Modelling: Joan Okorodudu ‘s quest to take Africa to global stage


That Africa’s Next Super Model competition has become the most credible platform which changes the lives of many young African talents from practically nothing to becoming super models is an understatement. It has also opened opportunities for African models to compete with international modelling stars on a global scale. For Joan Okorodudu, the creative mind behind the event and Chief Executive, Isis modelling Agency, no sacrifice is too much to accomplish her goal of taking Africa to the world through scouting and molding raw talents from the remotest parts of the continent. Having successfully hosted high profile personalities and stakeholders to the maiden edition of Africa’s most prestigious modeling competition held in November 2022 in Kigali, Rwanda, preparations are in top gear for the 2023 edition billed to hold in Kenya.
In this interview, Okorodudu, the change agent and modelling guru, spoke about her utmost desire to make Africa the fashion hub of the world and continue to lift more African families out of poverty through her efforts in empowering thousands of young men and women in the industry.

As a pioneer in modelling business with Isis modelling agency, can you recall how it all started?

Joan Okorodudu

I travelled with Lexy Mojo Eyes who had invited me for the Ford Model contest in New York. So I was already planning to coming to New York, so I flew down and after the Ford Model contest, I told myself that I can do this. I can relate to that because even in the University, I was always trying to do fashion. When I returned to Nigeria after graduating, I took part in Miss Nigeria beauty pageant where I was the first runner up, after which, how my love for modeling was birthed. Upon my return from the event in New York, I decided to do a modeling contest. That was during the ASUU strike in 2007. I had also launched a fashion outfit, House of Jola. While at that, I approached a bank for support but the woman was in charge told me that my choice of name, Nigeria’s Next Super Model wouldn’t fly except the American version. As such, they couldn’t support I will support it. I wasn’t disappointed instead. I was determined to prove her wrong. We have transcended into Africa’s Next Super Model contest.

You are very passionate about it. What really drives your passion?

I do not want to sound immodest but I can safely say that this show has become Africa’s most prestigious modeling competition. It is a passion matched with hard work and tenacity of purpose. My goal is to take African continent to the world stage, harnessing raw talents from the remotest of areas and give them a lifeline while competing with the world’s super models. I want to make impacts on the lives of young African men and women. I want to be a change agent in the story of nothing to something. I am glad watching my models flourish in their natural talents.

Great looking models have been known to be discovered in refugee camps. Is there any particular reason?

Great looking models have been discovered in refugee camps. On the 18th of this month, I will go Kakuma refugee camp with the CEO Select Global Model. There are many young men and women out of refugee camp doing very good. They are changing the lives of their family, taking them out from the refugee camp. I have models who have done some of the most amazing shows and campaigns in Europe, . Imade Ogbe, the model in 2011 Nigeria’s Next Super Model show got a car and is still working up till now, She is doing well in New York, and then of course, has transformed her family. Recently, I booked her for Victoria Secret with Isis Models. It is not just refugee camps. I also have Omolola who was first runner up to Ibukun. Ngozi Anene, Victoria Daropale, both she booked for Prada directly. Omowunmi Shodeko also closed Louis Vuitton deal last season. One of our major feats is taking a young Nigerian girl, Ngozi Arimoku, from the street of Sapele and having her modeling in London.There are many Nigerian girls doing so well. There are two other Nigerian girls who came to five in Africa’s Next Super Model in Rwanda.

Nigerian boys and girls are really doing well in the industry. My pride is that my booker today has the largest number of male models and when it comes to campaign, they are doing well. Aisha Bello who won the 2009 edition is doing great too. I am proud that I am the prodigy of some of these models. I have actually been able to change the lives of a lot of people. I can’t count of the number of top stars in Nigeria who came out from here. I can tell you that there is the South Sudanese in the refugee campus, and there’s something about them. I have the largest number of models. You will find some of the best models out there.

Give me a sense of some of the challenges you encountered when you started out and how you navigated through?

It was basically because people do not understand what modeling is all about, People are judgmental and do not understand the business. But I’d rather focus on moving forward. I want to focus on my achievements, the fact that, I have worked so hard, and the equation in this whole thing is God, Don’t try to bring down somebody who God has befriended because when I talk to God, and He fights for me. I like to use the example of Pandora box. Instead of trying to bring either a competitor down, concentrate on working. What I did was concentrating on moving forward not minding what was thrown at me. I was focused and it worked. I am inundated by numerous young men and women from the African continent. The Pandora box has two sides. One is filled and the other is empty. The empty ones are on the social media. I don’t do packaging. I am real and genuine. There was a time when I couldn’t get press mention. Those were the challenges. It was so difficult to get my story out then but when the social media came, the young boys and girls were on Instagram. People began to see my work. We have the largest number of working models as evidence by or We have the largest number of African working models and you’ve seen all of them with campaigns from all the top brands. All the top brands make models doing major campaigns.

What is that special thing about Isis modelling agency that distinguishes it from it’s contemporaries?

It is my tenacity to succeed. I work a lot, sometimes, I book directly. A lot of my models, when they debuted I booked them directly. I also have some great partners in the industry. I like to work with the bosses and those that can understand. And then of course, I take care of my models. I pay their school fees from the beginning. I was just paying all the tickets. I always try to see how these models can work. I have model apartments, so when the teething period comes, it will be easy for them before they can now start renting their own places. These are some of the things that set me apart from the fact that I check their mental status.

What difficulties do aspiring models go through in this industry?

My difficulty in the modeling industry is that I used to take a model out of pity and sympathy and like out of four seasons, but these days, I concentrate on what I call the money making models, so we’ll go and have the same staying power. There are three sets of models there. Back in the days, it used to be difficult for black models. . And it’s just indicative of how things have changed in the world. And I’m glad to say that I’m part of this journey. The modeling industry is tough. There are some that are not working really but maybe to keep their visas working and they know they have to do something, like, that are like small jobs. Then, there are models who make mega money. Then, there are Instagram models. They do E-Com. They only post. There are models who are making so much money that have no time to post. . These models are making some time to pose so you see me posting for them and going after these shows and after the work after they go back, maybe post one, but there’s like a second tier, top tiers. They have the second tier models who do Eco make certain amount of money. You have the some models who are really not working but they are on Instagram, and showing everything. So my advice tomorrow is get a second income. That’s why some models are influencers, others are making big money in the industry. While others are struggling, trying to sell on online. But right now, when I see a model, I tell them the truth. If you cannot make money from the industry or don’t have what it takes to be in the top tier, I will advise you. A lot of them of them that I have advised have gone to other agencies and eventually they are no longer working

As a professional, how do you secure jobs for these models?

About securing modeling jobs, I have a company called Misha in Nigeria that constantly helps to get job for my models, even at this critical time. Even in Europe and South Africa, there’s what they call castings. And through the process, once, twice as the case may be and after that, if you’re lucky, you are confirmed. What I look for is the model that can make that money and change the lives of her family. So, you have to have a good clean skin.. You have to be of good manners with no issues. Recently, we got a young Nigerian boy, Sheyi who is going to do St Laurent. He was scouted on the street. He had gone to Paris but had to quickly return to finish his school certificate examinations. He is getting ready for life changing opportunity. I am so happy

You are preparing for the 2023 edition of Africa’s Next Super Model competition. What should Africa expect?

Africa’s Next Super Models 2023 promises to be a landmark event that celebrates the diversity, creativity, and raw talent of African models. It will showcase the immense potential that lies within the continent and reinforce Africa’s position as a global fashion hub. This is our second season. The first edition of the show was in Kigali, Rwanda, in November 2022. Last year was the debut of the Africa’s Next Super Model show with 15 agents from all over the world. It was breath-taking. This year’s show is scheduled to take place in Nairobi, Kenya. About 31 agents have indicated their interest to attend the show. The event will include an intensive training program, grooming sessions, runway shows, and industry networking opportunities, all aimed at preparing the models for successful careers in the fashion industry.

Where does your fulfilment come from at the end of the day?

My fulfillment comes when I see these young men and women do well and are able to change the lives of their families. I’m happy because, most importantly, that my husband, Air Vice Marshal, Terry Okorodudu retired has been my backbone with the help of God. He has continually pushed me. Now, I have my grandchildren. They are joyful in everything I do in this job, from my interviews on BBC to everything. And I want to leave a footprint knowing that in the next hundreds of years, , someone who’s actually still modeling, that is if Artificial Intelligence doesn’t take everything away, can say, there was one woman who left these footprints. We have over 100 models that are waiting. Others wouldn’t have been able to achieve success because when I start to scout then I will monitor them on the group. My joy also comes when I see my models ‘statements. I am overwhelmed by their success stories from nowhere to somewhere. Sometimes, I just cannot believe their transformation when they paint them. I still wonder and never have imagined that I could be part of the success story, but I am humbled realizing that this small seed planted has grown to such heights. It tells me that we have our due seasons in life when things happen to us. But when you think of refugee, I was also a refugee or what do you call what I went through? I was also a refugee. When I was a little girl and the Biafran war came. I remember when the bombs were coming down, and we were going into the bunker. Who didn’t remember? And we became refugees. The only difference between these models who are discovered from the refugee from my own refugee is that I came from somewhere. I lived in Biafra at that time but we didn’t know where we belonged, whether we belonged to Nigeria or whether they belong to be Africa.

Misty Uba
Misty Uba
Misty, A Brand Developer, Broadcaster and a Trained Engineer with great passion for motor sports especially Formula 1 for over 20 years.


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