Funmilayo Titilayo Oyejola is a model to reckon with. With over 13 years experience in the field, the widely traveIled model believes the sky is just the beginning for her. In this interview with Ronke Kehinde and Bukola Bakare, she talks about the high points of her career and plans for the future.

How did you journey into modelling?

I went into modeling by chance. I started with Yemi Fawaz who groomed us at the beginning After about four to six years, I went to the United States of America. Later, she handed us over to Modella who actually built me up professionally. I started with Modella on a full time basis.

Was becoming a model a childhood dream?

No. I never thought that I would become a model until one day when a friend of mine introduced the idea to me. He just said, ‘Peju, what are you doing presently?’ and I said ‘I’m a student at the University of Lagos.’ She then suggested that I should venture into modeling because of my figure. Meanwhile,everywhere I went then, people kept saying the same thing. This encouraged me to make up my mind and I decided to go into modeling thereafter. Its been a beautiful experience eversince.

So, professionally, how has the journey been for you?

It has been very fulfilling. It’s been a good experience, filled with lots of activities. I’ve been meeting people here and there and it has taken me to many countries.

Tell us some of the places you’ve been to.

I’ve been to South Africa, Italy, Kenya and some other places.

While you were there, did you participate in any major fashion show?

Oh, yes. I have participated in so many fashion shows organised by many Designers like Jimi Adelaja, Frank Oshodi, Labanella, Maufechi and House of Sharon among others.

Any challenges ?

Maybe in terms of payment, because when we sign some contracts, sometimes, usually they wouldtell us to wait for six months to get our pay. Unfortunately,we end up being disappointed because they wouldn’t pay until after a year. However, I see it as one of those things that affect the Nigerian system and we are coping very well with it.

What’s your educational background?

I had my primary school at St Caleb Secondary School and St Monica’s, both in Ondo State. Around 1980, I moved back to Lagos and continued my education. I gained admission into the University of Lagos, where I studied Business Administration. In 1996, I went in for a beauty pageant; Miss Osun Stateand ended up as the first runner up to the Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria that same year. Since then, I have been into modeling on a full time basis.

What’s that job that you’ve done that has really paid off for you?

The one I did recently for Virgin Nigeria: Unveiling the new air-hostess uniform. I happened to be one of the ten models that showcased the uniforms and so many other jobs. I’ve been well paid and I have been able to organise myself and juggle business with it. I have lots of achievements to show for it.

How would you describe yourself?

I’d say that I’m a very simple girl, easy-going and friendly. I love meeting people, playing with kids and love cooking too. Iam a very simple lady by nature, not too difficult and loves to make everybody that come closer to me happy. I live a very simple life.

Have you ever been a victim of any form of sexual harassment due to the nature of your job?

No, I have not because, most of my designers are female. I have just about three male ones and they are all very disciplined and responsible. People like Modella and Jimi Adelaja are very good people and straight forward, they don’t harass ladies. They are very strict when it comes to business. It’s straight to business and everybody goes home. I have never experienced any form of sexual harassment, so, I am so confident and relaxed when working.

Have you modeled nude before?

(Interjects) No, I haven’t. I am always dressed fully, basically in boubou, kaftan and corporate wears. I don’t just wear anything given to me by my designers and they all know me for that. I select the kind of outfits that I wear because, I wouldn’t want people to see me on the runway and wonder what the matter with me is. Iam very selective when it comes to outfits.

How do you unwind and relaxinspite of your busy work schedule?

There’s a time for everything in life. In modeling, we are not always on location. Whenever Iam not working, Iam either at home or in my office doing one thing or the other. And once I am through with a fashion show, I go home, have my bath and relax. I also take some wine and watch television programmes so, unwinding for me is, being indoors.

How do you cope with advances from men?

I do handle them well and with much care. Nigerian men,being what they are and as a lady from a decent home, with my parents solidly by my side, I have been able to cope adequately. I take my time with them because I don’t want anything that will jeopardize my future and tarnish my image so, I watch my ways with them.

What does style mean to you?

Style is a very good thing. It means looking good, trying to be perfect with your dressing. Take a look at what’s happening in the Nigerian Fashion industry now, people are no longer careless with their appearance,unlike before when most people care less about what they wear, their make-up and other things. things have actually changed. You can see that stylehas shoved ahead drastically. Every woman out there wants to look her best. They go to top designers who create the best of designing styles for them. Women are really commited to looking really good and that’s what I see as style

What kinds of clothes do you wear?

I wear kaftans and the likes. I am very comfortable in it.

What’s the most memorable day of your life?

The most memorable day of my life was the day I became the first runner up, Most beautiful Girl in Nigeria in 1996.

What are your likes and dislikes?

I can’t move closer to someone who’s a liar. When someone lies, he could do other worse things.

Are you signed on to any modeling agency.?

No, I work as a freelance for now.

What advice do you have for up coming models out there?

My advice is that they must be very careful, stand on their feet and be conscious of the kind of outfits designers give them on the run-way. This is because if you are not strong, a designer could go as far as giving you underwear to wear on the runway and being Africans, our tradition and culture are not like the white’s where anything you wear is accepted. As an African model, you have to be conscious and careful so that it won’t tell on you in future.

Where do you see yourself in the near future?

As long as I’m still fit and good looking, I intend to remain in modeling for as long as I can. I also intend to dabble into designing and one day, have my own fashion labels.

What are your hobbies?

Cooking and dancing. I love cooking and my favourite food is pounded yam. I can pound yam you know and verywell too. as other delicacies too.