Elohor Aisien On Why Beauty Matters

Why is Michelle Obama is constantly being referred to as ‘pretty’ and ‘stylish’? Why don’t we speak of her professional achievements, degrees and personality, nearly as much as we do her looks and style? Is there something about beauty and being a woman that we’re just stuck with?
Elohor Aisien ex- professional model, ex-beauty queen and Founder / CEO of Beth Model Management, one of Nigeria’s most prestigious and internationally recognised modelling agencies, speaks to EVIA on why beauty matters.

Miss Nigeria UK 2003 seems a lifetime ago. Tell us about it.
Competing in a beauty pageant of that scale is an experience that stays with you. Yes, it was tough; I remember spotting at least 5 girls more beautiful, in my opinion, than I was. I had to be confident in myself, and in the way that I looked, and just work from there. Beauty pageantry is also how you carry yourself. Each day, I had to be better in every way than the previous day. Since I had done a lot of part-time modelling as a student, I knew where my strengths lay- this was how I won.

Explain what your agency is to the fashion industry in Nigeria?
Beth Models started over six years ago and at the time, I thought of doing some modelling in Nigeria myself but realised that most of the so-called agencies, were just freelancers who put models into slots as they came available, with no proper representation or management – which was a practice way below international standards. When we started, our goal was to get the fashion modelling industry up to par with the international market. Today, we have more fashion shows in Nigeria, which are internationally recognised one such example is the Elite model look Nigeria.

What is the selection process for budding models? How do you tell who is beautiful enough?
First of all beauty and modelling are two very different things. It’s a common mistake to call them the same thing. Most successful models are not normally classed as ‘beautiful’ or ‘pretty’. When we select a model, the customers call the shots. Most fashion designers just pick models that best show off their clothes, based on height, and body structure. If the clothes can sell - That’s the winner.
On the other hand for beauty pageants, it is the overall beauty, personality, grace, and in a lot of cases facial ‘beauty’.
Our selection process has got stricter over the years. A lot of young people come in wanting to be models, but unfortunately will never make it as models. At first it was so difficult to turn people away, it turned out; none of the customers wanted them. Now I have to be brutally honest.

On Size and Beauty...
Even in fashion not all models are, or are supposed to be, skinny. We’re currently in search of UK Size 10 to 12 models for some of our clients. It is a shame that anyone who wants to go into modelling thinks of runways and catwalks and the pressure of being size zero. During our current casting for Elite Model Look Nigeria, I had to turn one applicant away because she was too skinny and none of the clothes looked nice on her. It is difficult to find models bigger than a size 6 these days, because if they are, they all feel the need to lose some weight. I know that designers like Jewel by Lisa like to work with size 8’s and some others want models in sizes 10 or 12, because that is their target market.
It is encouraging to see designers not afraid to design for what has infamously been referred to as the ‘plus-size’ market, and I’m proud to be part of that generation.
Having said that, the international standards for heights of female models are strictly between 5ft7inches and 6ft 1inch, some women are either to short or too tall to make it as super models, this still does not mean in any way that they are not beautiful.


Beyond looks
Funny you ask that, when I interview models for Elite Model Look Nigeria, I always ask them what their life ambitions are and a 100 per cent of the time, they tell me they want to be ‘super models’. It bothers me, really, because modelling is not in my opinion a fulltime job, and it is at best seasonal. There has to be something more to a woman than just being a model and or a beauty queen. At Beth Models management, we encourage our models to continue to pursue an education at all cost. For me, I’m glad that I completed my Bachelors degree in Business and Computing. It gave me the confidence I needed and the know how to start and run the agency as a profitable business. Having formal training not only exposes the models to other career choices but it makes them more respectable.

On Beauty and the woman...
When I hear beauty I think of a woman. Its easy to understand it these days because we have better fashion choices than men, we can even wear their clothes – e.g. boyfriends shirt, and make it work. I’m not sure which came first, the opportunity or the responsibility to be beautiful. It is true that the expectation of beauty is more on a woman, but I think that it is because she is capable of much more beauty than a man is.

On why beauty as a whole matters
I liked that you mentioned Michelle Obama earlier. To me she truly is a beautiful woman and that means everything. Its her ahievements her role, her physical appearance and her fashion choices - all of it makes her beautiful. Betty Irabor (Editor of Genevieve Magazine) is beautiful; again its her looks, her graceful walk and her character. Brazillian weave doesn't make you any more beautiful than Nike shoes make you win the marathon. I don't think that outward appearance shoud be compromised on, nor should your personality be lefy uncultivated. Beauty is inside and out.