In 2014, 17-year-old Queen Onyemaechi had impressed the audience and the judges who crowned her Nigeria’s Next Supermodel. That feat would kickstart an illustrious career, one spent strutting the runway for luxury brands and donning outfits for fashion brands in Magazines.
It’s seven years now and Queen Onyemaechi is in another phase of her career. She’s garnered experience, gained contacts and learnt from the best in this evolving modeling industry. Starting Anani Models in 2017, the aim was to be a guide to models, not an employer-client relationship but in the similitude of “a sister in a manager.” It didn’t’take long for Queen Onyemaechi and her models to start getting calls from plush brands. In 2018, one of her models, Janet Jumbo became the first Nigerian girl to walk for Louis Vuitton.
I called Queen Onyemaechi someday in February, to let me into the world of the modeling industry, peering through her experiences and Anani Modeling Agency.
So how did it begin for you, what motivated you into starting your own modeling agency?
Queen Onyemaechi: Anani model management is a Lagos based modeling agency and talent agency, it was established in 2017 and it began really small but we’re definitely grateful for the growth we have now.
What actually influenced me starting the agency was the situation at that time. I was much younger when I became a model and I didn’t have an assistance or a manager-model relationship. I didn’t have that. So, I wanted to create that for the new, for the next generation of models coming. I wanted them to have this sister in a manager, a friend in a manager, you know, wanting to build that relationship I didn’t have. And I think that’s what influenced me into starting of the agency.
Interesting. Since starting in 2017, have you encountered any challenges that makes it difficult to take Anani Models to another level?
Well most importantly is having to, you know, reach out to someone you think has potential in modeling, a strong potential, And then, you know, having to, to talk to them, having to explain to them, what the industry is like, having to bring them into the industry, promising them a better future, a better career path for them knowing fully well that we’re not 100% sure of that promise, but we go at it then to do it because we believe in the talent, we don’t dictate the career for the model, but sometimes we might think, ‘Oh, this person is stunning or this person is beautiful.’
And, you know, that gets into their head. You think, well, ‘yes, I’m stunning and beautiful and I should be like a supermodel’, but that isn’t the case. Being beautiful or being stunning or been tall doesn’t guarantee that you would have like a long span in the industry.
Yeah, asides from definitely finding someone who is, who is great and has everything, you know, and can’t take them out because we are also facing Visa challenges here in Nigeria. So aside from having to scout and, you know, dictate how the career would go. I think the second challenge we face here is having to get the models to go out of Nigeria, take them out to travel.
Nice. You’ve recorded wins since that period, but what has been your biggest achievement so far?
So, to be really honest I think every model I’ve scouted has been a win, I don’t think I have any model right now, who wouldn’t do great. Everyone under my management right now is a huge defining moment. So, I would say I don’t have like a specific win at this point, every model under my management is a win right now.
Every growth is a win. Every contract we get is a win. Everything we do right now is a win. Everything we got in this business, the agency, the model is a big win right now.
Right. Now that you own a modeling agency, has it made you focus more on your girls and then less on your own career as a model?
I think I made that decision last year when COVID 19 hit really hard. I came back to Nigeria and I just had to focus fully on my agency. It hasn’t been easy having to juggle both my career and careers of like five other girls four other girls, making sure everyone is alright, running around and trying to get these visa arrangements together, making sure they’re also succeeding while I’m succeeding. It wasn’t easy.
Actually, I love what I’m doing. I’m grateful for all the girls. I’ve never seen it as a struggle. I’ve never seen as a problem. But sometimes it gets really overwhelming, still at the end of the day, I’ve tried, I’ve been able to balance both myself, my career and career of other girls as well. So, it wasn’t not necessarily a struggle. It hasn’t been a struggle, but I wouldn’t say there are no difficulties of doing it. I’ve encountered several difficulties, several challenges, having to do a lot of stuff myself. but at the end of the day, I finally came into a conclusion, last year to focus fully on the girls now and obviously leaving my career on hold.
Great, what would you say about COVID-19 disrupting your plans, especially with countries placing a ban on travels from other places like Nigeria.
Covid has affected, I think everyone, it has affected every business I mean, if you’re lucky to still be moving on and you know, going strong in your business in these times, you should consider yourself lucky. But Covid has really restricted a lot of things.
Anani deals specifically with international agencies, so we are restricted especially with the travel ban we have now in Nigeria. Models can’t travel, you know you can’t go for jobs. We are restricted with the whole COVID-19 situation. And especially with the visa ban Nigerian has to Europe and other countries where these models work well.
So, it has affected us in, in every aspect. But we are still trying to thrive and you know, push and see how we can work it out.
One major misconception about modeling is the view that it is not in anyway different from prostitution. Has that made it difficult for you during scouting or situations when you have a problem with the parents of these models?
To be really honest. I think that’s been one of the most challenging parts of scouting, I think that’s the most challenging part having to explain to the families, to the mother, to the parents of these girls since they’re young. Yeah. It’s been really difficult. But for Anani models right now, we are very committed to changing that narrative. I think modeling has a very bad narrative.
When I first started, my mum was against it, my family was against it, everyone was against it. Everyone was like, ‘why would you want to be a model, models are prostitutes, models are this, models are that.’ But with proper exposure, proper understanding, proper explanation you know we have to be patient. It’s a gradual change, we already have a narrative which we would be changing soon as that’s part of our core values, we really want to change that narrative of what modeling is in Africa.
Modeling is a full-time job. It’s a full-time job paying really well, changing lives of so many young girls. It changed my life. And I’m trying to do that for other next generations coming up because it was an escape for me when I was much younger, it could have been, it would be for someone else.
So, what are your plans for 2021, what is Anani up to in 2021?
Right now, we have just created a new division for talent. We didn’t have that, and we really want to go into that aspect of modeling. Modeling doesn’t revolve around runways only. There are so many beautiful faces, so many personalities, so many talented individuals that could light up the world with what they have. We decided to go into that aspect, scouting for talented individuals with beautiful personalities.
You know, fashion is bigger than runway now, we don’t have to be limited to runways alone. There are so many people right now, there are influencers, there are creatives, a lot of people out there that would do well if managed properly, so we are going into that division right now, we’ve created it already, and we’re trying to expand more, learn more and understand the market. And obviously see how it goes.
This article was written by Olabode Otolorin; connect on Instagram with him here