Saturday, February 22, 2014

Exclusive Interview - Betty Adewole

Following years of striving to crack modelling's elite ranks, British model Betty Adewole left no doubt as to her major league status at the Spring/Summer 2014 collections amassing a blue chip show list which included appearances at Prada, Tom Ford, Givenchy, Alexander McQueen, Chloé, Stella McCartney, J.W. Anderson, and Kenzo. Modelling since 2009, Adewole's recent success was precipitated by a change of management to IMG Models London, an image overhaul, and a conscious decision to take charge of her modelling career. Adewole's metamorphosis was well-timed arriving on the cusp of a call within the industry to address the on-going poor of representation of minority groups on fashion's runways. Casting directors and designers responded en masse assembling Spring/Summer 2014 show line-ups reflecting a more modern global beauty aesthetic. For Adewole this translated to the first ever Prada exclusive accorded to a model of colour and an avalanche of runway bookings at the Paris Spring/Summer 2014 collections.

Twenty-one year old Adewole cuts a striking figure on the runway with her imposing 180 cm Amazonian frame, her penetrating feline gaze, and stunning mahogany skin tone. Adewole's subtle mix of tomboyish androgyny and smouldering sex appeal lends her a compelling versatility that appeals to a diverse selection of clients. In the aftermath of the Spring/Summer 2014 season, Adewole has continued to build considerable momentum with editorial appearances for British Vogue, i-D Magazine, Wonderland, DSection, CR Fashion Book, and a jaw-dropping campaign gig for Tom Ford Beauty. Adewole also forms part of a unique collective of British modelling talent including Cara Delevingne, Mailaika Firth, Edie Campbell, Sam Rollinson, and Hollie-May Saker whose individual personas, one-of-kind beauty, and cool girl vibes have captured the public's imagination in a way not witnessed since the days of the original Supers. On the eve of the Fall/Winter 2014 collections, Adewole chatted exclusively to IMA about her thrilling Spring/Summer 2014 show season, the impetus for her breakthrough to modelling's major league, and the Tom Ford runway moment which set the fashion world on fire.

Betty Adewole
Photographer - Seye Isikalu
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Inoubliable Model Army (IMA): Hi Betty, thank you for chatting with IMA. Congratulations on what can only be described as a phenomenal Spring/Summer 2014 show season with blue chip bookings for Tom Ford, Alexander McQueen, Prada, Chloé, Givenchy, and Stella McCartney! Were you in a state of both disbelief and pure joy at the significance of your achievements as the season unfolded?
Betty Adewole (BA): Thank you. Yes, I'd definitely use the words disbelief and joy. I didn't believe I'd fully confirmed any of the shows until I actually walked off the runway. I'm always expectant and optimistic but this really exceeded any expectations I had. I was well over the moon!

IMA: You've been modelling since 2009. Would you mind filling IMA on some of the gaps?
BA: I'm 21 years old and from Hackney born and raised. My origin is Nigerian where both my parents are from. I was initially discovered on Tottenham Court Road while waiting at a bus stop with my mum after an afternoon of shopping.

IMA: You've walked the runway in seasons past for Jean Paul Gaultier, Loewe, Martin Maison Margiela, Ungaro, and Jeremy Scott, however the Spring/Summer 2014 collections truly marked your breakthrough to the very elite level of modelling. What do you feel were the key factors which led to this pivotal moment in your modelling trajectory?
BA: Well, this Summer I fell ill and it really put things into perspective for me. I'd never fully taken myself seriously before and for the first time I really felt like a woman and secure in myself so I decided it was time for a change. A drastic one, so I cut my hair. I think this had a big part to play in it, for me it was like a shedding of skin and I became a more confident and carefree me, I've never had short hair before. This Summer before the shows I decided it was time to take control of my career and be really serious about it.

IMA: Your appearance at Tom Ford in that jaw-dropping figure hugging brown mini-dress literally brought the show to a standstill! How did it feel to be walking down the runway for Tom Ford and did you realise at that stage that this moment was yours for the taking?
BA: I felt like the sexiest woman alive! It was an honour to walk for Tom Ford as he's a genius and the world's most talented, sexiest man. Women request to have clothes made by him, so to be picked to walk for him made me feel extra special. I don't think I've ever felt so sexy and womanly as when I wore that dress, I walked out onto the runway feeling and looking like a million dollars, it was the best feeling ever. The catwalk was my stage and I stepped out onto it for the first time feeling like a star about to perform for her audience. After the show I realised that there is power in beauty.

Tom Ford - S/S 2014
Photographer - Marcus Tondo
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Prada Exclusive - S/S 1014
Photographer - Monica Feudi
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Alexander McQueen
Photographer - Marcus Tondo
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IMA: You appeared with close buddy Leomie Anderson at Tom Ford alongside ethnic models Grace Bol, Herieth Paul, and Ji Hye Park. Tom Ford has been a staunch supporter of diversity in modelling since his early days at Gucci. Did you get the opportunity to interact with Mr Ford, and do you feel that the Spring/Summer 2014 season's multi-hued runways will continue to gain momentum in seasons to come?
BA: I did get a chance to speak with him and the first thing he said to me was, "You are absolutely stunning". When we were backstage he told all of the models that we're beautiful and strong women. It's nice to work with a designer that genuinely supports and encourages diversity within the industry. This season I saw a lot more diversity on the runways and I do feel like it's the beginning of something great. Being the first black female to walk exclusively for Prada during a great season of diversity on the catwalks was amazing. I think that in order for it to continue, which I hope it does, designers need to care more about the greater good of their brand. As a brand you need to appeal to the consumer and if a consumer doesn't feel that they are being represented they won't believe the brand is appealing to them.

IMA: This is a tough call but what are your fondest memories both on and off the runway from the Spring/Summer 2014 season?
BA: That's a tough one because there's sooo many! My fondest on the runway would have to be Tom Ford and Prada. Tom Ford because I swear I'd never felt sexier in my life than on that runway and Prada because of the huge amount of people, security, and press that were there, it was like being at the event of the year and actually taking part in it. I'd have to say Givenchy as well, Kanye West came to see the show and he's one of my favourite artists. I saw him whilst I was walking and tried hard not to smile, I felt pretty cool just being there.

IMA: Within industry circles you've established a reputation for being an exceptional print model having appeared in editorials for Teen Vogue, Muse, V, Pop, i-D Magazine, and Volt, as well as on the covers of 125, French Revue de Modes, Wonderland, and DSection. Do you enjoy the print component of modelling and do you recall a favourite published image or shoot amongst your extensive body of work?
BA: I love shooting because to me being on a shoot really shows off the artistic side to modelling and modelling as an art form. On set you're working with several artists in different forms; hair stylist, make-up artist, stylist, photographer, and several others. All these artists work together to produce this piece of art and it's my job to translate that through modelling as the finished product. I enjoy working with a team for print to produce something translating everyone's main objective. I love acting so for me being on set really allows me to be pro-active and get into character and to engage in role-play.
My favourite shoot so far would have to be for Teen Vogue because I basically got to wear clothes that I myself had or would purchase, and had to be a tomboy, which I am so it was the most authentic and relaxed I've ever been whilst shooting an editorial.

Teen Vogue - March 2013
Photographer - Sebastian Kim
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DSection - F/W 2013
Photographer - Mariano Vivanco
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CR Fashion Book - December 2013
Photographer - Benjamin Vnuk
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IMA: You landed the first ever Prada exclusive for a black model this season. What was involved in the casting process for the show with Ashley Brokaw, and do you recall your initial reaction and what you were doing when you found out that you had been confirmed for the show?
BA: It still sounds surreal to me. I first met Ashley Brokaw at the JW Anderson casting and I had been told by my manager that if you get requested to meet her for JW Anderson than there would be interest for the Prada show. I booked JW Anderson then not long after I was put on option for the Prada exclusive. When I got confirmed for the show I was already in Milan waiting as an option, I was just sat in my hotel room watching Italian soap operas when my agency IMG London called me. I answered and all I heard was a mesh of voices (all the agents) shout, "Congratulations you booked Prada!" down the phone and I just went, "Ahhh, oh my God!!!". The feeling was like the build-up before you get on a roller coaster up to the moment when you buckle up and wait for the ride to start before it shoots off. I just exploded with shock and excitement! I was speechless for a good couple of minutes.

IMA: You recently switched representation to modelling powerhouse IMG in London. How has this change altered your perception/understanding of the role of sound management to a model's career trajectory, and what has impressed you most about IMG's management approach?
BA: I switched to IMG only just a few weeks before the Spring/Summer 2014 shows. Switching to IMG has really shown me how much of a factor management plays in a model's career. Your management has to truly believe in you. I now see the relationships between agents and models as more of a business and partnership rather than just model and booker. It's about finding and working together more as a team. What impressed me the most about IMG is that they saw me as a talent and a brand, not just a model. They saw something greater than beyond modelling.

IMA: You undertook theatre studies at the City of Westminster College and have also appeared in the Duran Duran 'Girl Panic' music video. Do you have further acting aspirations and how has your theatre training come in handy on shoots?
BA: I love acting, it's one of my many dreams to star in films one day. Modelling is similar to acting, it's portraying a presence, Having had some theatre training means that it's easier for me to take on a role and embody a character on set. I go through steps and techniques that I would use before I step in front of the camera as I would before stepping on stage to act in a play. Acting has helped me to be able to connect and disconnect with a persona that I may portray in front of the camera in the same way as I would perform as a character on stage.

Betty Adewole, Mariana Santana, Ophélie Guillermand,
Irene Hiemstra, Malaika Firth, & Lera Tribel
Prada Iconoclasts Series
Styled by Edward Enninful
Photographed by Emma Summerton
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Tom Ford Beauty - S/S 2014
Photographer - Tom Ford
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Betty Adewole, Grace Mahary, & Mariana Santana
Prada - S/S 2014
Image courtesy of Style Bistro

IMA: Branding plays a key role in ensuring the longevity of models beyond a few seasons. What can we expect to see from Betty Adewole via various social media that models utilise to increase their public profiles?
BA: Music is my first love so you can expect to be getting some of that from me in the near future. That's music that I'm currently feeling and music that I'll be working on myself as I love to sing and rap. I also have my own tumblr - where I share photos, random thoughts that pop into my head, and anything that I may be getting up to. It's my diary to the world. You can count on me tweeting random gibberish too on twitter because I'm just weird like that and sometimes just want people to hear my weirdness ha!

IMA: A model's fashion aesthetic has gained increasing significance with the rise of street style photographers and blogs. How would you describe your personal style and which designer best encapsulate your street style?
BA: My personal style is pretty simple, it's about comfort and my mood at the time, so it depends very much on how I'm feeling right in that moment. I'd say the three designers that best capture my street style are Dr Martens, Givenchy, and Alexander Wang.

IMA: Models are reclaiming their place on magazine covers and in campaigns. Do you believe that the supermodel phenomenon of the early 90s can be rekindled and what would it take for this to occur?
BA: I think the era of the supermodel in the 90s will always be the ultimate because that was the blueprint. As time has gone on the definition of the supermodel has been altered and will continue to do so with the times. I think there's going to be a new era of supermodel in the 21st century that can be as phenomenal as that of the 90s but with a different dimension and interpretation to it.

IMA: What are the most valuable life lessons that you have acquired as a result of your industry exposure?
BA: I've learnt that it's not about what you know but who you know and to never disregard the underdog. That assistant/intern could well be the biggest stylist or casting director in the world next year.

IMA: What makes you "Inoubliable" (Unforgettable)?
BA: What makes me "Inoubliable" is my presence and aura. I go where the wind takes me which means I need to always be open and willing to whatever life throws at me and as a result of this I stay stress-free and mysterious ;-)

Betty Adewole
Wonderland - November 2013
Photographer - Kerry Hallihan
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British Vogue - February 2014
Photographer - Josh Olins
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French Revue de Modes - S/S 2011
Photographer - Thierry LeGoues
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Wonderland - November 2013
Photographer - Kerry Hallihan
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Special thanks to Ian Loughran at IMG Models London. For more information on IMG Model Management, please log onto