Brian Onyango's Tips On Sustaining a Modeling Career in the Kenyan Creative Economy

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BY HARUN MOMANYI FOR KUNG'ARA STORE

Brian Onyango is not only a model, but also a law student in Nairobi, whose professionalism and consistency has seen him start his own fashion show production company, BRN Production. Yes – modeling in Kenya is an industry, and models generally exist for two reasons: ART and ADVERTISING. The modeling industry is actually a very simple subset of the advertising world and it works very much like the entertainment industry. There really is no secret sauce when it comes to sustaining a modeling career, it doesn’t really matter who you know, as nobody gets hired for every job. People who remember the modeling industry is a business, and approach it like a business with realistic expectations will tend to have success. People, who want to have fun or want to become famous, generally fail in the professional modeling world – regardless of what they look like.

Read on to see the advice that Brian has for aspiring millennial models in Kenya, and how he manages to sustain a livelihood through diverse projects besides modeling:

Kung’ara: When did you start modeling and how has it been so far for you? How did you overcome the challenges that you faced while starting out?

Brian: I made my first attempt at modeling in campus. A year later I was signed to an agency which provided me with the platform and the working experience I needed. The experience I have gathered from modeling has made me grow in various aspects. It’s been a wonderful experience thus far. I have always had a patient approach towards modeling. I know that it’s still a very nascent industry here. Overtime, I have learnt to put in extra work and try as much as I can to be consistent because good things take time to nurture.

Kung’ara: There are few well-known male models in Kenya and Africa at large, as global attention is focused towards African female models. What’s your take on this?  

Brian: I don’t think so. That perception is quickly changing. I’m happy to see an increase in the number of upcoming male models as compared to as recently as three years ago.

PHOTOGRAPHY: CHURCHILL LOELE, STYLIST: FINTANFASHION

PHOTOGRAPHY: CHURCHILL LOELE, STYLIST: FINTANFASHION

Kung’ara: You now run your own agency, BRN Production, which deals with the production of fashion shows, casting, choreography and training. Tell us how it all started and your future plans for the company. 

Brian: BRN Production is a company I started mid last year mainly as a fashion show production company, not really an agency. I was in charge of producing a fashion show for Runway Against Cancer, a charitable event in conjunction with Africa Cancer Foundation. The show was a success and after the show I made it official.  That’s how BRN Production was formed. We intend to improve the fashion show business by offering diversity and variety; through our Runway Academy we are able to train and give aspiring models the skills that a successful model requires. 

Kung’ara: On your blog, you’re quite vocal on all things Kenyan fashion and the economy at large. What’s your take on second hand clothing vs. locally designed and tailored apparel? 

Brian: I’m against second hand clothing. I’d love to see a Kenya where we wear clothes made and produced by our own people. I believe that’s possible because we have that capability in our designers. This way also, we shall be able to create skilful labour.

PHOTOGRAPHY: JOE MAKENI , STYLING: KEVO ABBRA

PHOTOGRAPHY: JOE MAKENI , STYLING: KEVO ABBRA

PHOTOGRAPHY: ERIC SAGANDA (@IAMFOTOGERIC)

PHOTOGRAPHY: ERIC SAGANDA (@IAMFOTOGERIC)

Kung’ara: Surviving on modeling alone, just like music in Kenya can be tough. Are there other things that you do on the side for a living? 

Brian: Yes. I’m a law student and modeling is something I do for the love of it. I would advise aspiring models to always have a backup plan just to be safe. Most of all they should study and be knowledgeable so as to get rid of the stereotype. All the same, just like any other hustle, if done and managed well, can earn you a decent living. 

Kung’ara: What’s your take on gender fluidity in the Kenyan creative economy?

Brian: It's great that although it's a fairly new concept to me, the world is changing and people are becoming more vocal about their diverse sexualities. 

PHOTOGRAPHY: ERIC SAGANDA (@IAMFOTOGERIC)

PHOTOGRAPHY: ERIC SAGANDA (@IAMFOTOGERIC)

Kung’ara: Who are some of your all time muses in modeling?

 Brian: I am a fan of David Agbodji and David Beckham. 

Kung’ara: If you were to recommend an outfit or accessory to your sister from the Kung’ara online store, what would it be?

 Brian: A bracelet from Kipato Unbranded. 

Kung’ara: Did your win at the 2015 Kenya Glamour Awards come with some sort of validation or have you always believed in yourself? 

Brian: I was very happy to win the award and I was grateful that my efforts were recognized and appreciated. However, I have always believed in myself and my work. I don’t work to compete with fellow models. Different models will have different styles that will attract very different markets.  

PHOTOGRAPHY: ERIC SAGANDA (@IAMFOTOGERIC)

PHOTOGRAPHY: ERIC SAGANDA (@IAMFOTOGERIC)

Kung’ara: Finally, many Kenyan millennial male models look up to you; they may see modeling as something easy. What advice would you give to them?

 Brian: Aspiring models should mostly focus on professionalism, from the kind of jobs they agree to be part of, to the content that they choose to create and share. For me, these are the differentiating factors. Models should also strive to work for decent pay.

PHOTOGRAPHY: LOUISNDERI, STYLIST: IAMBRYANEMRY

PHOTOGRAPHY: LOUISNDERI, STYLIST: IAMBRYANEMRY

Follow Brian Onyango for more updates.

PHOTOGRAPHY: ERIC SAGANDA (@IAMFOTOGERIC)

PHOTOGRAPHY: ERIC SAGANDA (@IAMFOTOGERIC)

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