Nigeria’s first professional model, Yemi Fawaz is dead.
Yemi, who pioneered professional modelling in Nigeria, died at the age of 64 following her battle with congestive heart failure and other related diseases.
She started the first modeling school and professional modeling agency in Nigeria and in West Africa, giving aspiring young African models the chance to pursue their dreams.
Born in Nigeria to a Lebanese father and a Nigerian mother, Yemi came into the Nigerian fashion industry in the late 70s and gave it a new face inspite of the challenges she encountered.
Sadly, as things became more difficult in the industry, Yemi, closed down her school and relocated to New York in March 1997 with her now 33-years old daughter, Tobi.
“When there is no love, where there is no support, when jealousy is more than achievement, things cannot work. I fought for years in this country. I fought so much with the advertising companies to the extent that I became their enemy. The advertising companies blacklisted my company for years. I suffered in silence. My models walked away from me because they were not getting jobs.
All these happened because I was always telling them the way they were handling children was not good. A job that deserved at that time N15,000, you will give them N10,000. Upon that, they would still sleep with the models”, she told Encomium some of the many reasons she relocated, in a 2016 interview.
In New York, she started working in the fashion industry and incorporated her business of promoting African fashion. Yemi wanted to ensure both white and black people fell in love with African wears like iro and buba, George and kente.
When she became a born again Christian and ordained a deaconess, her modeling business suffered a bit, however, she was still recognised for the exploits she did in the industry.
For over 30 years, she had a successful career as a fashion and photographic model, beauty promoter/consultant, fashion designer, trade show organizer, chef and a restaurateur.
Having spent 19 years in New York, she came back to Nigeria to start Banner of Love International Outreach Inc, a non-governmental organization set to provide medicare and eradicate poverty among the underprivileged.
The inspiration to set up Banner of Love came when I was diagnosed with a large heart. I didn’t know anything about NGO. I was told my heart was damaged and there was nothing they could do.I turned my face to the wall and I talked to the Lord. If the Lord healed me, I would go out there to help other people”, she told Encomium.
Until her death, the mother of one never got married. She had her daughter before she became a born again Christian
“I give God all the glory that I have never been married and I have never been divorced…. If God converted me the way He converted me now, I would not have had a baby out of wedlock. But at that time, I was in the world, I didn’t know the difference. I was an unbeliever, I was a convenient Christian in Africa where we have 2, 3 or 4, boyfriends at a time. If I was a Christian then, it couldn’t have happened”, she told The Sun in a 2016 interview.
Yemi’s daughter confirmed the news of her mother’s death through her own Facebook page.
It is with great sadness that I am announcing the passing of my Mother Deaconess Yemi Fawaz. We thank God for her well…
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