Filed in Entertainment by on February 12, 2010

Elisha, Miss Valentine 2007
I keep my male admirers at bay
Friday, February 12, 2010

Maryam Elisha

The last child in a family of seven, Maryam Elisha started modeling seven years ago. She has graced various runways across the country but added another feather to her cap when she emerged Miss Valentine 2007.

A student of English, University of Lagos, Elisha says her physical features, face and body are her unique selling points as a model. She spoke to Daily Sun recently about her pet project, how she handles her male admirers among others. Excerpts:

“At the beginning, people were telling me to just give it a try, but I was reluctant. I thought I didn’t have what it takes to be a model. With time, I realised that it’s not about what you think you have or don’t have. There are other things one can do when one goes into modeling. You can discover yourself and your talent. I loved watching models on the runway which fuelled my interest because I admire them a lot. I went into modeling to be close to other models and to give myself a chance to be discovered.

“I started modelling about seven years ago. I started out with a job I did for Soulmates hair cream, it was a calender advert. I also did a job for Zain mobile network when it was still known as Vmobile. From there, I moved to pageantry and it’s all been fun. The transition left me in no doubt that I got something to offer the country as a model.”

“My dad was skeptical about letting me become a model for fear of me getting too exposed and changing, since I’m known to be a calm and innocent person. My mum was more supportive and assured my dad that I would not change. She advised me not to do the wrong things like sleeping with anyone just to get jobs.”

Selling point as a model
“My physical features, my face and my skin are my unique selling points as a model. I believe that these features notwithstanding, what really sells me is whether or not I am fit for a job. I am always lucky to be picked.”

“My NGO is called Save Tomorrow Today. It started before I emerged Miss Valentine Nigeria 2007. I started the project in 2006 with the aim of getting street kids off into school. It also involves seeing them through school, mentoring them and monitoring their progress afterwards. I intend to make a difference in the lives of these kids who are less fortunate than I am and give them a sense of belonging in the society by giving them education. I want to affect them positively so that they can be useful to themselves, the society and also affect other people positively.

“A very large structure has been set up especially for the 50 kids benefiting from the project already. We are dealing with the children and their parents at the same time. We want a situation where the parents are hard working enough to take care of their kids with time and the kids in turn, leave street life and do meaningful things that would help their future.”

“Getting a job as a model is sometimes challenging. When you are called by the client you may have to go all the way and sometimes wait for long hours in the sun. If you are not patient enough, you might loose the job. There is also the challenge or the temptation of bending certain rules to get jobs. I didn’t really have to deal with such except when some people in the agency ask to have dinner with me. This is a personal choice because it is something that one can either accept or refuse. I thank God because it has been quite easy for me.

“In setting up the NGO, one of the challenges is getting the children off the streets. I realised that some of the kids do not even want to leave street life. They believe it is fun to be on the streets selling things. Some don’t want to go to school and others would even insult you for trying to help them. They accuse you of not knowing what they have been through, and reminding you that you have no right to tell them not to sell things on the streets. The parents also don’t help matters they sometimes ask if your aim is to kidnap their kids.

“In addition, getting people to support the project is difficult. Many times, people assume that we set up NGOs just to make money or for personal reasons. But we thank God that things are working out. We already have companies that are supporting the project like the Dangote Group, Indomie noodles, Tristar International, Daily Plus and so on.”

Miss Valentine 2007
“The experience for me is awesome because I just wanted to showcase my talent at the show and I came out tops. It was fun, though I was not expecting to win. There were many contestants who were also very good looking and possessing what it takes to win but I beat them by God’s grace. When I emerged winner for the pageant, I was given a car and got a free trip to South Africa. It was fun, especially meeting many other beautiful girls like me.”

First time on the runway
“My first day on the runway was the St. Morris Star selection. My legs were shaking because I wasn’t too comfortable with the heeled shoes. Everybody was staring at me but it was fun at the end because I got my gait back. That was my first fashion show. I had a couple of others after that and I am not looking back at all.”

How do you keep in shape?
“I walk out a lot. I mind what I eat and when I eat, I don’t eat really much. I am not obsessed with watching what I eat because I eat healthy meals. I don’t eat late and I make sure I take my breakfast everyday, which is the most important meal of the day.”

How do you relax?
“I go to watch movies at the cinemas. Go to the beach, hangout with my sister’s kids or write poems.”

Male admirers
“It is a normal thing to have male admirers. I handle them just the way every regular woman would. I just keep them at bay.”

My kind of man
“I like a God-fearing man with a nice character. I like a bold and confident man. He has to be a lover of people and nice to be with. I don’t really care about him being handsome or not, I don’t also mind if he is tall or short.
“Yes, I have a boyfriend but he is a private person. I don’t want to talk about him.”

“I don’t really have a particular time set aside when I’d like to get married. Anytime it comes, whether now or later, as long as the right man is there who loves me as much as I love him. Strangely, nowadays even girls feel they are not accomplished enough to get married but I don’t feel that way. I am comfortable with the idea of settling down and starting a family of my own. I love children and I can hardly wait to have my own.”

Aside modelling, what else do you do?
“I have a clothing line I recently set up. It is called Rikaoto. For now, it deals with female clothing but eventually, I hope to move to male clothing as well. So, if I wasn’t a model, I would be managing the business full time.”

Role model
“In modelling, I admire Tyra Banks. In life, I look up to Iya Oge of Lagos, Chief Mrs. Oprah Benson. She is a nice woman to be with because she helps out with motherly advice all the time.”

“I am Maryam Elisha, I am from Kebbi State. I speak Hausa fluently because my parents raised us in Kano. My father is a retired policeman and my mother is a business woman. I am the last of seven children.”


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