I have always wondered why there are only a few plus-size models in Nigeria’s modeling industry. Nigeria is in West Africa and the definition of beauty greatly differs from that in Western nations, so why does the modeling industry not reflect the society it is situated in?

Before I go on, let me define what a plus-size model is. Plus size models are also known as “full-figured models,” “extended-sizes model,” and “outsize model”.

A good working definition comes from Wikipedia which defines  a plus-size model as “a person who is engaged primarily in modeling plus-size clothing. Plus-size models also engage in work that is not strictly related to selling large-sized clothing e.g., stock photography and advertising photography for cosmetics, household and pharmaceutical products and sunglasses, footwear and watches. Therefore, plus-size models do not exclusively wear garments marketed as plus-size clothing. This is especially true when participating in fashion editorials for mainstream fashion magazines.”

This is in contrast to the  skinny models used in Nigeria. In fact, Nigeria has the epitome of what the ideal model looks like, thanks to the successful Nigerian model Oluchi Onweagba-Orlandi. Oluchi has walked the runways in many countries in and out of Africa and now has her own agency called O Model Africa. Oluchi is skinny and has a thin frame with a size/frame that fits the American and European model industry standards of size 2-6. The question though is, is Oluchi and other skinny models (aka Lepas) like her the only standard of beauty in Nigeria’s modeling industry that  should be used in Nigeria? (If most Nigerian women are not a size 2-6, why create an image for them to attain that they cannot? Is this the launch of body image issues for young Nigerian girls to come?)

There is a huge market for plus size models in Nigeria and, all over Africa for that matter, plus sizes ranging from 10-14. Even Western nations are also now valuing plus-size models’ so why is Nigeria where a larger percentage of the women are plus size, not doing the same?

For example, according to the same Wikipedia, “Fashion designers are starting to look more closely at the earning potential from plus-size clothing, and have used plus-size models for their advertising campaigns and catwalks. Jean-Paul Gaultier and John Galliano both used plus-size models in their Spring 2006 showings in Paris. Italian plus-size fashion house Elena Mirò now regularly stages biannual prêt-à-porter shows during Fashion Week in Milan. Mark Fast andWilliam Tempest each used plus-size models during their own London Fashion Weekshowings for Spring 2009, and again as part of All Walks Beyond the Catwalk event held on September 19, 2009 in association with the British Fashion Council.”

So this makes me wonder why Nigeria’s modeling industry is not embracing plus-size models. One reason I have heard is that of acceptance in the industry. Indeed the lack of acceptance is why “The International Fuller Woman Network” was created to connect initiatives around the world that support the size acceptance and plus empowerment movement.” This network has also forged partnership with Big Sister Magazine in Nigeria which is the only “one of its kind that is published in Nigeria and West Africa.” This magazine aims to improve confidence by “encouraging the plus size woman to look fabulous and as such, features some of the best and outfits from the plus size wardrobe…” (http://bigsistermagazine.blogspot.com/)

The average Nigerian woman, for the most part, is a “real” African woman. She isn’t skinny and shapeless. She is a woman with curves and great assets in the backside and the bust. (So, if Nigerian corporate companies are hiring models to sell their products to the average Nigerian woman, shouldn’t they be using plus size models just as much as they use skinny models, if not more?)

Also, most African men, if not all, appear to desire these kinds of average plus-size women. So, if the average Nigerian woman is desired and continues to be desired, increasingly, by Nigerian and African men, why isn’t the plus size model industry introduced into the Nigerian market? (Have you seen Nollywood movies lately? Name one skinny actress you know. Most of them are plump compared to their Hollywood counterparts. If Nollywood is not changing the standard of beauty in Nigeria and is comfortable exporting that to the world, why is Nigeria’s fashion industry insisting only on the Lepa shandis (skinny women?))

The definition of a skinny model came from the West because of its culture and foods. Nigerian/African culture is different. As the industry is still in its infancy state, perhaps a (more expanded view of beauty) is needed that caters to its citizens, its culture and customs.

I’m just wondering and saying, where are all the plus-size models in Nigeria?

What do you guys think? Please share your thoughts.

Priscilla Bamfo

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