Supermodels never cease to amaze me. They are slim, angular and expressionless. Part of the qualification for being a supermodel is to be able to walk from side to side like a river. Other qualifications include smiling like a Cheshire cat, parting your teeth and not really smiling. I am told this makes better pictures. But I love supermodels; they wear the hottest designer cloths and become big recognisable brands across the world. They also get freebies and roll with the jet set. They know Paris Hilton, Donald Trump, Presidents, all the hot musicians, the cognoscenti and the glitterati in whatever country they land in and travel with six designer suitcases full of free clothes.
I met Naomi Campbell once in Abuja, and I was surprised to see how thin she was. As a TV personality myself, I ought to have known that TV makes you bigger, but I was surprised still at how thin and how tall she was. As she walked into the venue, she waved and gave the famous supermodel smile, teeth parting gently, presidential wave and a special walk. I noticed to my eternal shame how smooth and alluring her skin was, like milk chocolate. I immediately promised more attention to my skin. All that nonsense of standing in the scorching sun in wuse market without sunglasses and sunscreen has to end. I have also been wondering, maybe I should have a milk bath from time to time. Certainly there is something my spa therapist is not telling me. “Naomi Campbell’s skin”, I yell at her the last time. “I need to reinvent myself in 2014”. Her brows creased and she wore a curious look. She did not say “that’s impossible”, she just sighed and carried on with the chocolate scrub. Some hope!
As a supermodel, you have to be photogenic. In every photograph, Linda Evangelista, Iman and all other supermodels look impenetrable, immortal and incredible. I always wonder how they do it. I am glad for some sort of photographic clean up but before these facilities became available in photography, supermodels were. Why is their skin so flawless, their teeth in place and their eyes bright and shiny?
For the few photo shoots I have had, it has been nerve-wracking, tiring and challenging. By the time I have taken 30 shoots, had three change of clothes, unending jewellery and attempted 50 smiles, I am ready to kill my photographs or he is ready to kill me. The hours are long and punishing and I can’t bear to pose. I simply don’t have the skills.
When I turned 50 in October 2012, I had a photographic exhibition titled “A four day photo exhibition on the life and art of Eugenia Abu” where my creative director Ndu White mounted about 50 photos of my life, my career and a little bit of my family. From the exhibition brochure, I clearly defined my relationship with photographers; that of facilitators, enablers, who make me look good despite all my failings and shortcomings. I hailed them and credited them with all my good pictures over the years.
After 5 hours of torture at photo shoots, we can only find 3 photos that make sense. I am chatting, look frightened or looking away. Supermodels are naturals; they seem to have been born in front of camera clicks. I am famous for shutting my eyes when the flash goes, so more often than not of the 30 photographs shot, ¼ has me with my eyes shut. I get nervous whenever I give an interview and demand is made of fresh photographs. I go to the studios kicking and clawing my personal aides. Formal photography is not my thing. You have to catch me off guard to get a good shot.
I consider photography a punishing routine and the supermodels make it look like a piece of cake. Admiration! Admiration!
How do you become a supermodel when you like your pounded yam, your beans soup, dodo, and fried meat and when you love to attend child dedications, wedding of relation’s children and friends, where good food calls you name.
I really admire supermodels, their names written in the sands of time, their faces embossed in our minds, with fat bank accounts, free clothes and lots of travel. This was my dream as a ten year old; to travel the world, have lots of money and get free clothes.
Now I can only yearn for this role, too late in the day.
I am 51 years old and I cannot stand photography, I cannot do the watery walk, can’t wave like presidents and can’t vouch to stay slim.
I laugh a lot and cannot wear an expressionless look. I love Nigerian food and occasionally gorge on ice-cream. I know I really can never be a supermodel. I wish. Aah… to dream is to be alive.
By: Eugenia Abu