It’s really not about the money.

I am not one to go on a public rant but I think this needs to be heard.

A designer reached out to me about two weeks ago asking me to model some dresses.
Am I a model? No
Did she know that? Certainly so.
Has she seen me on tv before? Absolutely.
Is that why she asked me to model for her? Possibly.
But I didn’t care about any of that. I told her I rarely have time to do other things besides work so it was better for her to give me the date and time of the shoot so I will let her know if I am available.

She agreed to do that and asked me to come in to fit the dresses. I gave her a time that I will be available for fitting and I was there, bang on time – Didn’t waste her time, didn’t push her around. She asked, I was there. We fitted 5 dresses

We agreed the shoot will happen the following Saturday at 10 a.m. Unfortunately it was raining that morning so we moved to 11. Again, I was there bang on time. In fact I arrived a few minutes early: not because I love photo shoots; not because I love wearing dresses; not because I wanted my makeup done or was excited to have my pictures taken “for the gram”. No, nothing like that.

Anyone who truly knows me knows:
a. That I am not a fan of photos – story for another day
b. I am not a fan of social media – also a story for another day.
Even the designer in question mentioned in our conversation that my friend had told her I don’t like photos.
But I was doing this shoot as a favour – yes, a favour, because my friend was part of it too and she is acquainted with the designer.

Despite this being a favour and me having the understanding that there will be no financial or any other form of gain for me for that matter, it was a matter of principle for me to show up on time as I had given her my word.

So I sat there in her office for over an hour waiting for the makeup artist to arrive.
Did I have other things to do? Absolutely.
But did I put up an attitude? No.
Did I complain? Not even a sigh.

Rather, I sat there together with the designer and we had a friendly conversation about tardiness and other bad habits people tend to have. We had a laugh.

The makeup artist finally arrived. She used my brushes because one has to be corona conscious, she used my foundation because I prefer mine, she used my lash glue because she did not have hers and we finished some minutes to 2pm. I boarded the designer and her assistant in my vehicle with a suitcase full of the dresses my friend and I were to put on.

You might be wondering why I’m nit-picking but you’ll understand soon.

The venue had to close at 6pm so by 5.30 we were rounding up and it had started pouring anyway. The designer said we didn’t do all the dresses she planned to shoot and she would need me again which left me confused because I fitted 5 dresses the other day and I had graciously shot way more than 5. Nonetheless, I told her everything would be up to what day/time she decides to do the next shoot. Again because it was pouring, I boarded the entire team of 4 (designer inclusive) and drove them to their various drop off points.

Did I expect to wait for the makeup artist for over an hour? No.
Did I expect to shoot more than 5 dresses? No.
Did I expect that the shoot will take up the whole of my day? No.

If the makeup artist had been there on time we could have started the shoot by 12.30 latest. And if we had stuck with the 5 dresses as originally agreed, we would have finished earlier.

Anyway that’s done.
But here’s where the story changes.

The designer reached out to me again saying she wants me to model some other items and wants my measurement.
I asked “are you paying this time?”. I told her I didn’t mind doing the first one free of charge but if you’re asking again then we have to discuss money. I’m using resources too – I used my shoes for the shoot, jewellery, fuel – which she benefited from, I picked and dropped her off. In fact everything I did was to her credit.

Her response shocked me. “Are you a professional model?” she asked.

I answered no, doubtfully, as in what is she driving at? She knows I am not a model, why is she asking me this?

And she says “then I don’t understand why you’re asking me to pay you.”
She went on to explain about how many people she has running after her to do photoshoots in her designs and how she doesn’t pay people to model for her.

I said “but madame you know I am not a model and you knew this before you asked me to pose in your dresses.”

It’s not like I’m being greedy. I literally just did a shoot for you, FREE. A shoot for which I had to wait over an hour for a makeup artist, a shoot for which I used my own shoes, a shoot to which I carried you and your crew to and fro, a shoot for which you said 5 dresses but I did more than 5.
Did I complain when your makeup artist wasted time? No.
Did I frown my face in your photos after the 5 dresses? No.
Did I ask for money when we got to dress number 6 because you had said 5? No.

I had been top notch professional and courteous since day 1. And despite her demeaning remarks, that wasn’t going to change. I told her again, I too am using resources to make this happen so it’s only fair that I get some kind of compensation this time. I said I am really not getting anything out of this, it is all in your favour.
And she says to me “are you sure you’re not getting anything out of this?”
I paused to think and the honest answer is NO I AM NOT!

I am really not one to gloat but sometimes certain things need to be said.

If this is about publicity, I work for the most popular media company in Sierra Leone. My face appears on tv every other day, not to talk of their various social media platforms with hundreds of thousands if not millions of followers altogether. I freelance for one of the biggest global media cooperations, the biggest in the UK and possibly Europe. My face has appeared on screens across the globe. What exactly am I achieving with 10 or so photos on your instagram page that I am not already getting publicity wise?

If it is for career building, I AM NOT A MODEL — You said it yourself! — and I don’t plan on being one. So I am not going to have a portfolio of photos of me in your designs that will build my career in modelling or “take me to the next level”. So again, this adds no value to my career.

If it is about the experience, miss, yours is not the first photo shoot I have done.

So someone please tell me what I’m getting out of this, maybe I’m missing something.

Sure it would be good to have nice professional photos. But I can do that any day I please, in any of my own clothes and with any of the many talented photographers we have in this city. So again, am I missing something?

Anyway, I concluded that perhaps she doesn’t understand how to do business or maybe she was just plain selfish. She might not know it but she came off to me as disrespectful, unprofessional and ungrateful.

Now let’s talk about that word – ungrateful. See, it’s not like she didn’t say “thank you” after the shoot on Saturday. She did and said we should have lunch one day. But her actions following that show that she is unappreciative of the sacrifices I had to make that day for which I received nothing. I say she is ungrateful because she seems to lack the ability to resonate with the sacrifices others make on her behalf.
I am a known personality and she did not hesitate to question my worth, I can only imagine what she says to others who are not in a public career but would have made equal or more sacrifices for her and dare to ask for pay.

I was tempted to ask her to forget using the photos taken on Saturday but I made the decision to do that photoshoot for free out of good faith and I didn’t want to go back on it. I also wasn’t going to let her demeaning remarks make me act out of character. So I let her be.

But this goes out to young designers and anyone doing business – DON’T BE A USER!
Yes, you might not be able to pay your models but a kind gesture might suffice – a blouse, a belt, % off on an item, anything. It is okay to say you cannot afford to pay or maybe you can afford it but don’t want to pay because that’s money which could be spent elsewhere. That’s absolutely fine. Just don’t act like it is out of place for people to ask you to pay especially when they’ve worked hard and to your benefit. Recognise others’ sacrifices and show gratitude.

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  1. This is an interesting piece. I read and mirrored a reflection of our society today. I smiled. If a media personality with lesser interests in modeling received a mean response from a designer as such, I wonder how much maltreatment and unprofessionalism those with the desired interest have meted along the way.

    Life is interesting. Thank you Antonia for such an amazing insight.


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