Feature: The Impoverished Model from Okeho exploited by Private, Public Sectors and the International Media

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The hilly and agrarian town of Okeho in Oyo State is renowned for people who had climbed up the societal strata through the dint of hard work. Many of the national and international stars from the town have distinguished themselves in their daily endeavor and career. A new model named Cecilia Akinfenwa, is also on the rise but unfortunately, she is yet to enjoy a single penny from the endowment of nature on her and she keeps getting glowing words from people about her images adorning various advertising platforms.

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Cecilia on BBC Yoruba billboard in Ibadan

In 2017, Gregory Akinlotan, founder of Gregade Multimedia Studio invited Cecilia Akinfenwa and some other young girls as models and she was also dressed in an Aso-Oke attire. As typical of today’s photographer, she was told to pose as much as she wanted and she got beautiful images that she can be proud of!

Gregory Akinlotan, founder of Gregade Multimedia Studio

According to Akinlotan, the ideas to create those images were his; he invited her for the model shoot and she agreed. The Aso-Oke was even his Mum’s wedding dress and she signed a model release which permitted him to upload the image on Shutterstock. He said, “My intention for creating those images and putting them on Shutterstock is my desire to find opportunities for these ladies as models and myself as a photographer. I believe that putting the images online would give the necessary exposure, through which and hopefully, one day they can land good modeling roles.”

Cecilia on INEC’s poster in 2019

With the internet today, there is no restriction to what a person can become regardless of one’s location. Alas, Cecilia has turned into the bride of all brands and she has not received any form of compensation for becoming a sensational Yoruba girl and model that has brought great sales to all the brands that had used her image.

The various images of Cecilia, a Fine Artist trained at The Polytechnic, Ibadan, Oyo State, has been seen on the billboard of BBC Yoruba in Ibadan, the Oyo State Capital; Bigi drinks produced by Rite Foods; the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC); Zenith Bank and other MSMEs. It is quite disheartening that Cecilia’s image is being used for free by several brand graphic artists, she has become the unsung “Brand Ambassador” who would have brought great glory to Okeho and in fact, Oyo State as a whole and she would equally be smiling to the bank.

Cecilia on a handball of a real estate company

Just like I was gladdened when I sighted her image on the billboard of BBC Yoruba, in Ibadan. As the norm, I assumed that my friend had become a superstar, but I received the great shock of my life, when I got in contact with Cecilia, only to know that she’s not benefiting from what I deduced as a big win for her. It was during the course of this heart-wrenching conversation that I got to know that’s not the first time she had been confronted with such questions on her image on various brand.

Cecilia on Bigi drinks, product of Rite Foods Limited

As a media practitioner, I investigated the situation only to discover that the BBC Yoruba billboard was made in Kenya.

Shutterstock offers the best quality, royalty-free stock images, photos, vectors, illustrations, footage, music, and video for nearly any application. From illustrations to vectors, when you need the perfect stock image for your website or blog. The app has more than 360 million images as of December 31, 2020. The app has a special place for contributors to sell their content or show the shot list.

It is quite painful that what would have turned out to be a big win for Cecilia Akinfenwa, the photographer, Gregory Akinlotan (GM) and Okeho community as a whole eventually turned out saddening. Asides from the face of Cecilia being seen everywhere across the nation, many people would have assumed that she has turned into a model. The terms and conditions that govern Shutterstock gave it the autonomy to make the pictures available to brands, while the person who uploaded the picture gets peanuts whenever the picture is downloaded for use.

While Cecilia and Gregory’s case remains a case study, they are very hopeful that her time will come when they would look back and share their success stories with the world and let people learn lessons from the days when they were putting these images behind in the hinterland. While they were putting these images that had received admiration by all and sundry on billboards across the Southwestern states in Nigeria and across the globe.

Since Cecilia couldn’t get anything from this, what if several platforms that made use of her as their face eventually turn out to be a fraud after a lot of people have invested in it, will Cecilia Akinfenwa not be declared wanted?

In all, our desire is to have Cecilia be the face of many great brands as a well-cultured Yoruba girl. If Jumoke made it to stardom; we believe Cecilia and Gregory too will break forth into the limelight.

Kayode Awojobi is the Editor of News Wings NG and a Creative and Cultural Enthusiast. He can be reached on martexayobami@gmail.com

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