Her big break was in 2010 when she came second runner up at Elite Model Look Nigeria. Barely a year later, she was walking for some of the most influential designers on the African continent at Arise Fashion Week. Since then she has worked with notable organizations and platforms such as the White House Black Market, and made tv appearances in shows like Gotham and Bradely Cooper’s Limitless.
However, Nwando’s trajectory as a career model hasn’t been as smooth as it may sound. During this interview, she tells us about everything from her daily routine, to keeping fit, how challenging herself constantly has opened doors of opportunities both locally and internationally, the influence of modeling on her life and her new business venture, Nale Fashion House.
For the first time, Nwando truly opens up about what it means to be a career model on the continent, and especially as an African face in the international market.
1. At what point did modelling become a career and what influenced your decision? Tell us about your first break in the industry.
My first introduction to Fashion was in 2010 when I competed in the Elite Model Look Nigeria competition; I came out 2nd runner up and the experience changed my life forever; I truly fell in love with fashion in March 2011 when I debuted my first fashion week at Arise Fashion Week Africa. I walked for almost all the biggest designers in Africa at the time in my first Fashion Week ever! That was truly an experience I wouldn’t trade for anything.
2. When you’re fully booked for some modelling contracts, what’s your typical day and week like?
Modelling is very sporadic; I’m very flexible until I have absolutely no time to stop for air. On my busy weeks; I’m usually up early at about 6; I try to work out and/or meditate at least 3 days a week; I do that, have breakfast and I’m out early because call times are usually in the morning and I like to get there about 10 minutes early. Shoot days usually take up the entire work day so I’m expected to be there all day with a break in between for lunch; a typical shoot day could end at the latest 8pm and I go straight home (work days are like school nights; I never go out socially when I’m working), run a hot bath and I’m usually in bed by about 10pm so I’m refreshed the next day if it’s a continued shoot.
3. You’ve modeled internationally and worked with some reputable brands, how did you build your career to that level?
I just kept challenging and pushing myself really; I went out of my way each time to place myself in places I could find opportunity in. Simultaneously I kept working on my self (physical, mental and emotional wellness); through keeping fit, eating healthy and living a generally positive life so if I ever had the chance to find opportunity; I would be fully ready to take it on.
4. How has modelling helped you discover your true self?
Modelling truly opened my eyes to understand what it was I really wanted to do with my life and the path I wanted to follow; I was never sure for a very long time. Now I don’t model as much professionally but i have a strong love for the industry so my passions have shifted to the business of fashion.
5. The modelling industry comes with a lot of challenges. As an African model, what are some of the challenges you’ve faced, how did you deal with these challenges and how have you been able to create a successful modelling career?
My greatest challenge I would say has been working in an industry that does not fall in line with the traditional/cultural ways of society. A lot of people in my life never took my modelling serious as a profession; they looked at it as something I did in my spare time, which it really wasn’t.
Secondly modelling in New York allowed me to experience racism first hand; I missed out on a number of jobs because I was too ‘dark skinned’ or I had my natural hair and it didn’t ‘fit’ with what they wanted; when one faces rejection so many times; it could sometimes lead to self doubt which I had for a while. I dealt with these challenges by just doing ‘me’ really. I only have one life so I try to do everything I can to make sure it’s the best version and that means not settling for less so others can be comfortable. I dealt with racism and self doubt the best way I knew how; I just kept showing up. I never limited myself. I started to do a lot of self-seeking and in a lot of ways in looking for confidence; I found myself.
6. What has been your favorite job so far and what is your dream modelling job?
My most memorable fashion job has been for White House Black Market (WHBM) in New York, I also loved the tv appearances I made as background in various tv shows like The Good Wife, Gotham, Martin Scorsese’s Vinyl, Bradley Cooper’s Limitless and a few others. My dream modelling job is to be an Angel for Victoria’s Secret.
7. When you’re not busy modeling, what are some of your favorite things to do?
I love to watch tv, read great books, generally chill with the occasional glass of wine
8. If you weren’t a model, what would you do?
I couldn’t imagine being anything else. Right now I run a fashion store and I’m setting up a fitness store but whenever I meet people and they ask what I do; I always unconsciously say ‘I’m a model’; then they say of course I could have guessed that (I truly wish I had a dollar for every time I heard that one)
9. How do you stay fit and healthy?
I work out personally and I also professionally train other people that are trying to lose weight and stay fit, I drink a lot of water and I eat a fairly balanced diet.
10. Where is your favorite place to travel?
My favourite place in the world (so far) is Los Angeles. I find it very calming.
11. You’re also into fitness/wellness, and have an interest in self improvement which you showcase on your personal blog-The Nwando; how has this helped transform your career and life in general?
I try to inspire the people in my life, I found that I was telling different groups of friends similar ways to self improve; so one day I just thought I’d make it a central platform so I could also reach out to strangers that need a voice of reasoning and the response has been overwhelming; I get personal emails from people sometimes saying I helped them through a hard decision or phase and I’m always so emotional when that happens; knowing that in my own little way, I’m contributing.
12. Besides modelling, you recently launched a new online fashion store- Nale Fashion House; tell us more about it.
For the love of fashion; I recently opened a store (physical store in Portharcourt) and the online store; Modelling is a legit passion but we live in a generation where so many people are so multi-talented; being just a model is no longer enough! I needed a sustainable business model I could monetize monthly so I opened a concession store where I stock the amazing pieces from very very talented Nigerian Designers also in a bid to promote African Fashion.
13. With your busy schedule as a model and entrepreneur, how do you relax, take care of yourself and maintain a positive mindset?
I’m a firm believer in caring for self as much as we care for business and dreams. From time to time; I take a day off and I do the things I love to do; I binge watch on a show I’ve missed out on, I read a book, I go to the beach or I just do absolutely nothing and that also feels pretty great. I try to live a balanced life; I try to remain positive through every phase of my life because I genuinely do my best to create the life I want; if something is not working despite all my best effort and persistence; then its not meant for me. I prayed ‘The Serenity Prayer’ – God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, And wisdom to know the difference. To a very large extent; God answered this prayer.
14. What would be your advice to anyone out there chasing their modelling and entrepreneurship dreams?
Never give up on yourself. No one on earth can see your dreams as clearly as you can; if it is what you want to do with all your heart, give it everything; pay your dues, go above and beyond and one day it just might become your reality.
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