Elizabeth Elohor: On Discovering World-class Models
By Yemisi Suleiman
Elizabeth Elohor is the supremo at Beth Model Management and Elite Model Look Nigeria (EMLN), the former being a brand she started building ten years ago and which is now among leading modelling agencies in Africa. Working in collaboration with Elite Model Management, New York, Beth Model Management is famous for scouting some of the hottest models in Nigeria! Her models have strutted international runways for significant brands like Versace, Dolce & Gabbana (D&G), Moschino, Zara, Victoria Secret and more. So, what does it take to be a top model? What is life like as a chief model scout and what advice does she have for aspiring models out there?
Ten years on, how has it been so far?
It has been amazing over the years; I’m thrilled to see that something I started so small has grown to be so big. And we have been consistent over the years also, which is what has helped us to achieve all we have accomplished and, today, I’m proud to say what I dreamt of is happening. My models are on covers of magazines and gracing international shows which makes me proud.
How has it been putting the show together? What were the challenges that you faced from the beginning and now?
We have had a lot of challenges; from looking for the models and trying to get the right face – a face that will be able to sell internationally. This makes casting a robust process. Sponsorship is another issue; trying to get companies to support us and believing in what we are doing is not easy. So it has been an arduous journey so far. For me to be here in ten years, it took a lot but I feel happy. I know it’s not where I want to be right now regarding the modelling industry but I’m grateful because even in these difficult times I have made a place for models.
When you started your modelling agency, a lot of people also started theirs but stopped along the line. What would you say has been your staying power so far in the industry?
I will say it’s God. Maybe, God brought me to this world to help young girls (laughs) because I see a lot of young girls in this world every day; apart from the ones I see in competitions. It’s something I enjoy doing; it’s what I love. I wanted to be a super model. I always had that dream. It did not work out for me so I decided to put up my agency to help other girls achieve that.
However, I educate them on the importance of going to school and having a degree as well because without that, even if you’re a super model, you have nothing. The life time of a model, as I always tell people, is very short; it’s not forever. The only person that has lasted this long is Naomi Campbell and probably Kate Moss but they also have other things they do and they make money from them.
Was there any time you felt like quitting?
Every year I want to give up and God just always surprises me. In 2014, when Mayowa and Victor won, that year I wanted to give up because getting sponsorship is a lot of work. Aquafina has done fantastic for us so far.
At some point, our models were not making it to the international level and sponsors weren’t coming through so I just felt: ‘You know what? I won’t take this thing that seriously again. I am just going to step back, even if it’s a bit. So that year, I didn’t go to the finals.’ Usually, I go every year but that year, I refused to go to the finals. That same year, I got a call that our model made top 15 which had not happened since 2008. The next day, they called saying Victor should come to Paris and I was like ‘What’s happening here?’ That is how I knew God is showing me a sign to continue.
In 2015, the same thing happened. I went to Milan and my models didn’t make top 15. They came back home and I started thinking again that I wasn’t going to do this again. So last year, I refused to go to the finals and sent my booker to represent me in Portugal. Then, she called me at midnight saying “Davidson won!” I was like “Really? How? I’m not doing this again! No, No No.” (laughs). So, it’s a bit of a challenge. I think life is so funny that when you want to give up, something always comes up.
Davidson won and it has been so amazing. With Mayowa, her career picked up that same year. So, it has been just that so far. I only have to come to terms with the fact that since this is what I want to do, I always have to plan. Now, I’m about to launch my foundation which I will unveil at the tenth anniversary.
What is the foundation about?
It’s a foundation to help young girls with their education; help young girls go to school and sometimes give them a scholarship. In this field, I have seen how young girls try their best to work and make a living for themselves; girls as young as 16-17. This foundation is to help them and relieve them of that stress; there will be someone who will take care of their education for some years while all they do is go to school instead of working and schooling. I just want to help young girls with their knowledge.
For someone who is in the modelling industry, one would think you’ll push a cause around modelling. Why education?
For me, I think education is essential even if one is a model. I’m pushing modelling as well but I understand that modelling is part-time. About 70% – 80% of the girls that come to see me, their primary issue is education and, sometimes, the reason they come to model is not that they want to; it’s because they need the money it can give the. So, we are just trying to help in between.
Mayowa Nicholas who is one of your models is currently signed on by Victoria Secret. How does that make you feel?
Yes, the show is in November. Since Victoria Secret is one of the biggest shows ever, once you do that show, you are automatically a top model. I was not expecting it at all. At least, not now. I was hoping it would happen in three – four years from now but I am so glad it happened now. It is not an easy show to get into; it’s one of the biggest fashion shows in the world. So, my model going for Victoria Secret is putting my girl on the map internationally; that is excellent news for me.
When we heard the story, which was two days before our Nigeria casting, it was the most fantastic news ever. I was so happy. Agencies around the world that we worked with even called to congratulate us. Mayowa is a significant joy for me; she has done so much. She’s a face of Calvin Klein; the first Nigerian model to front a campaign for Calvin Klein. She has done H&M back to back. There are many other projects she’s already working on. We will unveil them in due course. She has done so well. She is very hard working and focused. We also have our boy, Davidson, who is also the face of Versace. We have Victor who has done Moschino and now the Face of Zara; it is incredible the things we have achieved so far.
So what should we look out for at this year’s event?
This year is going to be a party kind of celebration; that’s how I want to make it. Hopefully, the show will be short but we have our fashion designs. We would be celebrating models, music and fashion; just pretty much a party. We have a dress code which is haute couture and this pretty much means you can come in whatever it is you want to wear. Just come, have fun and celebrate with us for putting Nigeria on the global map.
Would you say what you had in mind when you set up Beth has been achieved so far?
I would say maybe, 50%. The other 50% is still coming.
How do you take time off to relax from work?
I go away for three months with my family for the summer holiday. This year, I came back a month ago so it is not that I am working back to back. Sometimes, I go to the spa and, sometimes, I go hang out with friends. I work at working hours and then I work at night; but my weekends are relaxed.
How do you pamper yourself?
I love going to the spa. I love travelling to different places. I love having fun. I love watching series a lot. I just like the good things of life.
What does fashion mean to you?
Simple is always better. I’ve found the designers that work for me, internationally and locally, and I still wear their pieces. It’s better to be just simple than over-dressed. When people are over-dressed, they look like a mess. So I always tend just to keep it simple. My dress, shoes – and I love shoes – my hair style, make-up; everything should complement each other.
Do you have a signature fragrance?
Yes! Tom Ford. I always use Tom Ford.
What about jewellery?
Maybe, wrist watches and rings, yes. I prefer simple ear rings. I’m not into chokers; my choice is simple and I go for anything I like.
What would you say to that young girl who aspires to be a super model?
All I have to tell them is that they should work hard if they truly want it. If they’re going to be a part of Elite, they should take care of their skin, work very hard and have a fit body; because, we’ve had girls with good body statistics but bad skin. We can’t accept them because we don’t create these rules and there’s nothing we can do to help. There are some girls with big hips and big tummy; there’s nothing we can do about that. Or, girls who are incredibly busty. If you look at the runway, you’ll see that the girls that are there are basic standards; those are the requirements and we try to stick with them.