Today we bring to you an exclusive interview with one of Africa’s most successful models and humanitarians, Jessica Chibueze!
Jessica, who originally resided in Virginia USA, but is currently in Nigeria, is so much more than just a pretty face. Born on March 25th, the Nigerian native only began modelling in order to fund her humanitarian trips to Uganda. According to her, Jessica sees working as a model as a means towards an even bigger goal! Although she’s widely known for her striking looks and stunning photographs, Jessica has been going on mission trips to Uganda for 5 solid years now!
In 2015, Jessica’s fame skyrocketed after she was exclusively featured in the All Things Ankara Campaign, alongside American-Nigerian recording artist Jidenna.
The patriotic model would like to go back to do research and see for herself how things work in her home country, Nigeria.
Here is the Raro Lae Q & A with Jessica Chibueze!
When did you decide you wanted to pursue modeling and why?
I decided to pursue modeling seriously in the later half of 2013. I made this decision after my third mission trip Uganda and I needed to come up with other means to raise money to fund myself to get there. Years prior, I had been soliciting financial donations via crowd-funding, public speaking, and personal donations. By 2013, I wanted to figure out a way to raise money where I wouldn’t have to be dependent on other people and I believed that modeling was that way.
What has been your biggest obstacle in the modeling industry thus far? On the contrary, what has been your biggest accomplishment thus far?
My biggest obstacle thus far has been the fact that because there’s an over-saturation of freelance models, it’s hard for people to take me seriously at times. This has greatly reduced now that I’ve been doing this for over two years now, but there are still instances where someone would want to contract me for free and doesn’t feel as though they should have to pay. That’s annoying, especially for me whose main reason for modeling is to make money for a personal cause. I’m not modeling for fun. My biggest accomplishment was when I was recognized alongside Jidenna for the work I’ve done in modeling & humanitarianism. I’m the type of person who doesn’t need validation from others to know if what I’m doing is right, I can encourage and motivate myself with most things, but it was definitely a sense of confirmation to be recognized for something that I honestly didn’t know my peers were paying attention to! That was definitely the boost I needed at the time because this work isn’t easy at all!
You recently relocated to Nigeria for Youth Service. Please tell us a little about youth service (for those that may not know what it is) as well as, about your own experience with youth service.
The National Youth Service Corps is a program in Nigeria that Nigerian citizens who have graduated from university are required to complete before they can begin their careers in the Nigerian workforce. Essentially, the NYSC involves Nigerian graduates in the development of the country by deploying you a certain state that is “far” from your state of origin and posting you a certain sector where you work for one year. It’s comparable to an internship. It’s meant to also promote unity within the country by allowing you to live and work with other Youth Service from completely different tribes and cultures as you. To be honest, this program isn’t at all what i expected it to be. I definitely came into it blindly and although I didn’t need to partake in Youth Service (I didn’t have any intention of working in corporate Nigeria), I just wanted to experience youth service as a valid means to give back to Nigeria. To be objectively honest, the program definitely has room for improvement and development. What I’m most thankful for is that this program has exposed me to young Nigerians that I didn’t even know existed. I’ve been able to meet and interact with so many different people who have allowed me form a new perspective on Nigeria and the people that live here.
What impact has relocating had on your career?
Career-wise, in regards to the field that I acquired my degree in (international studies), relocating was perfect, because it’s allowing me to experience culture that is completely different from the American culture. Modeling-wise, I’m still exploring. Brand-wise, I have to strengthen my already established brand, as well as mold it so that it can withstand the Nigerian culture. That definitely can be seen as a setback, but I take this as a challenge.
You are not only a model though, you have beauty and brains! Jessica, tell us a little bit about your academic accomplishments and your educational journey.
Haha! Thank you for the compliments! I just graduated this past May from George Mason University in Fairfax, VA. I majored in International Studies and double-minored in Public Health and Nonprofit Studies. How I even secured this combination of degrees is quite peculiar. When I was applying to George Mason, I had NO INTENTION of going there. I had carelessly picked International Studies as the major just to submit the application and completely forgot about it. When time came for me to choose a school, my parents had convinced me to stay in-state and choose George Mason. I was too lazy to change my major so I kept it as International Studies. That summer, in the weirdest way, I found myself in Uganda on a mission trip and that trip changed my life! I vowed that I was going to work in international development. By the time I came back to America to get ready for my freshmen year of college, that International Studies major that I didn’t think twice about when I had first applied to Mason, made so much sense to me now. I was so happy that I didn’t change it! Getting minors in Nonprofit Studies and Public Health happened during my sophomore and senior years respectively, and the desires for both degrees came as a result of subsequent mission trips to Uganda and one other mission trip to South America.
In addition to being beautiful and educated, you also have a heart like none other for the less fortunate. Please tell us about your philanthropic efforts and what inspired you to become so involved.
Since I was 18, I’ve been going on mission trips to Uganda with the faith-based nonprofit called African Christian Fellowship U.S.A Inc. Before I went on my first mission trip, I had no desire about wanting to change Africa or be involved with giving back overseas. When I came back from my first mission trip in 2011, I was on fire. I literally made a vow to myself and God and that I was going to find a way to use my life to change Africa from that point forward. I had done a very good amount of community service work in America since I was in elementary school, but this was the first I was radically making an effort to give back on a global scale. In 2012, the East Coast Region of the ACFUSA Inc. allowed me to create and pilot a public health initiative in one of the villages we visited that year. I devised a lesson plan to teach the young children who came to our medical outreach program the importance of taking baths in order to combat some of the diseases they were coming to us to get medicine for. After teaching the children, my team and I picked the neediest children and physically gave them bathes and provided them with new clothes and supplies to be able to bath properly for some time even after we would leave. In 2012, 20 kids were bathed and clothed. In 2013, 60 children were bathed and clothed, in 2014, 150 children were bathed and clothed. In 2015, 142 children were bathed and clothed. Each year, we made sure to provide them with the supplies to be able to take bathes for at least 2 months after we left. In 2014, we were able to provide each child with enough supplies of soap, water disinfectant, sponges, towels, toothbrushes and toothpaste, to bathe for up to a 6-8 months assuming they managed the supplies properly.
In your down time, what do you enjoy doing?
I love taking walks and going on mini adventures by myself or with a one other person. I loveeeee listening to music and thrifting (when I was still in America) and if I could, I would go on a mission trip in a different country every weekend!
What are your view points on Boko Haram and the Nigerian government infrastructure?
This question might just take me hours to answer. Concerning Boko Haram, Unfortunately I’ve become SLIGHTLY desensitized to the situation in order to keep my sanity. When myself and other Nigerian college students conducted the D.C. #BringBackOurGirls Peace rally in 2014, I naively thought that our efforts, as well as the efforts of the Nigerians who held rallies all over the world, were going to really rattle Nigeria government into finding the Chibok girls. But in the end, nothing. I don’t even know if all of the girls were ever found, dead or alive. Although people (specifically Nigerians living in Nigeria) have tried to convince me that the missing Chibok girls event was a political conspiracy theory, I refuse to believe such. Boko Haram took those girls and the government failed to care enough about their well-being to locate them. Boko Haram is still a very real issue in Nigeria, but the only time BH make the news is AFTER they finished killing people. Government in my opinion isn’t doing enough to alleviate the country of BH terrorism. As for the infrastructure of the Nigerian government, sorry to say this, but it’s completely flawed and I’ve lost hope in it. I don’t even take the initiative to follow Nigerian Politics anymore unless it’s an extremely pressing issue to once again, maintain my sanity. From its infrastructure, to the people who are work in the government that are meant to perfect that infrastructure, the government in this country is in chaos.
What would you change in the modeling industry?
I’m not sure if this is considered me wanting to change something in the modeling industry, but I would like for freelance models to be taken more seriously and be taken into consideration more in the castings for significant jobs. Most of the time, corporate brands or significant jobs in general automatically go to modeling agencies to book models, leaving those of us without representation, out of the loop.
What do you think your purpose on earth is to do/be?
I’m supposed to influence young people just like me (first-generational Africans) to go back to the countries our parents hail from and develop those counties. As of right now, that’s what I believe my purpose is. And I believe I’m not meant to do that by talking and TELLING our generation that they’re meant to do it, but my sharing my experiences of my being able to do it, and the peculiar individuals that resonate with me will get up and implement change in their countries.
What essentials do you need to have on set for you to have a flawless execution?
LOL, I’m not sure is this is the essential you’re referring to, but playing African music while shooting helps me to perform better. So music is definitely an essential. Also, having a talented Makeup artist is a must. Someone who has studied different people’s faces and can quickly access your face to know what’s going to work for you excites me! Because the makeup artists transforms your face in order for you convey what the photographer needs. When the makeup makes sense, I’m motivated to serve the face needed to get amazing shots.
Quick! What are your top 10 songs on your recently played iTunes music list?
1) Mr. Eazi- Sample You
2) Mr. Eazi ft. Efya- Skin Tight
3) Drey Beatz ft. Ceeza Mili & Ketchup- Panty Drop
4) Fetty Wap- JImmy Choo
5) Skepta ft. D Double E & ASAP Nast- Ladies Hit Squad
6) DJ Maphorisa ft Wizkid x DJ Buckz- Soweto Baby
7) PartyNextDoor ft. Drake – Come and See Me
8) Future- Maybach
10) Dj Shabsy ft. Kiss Daniel & Sugarboy- Raba *kinda cheated for this one, LOL*