Model Vanessa Nunana Awoonor of NVA Marketing and Promotions talks to us on her modelling career, the challenges of the job and scouting for fresh talents in Ghana.

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Q. Have you noticed any changes in Ghana now compared to the last time you visited?

A. Definitely. Ghana is definitely improving. Its growing, everything is moving so much faster but there is still more room for improvement but what I’ve seen is astounding .I’m still hoping for more growth in the future .

 Q. You organized two casting calls in early January. Were they successful?

A. Well not as well as I hoped but I’m still grateful for whatever turned out I had because I could have done a casting where no one would have showed up but at least a good number of people showed up where I know I’m definitely going to be able to start off with that number of people, so I’m happy with the results.


 Q. Did the people who made it to the casting impress you?

A. Well for the first day I was getting mixed feelings but the second casting was when I was very certain this second group were very knowledgeable, they know what they here for. They actually came prepared and everything so, the second casting  made it much more fulfilling like I know I’ve done my work and I’m good to go.


Q. What kind of impact do you hope your company NVA Marketing and Promotions will make on the creative arts industry in Ghana?

A. More of just helping medium to large companies, just basically do their events and promotions just smoothly and with no hustle. Instead of worrying about the people they will get to be working. We will be worrying about that and they just focus on what they have to do as a company. So if it is to bring out a new product, they will tell us about it and our job is to make people excited about it, like get a positive attitude with regards to the new thing that is coming out.

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Q. Have you met with any model during your stay in Ghana?

A. I’ve met with so many people that came to the casting that say they are models but I don’t know per se but I have spoken to a lot of photographers. I haven’t quite met so many models but definitely a lot of photographers.

Q. Have you done photo shoots with any of the photographers here?

A. I still haven’t .I’ve been delaying people just because of this company. I’ve been pushing it back, because I had three schedules before I came but I only got into contact with two of them and they still in touch but, we will see.

Q. Let’s talk about your modelling career. What’s that one thing that keeps you going?

A. Just the fact that people… People actually give me more courage so like when people see me and they are like, oh you are not the typical model, you are not like 6 foot, you are not so skinny but then you have the face, you pose well, stuff like that. It just boosts my energy and I am like I can do it too. Like maybe I will be the path or the way for the shorter girls who are look good but are not that tall to be become professional models.

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Q. You combine modelling and school; how easy or difficult is it?

A. oh my God, it’s so hard because when I started university, just leaving campus and going to New York just for a shoot or for a fashion show or for a promo is so much work. My friends never understood why I did so much travelling up and down but then after seeing me now they are like it’s worth it  , we are happy for you blah blah . It’s all energy, if you have the energy to do it all the time, you will get through it.

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Q. Is modelling as glamorous as it is made to look?

A. It definitely is .Once you get up with there with the bigger stars, the bigger models like the ones that are working constantly on a day to day basis. They do have the fancy cars; they do get the paparazzi coming around all the time. Yeah, it is .You have to get up there to experience it, it looks fancy and unrealistic but it is true.

Q. Do you always get the paparazzi go after you?

A. no * laughs * I’m a part time model so people in New York know me if they know me .When they see me around , they know that’s Nunana but then they don’t come chasing me like that stuff yeah.

Q. Are there any challenges you face as a dark skinned model based in the US?

A. Normally if I ever get a casting or like an event or a fashion show to do in New York, I’m either only the black girl there or we’re two or three out of like twenty or thirty girls … thirty other races. And it’s so weird but I’ve gotten used to it .Even during photo shoots, they will use me as the black model and the other girls will be the other races .I’m always almost either the only black girl or it will be me and some other girl. Either she is lighter than me or very very dark because I’m brown so I’m like in the middle.

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Q. Does it hurt you when lighted skinned models are chosen over dark skinned models?

A. Not really. It’s all up to the client because I want to know that I’m coming out to work not to be considered to work so every time I go out to shoot or casting, I need some type of confirmation before I get out there .I don’t want to get out there and they will be like “you are not what we looking for, sorry we will take this other person”. I’ve heard that without not going out there and actually seeing the people. That’s fine like I’m still in the comfort of my house, its okay, next time. But then to actually go out and be denied or something, no I can’t. I don’t think I can’t take that.

Q. I take it that it hasn’t happen to you yet?

A. It hasn’t happened to me yet * laughs *

Q. Assuming it happens to you, how are you going to deal with it?

A. * heavy sigh* that will be really hard because modeling is fun, it’s a hobby of mine but it’s not something I want to be doing for the rest of my life. To be turned down from something you enjoy doing and someone is telling you that is not what you should be doing is like really… I would not want to hear that. If do, I  would just take it slow and …

Q. Any memorable moments as a model that you want to share?

A.I think I get more affected when I work with a charitable event. If I do a fashion show for a fundraiser, something with regards to breast cancer or helping kids somewhere, it’s so inspirational because we get stuff that’s good. And they remember us, every single time they do events and they are looking for models, they know the ones to call.

They know the ones that interact with the people more or the ones that people that they see and say oh my God the dress looks so gorgeous on this girl, stuff like that .They always call you back, I’ve worked with make Up forever and DEX cosmetics; they are makeup companies and they are.. .I actually got a whole bunch of emails from them last week asking me to come in because they are doing a makeup shoot on the 28th ( January) and I’m not there so I keep emailing them back just so they know that I’m still around but not available in the country at the time so its fun.

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Q. How do you prepare for your photo shoots, and runway sessions?

A. Normally for runways, I have my sister like watch me walk up and down a couple of times just so… Especially if I haven’t done it in a while and I need to know that my walk is still good. Because I do a lot more posing and pictures than fashion shows nowadays .Even with poses, if they give me a concept or something, they always let me know ahead of time. So if I have to prep for it, she says it’s make up , its jewelry, show us how you would do that. She will take a couple of rough pictures and I work on that and get ready.

Q. Who inspires you to get better as a model?

A. Majority of the time, it’s the younger models .Jordan Dunn; she is a black female model. She is amazing. This other one called Cara, I’ve forgotten her last name but she is white. It’s like a whole bunch of them. They are so young, 19, 20, 21 .The fact that they are able to do this constantly , they are not even like giants or anything but they still make modeling look so good, so easy and flawless . I get inspired so much. I re-blogged  (on Tumblr)   their stuff every time especially when I see it. If it looks really good, I will reblog it.

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Q. Is there any truth in the popular perception that models abuse drugs to stay on top of their game?

A. I don’t know about drugs .I haven’t seen or experienced any of that but I do know that models really do stay focused on their diet. They tend not to eat properly which isn’t a good thing. If you were in the modeling agency, majority of the time, they tell you to cut on this, cut on that .If your waist or hips is too big than the standard size , they will tell you , you need to reduce it meaning you need to exercise and diet better. So eating less like Carbohydrates, starchy foods; the stuff that stays and doesn’t digest fast enough, they tell you to cut off it, some of them. I never diet.

Q. Have you ever felt the urge to do drugs, cut off some foods?

A. Not really, I think with the food…like majority of the time, just like with anyone if you feel free like your system is cleared you actually feel so much comfortable with your body. Like you tend,like my stomach is flat, let me show it off, that type of thing. For me, I feel like every morning, when you wake up, just drink water ,use the bathroom and you will be good for the rest of the day .That’s me, my friends think it’s weird but when I eat, I have to use the bathroom .That’s how I probably haven’t had food stay on me and make me look fat, because I abuse sugar and cakes and all the bad stuff and they never understand why I’m still like this (referring to her petit body).

Q. Modeling is very stressful; how do you relax?

A. I love music; music is like life to me. I can’t go a day without music .Normally when I’m on a bus going to a shoot or a show, I’m always listening to some type of radio .Pandora , it has like my stations ;I’m a big reggae fan, that’s all I listen to . I love Bob Marley and his whole family: Damian Marley, Stephen Marley, all of them. They speak the truth and that’s what I like, it’s like I’m listening to the Bible, like a different version .The realities of life that people are blind to, stuff like that.

Q. You made mention of the Bible. Are you a religious or spiritual person?

A. I was born and raised as a catholic young girl, very God –fearing but over the course that I’ve been in New Jersey, I barely ever go to church which is horrible. The thing is I never travel without my Bible, never travel without some type of ‘Daily bread’ or whatever. My spiritual connection with God is honestly reduced dramatically and it’s terrible .I’m still trying to find my way because I feel like what I was taught when I was younger, growing up isn’t what it really is .I’m still trying to find my way but I definitely believe in God, no doubts but the other parts that are confusing than anything.

Q. Which parts are confusing?  

A. Just more of the stories within the Bible because when you think of men writing everything in the Bible. You know how the English translations, something that could have meant something in the Bible actually when they were reading; could have meant something else. But they because they   understood  it that way. That is what they put in the Bible for us to understand or use as a guideline so I’m like I don’t want to follow what man has said. I actually want to follow what is to be. So one day I hope I go to Jerusalem and actually see the Scroll.

Q. Let’s get a bit personal. Last year , your uncle Professor Kofi Awoonor was killed in Kenya, what was your reaction when you heard the news?

A. I honestly didn’t believe it and up until now, I don’t believe that he is gone. I just feel as though he went on a trip or some kind of a business which he always does but every single year when we are in , we always get to see him, talk to him, he asks about our future plans and what is going on in life ; stuff like that. Then this year, just not having to talk to him, its weird but eventually it will sink in, it’s the same way my dad passed away and I couldn’t believe it .I still don’t up until now, I still think he’s alive. I don’t know what exactly has to hit me first for me to know that they actually gone, they ain’t coming back. Up until now, I still believe they are still there.

Q. How important is fashion in modeling?

A. A lot of the time, models wear what a designer has given them. If you model for a really good designer who has a really great taste in style, you as the model wearing their stuff shows you have a great taste in style. Normally models don’t care what they wear because majority of the time, what they wear they don’t keep it on for a long period of time. They change, wear this, wear that and they just sit in the car and go back home. A lot of the time models who are really serious with fashion you can tell, the things they wear, how they collaborate their outfits Its important but you don’t have to be a Fashionista to be a model, at all. You can be a bump, you can dress like a tomboy, it doesn’t matter .So far as the time is set for you to dress up and look beautiful, if you can do it; you’re good.n 13

Q. What would you say should be the motivation for those wanting to be models. Money or passion?

A. You should never start modeling and think about money because majority of the time; the agencies will tell you, if you are good but not that great or they are not that desperate to want to have you , they will say oh you have to pay for this pay for pictures pay for this pay for that and at the end of the day if you are making as much as you spent or invested in yourself it’s a loss .If you are that good, when an agency sees you , they sign you up that moment .They pay for your pictures , transportation to go anywhere , whatever it is that you need And once the clients starts demanding for you , you get paid based off  the work you do , your agency basically get a percentage of that . Once they see that its flowing they know not to want to keep collecting money from you now because you are bringing money in either way.

Q. Listening to you, it seems the system and structures in the States work. What should we do differently here?

A.  Ghanaians need to be least more honest to their people. You don’t lie and tell people that they can be a model and take all their money and not give them any work. I know there was an agency here where one of the bosses used to do some illegal stuff, because of that the agency stopped running. With them it’s like the people who have been with us the longest , we favor mostly are the people we like, not the people who have the potential to actually do good work and I think that’s biased. If a girl is good, why not give her the chance to do some work and earn some money. Why would you be harboring her and letting your cool people, your hommies who are in the company get all the work .I don’t think that’s right.

Q. You’ve been modelling for two years and counting. If you are to advice a little girl who wants to be a model, what will you say to her?

A. I will ask her what exactly she loves about modeling. It depends on what she gives me, I will respond back. Majority of the time, they say they like talking pictures, sometimes you don’t have to be a model to take pictures. You just do it, if its passion and they want to make it happen you just tell them to go for it. They give the biggest smile, the nicest poses, the serious walk, whatever it is they have to do in order to make it to the top. Just make sure they are happy whilst they doing it. I know a lot of models are really stressed out, they get so frustrated; you can tell. They lose so much weight, their hair falls out. If it gets there, just stop. Don’t it anymore. Kids always want to do anything they can find or anything that seems so glamorous or fun to them. So you just tell them yes you can do it. Have fun. Practice at home. Practice! Practice!!

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Q. Last words?

A. Ghana is an amazing place. I love this country ,honestly, I want to move back and there might be possibly a chance of opening a modeling agency .We will see how that will turn out, I’m not going to say when ; I’m not going to say what it’s going to be called but we will see.

Interview Conducted by: Gameli Hamelo/
















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