Wanted: Africa’s next top model

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

For the next few months, a house in Cape Town will host 12 wannabe models competing in TV show Africa’s Next Top Model.

Nigerian model and businesswoman Oluchi Orlandi is executive producer of the TV show. She held auditions in Cape Town on August 1.
She said the format follows the American version hosted by model Tyra Banks. But this version will not be as brash as the US show, said Orlandi.

Oluchi wants to find Africa's next top model. Picture by Yazeed Kamaldien

Oluchi wants to find Africa’s next top model. Picture by Yazeed Kamaldien

“All the other formats have adapted to the culture of that country. This show will empower and motivate the hidden talent. We were brought up differently. We are not like the Americans,” she said.

She said the show follows a knockout formula and “in every episode we will eliminate a girl”.

“One girl gets to win,” said Orlandi.

Prizes include US$50,000 and a one-year modeling contract in New York where Orlandi is based. Production will start end August and a winner would likely be announced by late November, said Orlandi.

She said she wanted to use the show to tell African stories.

“We have amazing diversity from Africa. Africa has different people, culture and languages. It will showcase the diversity of the continent because the girls will be from all over the continent,” she said.

Orlandi, who has a bachelor of science degree in leadership and management from New York University, said she would be working alongside a judging panel comprising “continental fashion leaders”.

Oluchi wants to find Africa's next top model. Picture by Yazeed Kamaldien

Oluchi wants to find Africa’s next top model. Picture by Yazeed Kamaldien

New York-based scouting director Maria Arrington has traveled with Orlandi to various African countries to audition women for the show. Only 12 would be selected to live in the house.

“We’re looking for grace and beauty. But you’re still going to have to be able to compete. You must be able to deal with pressure,” said Arrington.

She said they were also looking for a “clothes hanger” who could make it in the global modeling arena.
“We want to hire someone who can work. There is a reason why models have to look a certain way. They need to be a certain form so clothes can drape on them a certain way,” said Arrington.

“We are trying to promote strength. One of the things about African women is that they have never had a platform. We are trying to give them a platform.”

Arrington’s “ideals of what the African woman was going to look like” have also been shattered.

“That all got blown away. Africa is a huge mixture. It’s made my job very hard because of the amount of beauty we have seen here,” she said.

South African Tourism has partnered with Orlandi to promote South Africa via the show.

Its chief executive Thulani Nzima said they wanted to use the TV show to “showcase our beautiful, friendly, affordable and accessible destination”.

The TV show would be broadcast worldwide. Nzima said African arrivals in South Africa “grew 8.5% last year”.

“The individual markets that performed really well are Nigeria which grew by 13.8%; Ghana grew by 23.8%… and Tanzania grew by an incredible 25.4 percent,” said Nzima.


About Yazeed Kamaldien

Self-employed journalist and photographer from South Africa.

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