Grace Renner: On ‘Meet the Models the Evolution Series’ as event holds Saturday
By Yemisi Suleiman
Following in the footsteps of some top international models, Nigeria’s former supermodel and Tv Presenter Grace Renner is poised to giving back to the modelling industry with her model contest tagged ‘Meet the Models the Evolution Series’
For Mrs Renner, the Evolution Series is a platform created to groom young aspiring Nigerian models to be the best, while promoting them on the international scene.
It involves an audition where ten finalists were selected to participate at the grand finale billed to hold May 18th in Lagos.
Working in collaboration with the Milano Fashion Week, Renner is set to changing the life of the winner, as the Top Model would be flown to Milan to participate in the Milano Fashion Week, get signed on by a top modeling agency in Milan, amongst other things.
She tells us more.
What is the idea behind “Meet the Models, The Evolution Series” and how did it all start ?
In 2015, I started a TV show called “Meet The Models”. In the show, I used to interview top models and get them to inspire young and aspiring models. And then we would also share modelling tips. At some point I felt it was not enough because my idea of starting the show in the first place was to change the narrative of the industry. I felt it wasn’t enough and at some point, I met an Italian model, I shared my dreams with her and she said “okay” we could work together. She told me of the “Milano fashion week” and suggested that we could work with them by taking models from Nigeria for the show. We would train them here in Nigeria, take them over to Millan and get them signed under a modeling agency in Milan. So i thought it was a fantastic idea and i jumped at it. We started planning around December. I still liked the name “Meet the Models” , so I decided to call our new project: ‘Meet the Models the Evolution Series’, because it is an offshoot of my TV show.
When was that?
We met in 2016, after that we met again last year November at the GTBank fashion weekend and we started planing. I said okay I like the name ‘meet the models’ because it’s still centered around what we were doing before,except that there is going to be proper training now. It’s going to be a competition and the catch is that they get signed internationally. So let’s maintain the name and maybe add a little title “the evolution series”. Almost like saying that models have evolved and being internationally recognized.
So that is where the evolution series came from?
Yes, that’s how it came about.
What was the idea behind meet the models when you first started?. What inspired it for you?
Okay,for me- because I had been in the industry for a while, the time I started was about, 7 or 8 years at being in the industry, so I observed that models were not being celebrated in Nigeria unlike other stars from other entertainment industry. We have musicians that are well celebrated, also actors and actresses well celebrated. And I am like models do so much. I mean designers can not do so much without the models, even these artistes can’t do much without models like in music videos where there are always models. Even models are actors too and I feel the models deserve better. So I decided to do a show devoted at celebrating models and let’s see how it goes from there. But it wasn’t just about celebrating them,it was about showing the world how the modelling industry is and giving aspiring models a taste of the modelling industry and tips that would help them in case they still intend to be models.
Is the Evolution series the very first edition?
Of this one, Yes. But the other one I did 29 episodes. It used to air on TV at the time. So when I started this one, I shut that one down completely to focus on the Evolution Series.
29 episodes, where did you get the Models from? Did you focus on just Nigerian models or Africa no matter where they are from?
My focus was first Nigerian models but I saw that it was becoming bigger than just the Nigerian models, so then i had an Italian model. Well she is actually a Nigerian born Italian model who came on the show. I had other people too sending me DMs telling me “ooh i would like to be in your show when I’m in Nigeria”. I said okay, fantastic. So far I had international models that came into Nigeria and then I had local models in Nigeria and I was able to seize the opportunity and speak to the international models along the line.
What should we expect for this edition-evolution series? Is there going to be like a modelling competition here?
Yes. This evolution series is about a modelling competition. The idea is, there is an audition at the University of Lagos on the 4th of May at University of Lagos (UNILAG). We would audition this models,select the best twenty or thirty,send the documents put together to Milan and they will do there final selection of streamlining them down to 10. Those ten would be trained by professional facilitators both in the modeling industry and outside the industry.
Why send the documents to Millan?
We will send the documents to Milan,so that the agencies that is picking this models can see, because they might not be able to come for this first edition but they are sending a representative “Bali Lawal”. She would be here but we still have to share copies of the documents we would put together so they can streamline the 30 to about 10 that would be camped in a house and trained. Modelling is a short-term career, you don’t expect to be in the modelling forever,so we want to train them in such a way that as models, they can function and even when they decide to stop being models,whatever they learn they will use it to function well in other works of life.
After putting them through a series of training, on the grand finale there is going to be a fashion runway show where we would have another set of judges(designers and guest ) that would pick a final winner. The final winner travels to Milan, participate in the Milano fashion week and then get signed by a modelling agency in Milan.
How do you ensure the winner get all that was promised, because there had been issues of some other contest before now, that did not fulfill their promises?
First of all, I am not working alone, I have a team of people and apart from my integrity being at stake, their integrity will also be at stake and these are reputable people even the people coming from Milan. That is one aspect of it.
Number two, this is really something I am really passionate about. I already have spent so much of my money and I have not asked anyone for money. I have tried to reach out to sponsors and they haven’t said anything yet but I am not bothered about that because this is something I want to see through. I want change in the modelling industry. There are people doing things that I admire, the likes of Tyra Banks and in Nigeria Elizabeth Eloho with Elite models and everything. Things like these have inspired me a lot and if Eloho didn’t stop halfway, I don’t see why I should stop. I know it’s not going to be easy, at least I’m already experiencing the sour part of what I have taken on but I’m ready to face it fair and square.
You said something about a change in the modelling industry, What would you say they are not doing right as it is, in the modeling industry in Nigeria? What are you bringing on the table?
Let me say three things- number one, I already mentioned models not being celebrated and recognized. Second is unprofessionalism- it is a very big problem in the country, both from the models and the stakeholders. You hear a lot of things, like models complaining of sexual harassment. I can’t change the fact that someone finds somebody attractive and says I want to sleep with you but I can change the fact that I go to somebody’s office and in no way do I look or send a message that I want to be slept with. For instance, I come from a home where I have been trained not just to dress decently but to carry myself decently. If I don’t show somebody that I’m desperate for something, the person won’t see that courage to want to take advantage of me. Nigerian models can be very desperate they don’t even know how to say no because they feel they need to enjoy the glamour of the whole industry but it’s not like that. This seven days, we will train them, teach them to know who they are and to be self aware. I see what Tyra Banks is doing, she tries to build models from the inside out and that is what we what to do. The fact that they did not say yes to you doesn’t mean its finished, rejection is part of the industry. You don’t have to do every job. I interviewed a few people and they said “it took them two years to get one modeling job”.
It took me a while as well, as I didn’t get what I wanted and I got another. The only thing that helped me was I had side businesses I was doing here and there like ushering job, music video.
So I was comfortable. So whether the modeling job came or not I was still content. A lot of models are too impressionable, they want want to impress just because the see others wear a Gucci bag they want also. We want to train them to be content from the inside, let them grow little by little. So that is the aspect of professionalism that I would be touching and a lot more in that area.
The third thing is that the models that live abroad and model abroad are able to travel easily to other countries to model, but I noticed that it is quite difficult for Nigerians to just travel. Some people said it is lack of funds, so with this show we want to open that door.
The door has been opened although by Eloho. I want to play my part, see how I can open it formally.
But this is a one winner takes it all event?
Yes. One winner but we will try our best to help the other nine.
Help them in what way?
For instance I am going to sign a contract with all nine of them such that they would also be my models if they want. So when modeling opportunities come,we get to run around for them to get jobs as well, both in Nigeria and see how we can pitch them also abroad and say okay we have these model in Nigeria, look at them. And opportunities can come out from there as well. So that is pretty much it.
So for the winner, you take her to Milan for the Milano fashion week?
The others are not going to take path in this?
No, we won’t have able to take all of them . just the winner.
After the Milano fashion week,what’s next for the winner?
I’m trying to secure jobs here in Nigeria and then my person there in Milan Bali Lawal, will be securing jobs also in Milano. Also getting signed in Milan means that she now has an agency in Milan that will be calling her for modelling jobs. In Nigeria here too, as an agent i would also get her modelling jobs that would help to sustain her. So when she is here she is working and when she is in Milan she is also working.
About the scouting,is it just in Lagos or outside Lagos? Are looking at doing the screening in other states or just Lagos?
The audition is not only limited to only to Lagosians, we are going to be having people from Abuja, Port Harcourt and everywhere in Nigeria come for the audition but for this first edition we are doing it in Lagos. We are trying to see in the next edition if we have enough funds,we can travel to maybe five more strategic cities like Port Harcourt, Abuja, Benin, and Ogun state.