Biola Boris, an international model, gives free grooming to budding models. In this interview with ADA DIKE, she talks about the good, the bad and the ugly sides of modelling, among other riveting issues

How would you describe your first experience as a model?

I actually got into modelling by accident. I grew up around the University of Lagos campus because my parents’ house was just behind the campus. I remember I was just taking a walk on the campus when I met Bayo Hasthrup at the UNILAG sports centre. He walked up to me and asked me if I was a model and I said no. He then asked me if I’d love to come for catwalk classes. I was at home doing nothing, so I agreed. A month later, he asked me to show up at an auditioning by Dakova, just to see what modelling is all about. When I got there, Dakova said, “Hey! Who is that hanger there?” I looked back and there was no one behind me. I didn’t know he was talking to me until he walked up to me and said, “Hey! I love your shoulders. I need you to walk for me”. I replied that I was a novice because I had never done any modelling job and I had never been on the catwalk. So, he told me that someone would groom me. So, I started working for him. Today,
I can tell you that it’s been a road of success.

Some modelling institutes pay rookies stipends. How much were you paid for your first job?

When I was getting into modelling, I went in with a different motive. I didn’t go into modelling because of money. All I just wanted to do was to catch my fun and if I got paid for it, that would be additional fun. So, if the pay was big or small, it really did not matter to me. I got into modelling in 2002. Then, the pay was poor, unlike now. The least fee that an average model gets is N50, 000 for a show, and if you can do about four shows, you’re okay. At the end of the show, Dakova paid me N4, 000 and I was so happy. I ran home that day. With N4, 000 in my pocket, I was so happy. In those days, it was a lot of money to me. It was my first earning and it was really wonderful for me.

As an international model, how has it been since you came into the industry in 2002?

One thing I know is that in the fashion industry, everyday is a learning day, especially in catwalk. People have different attitudes and different styles. Outside the shores of Nigeria, you’ll see more exciting styles, so you have to inculcate them into what you already have and then they bring more beauty into what you have.

As a model, it is not just about your beautiful look, but your attitude. If it is inborn, it’ll radiate from within. Apart from this, out there, you would find people who don’t speak your language. In fact, most international models don’t speak English and it is not mandatory for them if English is not their lingual franca. Despite the disparity in languages, you just have to communicate and the only way to do that is to show love and smile. Then, they’ll know you feel good towards them and they’ll come close to you. Believe it or not, some models frown and it is their nature. But what I know is that your off job attitude should be different from your on job attitude. Unless required, you are not meant to smile on the catwalk; you are to have a fixed look because you are a mannequin at that time.

Have you suffered any embarrassing experience?

Yes. One day, the heels of my shoes came off on the catwalk and I stylishly bent down, picked it up and continued my walk. I pray that it will be the last because I’ve seen a lot of models whose dresses dropped from them and their breasts jumped out of their blouses. In fact, I remember one particular lady had to use her hands to cover her breasts.

What would you do if it happens to you?

I’ll use my two hands to cover my breasts. I’ve seen a lot of ridiculous and disastrous things happen to models on the catwalk. Some will even walk on with only their G-strings on. Well, it is part of the hazards of the work.

The dresses are not meant for the models, so they are not sewn to fit. Most times, they are just pinned on you to size because it is expected that buyers will come after the show. We are only showcasing the outfits. If they are cut out for the models, then, it won’t be up for sales, as regular sizes are not the model’s size.

Some people believe that models are loners. What is your take on that?

I’m hearing this for the first time. Every model has a private life and part of their private life is having a boyfriend and some of the relationships have developed into marriage.

So, which group do you fall into?

I fall into the group of people who actually appreciate relationship and are involved in it and actually have been enjoying it.
So, you are enjoying your romance?

Perfectly, he is a dashy young guy. Please, I want to leave his name out of this, but you’ll be the first to get the invitation card and that is very soon. He is a very compassionate guy and that was what actually got me. I was attracted to him first.

He encourages me a lot and we have a whole lot of laughs when things happen. When situations don’t work my way and I get upset about it, he’ll always remind me that life is a game and that part of the game is losing some and winning some. We have a very good relationship.
Could you recall any memorable experience you’ve had together?

I was hoping that when he proposed, we would be in a parachute in the air 400 metres away from sea level, but (pauses)… No comments!

Did he disappoint you on the last Valentine’s Day?

No! In fact, on that day, I had not just him around me, but a lot of nice people.

Are models also restricted like the beauty queens?

Modelling and pageantry are two different things, but they run into each other. The models’ restricted lifestyle is just for the period of the reign, which is just a year. After that, they become their usual selves again, but it not as boring as you think.

A beauty queen stands for something. They are like a logo. It is actually the crown that restricts them. If they want, they can drop the crown and live their lives. For models, it is not like that; all you need is a high sense of moral values and good behaviour.

Is wearing see-through material good morals?

It’s part of the job. The most important thing is that your nipples are covered.

What do you hate most about modelling?

It is the pull him/ her down (PhD) syndrome. People think it’s the general philosophy of life. But I don’t know where it came in from. People in the industry are spending more time in this than taking people up. When I got into modelling, there were limited chances and people were not shaving other people’s heads. But now, you have more versatile opportunities for you to grow. A model can wake up one morning and decide to relocate and still be hired. You can go on the Internet and get hooked to any foreign agency, submit your profile and the next day you are on your way. These opportunities were not there then.

Are you saying that you are not being treated fairly?

No one is being treated fairly, not even outside Nigeria. Human beings are insatiable, so nothing will be fair. We just have to make do with what we have, encourage and give our positive criticism. That is what brings about improvement.

Does one have to be skinny to be a model?

The answer is no! We now have the plus size models, regular size models and normal size models, which is the mannequin kind of models (size 6 and size 8). So, you can fit into any of these categories. It all depends on the concept of the show, as this determines the kind of models that will be used.

Do you have a role model?

Even before I became a model, I have always been in love with Naomi Campbell. I don’t know why I admire her; so, I look up to her all the time. She’s still at the top of her game.

There are also some other people I admire, not because they have been on the catwalks, but for discovering people and encouraging dreams, locally and internationally. They include Joan Okorodudu of the Nigeria Next Super Model, Frank Oshodi, Bayo Hasthrup, Modela and a host of others. They have impacted lives and that’s what I also want to do.

What will you do if you discover that your husband has erectile malfunction?

Why are you asking me this question? Did it happen to you? Didn’t you test drive before then?

You have to test drive before marriage o! Not that you can go all the way; but, at least, you need to see that the thing is working very well. For me, if that happens, I’ll look for a solution. Yes, there’s a cure for it, so I won’t run away because of that.

Will you encourage him to use sex boosters?

I’ll just look for a solution. I’m ready to go out of my way to see to it that there’s a solution to the problem. I’ll stand by him. I mean for me to have said I’d marry him in the first place means that I’ve made up my mind. He might be shy to treat himself, but I’ll do my home work. It is a small problem.

What is your beauty routine like?

I wake up in the morning, do my praise worship and prayer. I skip and do some buttocks exercise and seat ups. I’m naturally slim, so I don’t do too much exercise. I’m not a make-up person. I don’t wear powder; I only use my eyeliner and lip gloss. I dress myself; I love big earrings.
If I wake up on the right side of the bed, I will want to look really good and lovely. If it is on the wrong side, I will just want to look normal. I have a flair for good perfumes and I invest in it. I love nice shoes and comfortable outfits. I’m not very crazy about wristwatches, but I love colourful ones and I love them to go with what I’m wearing. I love designer bags.

Why do you wear waist beads?

I even have some of them on now (she displays it). I’m in love with waist beads and I’ve been wearing them for so many years. I have different types: Gold, silver and the normal fashion jewellery ones that I wear casually. I also invest in them. It’s like my underwear. I like sexy underwear because it makes me beautiful from the inside and it radiates outside. It makes me love my body. I’m sure you can feel it.

Do you have any particular reason for this?

Initially, in my first year, I thought of being a banker. I actually have a National Diploma (ND) in Banking and Finance. But towards the end of the programme, I realized that it wasn’t really what I wanted, so I had to obtain the JAMB form again. Luckily, I passed and I was admitted to read Industrial Relations and Personnel Management.

I have a flair for managing people and to show how much I love doing that, I decided to make it a global thing by going in for a Master’s degree and I don’t want to restrict myself to my domain. So, when I’m through, I’m going to infuse everything I’ve learnt into the fashion and entertainment industry because if you look at the Nigerian fashion scene, it is seriously going global. Different people, both designers and models, are coming up from African countries and they are going more internationally. It’s no longer a continental thing. It has gone beyond that, so that is where people like me will come up because I now know how to blend these people together to achieve one goal.

Some designers are now into politics. Do you intend to follow suit?

In relation to politics, the fashion trend, indeed, has brought us to the global market and that is because of the kind of exposure we started giving to our Ankara fabric; I mean the way we brought an infusion of Western ideas into the African fabrics. I can tell you that we are moving even faster than the speed of light. But for politics, I can’t really say. Maybe the politicians should borrow some tips from the fashion industry and project us in a brighter light to the international community. If that is done, then, we are on our way.

Should fashion designers go into politics?

Well, I think that’s an individual thing. If you have what it takes, why not? As long as you can make an impact in the country, whether you are a designer or not, it doesn’t matter. Go for it to infuse the trend in the fashion industry into Nigerian politic. It differs. I could have been able to give you a positive answer, if only I could pinpoint one designer that can manage at least a local government, but I’m yet to see that person. So, it won’t be in my interest to exchange the devil I know for the angel I don’t know.

Are you saying no one is good enough in the fashion industry?

The Fashion Designers Association of Nigeria, (FADAN) has set up a beautiful structure with the new president. We now have more youthful people in charge. The president himself is a young man and he is infusing a lot of fresh and youthful ideas into the industry and encouraging the young ones to grow as they hold exhibitions all the time. Politics is a different ball game all together. It is more global than fashion; it has to do with the whole country. Fashion is just a unit.

So, who exactly is Biola Boris?

I don’t take anything too seriously. I see people when they react to things as the limitation of their experiences, so I don’t get hurt. I always tell people that I have more acquaintances than friends, but I smile and beam at everybody. I can count my friends on my fingers.

Could you give me an insight into your background?

I am from the Onikoyi Family in Lagos State. For my first degree, I studied Industrial Relations and Personnel Management. At the moment, I’m studying for my Master’s degree in Public and International Affairs.

I’ve done a couple of shows, locally and internationally. I give free grooming to up and coming models because it is what I got for free from veterans of the industry. I have not done enough yet; I’ll definitely do more. I was given an award as the Best Super Model in recognition of my contributions to the modelling industry.

I come from a very humble background. I’m the last girl from my late mum. I never knew her, but I was told I look just like her. My dad always called me ‘My wife’ because of this and I have this picture of her that I hold dear to my heart. People loved her and they extended that love towards us. I have a fun-filled life with my two brothers and two sisters. We are very united. We play together, pray together and fight together. Today, we are all grown up and successful in all our endeavours and I thank God for that.