Shakespeare once said in one of his novels; “some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them” How best can one then describe Jenevieve Aken, the 22 year old Winner of the MTN/British Council Model of the Year Competition who hails from a very humble background in the village of Ikom Aluk in Cross River State? Her story is indeed as interesting as inspiring.
Jenevieve had dreams of becoming a Musician and a Movie Star, but that wasn’t to be as life had other plans. Growing up wasn’t as usual for her as it would have been for any other girl, Jenevieve never felt comfortable in school and as she progressed she got more and more disconnected. At just Sixteen years of age her world came crashing down, at a time when she needed support and some sense of direction, she lost her mother. This was a turning point in her life, as her mother was her only friend and support. She had little or no relationship with her father who was very strict and not easily taken to talents and potentials, he saw formal education as the only way forward, but Jenevieve saw differently. Therefore they both went on living, oblivious of each other’s existence.
At this point, living almost like an orphan, Jenevieve began to try out her talents, one of which was music, with the hope of making a career out of it. She began writing songs, one of which she titled; ‘Making it Through the Race’, which was inspired by her life at the time. She soon found out that music was not to be, she tried out acting and but soon dumped the idea. The disappointments and setbacks did not deter her she soon became aware of her body figure and decided to try out modeling. She was soon faced with the stark realities of the business vis a vis the Modeling industry; sexual exploitation, fraud, bias etc. She however managed with a few minor modeling jobs that paid peanuts, until she eventually got her first break, which was the; Vilsco Fashion Show.
Little did Jenevieve know that she was going to return to school sooner than imagined. While modeling she fell in love with Photography and then decided she was going to get professional training hence her sojourn in the Market Photo workshop, Johannesburg, South Africa. She was able to pay her fees from her savings as she had been self reliant since the death of her Mom. She however had to cut short the training, when she learnt about the MTN/British Council Model of the Year competition; she knew it was an opportunity that may never come again. She however couldn’t differ her training so she had to forfeit the fees with no refunds. She left South Africa and returned home to be part of the MTN Lagos Fashion & Design Week.
Today Jenevieve stands proud as the ‘MTN/British Council Model of the Year 2011’ with which came a prize money of N1,000,000 (One million Naira) and a Modeling Contract with BETH Modeling Agency. Jenevieve went from earning double figures to becoming a millionaire, from a mere freelance model to a Contract Model. She has plans to someday return to school but for now she wants to focus and build a career in modeling and photography as well; “I will go back to complete my photography school. I know photography and modeling are both heavy tasks to undertake but I have passion for both and will do both concurrently for as long as I can,” says Jenevieve.
In an industry where models are not dully respected and appreciated, she advocates for equal recognition and remuneration for both designers and models alike. “The fashion industry greatly depends on us as we are the ones who market the clothes and not just ourselves, we are as important to the fashion industry as any other practitioner.”
She someday hopes to take her craft beyond the shores of this country and eventually set up her own agency where she can help with the training of models. As to posing nude like many other international models have, she says; “I will for the right client and pay.”
Life has only just begun for Super Model Jenevieve Aken.