Suzzie Odeniyi is a Nigerian, born in Ibadan but moved to Dublin, Ireland at the age of five with her mother.She is a leading entrepreneur in the media and fashion modelling industry in Europe and is responsible for the several successful pageantries and competitions worldwide. In this interview with IFEOMA OKEKE, she hares some of her experiences in business and her plans to empower girls through her upcoming ‘Luxury Model Search, Nigeria.’
As a fashion entrepreneur, what businesses do you currently manage?
My background is in fashion, beauty and industry. I have been managing models and international beauty queens for about eight years now. I started in Ireland where I grew up. I was born here in Ibadan, Nigeria, but I moved to Dublin, Ireland, when I was five years old. I have been there all my life. My model Agency is Suzzie D Model Management. I am the owner of Most Beautiful Girl in Ireland Beauty Pageant Competition and Most Beautiful Girl in the World Beauty Competition. Every year, we take international winners from all around the world. I came to Nigeria because my mum lives here and she kept on telling me I must come home and do something for my people. If you said to me last year that I will be in Nigeria this year doing this, I would not have believed because I am always in Europe and Ireland. However, I had to come to Nigeria to give girls the opportunity because I want to teach them that they can make it here in Nigeria and it is not only about travelling out of the country. If you have a specific plan and the strategy behind it, with the help of God, it can be possible. One of the strategies for this competition, which is Luxury Model Search, Nigeria, is to find female entrepreneurs. This is to give the girls a platform to advance themselves. We are not specifically saying to you that you must become a model. Although modelling is part of it but after a year of doing modelling, you can decide to go into anything you have passion for and our job will be to lead you into that; to help you, support you, push you and give you the guidance you require. So, it is open to a lot of people. The reason I am doing this is to really create opportunities for girls and open doors for them.
How long have you stayed in Ireland?
I have been in Ireland for 19years now. I actually came home sometime around July 2018 and stayed till September 2018. I came back in November and since then, we have been planning this. It is important to let people know who I am and what I do because a lot of people want to know about Suzzie D, what I do and what I want to achieve through this project.
How does the Luxury Model Search, Nigeria work?
We are not just looking for beautiful girls. We are looking for someone who we can go into business because at the end of the day, modelling, fashion and beauty is a business, apart from the glamour that comes with it. If I speak to a potential model, in one minute, I can easily know if the person will be successful or not. I always can tell by the way they speak and what is going on in their heads. If I ask a model, where do you see yourself in two years’time? If she says she does not know, I know that she actually does not know. But if I ask another model the same question and she outlines what she wants to achieve and how she will go about it, I certainly know that she has entrepreneurship mind-set. So, I am more drawn to this than just beauty.
What will the winners of the competition get?
The winner will get to sign an international modelling contact with me and winner also gets one million naira cash prize. There will be PR engagements to do all the adverts and branding amongst others. The first runner up gets N500,000 and get signed to an international modelling contract, while the second runner up gets N250,000 and get signed to modelling contract as well. The competition is on the 4th of August, 2019 at the Landmark Event Centre.
What makes the Luxury Model Search, Nigeria different from other beauty pageant shows?
A beauty pageant only concentrates on beauty and modelling. There might be other things like supports here and there but what differentiates us is that we are saying to you that you don’t actually have to become a model. We are saying to you that you can use this platform to build or pursue whatever you want to become. Do you want to become a women right advocate, you want to open up your own organisation or you want to do something that is modelling related, we are here to support you. This gives people a platform, it is unique. It is not something you see every day because not everyone is blessed with an entrepreneurial mind-set. It is something that is given to you by God and that is why it is different. The age bracket of the models will be between 18 years and 25 years.
Why your interest in entrepreneurship, modelling and fashion?
My mum and my dad were business owners. So, I grew up in a household where both of my parents are into business. My mum had a fashion line. She sold cloths, gold, bags and shoes and my dad has an oil company. These two businesses are different but it still came down to business. They always asked: What is your profit and break-even, what is your overhead, what are you spending on? I always listened to them while I was growing and these rubbed-off on me. I always knew that I will go into a business but I knew I was interested in fashion but I did not really know the business to go into. So, one day, I decided to start this and see how it goes and here I am today.
Were there times you competed in any beauty competition?
I competed in the Miss Nigeria, Ireland where I came out as top five, and also competed in Elite Model Look, Ireland of which I was a semi-finalist. I always feel that if you are entering into a competition, it is not about being the winner that is most important but the confidence this gives to me, which has been very useful till now. For me, it is especially about the confidence you build in yourself.
Tell us a bit about your educational background and growing up?
I moved out of Nigeria when I was five years old. My mum is into politics at the moment. She went from Business to politics. My dad has retired now but he still manages his own oil company for so many years. My mum’s name is Aderonke Hassan. The most I learnt was from my mum because my dad was always in and out of Ireland but I still learnt a bit of business skills from my dad. I went to primary school, secondary school and college in Ireland. I started studying fashion and business. I am always travelling, managing girls. I am a Nigerian by root, even though I have lived in Ireland for 19years. I am Irish but I am more of a Nigerian than Irish. Nigeria is my root and it is always important not to forget about your home and always give back.
How are you able to manage the numerous portfolios you currently manage?
When we get jobs, we get them booked in advance and I have people who work for me there. I always monitor what is going on. To manage all these things, you don’t have to be specifically in one place. I can be in Canada and still be running my business here in Nigeria. We have the internet. So, for me it’s not hard. If I need to be in a meeting I can’t attend physically, my representative will go there and give me feedback. We also skype, this way they can see me and we can talk. I can only be in one place at one particular time but it doesn’t really affect my work. If a client wants to meet a girl, I can email her and tell her where she has to be at a particular time and the job is done. So, the power of the internet is very important in the field.
How long have you been in the industry and what is your assessment of the industry?
I have been in the industry for about nine years now. In Ireland, it is tough, especially being a black woman in business. Most businesses are white-dominated;so when you see a black woman enter the market, it is a threat to them. They will rather give a job to one of their own. Even though I am Irish, they will rather give a job to one of their own than give me because they feel more connected to the other person because of the skin colour. So racism still exits and it is part of life. However, I do like challenge and I pray to God to make a way for me where there seems to be no way. I do not give up easily as I just really push myself. My mum was saying to me that if I started a modelling industry here in Nigeria, it will have been well advanced than it is now. I did not let the politics over there stop me and here I am today.
What is your assessment of the industry in Nigeria?
In Ireland, only a small percentage of people are open to change but here in Nigeria, they want change. Nigerians are tired of doing the same old things. It is more refreshing to be around your own people and doing what you love.