They say consistency often yields powerful results. This is particularly true for a young Nigerian lady identified as Iwanger Adagba, who went from modelling for sweet treats as a teenage girl to getting featured in one of the world's leading fashion magazines.
From the time she was a teenager, Iwanger had always known that she belonged on the runway and despite pursuing a degree in a science field, it has done little to deter the ebony beauty from her modelling dreams.
It took her nine good years but she finally achieved a big feat - landing a feature in the much-coveted Vogue magazine.
In a recent interview with Legit.ng, the 25-year-old medicine student of Caucasus International University Georgia, opened up about her journey into the world of modelling and her experience navigating through the fashion industry.
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How it started
Now standing tall at 172m, Iwanger has always been surrounded by a loving family who believed in her long before the world could see what she had to offer.
The 25-year-old revealed she started modelling at the age of 16 and her aunties pretty much encouraged it.
"I remember how my aunties who had boutiques would make me wear outfits and get me photographed. I had a reward for that - chocolates! I always looked forward to the enjoyment part. Getting free chocolates felt like luxury for me back then. Even when they didn’t call me for shooting. I usually asked my mom to remind them. Going to Nigerian designers/tailors I would ask them, If I could wear their outfits.to post the pictures online. I loved how I felt each time I did a photoshoot, at this time I was modeling for free, I didn’t bother asking for payment Getting photographed in beautiful outfits was satisfying by itself."
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Although she has been modelling on a professional level for a year now, Iwanger would like to think of it as having modelled all her life, getting little jobs here and there.
"I even appeared on Patoranking’s music video for his song, Wilmer. I believe it’s this consistency that’s lead up to the “overnight success”, she said.
Support from my family
While most African parents often find it difficult letting their children go into such an industry seemingly filled with uncertainties, it was not the same for Iwanger who described her parents as supportive albeit with reservations of their own.
In her words:
"My parents have always supported my dreams but I was anxious about telling them about modelling professionally. My worry was because I come from a strict religious home, where at some point we weren’t allowed to wear trousers, earrings or even makeup. Surprisingly they were receptive to the idea although they worried about me accepting jobs with extremely revealing outfits."
Getting featured in Vogue
Given the short period Iwanger has been modelling professionally, she didn't expect any big opportunities to come her way so soon. Thus, she was ecstatic when it finally did happen.
Narrating the experience, she said:
"I’m still fascinated by how it happened. One day I saw messages from a Los Angeles-based brand requesting to book me for a gig. I was quite apprehensive as there was no casting call or anything. I almost cancelled the booking because of the stressful week I had but I powered on and went for the shoot. Weeks after I had almost forgotten about this; I woke up to my pictures all over the internet, with lots of tags from high ranking modelling pages before I saw myself on Vogue! I’m still in awe, it feels like yesterday."
Her experience as a dark-skinned model
Iwanger who is currently in Europe admitted that being dark-skinned has 'surprisingly been great for her career' as a model.
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However, it wasn't always the case when she started out. Trying to sign up with local agencies proved abortive as she got rejected a lot of times.
"Now the shade of my skin is one of my prime selling points, with brands asking for me after seeing my pictures without even doing a casting call. The main negative with regards to being dark-skinned is that there aren’t enough makeup artists or makeup brands in the industry catering to our skin tones."
Challenges in the fashion industry
Reflecting on her early days in the industry, Iwanger explains that going for casting calls was risky as it required her to go to different locations alone.
"At the early stage when I was an Independent/ freelance model it was difficult to get jobs. It can be unsafe as well. As sometimes I had to go for castings to faraway locations, different people posting fake jobs, literally I was scared. In those cases, I sent my location to my manager in case of an emergency. Getting into Modeling agencies could be quite difficult as they all have different criteria for selecting/accepting models. Luckily for me, I didn’t experience any difficulties getting into agencies, instead, I had quite a number asking me, I picked my choice."
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On how this issue can be fixed, she had this to say:
"I feel everyone should be given a chance. More platforms should be created for freelance models. And of course, if there’s a way to curb out fake job listings like before you request for models, you need to be verified on the platform."
Body positivity and inclusivity in the modelling industry
Despite the increasing opportunities coming her way, Iwanger revealed she wasn't always a fan of her own body and had to learn to love herself.
"I am a strong advocate for body positivity, especially as I know first-hand how beauty standards can affect a person’s psyche. Coming from Nigeria where beauty standards tend to favour the more voluptuous, I grew up wanting to look different, and had to learn to love myself. Being in Europe where beauty standards are in favour of people like me has opened my eyes to the need to show how diverse beauty is and there isn’t just one box to categorise beauty in. I feel positive steps are being taken to tackle this problem with more inclusiveness in body types being cast in recent times, the question is whether this is enough?"
For the struggling young ladies out there hoping to one day make it big, Iwanger had these powerful words of encouragement:
"Your dream is valid. Never discount it for anything. Your body type or your height, doesn’t stop you from being a model as there is something for you in the industry, there is that opportunity that’s tailored specifically for you exactly as you are. All you need is the confidence that you can overcome any obstacle."