Stella Oganwu is a determined young lady, who braved the odds to achieve in life despite the death of her mother at an early age.
The wave-making Switzerland-based model is however, grateful to her father, Mr. David Oganwu, who did all he could to get her live a good life and took her to Switzerland, where she is still based.
The beautiful lady is enjoying herself in the European country, where she is involved in modeling, modeling coaching, hotel management, fashion designing, acting and several other laudable things, which Nigerians would be proud of.
Petite and gorgeous Stella evinced joy and confidence as she spoke about her adventure in Switzerland, her plans for the future and why she loves taking care of children in this interview session with our Publisher, Mr. Dayo Asaju and Editor, Mr. Oladipupo Awojobi.
Can we meet you?
I am Stella Oganwu. I am from Ashimili Local Government area of Asaba, Delta State in Nigeria. My father was living in Switzerland and he took me to the country at the age of 18. I initially went to Switzerland and came back to Nigeria after three months for my examination. After that, I went back finally. I used to live with family members back in Nigeria then, but my father decided to take me to Switzerland that it was better for me to be with him than to be with family members.
Are you the only daughter or only child?
I am the first child. I was the only child for about 25 years, now I have three siblings; two boys and the last is a girl, who is only two months old. She is like my daughter. My mother passed away, when I was a little child and that should be about 21 years ago. I have a wonderful step mother, who is very nice to me. She takes me as a daughter and I am glad. I see her as a mother. My father is a very strong man, he has been a father, a mother, a friend and everything to me because he really suffered a lot for me. I got the best that I deserve and I also try my best to move on with life. Life was not very easy for me as a child having lost my mother at a tender age. In everything, I would say I give glory to God because if not for Him I don’t know where I would have been. I believe young people want to explore, they want to become something in life.
At what point in time did you decide to go into modelling?
As a child, I loved everything that has to do with fashion, and my father told me that when I was very young, I was never happy if I didn’t get a nice dress on, and that I used to disturb a lot. I did fashion parade, when I was in primary school and my father was there, he did catwalk with me and everyone was surprised. I found it so interesting and amazing. Then, I wasn’t sure of becoming a model because I was still a child. Then, I was a tomboy, I never put on high heel shoes and I was always on low cut. I behaved much like a guy, and when I went to Switzerland I discovered that there was something in me that people saw and they kept asking me ‘Stella, what are you doing here. You have to be so somewhere else.’ I know that I had a gift, but I didn’t know where to start from, I was a bit confused. Then after sometime, I decided to do something about it. I started wearing high heel shoes and people were asking me ‘Stella, you are wearing high heel shoes.’ So the transformation was very big, it is more like I just wanted to be a model, it was in me and I had to use it. I am using it to the glory of God and for young people. People used to tell me that I am not tall or that I didn’t have a particular shape. But I know that what I have inside of me is more than what people see outside. I was always challenged, when I see tall models, very skinny models, I felt I couldn’t do it. But later, I said to myself that modelling is not about being skinny or being tall, you have it in you. You don’t have to be tall or skinny to be a model, you can be a runway model. I talked to myself that I would catch up with my dream. I felt I was going to do it because if I do it I am helping the young ones. It is not just about me, it is all about the other people. I have a lot of ladies, who want to be models, but they don’t have the opportunity because in Africa, they want to sleep with them, they want to do different things with them before they could help them. I felt that why not start something to help these people.
Now, how far have you gone with your dreams in Switzerland?
I have been modelling and coaching for over six years now. I am a model coach and a trainer. I started with photography, they called me for photo shoot, after the photoshoot, a lot of photographers started calling me so I felt they see something special in me. I know it is a gift from God, it is not that I am so beautiful or there is anything special in me. No, it is just the in-born gift that I have that makes people see me. So I started from photo shooting to modelling for fashion designers, I made runway shows, and I also organise fashion shows. From being an amateur, I now train models, organise fashion shows for people, I get the models and do all the necessary things. There was a big show we recently organized in Switzerland. I was a make-up artiste, I also studied hotel management and did fashion designing. People felt hotel management was not for me. I sometimes work at the back stage, I would just only train the models. I am more into African modelling because I love my culture, I love Africa, i love Nigeria and I love being a Nigerian and I know that I can do it.
Can you tell us about your high moments including the competitions you have participated in and the awards you have won?
I competed for Miss Switz Most Beautiful, where I came second. I won an award as Miss Elegance in 2014/2015. I also participated in Miss Afroline and I was the only African there. They gave me second runner up. I also won an online award. I participated in a cultural festival, where I won an award, organized a fashion show and I was also a moderator for the show. In Switzerland, we have Miss Niger Delta Europe. They saw what I am doing and they awarded me as Miss Niger Delta Europe. It is not a competition, they give it to people that do something spectacular. A lot of Nigerians don’t want their children to participate in things like this, they talk about church and morals as they feel that models expose their bodies. If you want to expose your body that is your own choice. I know my limit and I am not going to expose my body. A lot of models expose their body because of money which is not good. I said I am not going into that, they feel that all models are prostitutes, and that models don’t know anything. But I said to myself that this type of models must stop. Anybody can be a model, why are we presenting skinny models alone.
What about your low points?
Sometimes people out there want only Europeans models. I went for a casting and they were looking for a white girl with red hair, a white girl with blonde hair, and blues eyes. When you are there, they don’t see you, but I would keep on trying so that they would know that we are also there. Just try and see. We shot a movie entitled; “The Missing Steps,” produced by Charles Okafor. He was in Switzerland. He came to Switzerland to shoot a movie to discourage being a refugee and that living abroad could be very difficult.
When he got to Switzerland he was looking for Nigerians to shoot the movie with and he went to the Nigerian Embassy there, where they introduced me to him because they know me because of what I do. People should know that when you go to another place the place has its own challenges. You need to do a lot of researches about the country you are going to. You need to visit the country first before you go there permanently. I know it is very difficult, but a lot of people tell stories and they even die in transit, while their people are still waiting for them at home. Look at the Libyan slavery, I feel that the Libyans were getting tired of our people and the only way to stop it is to give them out for slavery. You cannot just stop something like that, you need to make people suffer and feel the pains. People are saying Libyans are bad, no, it is because of what our people are doing. People are saying they don’t have jobs, you can start from somewhere. A shoe maker has a job, if you are cleaning, it is a job, you earn money from it to feed your family. Learn to be patient and work. Though what the Libyans are doing is bad, we should learn our lessons. I saw the way people were risking their lives on the sea on the internet and I felt that why were they doing this? Let our people stop what they are doing, you can make it even in your country. Let us learn to appreciate God.
Are you saying there is sexual harassment over there?
No, of course there is nothing in this life that is in one place, which is not in another place. Corruption, sexual harassment is everywhere. I am coping because God is with me. I was surprised initially, when I saw it because I thought it was only in Africa that such a thing happens. There are some photographers, who are stupid. They call you for a photo shoot and they would be asking you to remove your clothes gradually. But I have said that I would not do anything that would make my family not to be proud of me. You are a model, you should have a standard, your body is not for everybody, it is the temple of God.
How rewarding is modelling?
Actually, I wanted to be a model coach, as a coach, they pay you. Being a model, sometimes they don’t pay you. They would dress you, paint you and get you ready. In the beginning, I did photoshoot. I felt I would not allow myself to be used anyhow. You must be focused and do the right thing. For the film I was talking about that Charles Okafor produced, I acted as Yola, a lady in a restaurant. I met the main actor in the restaurant and we got talking. It was shot 80% in Nigeria and 20% in Switzerland.
How come models don’t marry early?
People say that models don’t want to marry early so that they would not lose their shape, that is a big lie. You can have your children and family and still be a model. It depends on you after giving birth to work out and be in good shape. Even you have to keep fit for your husband. You should keep fit to keep your home. I have a lot of model friends with one or two children. There is even modelling for big people.
How soon is Stella getting married?
By the grace of God it should be next year. I would love to be in my husband’s house then.
Tell us about your pet project in Nigeria
It is all about children. I love children a lot, when they see me in Switzerland they are always jumping up. So, I want to do something for the less-privileged children. I brought some mosquito nets for them. A lot of these children need our support. I would buy food for them. It would be an annual thing because they need us more because they don’t have families. They need our love and support. That is why this project is very important to me. I came purposely because of them.
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