Racial discrimination Supermodel Ibukun Jegede faced at the beginning of his modelling career motivated him to fight for more room for black models in the UK.
Ibukun says that many in the industry denied him jobs simply because he was black.
Ibukun was the second male model to win the Top Model of Colour (TMC) competition in 2008. He didn’t expect to win and was in fact surprised when he was announced the winner. “I was glad and proud of myself because my hard work paid off,” he says.
Apart from fighting for more room for black models, Ibukun is also keen on promoting the positive image of Nigeria, his home country. Here’s an exclusive interview he granted Africa News.
Ibukun, how has winning the TMC influenced your life?
It has in so many ways. It was a pathway to success. I was recognised by top British politicians and other dignitaries immediately I won. I was lucky enough because many Africans in the UK believed in me and supported me.
I worked extremely hard, travelled to several countries for events, shoots and shows. I decided to pay back to the society. I wanted to make a pathway for Africans struggling in the modelling industry here. That was my main aim. Although I passed through many challenges for African models to be recognised, it was worth it.
What are the challenges you passed through?
I remember a client said to me before winning the TMC: “I don’t need monkeys on my show.” I immediately told myself that I had to work for a change through awareness raising. Unfortunately some Africans in the industry didn’t support me due to my age. Being 21 years old then, I guess they thought I was too young to embark on such a mission, but I did my best to make a change for the African models.
Are there many male models of colour in the UK? If not, why?
At the time I started in England eight years ago, there were very few male models of colour, but things are changing gradually. It’s a hard task to be a model because it is highly competitive. There are some other male models I’m seeing doing well at the moment.
What are your highlights?
Hmm, I guess breaking through mainstream. I have worn and modelled garments for Paul Smith Collection, Gloverall, Timberland, Fred Perry, Hugo Boss, and Aaron Dowie in the East Midlands. Most of all, I was recognised last year as one of the successful models living in East Midlands.
One thing you like most about yourself?
All the people I’ve met say I’m hardworking but I love my level of motivation.
One thing you don’t like about yourself?
(Laughing). My close friends say I care about people more than myself. They also say I give easily even though it is not convenient for me. I’m guessing that’s a weak point. I don’t know.
What’s your favourite food?
When it comes to African food, I love pounded yam and Efo riro (Rich vegetable stew). I also love Shepherd’s Pie served with Yorkshire Pudding, broccoli, vegetable and gravy.
What’s your special talent?
I will say modelling.
How does it feel to be a model?
It feels good but many people have this perception that models are party animals, arrogant people without brain. That’s a lie. Many of my friends have also said the same thing. Funny enough! I was recently hanging out with some friends. Some said they thought I was arrogant but discovered that it was the other way round. I see models as hardworking people because I understand the business.
What are the qualities of your ideal woman?
(Laughing). If I start listing, this interview will not end. OK I will give you a hint. She must be beautiful inside and outside, God fearing, well educated with a goal in life. She must be independent and hardworking.
Are you single?
Single? All I will say is, my eyes are on a beautiful chick.
What are your future ambitions?
I want to have my own management consultancy firm and help the poor.
Apart from modelling, what else do you do?
I do all sorts of things. I’m a politician and member of Nottingham East Constituency, a model, a student studying Msc Management and Entrepreneurial eBusiness. In short, I am a young businessman trying to make it in life.
Any advice to those aspiring to become models?
Firstly I strongly advice they understand the conceptional framework of the business, work hard, network with the right people, travel as much as they can. Most of all, humility in the business can take them far.
Any other comments?
I’d like to say a big thank you to everyone I’ve worked with. To my families - you’re all special. To my fans - without you guys I won’t be motivated to make a change.
Full Name: Ibukun Jegede
Place of birth: Nigeria
Suit Size: 42R
Hair Colour: Black
Qualification: Currently studying Msc Management and Entrepreneurial eBusiness
By Stephen Ogongo Ongong’a