Nairobi News


CITY GIRL: To all young women, modelling does not pay

By NJOKI CHEGE February 16th, 2018 3 min read

I have been keenly following the conversation on social media about Kenyan models demanding more pay. The models have been telling the world about the deplorable working conditions that many of them work in.

Using the hashtag #PaymodelsKe, the young women — many of them in their early 20s — shocked the world with horror stories of what they have been enduring quietly.

For instance, we knew that some unfair employers pay models with free alcohol and food after a night of parading them in tiny dresses and high heels.

We also got to know that models face sexual harassment, with many male agents demanding sexual favours from the girls so as to “put them on the map”.


It was also a week when one “entrepreneur” was called out for not paying models on magazine shoots.

I sympathise with the young women who have to go through such heart-wrenching experiences.

Whereas I support the naming and shaming of the employers who fail to pay their models and unscrupulous agents who sexually harass the girls, I would like to address every young woman who aspires to be a model, or is one already.

Dear young Kenyan model, modelling does not pay.

Some of the complaints I read on social media were that when one finally gets paid, the money is so little that one cannot even foot their bills. That is sad.

But then again, you need to understand that in this side of the world, nobody cares about models or modelling. Even in the US, where there are a bunch of successful ones, the success stories are the exception, not the norm.

Across the world, from Kenya to the US, to the UK and Germany, only a few models really make it; majority fall through the cracks.

Nobody in the real world is going to pay you for looking good. Nobody, I promise you, will pay you well for strutting your stuff in vertiginous high heels while wearing a tiny dress.

It does not matter how long you have been standing in the cold, being paraded in front of lascivious men. Nobody in their right mind pays top dollar for just a pretty face.


Well, unless of course you want to be a television anchor, but that is another story.

I want to tell the young women on social media who have been complaining because they were paid “only” Sh2,000 for a night of modelling to count themselves lucky because that is all they will ever fetch.

It is going to get worse if you don’t take this opportunity as a learning experience and do something about your life other than complain on social media.

If you want someone to recognise you, respect you and pay you well enough to live a good life, then I am afraid you are going to have to do a lot more than look good and cat-walk.

You will need to have something other than a pretty face. You will need some valuable skills if you want to be honoured for your work and earn your commensurate pay. You will need to use your brain — not your looks — if you want people to pay you a tidy sum.

This is not to say that people don’t like pretty women. They do a lot, but nothing beats a pretty face paired with a great brain and that is what you should be aspiring to have. It is not enough to model.


I do not mean to belittle your “career” but I will tell you one thing, modelling is not really a career, it is something you do on the side, perhaps as a hobby.

If we are to be honest, chances of you making a fortune out of a modelling career in this lifetime are very slim (pun intended).

I would like to advise the young women in modelling to sit in a class, earn a degree, get into the workforce like the rest of us and earn their pay based on their brains, not their looks.

In any case, a good number of the women complaining on social media are well into their 20s — a bit too old to be complaining about modelling.

The prime of a model’s “career” is usually between her late teens and if lucky, 24. If you are 25 and still calling yourself a model and you expect somebody to recognise you for looking good, you are going to be disappointed.

I wish you the best of luck as you join us in the workforce.