahara Models, to showcasing outfits by other famous Nigerian designers including Hudayya, Mai Atafo, Sunny Rose, Maryam Momma, Maxvive, Shekudo, in a host of fashion events.
I have collaborated with several photographers both based in Lagos and Abuja during editorial shoots, test shoots, look books and more. They include Terna Iwar of Bantu studios, Big H, Nonso Okoye, Iyke Ibeh, Imagio, Lubee Abubakar, Tse, Ogoh Clem, Uax, Lexash, Noma, Olubambi to name a few. It has always been a pleasure wearing the best looks while working, thanks to excellent make-up artistes like Jide of St. Ola, Jaru, Bookie la Vida, Adella and many more.
In November 2015, I was featured on Vogue Italia’s ‘PhotoVogue’ presenting an editorial shoot I did with photographer Lubee Abubakar. Also, Bella Naija in February 2016 featured an article showcasing Maryam Momma’s ‘Super Woman’ Capsule collection where I modelled alongside designer and former model – Maryam Momma. I was also featured on a fashion article titled ‘Hold back’ by creative director Segun Adeyemo on BM Africa website.
In October 2017, I made my debut walk in the Heineken Lagos Fashion & Design Week. I modeled designs by top Nigerian designers including Sonnyrose, House of Kaya and Andrea Iyamah. A moment for me was sharing the runway with former Miss World, Agbani Darego.
How do you manage between your life on set and reality?
Managing between my life on set and reality is not too much of hard work for me. Modelling is a bit different from acting because most times, you are expected to be yourself. Although, on the runway, you are expected to be fierce and fearless – and putting up a strong facial attitude. Also, during photoshoots, you are required to put up a mood that best suits the context of the shoot. Nevertheless, modelling teaches you to be completely aware of the camera because the focus is on you.
Although, as a public health professional, it gets a bit tricky sometimes. So far, I have been doing a good job of managing both lives. One noticeable difference between me on set and me in reality is that although you will find me always looking fierce in most pictures, I am in fact a smiling robot in real life! In all, it is quite an easy task for me since majority of the time, the job requires that you exhibit most of your natural traits.
Tell us about your favourite work you’ve done so far why it’s your favourite.
This is quite hard to answer as I have a favourite aspect of most of the work I have done. But since I have to make a choice, I’d say my very first photo-shoot in Lagos, Nigeria in 2016. This was an editorial shoot in collaboration with stylist, Vane Karolle; artistic photographer, Thompson Ekong; creative director, Daniel Obasi; Make up, Lauretta Orji and model, Ifeoma. The editorial was featured on the online Chasseur Magazine in an article titled ‘Structured’.
It was an exciting photo session that produced great results. The ease with which every individual played their role made it worthwhile. I was happy to be working in a different environment and with a team that had great ideas to ensure the project was successful. I am glad I got to work with the team and look forward to more collaborations.
Photography By: Thompson Ekong
Stylist: Vane Karolle
Creative Director: Daniel Obasi
MUA: Lauretta Orji
Model: Zainab Yunusa
Who do you look up to in the modelling industry locally and internationally and why?
In Nigeria, I look up to beauty queen and super model Agbani Darego. I remember how excited I was, watching the 2001 Miss World competition in the living room with my siblings. I was intrigued to see an intelligent, beautiful lady representing Nigeria and was ecstatic when she was crowned winner. Ever since, I have adopted the former Miss World as one of my role model.
Agbani has achieved great success both as a model and as a business enterprise, owning her clothing brand among others. I marvel at how she has been able to maintain her physical appearance, looking ever classy and forever young. Her ability to keep her personal life very private is also astonishing. These achievements of hers motivates me as an individual.
I had a short encounter with Agbani Darego during the recently concluded 2017 Lagos Fashion and Design Week. It was very inspiring to see that she still holds her calm and humble nature even after gaining so much fame and success. It was also a special moment to walk the runway with her while showcasing designs for one of Nigeria’s biggest designer – Andrea Iyamah.
Internationally, I greatly admire and look up to legendary super model, Tyra Banks. I simply love Tyra! I love her energy on the runway and her diva attitude during photo-shoots. I have learnt a lot, and still learning from her renowned reality TV show – America’s Next Top Model. Her unselfish desire to nurture other models (globally) on how to become big super models like herself is one of the reasons why I greatly admire her. I also like how she has been able to properly manage between her personal life and celebrity life. Many times, I watch videos of Tyra Banks on the runway while rehearsing my catwalk. She is a super woman and I hope to meet her in the nearest future.
Do you have other future plans outside modelling?
It is not always the smartest move to have all one’s eggs in one basket. Outside modelling, I intend to pursue my Master’s degree in Public Health in a University abroad, while still modelling, of course. I intend to secure jobs in organizations where I would be responsible for managing the implementation of programs/projects. I am especially concerned with Women’s health and specific areas related to promoting Family Planning practices in Nigeria. I hope to work with non-profit/international organizations like UNICEF, WHO and the UN, and also the Nigerian Federal Government. I intend to also advocate for the engagement of youths in public offices in Nigeria by joining organizations and working with individuals that promote this cause.
What is or has been your challenge/frustration growing as a model?
Growing as a model based in Nigeria, my greatest frustration till date is that models are not well remunerated for services rendered. Models are still not respected as professionals in their line of job rather, they are seen as jobless people having fun while engaging in their hobbies. On several occasions, I have been offered non-pay jobs, not because of inadequate funds but simply because the client sees no reason as to why I should be paid for ‘having fun’. It is very sad that similar scenarios still occur. Even the few clients that pay models are only willing to pay very low amount of money. This is unfair and I begin to wonder why other professionals such as photographers, involved in the same project as the model, gets highly paid while the model is extorted. Thankfully, modelling agencies are now striving to demand for nothing less than standard pay on behalf of their models.
Another major challenge is the issue of ‘corruption’ that exists in some aspects of the Nigerian fashion industry. Imagine a situation where a general casting call is made and models travel from far and wide to the location only to realize that some ‘preferred’ models who might not even show up for the casting or meet the requirements for the show have been selected. Why call for a general casting then?
It’s also unethical when special attention is paid to certain modelling agencies because they are well-known and well connected, even when some of their models might not meet the requirements. If nothing but the best is required, then every model present deserves a fair chance and judges/selectors should quit being biased. The very minimal occurrence of this practice is a major reason for the growth of fashion events in places like Paris, London and New York since opportunities are laid bare for new and upcoming models regardless of who they know or do not know. I certainly agree that respect should paid to already known faces in the modelling industry but not to the detriment of others.
What can you say to aspiring models?
Since I am an aspiring top super model, I will tell aspiring models what I always say to myself – practice makes perfect! Being the best version of yourself will go a long way in your modelling career. Make sure to always put in the best in every work you do – whether paid or non-paid, you never know who might be watching and will eventually discover you to the world. The truth is, if you are excellent at what you do whether runway walk or photo-shoots, even a biased judge will have no option but to select you simply because you are capable of great accomplishments.
Not forgetting to mention that you will encounter a lot of ‘NOs’ but get rid of them as soon as you get them, improve on yourself and keep going for that big ‘YES’. You are already fortunate to be starting out at a better but more competitive period of fashion modelling in Nigeria so make the most out of it.
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