By Gift Olivia Samuel, Esther Atani
ABUJA—The Fashion Designers Association of Nigeria (FADAN) in 2014, estimated the fashion industry in Nigeria to be worth about 10 billion dollars (over 1 trillion naira) with the modelling industry being an integral part of it, yet this key cog in the fashion industry wheel is often overlooked and underestimated.
In line with this, The Sight News spoke with the CEO, Enrole Models Management (EMM) Lawal Adamu also known as ‘Ell Adams’, who manages one of the top model management agencies in Abuja and Nigeria, to get his insights into the fashion and modelling industry in Abuja and Nigeria as a whole.
According to Adams, Nigerian government does not support the modelling industry and has also failed to realize that the modelling industry contributes to the Gross Domestic Product(GDP) of the country and is a major source of income for most youth.
He further stressed on the need for the government to give reputable agencies the necessary support needed to thrive.
>>>>See excerpt below<<<<
TSN: Let’s meet you.
Adams: My name is Lawal Adamu but I am popularly known as “Ell Adams”. I am the CEO of Enrole Model Management and an Idoma man from Apa local government in Benue State. I am a graduate of Business Administration from the University of Abuja but I modelled when I was much younger. Modelling was fun and it was a passion for me so I gave my all to excel in it. I was privileged to walk in some of the biggest shows in the continent and win prestigious awards.
This experience gave me the insight that modelling was a career I could succeed in and mentor other aspiring models. I discovered I had a passion for charity and I collaborated with some NGOs on certain projects. This led me to set up my own brand, Enrole Model Management – a brand that wasn’t just a business for me but a platform to empower youths and give back to the society.
TSN: What Does Enrole Model Management do?
Adams: We scout for raw talents and give them a taste of the life they desire in the modelling industry. There are a lot of youths who want to walk the runway in international fashion shows but they don’t have the platform and the experience to deal with the challenges in modelling. So Enrole Model Management’s purpose is to serve as a guide for aspiring models to achieve their dreams.
TSN: Do you have models placed internationally?
Adams: Yes we do. My major target and my vision was to get my models to shoot for international brands and walk international runways and in the first year of the business I was able to place models from Nigeria and other African countries to work for top brands like Giorgio Armani and Dolce & Gabbana and be placed in agencies in New York, Paris, Spain etc.
TSN: What challenges have you faced as a brand and what peculiar challenges does the Nigerian modelling industry face?
Adams: One of the challenges we face as model managers and agents is the difficulty in procuring visas. Most aspiring models who have the desire and talent to become top working models are unable to, due to financial challenges. Unfortunately, after scouting them, linking them to our international contacts and getting all the relevant travel and working documents, the visa application stalls the whole process because their applications are denied.
These denials slow down their careers in such a fast industry and leads to frustration. This however, is not a problem we face with models from other African countries, only Nigeria. It is heartbreaking that despite our reputation and partnerships with agencies worldwide, my Nigerian models face the issue of visa denial.
Another challenge the industry faces is the models themselves. Models who are disloyal, unreliable and desperate are a major challenge for model managers. Such models once enticed by empty promises often terminate their contracts for no just cause only to be exploited by less savoury characters in the modelling industry.
Model appreciation and remuneration is an issue that needs to be addressed. Modelling is a serious career and it deserves that respect.
Clients who are willing to pay as much as half a million naira for clothes and accessories try to contract models for ridiculously low amounts of money or for free which is absurd, because, without the models, there would be no fashion shows. However I don’t let these challenges stop me from advocating for fair treatment and pay for models.
TSN: What has been your best moment?
Adams: My best moment was when I had my first model booked for a Prada show. I remember that night vividly. I was on the phone with a New York client and the Director called me to tell me that my model was confirmed for an exclusive worldwide show. I was so nervous because things could go awry, but then my model got to Prada house in the morning for fittings and went for her debut. I was overjoyed and after my model’s debut I was flooded with messages and calls from casting directors. It was such an exciting moment.
TSN: What Challenges Have you seen in the Modelling Industry, Particularly in Abuja?
Adams: There is a lot of favouritism and discrimination. Some of the casting directors and judges at auditions prefer to pick models they know or have a relationship with, instead of choosing models based on merit. Talented models who travel from far locations in the North to audition get passed over in favour of more “connected” models.
Another issue, is the fact that Abuja doesn’t have a lot of fashion shows and the city is hungry for it. Big brands and sponsors collaborating to host shows like in the just concluded UBA Marketplace event would be a positive boost to the modelling industry in Abuja especially.
TSN: Where Do You Hope to See Yourself and the agency in five years?
Adams: I see my agency having direct bookings from casting directors abroad rather than having to place them with international agencies to get bookings for top brands. I envision casting directors from Louis Vuitton booking my models directly from Nigeria and flying them abroad to work.
TSN: Any Advice for Aspiring Models and Model Managers?
Adams: My key advice to aspiring model agents is to be professional at all times. Don’t mix business with pleasure. Also, don’t waste your models’ time. The industry is fast and really time sensitive and aspiring models have a target and life span for their careers so don’t keep them around without delivering on your promises to them.
My advice to aspiring models is to be disciplined and have high level of self-respect.
Models who are taken advantage of are those who don’t know their self-worth and lack discipline.
Models need to study industry, inquire more about agencies they want to sign up with and invest in their personal development.
TSN: Being a Reputable Agency, Does the Government Support You in Any Way?
Adams: The Nigerian government does not support the modelling industry because if there was government support, the challenge with getting visas for models wouldn’t exist. And this is because the government fails to realize that modelling contributes to the GDP of the country and is a major source of income for young ladies. Successful Nigerian models who have shot campaigns for top brands still come back home to make financial investments in the country.
If the government can give reputable agencies the support they need by addressing the visa challenge, the image of the country will be a positive one and casting directors will feel more confident picking Nigerian models.