The making of a model

Fiji Fashion Week's Remi Naqali models a JOAN. A Designs dress. Picture: FOTOFUSION/SUPPLIED

Fiji Fashion Week's Remi Naqali models a JOAN. A Designs dress. Picture: FOTOFUSION/SUPPLIED

MODELLING has been a “proud interest” for Fijian law student Remi Naqali since her high school years.

Yet she is still astonished when people ask “Hey, are you a model”.

When she replies “Yes, how did you know?”.

They respond: “We just knew it, you look like one.”

And at times she feels like disappearing into thin air.

“When you are a model, you don’t only get comments, people stare,” Ms Naqali said.

“I teach myself not to be made proud or to be offended, especially when random guys mindlessly say words and look at you in ways that’s kinda offensive.”

Or when people expect her to be an authority on fashion tips, how to dress, colour match clothes and even style their hair, they get disappointed when she doesn’t know.

“They say ‘What kind of model are you?'” Ms Naqali said.

But being a model is more than prepping for fashion shows. Getting selected is a start.

“If you meet the general Fiji Fashion Week height and size requirements you’re halfway in,” Ms Naqali said.

“Then the model coordinator guides you on how to keep physically fit and looking healthy, dietary needs and personal hygiene are all important aspects of being a good model.”

FJFW managing director Ellen Whippy Knight is firm on the matter of keeping models healthy.

“Whilst our models are gorgeous, it is hard to make it overseas unless you are stick thin, FJFW does not condone that, it is unnatural, can be quite unsightly and ruins their health,” Ms Whippy Knight said.

“There are rules and regulations globally that dictate a models’ entry point is size 10 (UK size 6), and they must have a certain amount of ‘fat’ on their bones.

“When we took models Remi Naqali, Mykaela Powell and Vuta Buatoko to the Mercedes Benz Australian Fashion Week in 2016, positive comments were made on how well they walked, their positive and friendly attitudes and how stylish they appeared to be.

“But none were keen to lose weight dramatically to compete with the thousands of other hopefuls as modelling was a ‘good fun hobby’ for a bit of pocket money.”

Ms Whippy Knight explained there was a reason for petite size models, the clothes just sit better and emerging designers do not have the funds to spend big on excess fabric until they receive orders or are so good that pre-orders are placed before the show.

Ever since Ms Naqali started modelling, she has been cautious about what she eats, mostly watching the fatty foods and minimising her carbohydrate intake.

She has been blessed with a fast metabolism, so she doesn’t have to live by a diet plan. But being a model can be tough, Ms Naqali said.

Especially those high pressure moments behind the curtains at the entry to the runway. Yet it’s an organised chaos, as Ms Whippy Knight described.

“The show producer ensures the line-up of designer collections with the models’ schedules and has them hitting the runway in turn on time. Hair and make-up artists linger at the exit point, retouching models as they wait in line and again for their next round,” Ms Whippy Knight said.

“Models come off and dart to the next collection, it is organised mayhem. No time to be shy.

“I was shocked at my first New York Fashion Week when I was allowed back of house, to see models almost stark naked or wearing skin toned G-strings underwear and bra-less, just slipping in and out of outfits, both male and female.

“The male models didn’t bat an eyelid, they have seen it all before.

“In Fiji at that time some models were still taking their sulus with them to hide behind, one hand holding it up and the other trying to dress themselves, sometimes with the help of other models, until it became obvious they were holding up the schedules.

“Some would actually go under tables, look for the bathroom, hide behind a door if they could find one. “That was in the beginning and for some of the rookies, but they soon get used to it.”

Expect the unexpected, live in the moment. Appreciate life as it comes, understand and remain humble in your confidence and experience is Ms Naqali’s advice to novice models.

“I’ve been living this life ever since high school and I’ve learned through it all. I take in what’s important and leave out the rest,” she said.

“My family members are even proud of me and being one of the top models in Fiji, it is a really good feeling as I have learnt a lot but . I hope it will be a long run for me in the future, also outside of my home country.”

After all, Fiji has had its models who have made it globally. Emma Heffernan, known as “The Bird” in the early 1970s moved to Australia and won the Model of the Year.

Then there was Marla Singh in Europe in the 1980s.

Our current award winning superstar is Phillippa Steele who was discovered by FJFW when she entered the Miss Teen Model Competition in 2013.

Although Ms Steele is in Suva, she is still on call for global assignments for her agents the Trump Modelling Agency.

Ms Whippy-Knight said: “Phillippa was a joy to work with; I knew she would make it big because she had a fire in her belly and she was really quite unique!”

However after all the wonderful women FJFW has personally scouted and trained, new talent is always exciting.

There was a time when the European runways were ruled by the supermodels, Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford, Claudia Schiffer, Linda Evangelista but unfortunately not does only age get in the way but the emerging bright stars like Kendall Jenner, the Hadid sisters, Bella and Gigi have taken centre stage and grabbed the spotlight much to the delight of the audience!

Likewise FJFW looks forward to introducing some brand new talent to the fashion runway at Fiji Fashion Week Resort Collection 2018 on May 25 and 26 at the FMF Gymnasium in Suva, showing this year’s ‘look’ — sophisticated, stylish and innovative.

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