Moji is a woman whose confidence and radiance makes you believe in yourself as soon as you meet her. As the winner of our Every Woman Search, her positive energy, passion for fashion and fierce catwalk strut inspired the judges and audience alike. But what makes Moji so special — and makes her my role model — is her commitment to her community and her belief that fashion is a form of self-expression. She works tirelessly with youth in the justice system to help them realize their full potential. Her attitude towards fashion reminds us that fashion is not about trying to look like someone else, but it is about expressing your personality, playing with fabrics and having fun. Reading about her experiences of discovering, challenging and redefining beauty inspired me to always be me … and to have fun with fashion while doing it; I know it will do the same for you.
As a young girl growing up in Lagos, Nigeria, my light skin, light brown eyes, gangly figure, flat chest and bottom went against the accepted norm and ideal representation of a black person and an African for that matter. I was teased constantly but my older sisters always told me that I was pretty and special which gave me the confidence to face all challenges head on.
My parents always dressed well and my entire family had a love for shoes. Although we didn’t have much, what we had was quality. In my neighborhood, I was the first to wear trousers and a men’s shirt with the tail un-tucked (compliments of one of my brothers). Within a short period, my fellow neighbour girls started to wear trousers; to the chagrin of their parents. I have always had a sense of fashion and the statement fashion conveys about an individual. One must not be afraid to make a statement in a tasteful and classy manner.
I arrived in Calgary, Alberta, Canada in 1978 with plans to attend college. I was admitted to the Radio Arts program in Lethbridge where I continued to amaze my classmates with my fashion sense. I always came to class wearing a dress or dress pants (never jeans) and had my hair styled differently five days a week. Many foreign students were shocked by what they perceived as either bravery or stupidity.
At the time, a black female with an accent studying broadcasting in Alberta was unheard . There were individuals who advised me against perusing broadcasting because they believed that no one would hire me, it would be a waste of my time and my foreign tuition fees. Regardless of the naysayers, I completed my diploma and acquired a job at a radio station. After six weeks of employment I was “let go” once the owner found out that I was black. Instead of being discouraged, I enrolled at the University and earned a BA in Sociology. I have not, nor will I stop learning and achieving.
Back in Calgary in the late 80s, with three small children and a full time career, I entered the Mrs. Calgary Pageant contest. Surprisingly, I made the top ten but a career in modeling as a black person was not meant to be. This was due to the restrictions that were placed on what constituted the present ideal beauty, the industry and media at large. Nonetheless, I have never allowed restrictions to define who I am or who I can become.
A few months ago, Sharon Cornwall of Fashion Has No Borders Expose in collaboration with Ben Barry Agency put out a call in search for the “Every Woman” Competition. One of my children entered me in to the competition. Initially, I was reluctant to participate thinking that my modeling days were over. My daughter reminded me that she has never seen me shy away from challenges or adventures before. With this reminder, I decided to investigate the criteria further. As soon as I found out the criteria for the competition…..individuality, confidence, charitable, beauty and inner strength….I decided to embrace the challenge and have fun while at it. I love having fun regardless of what I’m doing.
On March 20th, 2010, at the BMO Centre in Calgary, Jeanne Beker of Fashion Television announced the winner of the competition. Out of 1400 applicants, I was chosen as “The Every Woman” winner. I now have the realization that my fashion and beauty journey from Nigeria has come full circle to being chosen and represented by the Ben Barry Agency: An agency that promotes all people, cultures and challenges the status quo concept of beauty.
After meeting in person with Ben Barry, I know that I’m ready to embark on a new adventure and possibly a new career. Whatever happens happens, I’m ready to have fun modeling and live life to the fullest because we all have only one life to live.
My message…..Go ahead! Take chances, go where you’re not suppose to go, do what you’re not suppose to do and dare to be different, if you wish.