The beast that is the modelling industry
At some point in every girl’s life, they dream of being one of the beautiful women clad in 6 inch stilettos with legs that seem to go on for days as they do the catwalk on runways.
Then there are the boys who dare to dream of being one of the ripped models with abs like washboards gracing the covers of sports magazine.
The establishment of modellitng as a profession is credited to English fashion designer Charles Frederick Worth in the mid-1800s when he asked his wife to model the clothes that he made.
Since then, the art form has blossomed into a billion dollar industry across the world, trickling down into Africa, and Namibia.
On the outside, modelling appears to be a glamorous profession were models are globe-trotting jet-setters who get to mingle with the wealthy and famous, wearing gratis designer clothes as they sip on the finest champagnes.
While this may be the case for the Gigi Hadid and Behati Prinsloo’s of this world, the reality for Namibian models is grim.
The local modelling agency which is dominated by female models has boomed in the past few years, but not in the way finances rather in the influx of models that have joined the industry. However, most of them are ill-informed about the realities of the industry.
This is a fact that was confirmed by Theunis Kandjii of Bling Entertainment, popularly known as Zox.
Kandjii is well known in the entertainment industry having been an artist manager at some point in his career. Part of his duty as a manager included helping manage one of his artists’ modelling agency.
“Modelling is not a paying career in Namibia, The market is very small, designers are usually the ones who organise fashions shows and they don’t make much money they are forced to pay their models peanuts,” he explained.
Kandjii further said that part of the problem with the industry is the fact that there is a lack of commitment on the part of modelling agencies and that these agencies do not have a criteria when choosing models.
“Any girl who wants to be a model these days can just do it, and because of that some people do not pay them much as there is always someone willing to work for less. Modelling agencies also do not make an effort to find girls jobs, most of these agencies just get them one gig a year and that is it,” he lamented.
Seasoned modelled Meriam Kaxuxwena who has graced both local and international platforms agreed with Kandjii, citing that as one of the reasons she is not currently signed to an agency.
The model said that there are a lot of fly-by-night modelling agencies in Namibia that are here today and gone tomorrow, leaving their models stranded.
“The modelling industry in Namibia is still growing so models do not get paid as much as they do internationally, however they still deserve to get paid because it is a job like any other,” she said.
Kaxuxwena said that in Namibia a model of her calibre, having cultivated a reputation of herself internationally would receive a minimum of N$2000 for a single job, while internationally she would make a minimum of N$15000.
She has received 7 awards internationally for her works, and is scheduled to participate in a lot more pageants and fashion shows later this week.
“The last time we had a fashion week in Namibia was in 2012,” she said, trying to illustrate how rare it is for models to find well-paying gigs in Namibia.
A former model who spoke to The Villager Newspaper on condition of anonymity said that she left the profession so she could focus on her paying career because she was not making much from modelling.
“A model in Namibia will only make money doing promotional work but not solely on modelling for catalogues or the runway. There is also no market for long term modelling,” she said.
She added that most agencies put their models at a disadvantage because they compel them to model for designers who belong to that agency only and no one else.
“At some point in my career as a model, I belonged to an agency but was a GMP Babe on the side. I would advise against girls joining agencies owned by artists because during my time there we were paid mainly in alcohol and food, and were expected to entertain the artists guest during events,” she complained.
Unfortunately, this story is not a unique one; models have accused agencies of similar issues and more. From taking a large portion of their earning or not applying them at all for at least a year, to trying to sell them to wealthy clients looking for an easy lay.
However, one thing they all agree with is that as the industry grows, so will the standards and treatment of models, regardless of whether they model locally or internationally or both.
by Faith Haushona-Kavamba