exx-cue-zay-mua, The Creative Arena

It’s time to overhaul modelling industry, says Joseph Water

Seasoned model and fashion expert, Babalola Otitoju, fondly called Joseph Water, has called for a repositioning of the modelling industry to weed out unprofessional conducts. This is even as he says a proper sanitization of the industry will rid it of quacks and shady practices.

In an interview with journalists earlier in the week, the super talented model, who was formerly known as Joseph Walter but has now changed his stage name to Joseph Water, bared his mind this way: “The instituting of more clear-cut and accommodating labour agreements could curb mistreatment, abuse, and inconsiderate treatment and is by far one of the most common sense steps towards modernizing the model workplace. Transparency and stricter age limits could prevent manipulative practices or check iffy situations for those not equipped to navigate them.

“Small steps like providing changing rooms for models backstage or hiring hair stylists experienced with different hair types may sound trivial but can reverberate into more fundamental respect and lead to the building of a more comprehensive safety net,” he stressed.

Faulting what he sees as an invasion of privacy, the modelling guru maintained that simple things capable of making a difference are being compromised.

“I don’t understand why I still always have to cover myself when I am trying to change backstage at shows. We have no privacy at all. Everyone can walk in and out of the changing area, and if I ask a photographer or filmmaker to leave because my colleagues and I are changing, they get really angry at me because they feel like I’m attacking them for something, saying ‘I am not even filming you, I am here for the house.’

“I don’t care; we just don’t want you to be around us while we are getting changed! Behavior I find unacceptable is casting directors and, or, brands treating models as if we aren’t humans with feelings,” he lamented.

Continuing, Joseph Water added: “I hate when they let photographers in while we change. We’re naked and there are some photographers taking photos of models. I think this is unacceptable. I am very happy to see that the average age of a model has gone up but still a long way to go to reach a true versatility and healthy balance.”

He also decried the apparent lack of protection for emerging models trying to make a name in the industry.

“As a teen model in the industry, which I have been myself, you are easily manipulated into signing unfair contracts, cheated with payments and disrespectfully treated at work. Being so young, you just simply don’t have the courage to speak up and ask questions, have an opinion. You almost feel as if you owe your agents and clients something for working with you. I honestly think an internationally working model should be 18 years and above.

“I know this could shock a lot of people but I think the minimum age for modelling, especially runway models, should be 18. They are just kids and the pressure is crazy. That’s one reason why the level of respect towards models is so low because we don’t feel we have a voice or even an understanding of what is happening around us.

“Most of them haven’t even had a job prior to modelling so they have no clue what a workplace should be like. We just begin to learn that this is what it’s like to be a model. The crazy call times, lack of privacy, the demand on our bodies, constant rejection and comparison,” he explained.

Further explaining the rot in the industry, Joseph Water noted that “many behaviours are unacceptable, but there isn’t a rule of conduct that everyone must follow and who determines what level is appropriate or not. Some models don’t care if you lift their skirt up to grab the shirt underneath without asking, others do. There are two sides to every story. I just think you need to see it from the model’s perspective and treat them as a person, not as a thing.”

Joseph Water called for regulations to entrench the culture of excellence, saying, “I think we deserve the same rules and regulations as people working in other jobs and I would like to know that I have a right to sit down for five minutes, drink some water and eat because, yes, models do eat. On that note, I think clients should provide healthy food options, especially in locations where nothing is available. Simple rules regarding work hours, required breaks, and food being provided would make a huge difference.”

Still on the some unwholesome practices, Joseph Water decried some treatment models are sometimes subjected to. He did not stop there though, as he spoke on other issues.

“There needs to be a certain BMI that girls must meet to model so that those who do are at or almost at a healthy weight. Models’ health needs to come first. It should be mandatory for agencies to have an option for health and dental care programs for models; there are too many people who lose out on possible fruitful careers due to ongoing untreated illness.”