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MEET BUKOLA TAIWO, OLDEST AFRICAN MODEL


She modeled as a young girl in the late eighties and early nineties before leaving the shores of this coun­try for greener pasture. Coming back, she noticed the industry has expanded with the prolifera­tion of designers in Nigeria. Still in shape with the right curves, she decided to go back to her first love, which is runway mod­eling. In the course of interacting with designers and models , she has this penchant to improve modeling in Nigeria by starting a school for budding models. Bukola Taiwo visited The Sun in Lagos lately to tell her story.
Excerpts:
Tell us more about who you are?
I’m Bukola Taiwo and I’m a super model. I have been modeling for over 20 years now. I modeled in the late eighties and early nineties. I did that for a while and came back to Nigeria to complete my tertiary education. I am married and I had four kids. After I had all my children, I still discovered I’m still in shape and I know that be­ing a model is my calling. I decided to go back professionally to the runway. I had to register with an agency but I discovered along the line that most Nigerian models don’t really have the basic wherewithal. Some designers complained about their personal hy­giene. For instance, there were cases when the girls wore dirty clothes that needed the drycleaners touch. Mod­eling agencies don’t tell you all you need to know about hygiene and oth­er necessary things you need to know as a woman. They only tell you how to catwalk and get ready for the design­ers, wear their clothes and make your money. I think it’s much more than that. After a while, I decided to start my own modeling academy, which is totally like a school that will teach the nitty-gritty of modeling. We have cat­walk classes and aerobic classes to keep them in shape. We teach them etiquettes and also work on their dic­tion to bring them to international standards. There are no good schools in Nigeria anymore to groom mod­els. I know Nigeria models are the best world-wide. During my time, the only modeling school then was owned by Yemi Fawaz and she’s no more in the country. I’m try­ing to put such a school to­gether, and we are taking off in January in Lagos. The criterion is just your statis­tics and we’ll put them to shape even if they don’t have the right statistics.
You don’t look like you al­ready had four kids. What’s the secret?
I had four kids but now I’m left with two. I lost two. They were three boys and a girl. I lost one to autism. That was what they called it but I’m pretty sure that my boy was not autis­tic because when I looked at the other students in his class, there were more severe cases. He was my first born. I have another son and he’s a model here in Nigeria. I lost the third one and my last born is a girl. Now, I have a 17-year-old boy and a 7-year-old girl. I’m just a very cautious person. I try to discipline myself. Apart from the fact that I’m a model and people should see me slim and all that, it’s just me personally. That’s why I say modeling is my calling. I don’t make an extra ef­fort to keep in shape. But these days, I walk. I play music and dance, so that keeps me in shape. I don’t always drive but I don’t do the usual gym and jogging anymore. I eat right . I eat lit­tle of fruits and vegetables. I don’t eat beef; I try to eat more sea foods and poultry. I just watch what I eat and try to maintain my looks.
How old are you now?
I’m 47.
Can you tell us about your modeling experience?
I modeled in New York, London, Milan and Paris in the late eighties. I didn’t take it as a profession then. But when I came back to Nigeria , I saw that modeling is a serious business here. I have attended quite a number of shows since I’ve returned. I have been a judge at Nigeria’s next super model casting, Lagos fashion awards and I was the face of super runway cervical cancer campaign.
Could you recall some of the shows you did abroad?
I can’t. I just went there for the fun of it. In my secondary school days, I used to admire models. I read about them in magazines and I was excit­ed. When I travelled abroad and the opportunity came. I just jumped at it. It was shortly after my secondary education and I was naïve. When I returned to the country, I decided to make a come back into the profession since I still have my shape. I still walk on the runway. I modeled for Ade Ba­kare during Style& Essence awards and other designers.
Now that you are back, what are the things you can­not wear on the runway?
I cannot wear bikini on the run­way because I’m not a bikini model. Bikini models are the busty ones like Tyra Banks. I can take pictures in bi­kini if I want and if the pay is good. It depends on what the client wants. I have a good body so what is stop­ping me? I can wear short and minis, but the most important thing about a runway model are her legs and being able to walk on heels comfortably. I have good legs. I think I’m the oldest African model on the runway.
How long have you been wearing your hairstyle?
Over ten years. My husband wasn’t happy about it initially but if I de­cide to wear a wig he won’t like it. It’s like a signature now and I’m cool with it. I’m used to it. A lot of people call me African Queen; other people think I lost someone by shaving my hair. Some people think as a woman I shouldn’t have, wondering why . I al­ways tell them, that’s the look I want for my profession.
Is your husband a model too?
No, he’s not. He used to be a media consultant but now he owns his own business.