RUTH: The Challenges Of An African American Model
An exclusive interview with Ruth Orevba, Nigerian-international model.
May you introduce yourself?
I am Ruth Orevba, Nigerian American, born in London, England to Nigerian diplomates. I am 25 years old. I lived my young childhood in Abuja, Nigeria. I am Yoruba. I moved to the US at a young age and did majority of my education in the United States. I became a US citizen and I graduated with honors from the University of Maryland with my bachelors in communications studies. From a young age I always knew I wanted a career in fashion. I spent my young years designing clothing out of my mother’s old bedsheets and would always be the first to reach for a Vogue magazine at the nail salon. From competing in pageants at the state and national level, and walking in New York City fashion week shows I knew my life was destined in the fashion world. I live in NYC; I am a fashion model and also work as a retail executive for a fortune 500 fashion brand.
Can you give us a bit of background on how your career started?
At a young age I always knew I wanted to be a model. Growing up reading Vogue magazine and watching TV shows such as America’s Next top Model. I started out in the pageant world. I won the title of Miss Rhode Island United stated back in 2017. I then compered at the national level for the title of Miss United States 2017 and decided at that point I was going to purse a life in modeling. I packed my bags and moved to New York Citywith the hopes of catching a big break. I luckily was able to book my first modeling show a month later during NYFW fall 2017. During that show I networked with a casting director who puts on local charity fashion show every Sunday. I was invited to come the following Sunday to walk in the show and I was excited for any opportunity that came my way. The audience was small and I didn’t think any of it. After the show ended an agent scout from a New York modeling agency came up to me and expressed dire interest. I met her the next day at the office and was signed to my first ever New York modeling agency on the spot.
What does your typical day as a model of your status look like?
Ever since the pandemic things have looked differently in the modeling space:
Wake up at 8am
I like to get ahead of my work schedule so I check my phone for new emails and messages and start responding right away whilestill in bed. I get out of bed and look at myself in the mirror. I am obsessed with skin care so I look to see if the products I used the night before is working. After I shower, I do my morning skin care routine (I always use vitamin c serum, rose water, and sunscreen), put on the clothes I laid out the night before, get my cup of black tea and make myself some scrambled eggs with feta cheese.
Now I’m ready to take on the day!
I get on my computer and work my day time job remotely. I work in marketing in the fashion industry so my day is filled with many zoom calls and figuring out our next launch.
I eat a light lunch such as sushi or grilled chicken with brown rice
After I am done with lunch I work on self-submitting myself to castings, reaching out to photographers, and trying to get my next booking. I usually will schedule a meeting with my agency to touch base with her on any updates such as new digitals or what I can do to increase my chances of being booked
Pre-covid afternoons are typically when I would attend a casting call or go to a booked modeling job
I go out for a 4 mile run around my neighborhood. I come home and put on my VR Oculus Quest headset which I have been utilizing to practice meditation and Tai Chi
After this, I cook myself dinner usually broiled salmon and roasted veggies. I eat my dinner while I watch whatever I’m currently binging on Netflix ( Schitt’s Creek is 10/10).
At around 11pm
I shower, do my night time skin care routine and get myself ready for a nice peaceful slumber.
The modeling industry is quite dominated by people who see nudity as way of expressing confidence in their bodies. As someone who is often posing for cameras, how do you see nudity in entertainment and is it something you’re comfortable with?
This depends; I think it’s completely okay for a womanwho wants to express her body and should in no way be shamed for it. I feel as though there is a negative stigma around nudity that is slowly starting to change. If you look at past magazine spreads you will see famous modelsposing in minimal clothing. I do not mind posing in nudity if it is my choice. There have been past times I have been asked and if I feel uncomfortable I simply decline. I have seen time and time again nude pictures of models being taken by photographer’s without their consent which is simply just wrong.
Have you ever faced instances of discrimination or biases against you/your gender?
Not on gender since they will simply ask for female models, but I have based on race. As many people know the modeling industry is more challenging to break into for African American models. There has been times especially when I was starting out I submitted to multiple agencies and would get a rejection email with the reasoning being “we have a model that looks like you”. Then come to find out on their modeling board they only have 2 African American models that simply look nothing like me.
Furthermore, there has been times where I get booked for a photoshoot or fashion show and the MUA is not skilled with darker skinned models. I remember two years ago during NYFW Fall 2018 I had a MUA put foundation on me that was 5 shades lighter than my skin tone. I expressed to her that this was not my shade but she disregarded my concerns and kept going. When she was finished I looked in the mirror and started crying as my face came out ashy. I gathered myself, wiped the makeup off, and re– did the whole makeup look myself. I and other black models I know typically bring our makeup/ hair kits with us to bookings in fear that the MUA will not have the necessary tools or skills to complete our look.
How have you been able to overcome them?
As a black woman in the modeling industry I do feel as though I need to fight harder to overcome societal stigmas. Stand up for myself and know my worth.
Having done so much for yourself in this short while, how do you want people to see/ define you and your style?
This is a great question. I think my spirit animal is surely achameleon as I can mold into different styles/looks. My style is very diverse; I don’t have one signature look. I’ve done photoshoots where I’ve modeled with my natural C4 afro hair with full traditional African prints, and other shoots where I’ve had long 30 inch weave and a ball gown on, or my hair is in a protective style and it’s in braids. I like to keep my myself open to all opportunities that come my way