“I can never go nude on the runway. We’ve had experiences where designers will tell you to wear this or that, but they cannot force you if you don’t want to.”
Unlike most parents who tell their children to steer clear of the runway, Jessica Okeke had the blessing of her parents to explore a career in modeling. And today, she’s not only a super model, she has also delved into music and acting.
In this exclusive interview, Okeke talks about her journey into the entertainment world, including her fears and challenges.
Give us a brief profile of yourself?
My name is Jessica Okeke. I am 21 and I am from Abia State. But I was born and bred in Lagos. I attended an all-girls school, Our Lady of Apostles Catholic Secondary School, Lagos. I studied Psychology at University of Ibadan. As a model, I’m in partnership with an NGO called Models Against Malaria. The NGO gives models the opportunity to be active in the society; so we go round educating people about malaria, its effects and preventive measures.
We also give mosquito nets to people mostly in the rural areas. And we have been doing that for two years now. Aside this, I am a singer. Though, I have not released any song, I have a recorded song already. I also play the guitar.
As an actress, I have acted in two movies; one of them is Wedding Party 2 where I starred as a model. I am the current World Miss University Nigeria. Recently, we had a beauty contest in Phnom Penh, Cambodia with 83 contestants from different countries. I emerged one of the Top 10, winning a service award, which means I am World Miss University Service. So, aside Nigeria, I have to be rendering services to other countries in the world. I also got an award as Students’ Peace Ambassador for the United Nations.
How did you come into modeling?
I started modeling in 2013. I started with a competition, Nigeria Next Super Model. The competition gave me the opportunity to know and experience what modeling is all about. From there, I started working with designers and attending fashion shows. I have participated in top fashion shows in Nigeria including GT Fashion Week, Lagos Fashion Week, and Vlisco Benin Fashion Show in Cotonou. I am currently signed to a South Africa-based agency called, 20 Management Model Services, and I have started working with them.
Were you in school before you started modeling?
I started modeling before I gained admission into the university.
Did your parents try to discourage you from modeling?
My parents actually encouraged me. I would not have gone into modeling without the support of my parents. They allowed me to go into modeling because they believed it would give me the opportunity to meet people. They believed meeting different people was part of learning. My father most especially encouraged us to go out and meet people. So, he didn’t have any problem with modeling.
What kind of child were you before you started modeling?
I was calm and very quiet. When I started modeling, everybody in school was surprised. People still send me messages because I was very quiet, and that was the more reason my father wanted me to go into modeling. Modeling has really helped me a lot, because back in school, I couldn’t even sit down to talk with you like I am doing now.
Why did you enter for Miss University Nigeria beauty pageant?
I have always wanted to be in a position where I could inspire people. I studied psychology because I wanted to understand how people feel, I wanted to empower people, so I believed that with this platform (Miss University Nigeria), I could do a lot and also change a lot. When people see me they are amazed at my age but I believe I can achieve anything at any age. I took part in Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria (MBGN), representing Abia State, and I was among the Top 15 contestants.
What gave you an edge over others in Miss University Nigeria?
We were about 28 contestants. I would say what gave me an edge was God, and possibly confidence, listening to people and knowing your personality.
How did you feel when you were announced as the winner?
I was overwhelmed, shocked, happy and grateful to God. It was an amazing experience.
What was your experience in Phnom Penh, Cambodia?
During the pageant, we had different tasks and forums where everybody was given two minutes to speak. Aside this, we had a forum where contestants had two minutes to talk about themselves. During my time, I talked about my NGO and what I have already started doing in Nigeria, as well as my plans for the future. I think that was the reason I was given a Service Award.
Now that you are back in the country, what do you want to do?
I want to do more charity work but mostly in the universities. It is about students’ empowerment.
What is your greatest fear?
I don’t have any fear.
Would you go nude on the runway?
No, I can never go nude on the runway. We’ve had experiences where designers will tell you to wear this or that, but they cannot force you if you don’t want to.
At first, when you start modeling, the back stage is crazy; you see people changing their clothes (publicly) and you have to rush, and you are like ‘oh my God! Is this how people change their clothes?’ That is how it is; you have to quickly change clothes from what you are wearing into something else. And there are people who help you.
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Have you been sexually harassed as a model?
What is the greatest challenge being faced in the industry?
The challenge in the industry right now is that many people are trooping in. You have new and old models and most designers want to work with their old models; that is people that they know are good, so they don’t really give chance to new models. And you really have to work hard to show them that you are good. Working on myself is the biggest challenge, aside that, everything is good.
What is your advice to aspiring models?
First of all, they should be certain of what they want. If you want something, you should work hard for it. Don’t give up, just pray.