Ola has stories to tell. From his long-running days at The Arise Fashion Week to his famous work for Valentino, Balmain, Berluti, and Givenchy, Ola has developed an incredible knack for keeping his feet engaged. His latest post shows all these skills in beautiful form, telling the true story of his self-effacing personality.
Ola’s renaissance color of carbonado – hard to miss, unmistakable even, tall – lank model looks isn’t all that has ushered him and other identical models up to the fast-paced moving fashion industry as he says “So for me, I’ll say yes that our numbers are increasing and the industry is becoming more inclusive for different races.”
We spoke to Ola about his reflections on fame and his hopes for the future.
Did you imagine that you’d be doing this — traveling across the world modeling — when you started modeling?
Before I started I did not know anything about modeling. I just wanted to model in Nigeria and that was it. But, at The Arise Fashion Week a lot of people were taking pictures of me, and at that point I knew what I wanted – which was to go further.
Was there ever the moment where you thought “oh no, I can’t wear that”?
No, there’s never been a moment. Because, I have not been in an outfit where I feel uncomfortable before and if I’m given a cloth I do not like, all I have do is remember that it’s my job and it can’t always be comfortable.
Which designer encounter stands out most to you?
Humm! That’s really hard because I’m pretty indecisive. The whole experience has been overwhelming for me with the travels and meetings. Earlier when I started going for meetings I did not know those people – not until after I already worked for them so I cannot say which stands out the most because I’ve walked for a lot of big brands such as Valentino, Balmain, Berluti, Givenchy… so it’s really hard for me to pick one. But for the outfits…although it changes, for now I think the black flowered jacket still stands as my favorite.
Going back, when did you first get started on modeling?
Well, at The Arise Fashion week in 2019 there were a lot of model scouts and I got scouted. Then I went for the Elite Model Look Nigeria competition. Then after that competition, I could say that was when I got international agencies.
Have you ever experienced racism in the modeling industry?
No I’ve never. For me I’m just a mind your business kind of person so if you’re being racist to me I wouldn’t even care.
You’ve done a lot of projects, including your campaign for Berluti, what differences did you find preparing for the job? What new challenges did you face with this?
Asides it being a major campaign which was pretty organized. For me I don’t think anything was different… I already felt comfortable with the brand and from my first meeting with them, our interaction was pretty good.
Why is the choice of a model agency so important? And how has yours helped you?
It’s actually really important and as I previously said I started my first agency in Nigeria with Beth Model Africa but Beth was not my first agency. My first agency was Led, but, compared to Beth, Led did not have planes for international modeling at that time. So, during the Arise Fashion Week when scouts approached me their plans – for me were contrary to what Led had for me. So I left and went to Beth and my international career started. So having an agency is really good as most of them have their plans and as a model you’re new in the industry – you don’t know so much about the industry, they do; and also know what part of the industry suits you.
What are the three things you’ll never be caught wearing?
Honestly I don’t know for now, I’m really opened to wearing different outfits. I just love what I do and if I’m to wear it on the runway I also see it as my job.
Do you feel any pressure having to work and keep up with friends and family?
No pressure at all. I have a few people around me so keeping in touch with them isn’t any pressure at all on me. My parents have been supportive of me modeling right from the start.
Would you say there is a scrabble for black-skinned models in the industry today?
Personally, I’ve heard people say they love dark-skinned models…. Although, when you watch fashion shows you see more dark-skinned faces. So for me I’ll say yes that their numbers are increasing and the industry is becoming more inclusive for different races.
What has been your most embarrassing moment that happened on set?
Whenever I’m around people I am mostly calm and when it comes to work I always create a positive vibe. And about this question I’ll say I have not had any.
How would you explain the fashion in Nigeria? What makes it memorable/ what is it that precisely puts it on the style map?
I believe the fashion industry in Nigeria is developing at a great pace and what makes it memorable are the amazing creative you get to work with. The creative and their ability to showcase African culture in their projects is what puts it on the map.
What’s next for you?
Well I’m currently in Nigeria. I hope after the COVID I can get back to work. I’m also looking at venturing into other things; acquire a new skill and furthering my education.
@BERLUTI Campaign Photography by @julienmartinezleclerc
ART DIRECTION @mmparisdotcom
MAKE UP @lynseyalexander