By Maureen Nyarinda
Kenyans took to Twitter on Friday morning to expose the rot that has engulfed the modeling industry in Kenya.
The conversation which started with the miss world Kenya Machakos county 2016, Sheila Kanini, has made upcoming models, young ones and those no longer in the modelling industry to open up about just how much sexual favours are highly solicited for in the industry in exchange for modeling jobs and gigs, which surprisingly pay poorly or not anything at all.
The subject trending under the hashtag PayModelsKe has caused a stir and urban radio stations, Capital FM and Homeboys radio have already scheduled for interviews in their shows to discuss the plight of models and creatives in Kenya.
Sharon Machira, a radio presenter at HBR invited two models leading the conversation to join her on her show stating “There’s a new wave of women speaking UP about matters that have previously been stifled and muted. From sexual exploitation to financial exploitation! I’m SO here for it @AmalMAbdul & @Sheila_Kanini you’re VERY welcome to my show on #HomeboyzRadio to share”
Here are some of the reactions by KOT
“The modeling industry in Kenya is a rot and a disgusting platform where agencies take advantage of young naive girls!” wrote influential twitter personality and trend setter @xtiandela.
Most of the models have taken to twitter to tell their stories of massive exploitation by communication, branding and modelling agencies who seek their services and later take months to pay them meagre salaries even when the companies make a killing out of their faces and bodies. They have done it without fear, shaming the agencies and calling them out before all and sundry. Notable people, known companies and lifestyle magazines have been shamed for exploiting models.
“I auditioned for an advert with a communications company, was later called with the terms and conditions “I was to hook up with the guy that evening give him a blow job in his car and as we were to shoot in different cities, I was to sleep with him throughout the shoot. I QUIT” said another.
“I have also recently advertised for a hair company that has paid me as little as 10k – Sistar Hair Company. Angels paid me 30k WE ARE BEING EXPLOITED!! Considering the amount of sales, they will make from those.” one Louisa Gitau expressed her frustration.
The question the models are asking is, can exposure pay rent? Can it give them a sustainable income to live on?
Amal Abdul, who has been very vocal on this topic wrote “Guys remember me talking about models really going through so much in the industry? Well from being paid with exposure/ taking months to be paid to old guys trying to take advantage of young pageant girls…. Well read about models (sic) confessions on #PayModelsKE”
The Way Forward
Different Kenyans had different opinions. A lot of them however, asked the models to sign contracts and walk out on deals that are not worthy with popular creative blogger, The Magunga advising the models and creatives at large on requesting for deposit before the work is done, signing contracts and the duration of time to wait before the rest of the payment is remitted to their accounts.
Dennis Itumbi saluted Sheila Kanini for starting the bold conversation but he called for empowerment and joint negotiations with stakeholders in the industry to come up with a durable solution to cure the ills in it.
Accomplished international fashion model and CEO & founder of City Models Africa Ajuma Nasenyana also jumped on the hashtag, giving her advice to upcoming models. Her tweet read,
“If you do have what it takes to be a model or a commercial talent, you need to know what agents to consult. I can vouch to be one of them when it comes to how models are treated and their rates. That’s why I don’t expose models to random jobs.”
Others however felt that models deserve what they get with many hoping that creatives, photographers, models and designers should advocate for their rights as they work towards improving the industry.