The state of modelling industry in Zimbabwe

HARARE - Flagship pageants have played a leading light in the modelling industry for years and ultimately creating an impression that modelling is indeed all about pageantry. Sadly nothing can be further from the truth.

Modelling in its entirety is a million dollar industry in Africa but unfortunately in here Zimbabwe talented models and accredited modelling agencies have been reduced to the role of beautiful beggars and hardworking backbenchers by other associated industry players.

We salute Miss Tourism Zimbabwe and Miss World Zimbabwe organisers for keeping the dreams and hopes of thousands of local and Diasporan models alive by offering lucrative prizes, learning experiences, trips abroad, cash and cars, the industry needs these pageants and more if possible.

However, the same cannot be said of the new breed of unprincipled middle-men who have invaded our industry.

Worldwide advertising agencies and production houses serve to bridge the gap between model agencies and the modelling industry.

This is supposed to work in harmony with each other; the corporate world approach advertising agencies to promote their brands.

In this process, advertising agencies have to approach modelling agencies for models they need for each particular advertisement campaign.

Both the advertising and the modelling agency agree on a pricing schedule in regards to the use of models, the pricing structure which must taken into account the duration of the campaign, the type of media to be used and the costs to be incurred in getting the model ready to work.

Should this process be followed properly to the end, the featured model and her modelling agency will receive a better offer in terms of remuneration.

Sadly, many advertising houses are avoiding modelling agencies by picking “models” straight from the streets!

This has killed the modelling industry as the majority of advertisers are resorting to the use of unregistered and untrained models on big brands.

This is fuelled by nepotism (corruption) in the country.

No wonder some of our advertisements are just below regional or international standards.

In countries such as South Africa trained models are given not only respect but are paid better.

It is simply unheard of in business to use unqualified or unregistered talent when proper agency-vetted and groomed talent is available and ready to work.

What the prevailing situation represents is nothing short of corruption simply because if you compare the mega budgets or huge charges advertising houses levy big brands and compare with that with the pittance models are offered whether they are freelance or not, you will realise that advertising houses are the only ones laughing all the way to the bank!

This is nothing short of daylight robbery and this same situation is creating disillusioned models who become popular through brochures, TV advertisements and billboards but with nothing to show for it.

To worsen the situation, our own arts body and its parent ministry are either concentrated elsewhere, are virtually unaware of the modelling industry or are awaiting for us to make representations of this sorry situation, it’s unclear.

We urge the new minister in his 100 days in office to consider the plight of local models and this industry at large as it cuts across all sectors of the economy.

Models are responsible for the survival of all popular and chain fashion stores, hair, nail, make up and related beauty product companies and brands.

Fashion designers literally depend on models as do mobile operators, beverage and liquor brands whose thousands of advertisements, posters, billboards, TV Ads, brochures all feature models yet it is advertising agencies that are solely milking this sacred cow.

There are also pageant promoters, fashion show organisers and even designers and photographers who are wrongfully picking models off of the street, featuring them in their works, getting maximum public attention and remitting little or nothing to agency coffers and models.

No wonder year after year our flagship pageants struggle to attract the best among local models, how can they when the industry has been penetrated by a flea-market  being perpetrated and sponsored by entities and individuals that chase relevance, profit and visibility at the expense of integrity, fairness and industry best practices?

Freelance models are usually the worst affected in this scenario because they have nowhere to run in the case of being underpaid and to make it worse they have no knowledge of the correct industry-agreed pricing model that govern model use or booking.

If companies that makes use of models do a follow up on how, when or even if models who feature in their brands were or are paid, some will no doubt be shocked at the level of corruption and disregard of the models welfare by advertising houses.

Many models become bitter brand ambassadors due to unremitted dues or a case of being severely underpaid.

Not all advertising houses practice this tradition of thievery though.

Some pageant creators are also to blame because often times, they put up huge budgets advertising their pageants, hire expensive artists and set up elaborate ramps and choreography and proceed to offer models nothing.

Some go on to organise pageants without yet knowing from whence the models will come from and some defer prize-giving days more than a few times before rendering what was pledged.

The question is, why organise the pageant in the first place if prizes were not yet in hand? Do they ever imagine how traumatic this can be to affected models?

This particular trend is a most unwelcome and is killing the industry. Worse still many pageant promoters and organisers cannot come up with business-based incentives or remuneration packages to lure modelling agencies to aid their causes.

This curious behaviour suggest that they are not interested in working with quality models, that they want to reap where they have not sown, they want to direct and produce modelling events without adequately investing or are just out there to manipulate the industry to serve their whims without extending or intending to benefit the industry at all.

Zimbabwe has quality models, agencies that work the 24/7 shift on job and the industry is open for business.

But it’s time to get back to doing things right and that means modelling agencies, models, government advertising houses and business need to engage, practice fair play and see to the weeding out of those particular elements that are pulling the industry back to the stone age era in a world that accepts nothing less than professional and proper business standards.

Rukato is a Size4 modelling agency director since 1996. He is currently the deputy president of Modelling Industry Association of Zimbabwe and over the years, he has won awards such as Modelling Industry Life Time Award and Modelling Industry Special Award.