Cynthia Chisom is a successful fashion model who is currently based in London. When we first checked out Cynthia’s impressive, creative and unique modeling portfolio at Urbanity Chic we were really keen to interview her so could share everything with you. Read the full, incredibly in-depth, interview below where Cynthia discusses London Fashion Week, who her inspirations are and how she prepares for a fashion shoot or show.
Q: Who are you called?
I am Umezulike Chisom Cynthia but in the modeling world I am known as Cynthia Chisom. However at home I am usually called Chizzie, Nomss or Ulumma..a native name meaning ‘pot of beauty’. Some of friends call me Miss Cynthia or Miss Posh. So it depends on who is addressing me and on what occasion.
Q: How did you get into fashion modeling?
I was scouted @ age 15 by a modeling agent James St James Amuta. I was walking down my street, on short hair and awkwardly skinny..he asked if I wanted to be a model and told me he runs a nascent modeling agency and would love to represent me on the local scene until I can get signed by an international agency which is a better platform to help push my passion and ambition to the height he foresees my potential . On a trip to Kampala Uganda with my dad same year, I got asked again by a fashion photographer Ndudi Nyame at the hotel lobby of the Sheraton Hotel Kampala to do the exhibition later that night. Coming from a very strict home it was impossible at the time to take part in the show but on returning to home, I made James St James have a word with my dad and fortunately within that same period a 19 year old Nigerian girl had won the Miss World competition and was of worldwide fame and success. Her success opened up the channel that helped convince my dad to let me take part in some aspects of modeling while still juggling law school.
Q: How have the last 12 months been for you?
The past twelve months has being the busiest part of my entire life. I went from being the little nerd going from my school seminars and research in library to ’The Model” doing so many fashion shows in a week, going to hundreds of castings and shooting with amazing photographers. The most memorable was the new face of Swarovski in Bond Street audition and I remember trembling and pinching myself because it was almost unreal to have the opportunity of becoming the face of Swarovski and have your pictures taken by the famous super model turned photographer Helena Christensen.
London Fashion week was the most grueling and I almost burnt out mid way from all the chaos of shows, fittings, castings etc. it was my first season and I was determined to be on all the High end catwalks before the designer brands happened and I succeeded tremendously by booking a showcase for British based Luxury brand Japer Garvida, Rhianon Jones Bolshie and Paulina Palian, Fashions Finest, The Mavericks, Suffolk’s Designers exhibition, Koshibah, Adebayo Jones etc . The most memorable was entering the Top Model competition and going through the boot camp styled training, it was a crash course in the knowledge of fashion, the industry and how to deal with the pitfalls of a nascent career. It was a stressful but an amazing experience. Throughout the year I always had my secret weapon Sir Ruben P Joseph, legendary catwalk trainer and Nana Akua-amazing makeup artist to fall back on. Sir Ruben whips me back to shape and his one liner of “Girlllll you don’t know what you have got” loool… that shoots my confidence back up and Nana Akua is on hand to conceal my dark circles from sleepless nights, Ope @ Minc Models INC my friend and stylist for all red carpet events and appearances. I also had different magazine article publications, newspaper write up and diverse blog posting during the past year detailing my evolution and appreciating my growth, progress and ambitions. Finally I feel I have worked hard enough and have earned the unequivocal right to be called “A Model”. It is a right not a privilege. In between my crazy Modeling and school work schedule I also completed my inspirational book ‘Parallel Sapphires; Rules of inspiration’, A thought provoking inspirational book detailing how teenagers can learn to cope with a range of issues such as making the right choices, dealing with low self esteem, competition, building careers etc just like I, my friends and family learnt along the way. These are rules every young person should acquaint themselves on how to apply. It has being an amazing journey so far and I am happy with my work ethic, professionalism and my zeal to keep growing and re-inventing my brand.
Q: Who inspires you?
I am greatly inspired by Legendary Super models like Erin O Conner, Kiara Kabukuru and Debra Shaw. They set the precedence for the younger generation of model to follow. I also love the work of young models such as Ify Yolanda Jones, Chanel Iman and Sessile Lopez. They are a mixture of strong women of color who continue to break barriers and reverse what the dominant norm is especially in this cutthroat fashion industry saturated with precision and fear of change. They continue to push barriers and break the norm thereby inspiring change and creating a revolution on the general acceptance of what the definition of diverse, distinct shades of beauty and how it is viewed, recognized and accepted in the industry.
Q: Which modern day fashion designers or fashion icons do you look up to?
The modern day Fashion Icon I look up to today is definitely Victoria Beckham and fortunately she is also an amazing talented fashion designer. She is the crème of the crop in all things fashionable and exquisite. Her poise, elegance and grace distinctively exemplify how every lady should look like and carry themselves at all times. I also love the Newcomer Mary Katrantzou, her designs are fresh, futuristic, timeless. From ornamented bold prints, structural defined edgy tops and lampshade skirts to more eccentric, hyper-realist, aesthetic, bold graphics with a mash up of industry jewelry hence an epitome of architectural master piece. The two designers offer something new, fresh and urban. Every girl wants to wear something straight from their wardrobe or have something made for them.(I actually will covert Victoria’s wardrobe….no kidding J) .
Q: Do you prefer to shoot on location or in the studio?
I prefer on location shoots especially during summer when it is hot and less windy. I love the interplay of beautiful landscapes in the background as if offering their servitude. The emotion and conquest of having an amazing natural scenery or man-made stunning architectural edifice surround you almost draw out the super model inside you. It makes you want to run, laugh loud, scream, jump and play the act of being the number 1 model in the world. You are in the zone and there is no restriction whatsoever and the most talented photographers get their best pictures in that moment of no inhibition or restriction. The camera never stops clicking. It is amazing.
Q: Do you have any interesting stories about a particular photo shoot, or a casting you’d like to share?
Most castings and shows often have elements of surprise, intrigue and drama. Similar to photo shoots and fashion show chaos. Either the non arrival of models on time which sparks a fury or the production team are behind schedule or the wrong shades of foundation was applied by the makeup artist or the clothes do not fit anymore..loool.. . There is always an interesting scenario playing out on or off stage. They all make for an interesting discourse but no single incident stands out completely on its own.
Q: How do you prepare for a fashion shoot or show?
My regimen is almost the same on and off fashion show/shoot seasons. I am a fan of Palmers Cocoa butter with a little Vitamin C and Glycerin oil…it gives a radiant glow. For my face I moisturize at night using either Nivea Aqua face cream or Crème de La Mer moisturizing gel cream depending on what I deem the facial skin needs. I also exfoliate once a week with Clearasil facial scrub and the amazing “gommage corps body scrub” from the French chain Sephora. I will never arrive at a show without a can of Redbull…it keeps my energy level up. However I recently discovered a healthier version called “Aspire” from Holland & Barrett. It also claims to burn 250 calories per can consumed. Awesome right?…. I am also a fan of Beckram yoga sessions and use the Gym if I am going to be in a bikini for a show or shoot. It is important to tighten up the muscles and look toned.
Q: Do you have a favorite photograph?
My favorite photograph has to be the still black and white images captured in the early stages of my life, as new born nestled in my grandmother’s blankets. It is the most beautiful serene picture I have ever seen. Sometimes I wish I could go back to that child-like, peaceful state, with no care in the world, where every sky seemed blue and there existed no worries in the world.
Q: Who is your favourite photographer?
The resident photographer for Vogue Italia Steven Meisel is my favorite photographer of all time. I call his work ‘Distinguished Art’ . Steven Meisel shot the most revolutionary issue of Vogue Italia ‘The Black Issue” showing the pinnacle of his success and his use of imaginative art to create awareness on the issue of racial inequality in the industry. He has also helped launch the careers of super models such as Coca Rocha, Liya Kebede, and Amber Valleta etc by constantly featuring them in exclusive spreads for Vogue and using them in various high-end campaigns. He is an icon and I adore his work.
Q: Is there anybody you would like to work with?
The major designer I crave to work with is Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel…every model craves to wear those Chanel petite coats in a size zero….huge pearls neck piece, exquisite gloves and lace couture gowns down the run way. I also would to love model garments by Lanvin , Sarah button for Alexandra McQueen, Oscar de la Renta and Victoria Beckham. However a Shoot with photographer Steven Meisel, styled by Rachel Zoe would be an out of body experience. It is major. Every model needs a Steven Meisel picture in their books. It is a life changing experience.
Q: What does fashion mean to you?
I always say that my idea of a great day resonates from the feeling and anticipation of a well thought out outfit….which never excludes a five inches stilettos…every other aspect of the day is secondary.
I love the look of the sixties, structured pencil skirts, boho lace embroidery tea party dresses, classically cut bright colored gowns, floral prints, fennel shorts. Peter Pan collared shirts, woolen ponchos, over-sized kaftans and huge square Sun Shades. I am massive fan of court shoes…the higher the more fabulous. I love dainty exquisite jewelry. I avoid chunky neck/ear piece, wedges and jeans. In the winter I love French Trench coats and over-sized white cashmere cardigan paired with ankle length boots and see through embroidery tights. . It might sound cliché, superficial and obsessive but fashion is everything. It is a platform to self-express, show creativity and style.
Q: How would you define your personal style?
My personal style is classic, elegant, polished and almost demure. I favor the Minimalistic-Chic approach. I love an outfit that is not necessarily coordinated or calculated but has everything put together to play=off each other. There is either a neutral palette with a splash of color on the lip, the shoes or bag or vice versa. I am fascinated with the era when women’s hair where parted slighted and tied up in a chignon, bright red lips, flowery dresses, transparent panty hoses and clogged heels.
Q: Where are you based?
I am based in the waterside area of docklands in London. United Kingdom.
Q: What’s it like being where you’re from?
I am a mixture of two cultures and breed. I love the taome and the Nigerian aspect. They are eccentric, full of rich cultural heritage and made up of people who work really hard to beat poverty and make real meaning out of their lives. There are no benefits from the government or credit cards to fall back on. I come from a working class town and lived a very sheltered life so didn’t venture out until I moved to live in the UK. I would still love to go back home someday and I feel it is so much more warm, welcoming and accepting than over here.
Q: What have been the highlights of your career to date?
There has being so many major highlights of my career. I cannot name them all but been a part of London Fashion Week 2011 was pretty remarkable , working for Luxury bespoke designers at different stages of my career, Representing Nigeria at the Miss commonwealth International pageant 2010. Talented designer Paulina Palian named me her muse in designing her edgy customization of the dark side collection. It was amazing to know that my body and shape can inspire a designer’s work. There has also being a lot of setbacks in my career but from every failure, I take away a valuable indispensible lesson. I pick myself up, more determined and persistent and keep fighting to actualize my dream.
Q: What are you hoping to achieve over the next 12 months?
I would love to not only take active part the 2012 London fashion week but other fashion weeks around the world. From Paris, Milan to New York, Rio de Janeiro and South Africa. I aspire to be on the cover of high fashion magazines, shoot high fashion editorials and campaigns for recognizable high-end brands. My elder sisters and I would also be focusing on publishing a series of children’s books, short stories and poems on both English and African literature. My first inspiration book ”Parallel Sapphires: Rules of Inspiration” is out later this year. It is my debut as an author and I am proud of my accomplishments so far. I also have a legal article out next month in the Nigerian Judicial Institute law journal. It is my first published legal article, setting precedence for many more.
I would love to make indigenous fashion forward pieces that can become a collector’s prized art. Similar to possessing an eclectic vintage piece of garment from, Oscar de la Renta, Vivienne Westwood or Diane von Frustenburg, the possibilities are endless.
I would also love to become an advocate for socio economic and cultural rights of children and a United Nations Special Repporteur bringing imperative awareness to the needs of a child to the minimum core requirements such as food, water, shelter and health care system. All these are paramount to the survival and development of a child and should be at the forefront of all human rights agenda.
Q: What do you do to relax?
During my spare time, I usually catch up on all the shows I recorded previously while at work or studying. I love watching soap operas and television shows. I sometimes see myself as belonging to another era, maybe the sixties or the fifties; I love the movies in black and white and the whole oldies effect. I love watching the series Mad Men , it is a throwback to the sixties as well as gossip girl a modern current interpretation of life on the upper east side in New York. I like the balance it creates. I love to listen to music too but very cheesy eighties jazz, instrumental and R& B. I just love to be very comfortable, happy at all times and around people who make me laugh. I try to take care of my spirituality and internal wellbeing. Eating right, praying, excising and meditating every day. I also do love to reflect on events past and strategize for a better productive future. When I am restless and agitated, I hit the gym and work out, subsequent cold shower and I am back to the serene zone. It is important that I radiate positive energy at all times and that the people around me do the same. I just cannot deal with negativity.
Q: Where would your favourite holiday (vacation) be and why?
The Azores Archipelago in the autonomous region of Portugal is my ideal vacation spot. It comprises of nine volcanic islands in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean. Flores and Corvo, to the west; Graciosa, Terceira, São Jorge, Pico and Faial in the centre; and São Miguel, Santa Maria and the Formigas Reef to the east. Each Island offers something unique, in culture, atmosphere and cuisine. However with the alluring volcanic eruption probability in the islands, the atmosphere seem sultry, romantic, almost mysterious and dangerously –adventurous. Every element I love exists in The Azores Island Conglomerate.
Q: What songs are on your iPod at the moment?
My iPod actually has less than 30 songs on the playlist because I am always obsessed with same songs so I end up playing them nonstop for months. Really strange…yes I know. However my friend recently introduced me to the amazing album titled “Conatus” by Russian artist Nika Roza Danilova ( stage name Zola Jesus) . The album is a combination of electronic, industrial, classical and slightly almost gothic and alternative rock. I have the singles ‘Hikikomori, Shivers and Avalanche” on instant replay. I also have tunes from Fantasia, Yasmin, Delilah, Rebecca Ferguson, The Saturdays and Usher.
Q: Do you have any interesting hobbies?
I love to dance, cook for family & friends, read thought provoking books, articles, novels and I used to play football.
Q: If you could give a little piece of advice for new or aspiring models what would it be?
I would advice young models not to be eager to walk in someone else shoes, that way you can potentially succeed where others before them were lukewarm. When starting out young, parental supervision is important and crucial, it keeps young girls away from the pit falls of the industry and protects them from perverted men with huge promises and nothing to offer. It is essential to be confident, believe in the beauty of your dreams, be a hard worker, hard knock on every door until you make your goals a reality. Always stay humble, stay grounded and true to your roots and family values. Family should always come first even if you have a jet-setting career, they are the only people still slugged by your side when the glitz and glamour are gone. They are there for you when you are retired and resting in your favorite flip-flops and pajamas’ lying in solitude on a couch digging into a bag of low calorie pop corn and fat free yogurt reminiscing over the high days of your career. Your family would always be there for you. There is no longevity in the modeling or beauty pageant world, have a backup plan, a tangible career to fall back on
Q: Who motivates you to do what you do?
My dad is constantly my strong motivation, he has changed my thought process, the way I think and approach everyday challenges and confront obstacles. He made me realize the need to be selfless and show unconditional love even when unrequited. He is a man with an exemplary conduct, showing kindness and humility at all times. He is a very generous, down to earth and easygoing man. I have learnt hard work, resilience and patience from him. There are moral values he instilled in me that I cannot disregard, no matter where I am, I feel his stern disapproving eyes and will never compromise the standard he has set for me.
My siblings are also my rock and strong pull, they are always very prayerful, open minded, loving and rationale at all times. Erin O’Conner, a very remarkable British woman who used her talent and initiative to make an impact in the world.
Q: Is there anything else you’d like to let our readers know about?
Thanks to the Urbanity Chic for the amazing opportunity to have a feature in this month’s issue. Also follow me on twitter, check out my official model face book page and read my high fashion elevated blog. Wishing Urbanity Chic magazine readers an amazing year ahead. Deuces!!!
Editor’s Note: Cynthia effectively encompasses poise, flair and commercial edge into every shot. Also make sure you check out her fashion blog, http://cynthiaumezulike.blogspot.com/; a great read!
If you’d like to learn more about or contact Cynthia Chisom just follow the links below:
twitter link: http://twitter.com/#!/posh_cynthia
web page link: http://cynthiaumezulike.blogspot.com/