You don't need to crunch statistics to recognize it was a record season for diversity: Of the 18 breakout models spotlighted in our Fall 2018 recap, half of the noteworthy newbies were non-white, including the heartbreakingly-beautiful Eniola Abioro, the first-ever Nigerian to walk Prada.
Several months before making her international debut as an exclusive on Miuccia Prada's Milan runway, the 19-year-old was working as a kindergarten teacher back in her hometown of Lagos, where she was discovered by local agency Few, then quickly signed by Next worldwide. The rest is history.
Abioro went from being the first person in her family to leave her country to walking top tier European runways including Miu Miu, Versace, Off-White and Loewe. Below, Fashionista caught up with the fresh face about her major Fall '18 season, meeting her idol Alek Wek and more.
Congratulations! You were the first Nigerian to walk Prada; how does it feel to be part of fashion finally championing a new wave of black models?
I feel honored, I am probably the happiest girl on earth right now with each day passing, because I have come to realized how significant it is in the modeling industry and I am glad to be part of this new change.
What was it like meeting Alek Wek? Was there anyone else you were star struck to meet?
Alek has always been one of the people I [have] looked up to ever since I was scouted and decided to consider modeling. I follow her Instagram and have kept up with her career. Meeting her backstage at Off-White was a dream come true. I also met Gigi Hadid backstage at Tommy Hilfiger – it was an honor to share the runway with her. Six months ago, I never would have thought that I would be able to see my idols in person.
What was your favorite show you walked and why?
Versace, because it allowed me to be myself on the runway. There was room for diversity, I walked it with a free spirit and no rules of the catwalk at mind.
Tell me more about your life before modeling.
Living full-time in Nigeria wasn't so long ago. I was quite an introvert — I like reading and watching movies, spending time with my family and friends. I was discovered whilst teaching at a local school.
What was it like having your face covered with glitter for Giambattista Valli?
At first I felt invisible, then I realized that I was still recognizable. I felt special behind the glitter.
Who are some new friends you made during fashion month?
I met some great girls and became close with: Oumie Jammeh, Aube Jolicoeur, Selena Forrest and Anok Yai.
How did you stay rested?
My mother agent travelled with me during the shows and fittings — she made sure that I was relaxed and calm. I would text with my mum everyday too.
Who is your celebrity crush?
Oh my God! Beyoncé! Her style, her strength, her songs, her diversity in the industry are goals!
How do you dress differently in Nigeria vs. Europe?
It has definitely changed! In Nigeria, not matter how cold it is, I'd never wear more than one layer of clothing. I learnt the hard way at first but soon learnt that layers are key.
What are you looking forward to in the next six months?
In six months I want to have broken more records. I want to be a role model to upcoming models. I want to be a good example!