From being quoted as a ‘philanthropist’, to running youth groups and classes throughout the UK. Our Digital Cover Star for the August issue, Eunice released her best-selling book ‘How to Get into Fashion;’ which highlights her works on preventing exploitation, sustainability and diversity in the Fashion industry.
Model: Eunice @yanniimodels
Photographer: Ian Milan Eyesshoot
Assistant: Max Sarasini
MUA: Nohelia Reyes
Publication Production Art & Creative Direction: Olumide Galleries Ltd @olumidegallery www.ogallerylondon.com
Born in Edinburgh, the Scottish Supermodel MBE, V & A Design Champion Eunice Olumide’s career spans continents from the UK, the U.S.A, Africa, Japan, France, Italy, Holland, Spain, Germany and the UAE. She has appeared in both national and international campaigns, fashion weeks and editorials in many renowned magazines. As well as walked for designers including Pinko, Patrick McDowell, Mulberry, Alexander McQueen, Christopher Kane, and Harris Tweed.
After the success of her BBC Radio show ‘Music Match’ she went on to star in and produce the UK’s first ever award-winning podcast dedicated to women of colour on BBC Radio 5 Live called the ‘Sista Collective’. After interviewing the world heavyweights in film, fashion and television including Amma Asante, she has toured extensively as a disc jockey at festivals and galas from Gotha, Webster Hall, Lovebox, and Glastonbury, opening for music legends such as Grace Jones.
Curator supermodel Eunice Olumide has selected some of the UK’s most pioneering talent to bring a distinctive and unique element to The Olumide Gallery collection. The outcome turned out to be an intriguing and insightful exploration of the reality of life, depicting the street and subculture seen through the eyes of their creators that straddle both past and present.
Eunice explains: “The Olumide Gallery represents the most innovative and cutting-edge talent of our time – at the heart of our work is equality and revolution. Visitors to the gallery will see the real stories about real life through the eyes of the artists” www.ogallerylondon.com
That’s not all, we had an enticing conversation with her, so read ahead!
Hello Gorgeous! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
I grew up in a typical Scottish council estate with my mum. Although her background is nothing ordinary. My family is nomadic and they are people who live from the land on the periphery of Togo, Benin and Nigeria. Myself and my brother are the first of our family to be born outside of Africa. My mother would take us there from a very very young age which is where my love for sustainability grew as my true passion other than social justice is protecting the environment and the animals. I always felt like if we stayed in the West and were closer to them, we would never do so many of the destructive things we do to the planet. When you spend time with the elephants, the lions, and the giraffes you realize human beings are just one part of a magnificent ecosystem and that the creator made it our job to be custodians of it, not to abuse it.
You’ve been modelling for a long time now. What is a lesson you learned the hard way when you were first starting out?
I think realizing that modelling really and truly is not based on talent alone as in other vocations such as sports, acting, painting etc. Modelling is your look. You could be the best model in the world, but if people don’t like your look you may not work. Also, I think us as women need to learn to do more, to be kind, to support and to love one another. I have always been very naive and believed that there was some sense of sisterhood within me. As I got older and worked with Equity to introduce union representation for models for the first time in UK history, I soon realized that other girls were the least likely to support. Sometimes I think women can act from fear of alienation which means they would rather wait to see the consequences for you before supporting. I do understand though that sacrifice is not everyone’s cup of tea. I also understand that contrary to the ideas that promote society does not champion women of integrity, women who strive for real consequential change. To stand up, to speak for justice can have a very serious impact on your career and success.
Do you think the role of supermodel has changed over the last 20 years? If yes, how?
Yes, in the past we had the incredible supermodels of the ’80s and 90s – Cindy Crawford, Naomi Campbell, Linda Evangelista, Claudia Schiffer, Christy Turlington, Helena Christensen, Iman, and Tyra Banks, it was a completely different time. Now, in my generation, we have models such as Bella Hadid, Cara Delevingne, Adriana Lima, Jourdan Dunn and even Hailey Bieber. In our generation, there are also more factors that play a major role such as connections, status, class or even wealth. We are really lucky as now we have models of all sizes and backgrounds too. But, I still find it difficult to be referred to as a supermodel as I don’t feel I have achieved as much as some of my peers. When I ask about it they say because I am the first from my country of birth as a black woman to achieve what I have done. I treasure it with pride. I also tend to only work with brands that share my ethos and commitment to life, diversity and sustainability which can limit my opportunities but I would not change it for the world.
Every industry iterates and seeks improvement. What changes would you like to see in the industry going forward?
I would like to see less nepotism. Also, I think that many bookers and casting agents need to broaden their outlook and not just choose who they like and want to work with, instead they should also choose models whom the people like, people who are part of their communities and who understand the public needs, desires and wants. I think that people in positions of power not just in our industry but in all industries can become very complacent and spoiled. They tend to start thinking that what they do is even more important than human life. As a result, they often use their positions to promote their close friends and family excluding people who have worked for decades for those same opportunities. So, I think more fairness would be great.
Share with us the most important moment in your life. And in your career?
I think being awarded an MBE by Queen Elizabeth II was a precious moment in my life. Previous recipients included Ralph Lauren, Anna Wintour, Twiggy, Naomi Harris, Lewis Hamilton, Elizabeth Taylor, Angelina Jolie, Judi Dench, Helen Mirren, JK Rowling, Bill Gates, Anthony Hopkins, The Beatles and Vivienne Westwood. I took my whole family to Buckingham Palace and recently King Charles of England did my pin. It was an unbelievable experience. At that time, it was before George Floyd, and many people denied the impact of racism and the way darker people are treated. I have always campaigned about this and so I nearly did not take the award because of the links to colonialism and the Transatlantic Atlantic Slave Trade. In the end, I discussed it with my elders and they reminded me it was not just about me. It was about all the people who laid down their lives before me. So, I decided to accept it and donate it to the National Museum of Scotland. They built a whole gallery about my life and work to date. I put it there so that people and children could learn and debate the topic. I thought that was more sensible than rejecting it. Life is not always so one-dimensional. It is multifaceted and complex.
It’s time to spill some deets about any self-care routines, practices or treatments that you do to help your body, mind or heart to thrive.
I love to live a very simple life and spend time with my family and friends. I swim, I hike, I love to ride my BMX and paint. I have a very light skin regime. I never wear makeup unless I have to go on TV or to work. I prefer to stay natural and promote self-love and self-beauty. I wear my hair naturally and never use relaxers or chemicals to straighten it. This is something that is very important to me. Early in my career, I was also dropped by my agent because I cared so much about future generations, feeling like they were not beautiful because they did not have the classic Eurocentric look.
Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to embark on this career path, but seem daunted by the prospect of failure?
There is no such thing as failure, only learning which equals growth. In my first book ‘How to Get into Fashion’ I have a whole chapter on this and dealing with rejection. I have gone into great detail about why it is so important to define your own success. If you allow others or society to do this to you, you will end up spending your entire life trying to please them. I have also discussed what I call roadblocks and hurdles, things you cannot change about your own life or society and things you can get around. It is also important to define what are your core beliefs. So, I never advertise alcohol or cigarettes, I only work with brands who are independent and local or who have a strong commitment to equality and sustainability. With that will come what can be perceived as rejection or loss since many big brands don’t do this. I do not see this as rejection, I see it as a natural cause and reaction, I accept it and I flourish from it. Life is about your state of mind and how you feel about yourself. If you have no integrity you will do anything – yes you will become world famous but at what cost to you and the world?
Share some information about your upcoming projects both professionally and personally. We wish you continued success!
I have an art gallery, Olumide Gallery London which I am extremely proud of, and I will have the next exhibition in 2024. I am also currently working on my new book on fashion and just finished filming a new documentary called ‘My Secret Life’ which is so thrilling, so stay tuned!