Thursday 4 April 2013

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Sports Illustrated Model Adaora Talks About How She Made It & Gives Word To Her Critics

Culled From: Culture Shock Nigerians 
On episode 116, we feature Nigerian-American Sports Illustrated model,Adaora Akubilo.  Abi spoke to the 5’11 beauty about how she went from being a devoted academic to a successful fashion model.  She also addresses those who’ve criticized her for showing skin in her sexy swimsuit shoots.  Tune in and read the full transcript of the interview below!

 Culture Shock: Episode 116 
 Introduce yourself
Hi, my name is Adaora and I’m a Sports Illustrated model
Talk a bit about your background as a Nigerian…were you born here…I was born in Connecticut, however, both my parents are Nigerian.  They are 
Igbo and I got a chance to live in Nigeria when I was younger for almost six years.
What was that experience like? 
{laughs} I was ten when I went.  I understood the language, you know my parents speak Igbo around me and stuff, and I understood it.  I knew a few words here and there but I really can’t speak it, so when I went there it was like, alright, this is different.  The kids were so mean to me because I dressed differently and I spoke differently.  You know, I just didn’t sound like them so it was an adjustment.  Eventually I learned how to fit in.  I gradually lost my American accent, I almost blended in except for the fact that I was 5 ft 11 inches at age 10 {laughs}.
 So you came back here when you were like 16?
Yeah, I came back to the States when was 16.
When did you begin modeling?
I started modeling probably around 17.  I was a sophomore in high school when I was approached by a scout.  And it really wasn’t anything I thought about.  I think my mom mentioned it to me when I was younger but you know, my father always drilled in my head to go to school so I was always academically oriented.  It was all about school, school, school so I just didn’t see where the modeling thing fit in, but I talked to my mom about it and she was like sure.  So, it was actually a modeling school.  I’m sure people have heard about those and they’re like a little leery about them but my experience was actually a positive one.  I went to the school, I took classes, and kind of got myself familiar with what modeling was and stuff like that.  I got placed in the city and got placed with an agency and I would kind of go in the city in the summer time to kind of model because I was in college.  I eventually went to college and stuff like that, but it wasn’t until after I graduated college that I decided to pursue it full time.
You’re a Sports Illustrated model.  That is huge for any model, first of all.  Then for model of color that’s even bigger.  How did you land the gig?
Sports Illustrated it was a dream of mine.  I always looked to models like, the black models in the past who’ve done it: Shakira, Tyra Banks, Noemie Lenoir, I believe Naomi Campbell did it one time, and Jessica White.  So I looked to these women, you know it’s like the trailblazers, the ones who did it before me, Roshumba Williams.  You know, these are all beautiful black women and they’re all different.  Some are lighter, some are darker, and Sports Illustrated seemed to embrace all kinds of black girls, so I was like, there’s room for me there.  I think there’s a good chance that I can really get this.  I wasn’t sure how they would embrace me with my hair natural, because I was wearing my hair natural at the time.  A lot of girls don’t wear their hair natural, but they were like yeah, we love it, we love you so, so I was like, this is great.  I was excited my first year doing it so I was very excited.  I couldn’t believe it.  It was like a dream come true.
I shot in Australia my first time so my second time going back, it was really nice going back to Africa, even though it was southern Africa.  It was so nice to go back to Africa.
Your photos are beautiful and sexy.  But I noticed on a few Nigerian blogs, people make comments like, what would her father think of her posing topless.  So I wanted to know what you would have to say to those people and how you feel about nudity.
Well, what I would say about the blog posts and the nudity thing, my father is very proud of me, first and foremost.  I am a well rounded individual.  I did everything he wanted me to do, and kind of like what I wanted to do, like going to school, getting my education, and this is just something that I’m adding to my resume and my life achievements and accomplishments so he’s very proud of me.  And as long as I’m happy that’s all he cares about.
[My photos] are done in a tasteful way.  I’m not out there, boobs all out {laughs}.  Like I’m being a little coy with it, you know, I’m kind of like hiding it a little bit.  I’m hiding my boob, it’s not all out there like hello {laughs].  No one knows what my nipples look like {laughs}.  It’s not all out there.  It’s done in a very tasteful way and I would never compromise myself.  If I wasn’t comfortable doing it and if I felt like I was in some way doing something that would embarrass my family, I would never do anything that would embarrass my family or myself for that matter.
So nudity done in a tasteful way, and if you’re comfortable, God created these bodies of ours, you know, I’m just celebrating it.  And getting paid at the same time so that’s a good thing.
They say being a black supermodel in the industry can be really tough.  What kinds of obstacles have you faced?
Yeah, it is a little challenging being a black model.  They try to base it on what the public wants and what the majority is.  And I understand that a lot of the consumers and the people out there buying these things are white, but there are also black people selling things and buying, and what not.  So I feel like people in the industry, they’re a little hesitant.  Because I don’t know if they’re nervous thinking that the black models won’t be well received if they’re put in the forefront all the time.  And I just think that it’s a misconception because there are a lot of people black or white who I think would embrace the fact that more black models are higher profile and being used more.  So I think that’s the biggest challenge.  I feel like if we can just overlook that, if we just let go of this stigma that oh, a black model won’t sell a product as much as a white person would, it’s kind of like, I don’t know, it’s a backwards way of thinking and I feel like it’s a lot of fear and not knowing, and things like that.
I want to play this game with you called, “what would you rather?”  I’m just going to ask you a few questions and you tell me what you would prefer.
So, Lagos or New York City?
{laughs} I’m going to say Lagos right now because can I just say, I’ve had friends who’ve been going home.  I haven’t been home in a long time, like years, and when I was there I was young so, but I’ve been hearing so many good things about Lagos so I’m going to say Lagos now because I want to go and see what Lagos is about today.  I’ve been hearing so many positive, great, raving reviews about Lagos today.

Naomi Campbell or Tyra Banks?
Naomi Campbell
Eba and egusi or filet mignon?
Eba and egusi {laughs}
Nollywood or Hollywood?
Nollywood man, Nolly!
Reality TV or scripted television?
Scripted TV
Goodluck Jonathan or Obama?
I’m gonna go with Obama
Twitter or Instagram?
I’ll say Twitter.  I’m still trying to get with the whole Instagram program.  I’m not with it yet so I’m still tying to figure that out.

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