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Nigerian models taking over the world – Elohor Aisien, Founder of Beth Models

Elohor Aisien is known for her intricate attention to details. She is the founder of “Beth Models” and the anchor of Elite Model Look Nigeria. She is understandably happy that her modelling agency is now 10 years. More importantly is the fact three Nigerian models from her agency are making waves around the world on the runway, and strutting in the outfits of top international designers, thereby making Beth Modelling Agency one of the best in Africa. Elohor, a former Miss Nigeria UK, spoke with Sunday Sun in the run up to the agency’s anniversary, which kicks off today.

How do you feel that your agency brokered Africa in modelling, and that three of your Black models are making waves at the international fashion shows and thereby breaking the jinx?

I’m really happy and proud of them. It wasn’t like they started small. In the last two years, one of them, Davidson Obennebo, in November and February, featured in the opening and closing sections of Gianni Versace shows. Our two boys are just doing extremely well.

How has it been surviving these 10 years?

It’s been amazing. We are really happy with the progress we have made and where have reached. Over the 10-year period, Elite Model Look in Nigeria has put us on the international map, and we are proud of that achievement. The international market is very competitive but now we appreciate what we have and we are so proud of our models. For instance, Mayowa Nicholas, who won the Elite Model Look 2014, is doing extremely well. She will participate in the Victoria Secret Show next month which I wasn’t even expecting. We are so proud of her right now. She is the face for H&M, Dolce & Gabbana. Victor Ndigwe is also doing amazingly well in the Zara campaign. Most of them are doing all the major big shows and we are proud of that. They are not modelling for small designers. I’m really proud when I watch Fashion TV or go on social media and see my models working internationally. It makes me really proud. At least we have achieved much in the last 10 years. That is why we are marking it with a party today. The aim is also to celebrate the international success of our models. Unfortunately our biggest model, Mayowa, won’t be here for the party. She has to take her passport for Victoria Secret but she sent her love and her warm wishes. The Elite representative will be here as well in Nigeria. It’s a big show for us this year.

Are there more things you would have loved to accomplish these past 10 years?

Yes. I would have hoped that all my models would be making it right now. Over the past 10 years, some of them have given up because they never knew what they were going into. They just knew it was a pageant and simply got into it without realizing that it’s a serious business. We have lost a few models. Also, we have others who are dedicated and doing well in their own field. Some are married already, we have some with kids, and some just try to focus on doing business and working. So far we are happy that all the girls in the past are doing very well in their own field.

What should we look forward to seeing?

I’m launching my foundation to help young kids, especially in terms of education. I’m going to start a mentorship programme. In the last 14 years I have had Beth modeling agency, I have probably had seen over 30,000 models and each one of them faced the same issue: funding. We can help them with schoolling; we can help them with basic needs and all that.  It is also part of giving back to the society.

What challenges has the agency faced?

The major issue is trying to find the right face. I don’t pick the winners, the elite pick the winners. Trying to find the right face that would work internationally has been difficult here in Nigeria. Another major issue is partnership. Aquafina has supported us over the years, this is their fifth year and we are really happy that they believe in Elite Model Look event.  We want more support, so that we can make it bigger than we have done so far. So, sponsorship has been a major challenge to us.

Talking about models have you reached out enough to aspiring models?

We try and look for models on social media through Instagram, Facebook and we also use scouts. This year is the first time we had about 80 scouts in various states in Nigeria, who went out to look for dark models. Even as much as they go out to scout for models, we have to have the right face.

Would you also be looking at Plus-size models?

We do that as well. But in Beth models, we take women of plus size because of our African market. I tell people that Beth is mainly for the Nigerian market. Just like you have Elite Paris, Elite New York, Beth is really for the Nigerian market, and Elite Model Look is for the international platform, whereby we have a show, and sometimes the contestants are picked from it.

You have other businesses and you also do events. How do you cope with all these?

For me, everything is beautiful. I have been doing events for 10 years now. Before I started my event company five years ago, I realized that I had been doing events, and just said, ‘why can’t I just have a formal set up?’ I have always wanted to be a wedding planner, since I was 20 years old. I just put it on hold. It’s more like a hobby as well for me.

What’s the secret of your looking good?

I believe that being simple is the best. I don’t use a lot of what women do, like cream and makeup.

Growing up, who influenced you the most, your dad or mum?

My mum. I lived with my mum. She’s a fashion person. She loves Naomi Campbell, she watches anything fashion-related. She reads all the magazines, even till date, and she’s even worse than me. I think I grew up liking all that too. My mother was a model too back in her days. She modeled for Thermocool. She works in advertising company as well. I think I got that from her.

Do you also reach out to aspiring models in the remote areas?

Yes. That is why we have scouts, even after the Elite Model Look event, it doesn’t stop. We have scouts that go to different places like Zaria. We found few girls that we liked but the issue was their family, because they are so young for travel course. Trying to get their parents’ approval is quite difficult. Most of the parents search for me on Google me. I have some parents that said they wanted to come to my house, or come to my office, just for their own obvious reasons not, maybe the tag issue. I think now, everyone have an opinion about modelling compared to back then. Now, they’ve seen our success story and they have seen what we have done so far, and even our own models at BETH what they have achieved and what they do.

What is your fashion like?

I have always been a simple person. I buy what I like; I don’t buy what is in vogue. But if something is in vogue and I really like it, I will buy it. I think that is what has helped me in the past. My look is totally different but now I’m trying to change my look. When I put on native I feel it’s too much but when I see other people, I like it. Maybe more skimpy stuff, more lipstick, another hairstyle.

What advice do you have for intending models?

Have a good skin, make sure you find a good agency, if doesn’t work out just focus on your career. That’s why I talk to them to be educated as well because modeling is not forever. After a certain time what happens when you stop modeling? Then you fall back to your degree.

What’s our rating of modeling on the African continent?

We have been told in Africa that Beth is actually the number one modeling agency. Our models are taking over the world now. We have another show coming soon. A lot of agencies want to work with us and partner with us. I can rate that in Africa we are number one but in the world I can’t really say.

What are your three favourite fashion accessories?

I like cocktail rings. I like perfume. My favourite is Tom Ford, I like bags and shoes. I’m into shoes. I am a collector of shoes but I always wear flat shoes these days. I just like them.

How do you unwind?

I travel with my friends and my kid. I just feel happy and enjoy myself. I go to the gym too.  Nowadays, I’m really going on a health spree.

Favourite food?

Rice eaten with vegetable salad and plantain.

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