Photographer Ty Bello tells the story of Nigeria’s favorite cover star, in a nobody to somebody story, which Ty calls ‘A divine intervention.”
Here is the story:
“I only started thinking it was important to make behind the scenes video of my photography sessions. I hardly make time to go through the footages simply because I find it uncomfortable looking at myself on screen and for the obvious fact that I sound different and embarrassingly loud when I shoot.
A few days later however, l sat with my Filmmaker friend Emma, and as we combed through go-pro footages to see if we captured the very moment… I noticed Jumoke, the bread hawker from the Sabo market bakery, who walked entirely by coincidence unto the set of our THISDAY style shoot for Tinnie Tempah.
The moment did not look special at all, lf anything, she stood there a little confused. Some people were asking her to leave the set and others were asking her to stay. l signaled if it was ok to take her photograph and she agreed and I carelessly pressed on my shutter so she could move ahead.
My subject of interest was the Okada driver that had slowed down just before she arrived. Okada riders have that cool Lagos vibe and always happen to add a bit of swag to street portraits. I was wrong to have paid her such little attention because I noticed every frame with her in it was perfect. I had found a second subject in the Tinnie Tempah story, a young beautiful hawker who could have served as a love interest of some sort!
When the edition of THISDAY Style came out last week and the images hit social media, I was proven right as this girl split the limelight with the main subject effortlessly. Questions and comments started to fly: Was she a model? How did we convince the model to balance all that bread on her head?
The buzz about her multiplied when I clarified that she indeed wasn’t a model at all but simply a bread-seller who stumbled on our set. I immediately began my search for her, if these many people felt she was beautiful enough to be a model, then maybe she was meant to be one! I was going to find a way to make it happen.
I had assistants leave word we were searching for her with mechanics in the area where we photographed her and to my delight, the very next day she showed up at my studio “Aso kan na ni mo wo kiri lati ana” meaning I have been wearing the same outfit since yesterday. Jumoke the model the Internet has been searching for weeks speaks almost no English.
She explained how someone showed her her own photograph in this same outfit on his phone from Facebook. A mallam then led her to my studio that morning. She narrated her journey to Lagos. She was a hair stylist from lre in Osun state but was not making enough profit between she and her husband, a sliding door installer from the same village, to care for their two young children.
At the invitation of a distant relative who knew someone operating a bakery, she relocated to Lagos with her 14 month old daughter to give bread hawking a try, leaving her husband and older 5 year old behind. As I listened to her, I wondered if the beauty I had seen on my screen as I edited my image was a fluke.. well until she smiled, I realized that I was wrong! I had in fact, underestimated the beauty of this 27 year old woman.
As always, it was her eyes and of course her perfectly chiseled features that jumped out at you when she chuckled. This lady belonged in front of my camera. After a conversation with her husband, telling him the story of our meeting, I decided I was going to photograph her that very afternoon. Within an hour, Bimpe Onakoya, one of Nigeria’s leading makeup artists and Zubby, one of my favorite hair stylists, were at my studio to work magic.
They had both followed the story online and were more than happy to help create magic for her. Olajumoke, with curly extensions out, revealed a short natural Afro that beautifully hugged her face. Bimpe also had decided to keep the make up minimal. She stepped in front of my camera and I almost didn’t recognize her. She moved different too. Jumoke looked straight into my lens emoting like she had done this all her life. I knew we had found a star.
During the Course of the day, Ema Edioso who was making a short documentary about the process had asked her what she really wanted to do. “Ka ma kiri Buredi ko suwon” meaning I will keep selling bread till the people are tired. But she said it wasn’t the most profitable business out put enough food on her table making between N300-700 daily profit, lt also put a roof over a head albeit a roof she shared with scores of other hawkers.
Though she was a trained hairdresser back home in Osun state, her family could not afford the necessarily ‘freedom’ ceremony, a passing out ritual that gives them unwritten permission to start a full fledged salon. We all decided that the makeover would be incomplete if it ended in the studio.
Everyone started to reach out to their contacts and through Bimpe, we were able to get her a meeting with Ugo the pioneer of Make-Me salon. As a result of the buzz she generated from the THISDAY cover, Olajumoke is now close to starting an internship at Make-Me salon and has been offered an additional internship with Sari Signatures, a famous Lebanese owned salon in Victoria lsland.
Uju Marshal, our Style cover girl from barely a few weeks ago, advised on what Olajumoke be paid for this particular shoot. And Godson Uka Egu got her a modeling contract with Few Modelling agency! To top it all, she’s also had Payporte reach out to her to be the model on their next billboard campaign.
How great is that! This is clearly only the beginning of another chapter in Jumoke’s story. Though it seems accidental it’s clearly a divine intervention! All of us at the THISDAY Style desk wish her many more amazing things to come. This is slowly evolving as magic made in fashion heaven. AWESOME!”
We know this isn’t the last we’ll hear of Jumoke, she’s definitely a rising star.