Namibia – In general, when I joined the Fashion industry in 2016, the industry was yet to grow compared to where it is right now in 2021. Not so much was happening back then, at least for me.
The impact of a yet-to grow industry comes with many shortcomings and few advantages, but every model was satisfied with the few advantage the industry had to offer, it is all we had, and we understood that. We still do!
Getting my face out there was one of the struggles for me, solely when it came to generating income from job offers. I had to take non-payment job offers with well-known photographers, designers or makeup artists, and one could not complain much too. I was new in the fashion industry, and that meant I had no knowledge of how the whole industry works nor was I aware of who held influence in the industry to fully approach them for assistance. So, I took on jobs that offered no payment for experience and to build my portfolio. At the end of the day, it worked well in my advantage as a freelance model.
My first ever show was the 2016 COTA fashion show. In that same year, Windhoek Fashion Week was launching its first ever show, I did castings and got rejected. My first ever “no” was devasting at first, but it taught me that it is nothing personal in the game, you are just not what they are looking for and that is okay; neither does it mean you do not have the potential. To be frank, I sucked; I was not prepared, and I had the worst casting heels ever to be worn; CHILD!
I have gotten around the industry by self-teaching, and by using every chance I get to network and, to leave behind a good impression for future needs. Establishing yourself as a brand and making sure it is up to standard for potential clients is key. 2017 was a great year for me as my modelling career finally started to take off. I was working with different Fashion Industry Icons and those experiences helped ground me and I established myself into the supermodel that I am today! I have mastered the art of the Industry, what it requires from me, what I need to do to stay relevant, be aware or on alert when there’s castings out there, how to carry and manage my brand. In my free time, I would educate myself on the Fashion Industry at large(internationally) and that helped me so much. It saved me from exploitation and unnecessary faults.
To many, the life of a model in Namibia seems like glitz and Glamour all the time, but in truth there is so much you need to put in and put up with just to be out there. Its hard and rough to be honest, and you need the heart for all it throws at you!
Firstly, the industry is not strongly established yet and that comes with being paid less than you are worth, setting your rate according to your worth is a risk, so you opt for a low rate that comes with it or wherever you are offered. “When you are an upcoming model, you are afraid to put your foot down and ask for your value amount/industry rate, because you are afraid, they will get someone else. So, you settle for less/what they can offer” -Varaakuani Hambira
Secondly, there is no body that protects the interest of models. And, with that comes exploitation of any form (could be payment wise, working hours, the environment setting, etc.) “As a growing Industry there should be some sort of governing body or a council that protects models and sets minimum wage, just like any other sector.” -Micky Kaapama
Varaakuani Hambira a model herself and a social media content creator who has been in the Industry for years says that the Industry itself from when she was starting (2015) to now has not changed much. She has just gotten to know a lot of people and has proven herself, so it is easier for her to know when there are castings.
“As an upcoming model, fresh starting out you do not really know where to check for castings, how to reach out to people that you would like to work with. So, over the time when you start networking, you start figuring things out. It helps that I have really established myself, perspective clients know that I can deliver and that sort-of helps me when I am going for castings. However, the way the Industry has changed so far is there is a lot more people involved. When I was starting out, there were very few models, especially established models in Namibia. The only models that were really recognized was the models that were modeling outside Namibia, but now we can recognize our own models. We still paying them peanuts but at least there is some sort of recognizability that comes with being an established model in Namibia, and that helps. The Industry is not as elite and exclusive as it was, it is more open now and I am happy about that!”
As a model in Namibia depending on it for financial breakthrough is not a risk one should fully take on, it is not ideal. Models down here are rich in exposure, and influence than we are in money. Reality checks! In the future, the breakthrough will come, with your own consistency and the Industry stance of course. Namibia has so much talent and potential. The world has space for the Namibian story, we just need to tell it and venture more into it.
Micky Kaapama an experienced model, Fashion Influencer, Science graduate and a mom says “Being a model in Namibia has its perks, one gets to work with variety of icons in the industry and gets to network with so many people. It is fun! However, it is not luxurious as it may come off. There is a lot of unnoticed exploitation that goes on in the Industry. Models end up taking modelling as a hobby and do it in the name of passion, because much is not out there for offer, monetary wise.”
Written by Uatjiri Mbaisa, a Namibian model.