Classics, News, People

Blast from the past: Gisting with Linda Ikeji

Tuesday, May 30, 2006, I was a guest at her Oweh Street, Jibowu, Lagos office. My mission? Naturally to gist with her. And top on the list of matters discussed was her about-to-be-launched magazine, what influences brought il about, shaped her dreams to embark on such a project.

Attired in a body-hugging blue top over a black jeans trouser when I came calling, she’d retraced her path to when it all started. “I’ve always wanted to write a book. And sometime in 2004, I actually did. I wrote a book about the industry I operate in. I started modelling in 1998, so I felt I had enough experience to be able to write about it. So, I wrote the book, found an editor who edited it.

And some four months later, I stumbled on a programme on television. A talk show or something.

And one of the guests said something, that the best way to hide something in this country is to put it in a book, that Nigerians don’t read. That the reading culture is bad. And I’d written a book on fashion with no pictures that would attract readers like the celebrity magazines and such things. So, I hit on a plan that, why not do something that will create more awareness? So, I decided to publish a magazine that will attract readers and at the same time get my views across. So, what I just did was to transfer half of the material in my book into the magazine, with pictures to complement. And it is ready. Beauty, Fashion and Modelling is the name.”

The book, what was the title? I asked. “Beauty, Fashion and Modelling: My point of view, Linda Ikeji. That was a sort of critical assessment of the industry. The problems and factors that brought it about. It was the thrust of the book.”

‘And more or less the same with the magazine?’ I queried. “The magazine has that as well as more. It teaches the practical aspect of fashion, beauty and modelling. How to be the best in the field, with relevant tips on each sector. The way to dress properly. Achieve the best look, and stuffs like that. We have things on fashion icons. And we have pages devoted to skills acquisition in these areas. Practically, the magazine is for designers, models, make-up artists, fashion designers, hair stylists, all promoters of fashion, modelling and beauty queens. There are foreign articles on where to get what and the best way to get what. It’s a total package.”

‘And it’s all a Linda Ikeji project?’ I asked. “It’s my project but I have people who supported me in packaging the magazine. Contributors who put in their quota. All these you’ll see when the magazine hits the stand.”

‘Financially?’ I started questioning. A deep intake and exhale of breath as she t leaned back on her seat and she began. “That’s the hard bit. I have been doing everything in that regard. I approached banks, financial institutions and all of them with little result. At a point, I wanted to sell my car to raise money to publish, to pay the quoted fee by Planet Press, the people doing the printing.

The money they asked for I didn’t have it. And the kind of collateral the banks and financier demanded, I

couldn’t provide. So, I had to make use of my savings. Money coming in here and there, it has not been easy. But I believe in this dream. I am very sure this project will fly.”

That means you are very sure of making your money back?’ I’d quipped. A slight frown on her face and she’d replied, “Fine, I believe I’ll make my gains, but for me, this is not primarily about making money. Rather, it’s about the impact on the industry I operate in. Correcting the ills and such factors affecting its growth. I’ve highlighted of them in the magazine, if it can be addressed, I believe I will go further than where we are. The industry is certainly not as buoyant as it used to be.”

‘And you are certainly not doing as much modelling job as you used to do?’ I’d stated. “I still do a couple of jobs once in a while. The thing is this, most of the people I started out with have left the scene. Many have gotten married. I believe I am the oldest model around now, but I am 25. I started when I was 17. I sort of choose the job I do now, I do less of walkway stuff and more calendar jobs.

More so, I have my own modelling agency that I run now, I get contracts for my girls and the commission is okay for me. So, I don’t really have to go do an N10,000 walkway stuff. Maybe for designers, I really respect arid have a relationship with, like MonAmi, Frank Osodi and the likes.”

‘N10,000 is the ·standard fee?’ I enquired. “Some pay more, some pay less. That was the way it was and still is. At times you just do it just for the sake of featuring in the show. That’s why I said the industry is not vibrant.”

‘You said many of those you started out with are already married, when are you getting married?’ I asked. A brief smile and she disclosed, “Time will tell, I am still very much single.” ‘And searching?’ I threw in. “Maybe,” she responded.

‘With the magazine, where will you say you are headed?’ I asked. “In the next five years, I am hoping this magazine will be on the same platform as Vogue, Cosmo and equally to set up my own fashion, modelling and beauty institute and television programme. I intend to create job opportunities for people in the industry.

In the magazine, there are over 40 contacts of modelling agencies in Europe and America. And I hope it will also launch me into the Oprah Winfrey show. I intend to launch the magazine in the United Kingdom too,” she ended.

First published in Encomium magazine on Tuesday, June 6, 2006

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