Hidden Gems: Arafah stumbled On modelling by chance, since then she’s been on the rise


Hidden Gems is a series intended to showcase creative, innovative and intellectual Africans. We want to use our platform to share stories of African people doing amazing things in and out of the continent. An article will be released every Thursday.

The Nigerian fashion world has had a good run in the last five years. Last year in particular brought a lot of press and attention, multiple fashion shows and top designers from around the world visited Lagos to get in on it. LVMH Prize nomination of two Africans —one of them won the prize— for its emerging fashion showcase that sources the best new talent from around the world further cemented this narrative.

A very big part of the industry that’s usually forgotten, but plays a huge role to help create this future, are the models that present the clothes aesthetically & artistically. Just like every other division of the fashion industry, models hold the system together and are the final phase of presenting a designer’s collection to the world.

Adele Kanyinsola, popularly known by her modelling name ‘Arafah’, is a 22 year old who never thought she’d be walking down a runway growing up, but is currently one of Nigeria’s top models.

Arafah at Heineken Lagos Fashion Week 2019

Her rise through the modelling hierarchy, from being cast at a show by chance, to becoming a frequent face at top fashion shows in Lagos within two years is nothing short of incredible. As she enters a new phase of her career, we ask about her early stages and how modelling gave her a new direction.

How did you get into the modelling world? And why?

Arafah — I never grew up thinking I’ll end up a model. The first time modelling came to me was when I followed my friend to a casting back in university. I got there and they asked me to apply as well.
My first ever job was Lagos Fashion Week in 2017.

How’s the last few years been for you in the modelling world of Lagos? The highs and lows?

Arafah — Honestly there’s been crazy times but we thank God I haven’t quit completely.

What do you think about the fashion scene in Nigeria, and who are the designers you feel are pushing the culture forward?

Arafah — The modelling world has been a bit of both ups and downs for me but it did help me build confidence in a lot of ways. Modelling is not just about taking pictures, you also have to be interested in telling the same story the designer is telling. I’ve gotten a lot of ‘No’ and doubted myself every now and then. For someone like me who never saw modelling as a dream I’ll be chasing, along the line I became more committed. Since this is the path I’ve chosen I can as well be good at it.

I’m not going to comment on designers because everyone is truly about their career that is what I believe. There’s very few designers actually pushing the narrative, in terms of their designs maybe but in general maybe one or two people.

You’re very vocal about the terrible things models sometimes go through, give us an inside look into this?

Arafah — The narrative of how models are treated will change in Nigeria when people actually see modelling as a regular job on par with other white collar jobs like being a banker, engineer, lawyers because we also work long hours and people fail to realise that.
I’m waiting for these things to change, to be actually considered and not be the least person thought of.

Situations like when we have shoots, and they don’t feed us cause ‘models are skinny and we’re not meant to eat’ which is really dumb, a lot of things need to stop.
I’ve once been told I’ll be kept in a black book for being honest about how I feel in the industry after being treated in a bad way.

One thing I know though is that it’s not just a Nigerian thing, it happens everywhere in the world. It’s manageable there cause they’re in an environment where they’re getting paid way better and are celebrated.

We have zero press! If you ask someone to name 10 Nigerian models working here locally, they can’t really answer. We only know how to celebrate the international models.


What’s your plan entering the new decade?

Arafah — I’m taking things slow.

As a creative do you see yourself working in another scene?

Arafah — Definitely, yes, I’ve been an assistant stylist for a year plus also find myself as the casting director for jobs, and I consult on projects I’m really capable of a lot.

Who are your top models in Africa and the world? 

Arafah — I’ll say Debra Shaw (we kinda look alike), I love love Jeneil Williams, Madisin Rian, Mayowa Nicholas. I also love how Naomi Campbell still makes herself relevant in the industry.


What has been your best moment walking as a model?

Arafah I have a lot of best moments from fashion week, I get to see a lot of models all in same place to reconnect.

Do you feel there’s a need to leave the country in your career to attain the more heights or you can dominate the world from Lagos? 

Arafah — There’s a lack of opportunities because the only time we get to actually work is during fashion week. After fashion week, no one remembers the model only a few designers still care and book you for jobs, most of them don’t even pay well.

I think the focus is to build more structures that create opportunities for models in Nigeria apart from just fashion shows.
So I think you should definitely leave Nigeria cause there’s no successful in Nigeria and you can make as much as you would outside the country.

Best spots to hang out in Lagos ?

Arafah —  16 By 16, La Taverna, African Artists’ Foundation.

Adedayo Laketu

Adedayo Laketu is a creative inventor who's interested in curating a New Age for Africa across all mediums.

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