LAGOS, Nigeria — It’s a classic case of being in the right place at the right time. A young street seller oblivious to the scene ahead, her wares perched atop her head, photobombed a shoot and in that split second her life changed forever.
Jumoke Orisaguna is a mother of two who used to walk the streets of Lagos selling bread. Originally a hairstylist from Osun State, south west Nigeria, she was struggling to make ends meet, and left her husband and two children in their home town to become a street vendor in the economic capital.
Working from 2:30pm to 11:00pm selling bread, Jumoke would make less than $20 each day –with a profit of around $1.
Now she’s about to become a top model; signed to a modeling agency and gaining international fame and prominence.
A happy accident
Renowned Nigerian photographer TY Bello is behind the change in Jumoke’s fortunes. TY was photographing UK popstar Tinie Tempah when Jumoke walked into shot.
“She seemed a little confused,” says Bello. “Some people were asking her to walk past really quickly, others were asking her to stay, she was just in limbo. I said ‘is it ok to take your photograph?’ And she nodded ok.”
“I didn’t think I made a great image,” Bello says, but once she posted the shots on social media, interest in Jumoke exploded.
“When the photographs landed for the first time on social media, everyone immediately thought she was a model,” Bello explains.
“No one believed she just walked past. It occurred to me that if everyone thought she should be a model then maybe she should be one, then the search for her began.”
A contract with Few Models followed and soon Jumoke’s face will appear on billboards after landing a lucrative contract.
Long term future
“I never expected this would ever happen to me,” says the erstwhile bread seller. “My friends have told me they saw me on the TV and they are really happy. My parents cannot believe their own child can become such a success. They are all so happy.”
Now the mum of two has been given a scholarship to complete her education, and a bank has offered to pay for schooling for her two children, aged five and one, until university age.
“Everyone connected with the story because everybody has dreams,” argues Bello. “This is a very tough time in my country… Everyone is looking for that magical break… I think this is definitely divine because the way people have connected with it is just phenomenal. It’s a phenomenal story.”