What ever happened to some of the top contestants from America’s Next Top Model (ANTM)? Though Lifetime and the Style Network continually show reruns from all of the many cycles, other than Fatima Siad, Molly Steenis-Gondi, Jaslene Gonzales, Eugena Washington, and a few others, most of the contestants seem to have faded into model Neverland.
Though Aminat Ayinde is still not a household name, she definitely has not disappeared into fashion oblivion. Since 2009, Aminat has walked in every New York season of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, and can currently be seen as the model of choice for Emilio Sosa on Project Runway: All Stars season 2. Just witness the fierce strut of this gamine beauty, and it is all too obvious that Aminat Ayinde was destined for a career in fashion.
Unlike some ANTM alumnae, Aminat has transcended the ANTM post-career quagmire by staying clearly focused and using her charm and intelligence to stay relevant. And she didn’t have to change her name or her look to accomplish her goals.
Aminat Ayinde graciously sat down with Fashion Reverie and discussed her post-ANTM career, her faith and her love of fashion.
Fashion Reverie: Was modeling on your radar before you became a contestant on America’s Next Top Model?
Aminat Ayinde: Fashion was not on my radar before ANTM. My career pursuits centered around becoming a physical therapist. When I was recruited for the show I was a student at William Paterson University majoring in biology and African American studies. I assumed my path in life was to get an advanced degree, get a good job and have a comfortable life.
Aminat Ayinde: I always loved fashion because my mother was very stylish and often flew to Europe to buy fabric for her garments. I am from Lagos, Nigeria and most fashionable women in Nigeria get their garments made by a tailor or a seamstress because wearing tradition garments is the norm in Nigeria. There is not a huge retail or mall culture there, which I didn’t encounter until I came to the US.
But, I have always loved fashion, especially shoes. I have recently fallen in love with Jill Sanders.
FR: That said; who are some of your favorite designers?
Aminat Ayinde: I love Isaac Mizrahi from the late 80s and early 90s. I adore Paco Rabanne, YSL, Givenchy, and Valentino. I love designers that understand a real woman’s body. I love some African designer such as Jewel by Lisa, Duro Olowu, Tiffany Amber, and David Tlale. They are combining traditional African design with modern construction and innovative textile fabrications, which is so refreshing.
FR: Most people know you from ANTM, how did ANTM happen?
Aminat Ayinde: I was scouted for cycle 12, but prior to that I had been scouted for early cycles and I always turned it down. Monique Peters, who scouted me, finally convinced me to do it. Although I didn’t have to do an open call, the casting process was still tough.
When I finally heard back from the ANTM team I had already started my senior year at William Paterson University and I didn’t want to jeopardize my academic scholarship by leaving school and going on the show. I come from a strict Muslim household and my family and community frowned upon setting aside education for something as risky as a career in fashion, especially modeling.
FR: How do you balance fashion modeling with your faith?
Aminat Ayinde: The balance for me is quite easy. If you know where you come from and you understand the essence of your faith, the balance happens organically. I don’t like to put labels on anything. I am a citizen of the world. If I happen to be around elements in the industry that go against my faith or personal choice I avoid those things without judging people. Everyone has free choice.
I avoid things that would have a deleterious effect on my health. I am a fashion model so it is imperative that I look presentable and positively reflect my profession.
FR: Now back to ANTM.
Aminat Ayinde: There was this conflict of interest between my education and the show. My boyfriend at the time talked me into it and I got a leave of absence from my university. Prior to ANTM, I had only modeled in one fashion show for my university. So, I really was very green and had next to no experience. My only reference was what I read in fashion magazines and what I had witnessed on television.
FR: What happened to your career after your turn on cycle 12?
Aminat Ayinde: After the show I went back to school and graduated with honors. I naively thought that ANTM would immediately open a lots of doors for me, but after the show I couldn’t get representation by a major agency. The rejection did not deter me and subsequently in 2009 I walked in the ARISE Africa show at Bryant Park.
Interestingly enough, I booked the ARISE show myself, not through an agent or an agency. Originally, ARISE only wanted me as their in-house fit model for all the ARISE designers; however, I used that opportunity to showcase my abilities, and I ended up walking in their show. I learned from that experience how important it is to take advantage of every opportunity, and learn from every experience. I will always be grateful to ARISE for giving me my first opportunity outside of ANTM.
FR: Which designers have you worked with post-ANTM?
Aminat Ayinde: I have walked in every Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in NYC since 2009 and I have walked in Nigeria and South Africa Fashion Weeks. I have walked for Heatherette, Supima, Sergio Davila, Ahn Young Chee, LaQuan Smith, Korto Momolu, ARISE Africa, Zulu Rose, David Tlale, Lanre DaSilva-Ajayi and many others. I have appeared in Ebony, Seventeen, Essence, Genevieve and WD magazines, as well as some bridal magazines. And I booked all these shows and magazines without an agency. I really want aspiring models to know that if you cannot get agency representation, do not give up.
FR: You are Emilio Sosa’s model on the current Project Runway: All Stars. How did that come about?
Aminat Ayinde: The producers of Project Runway also produced cycles of ANTM. One of the casting directors who knew from ANTM asked me to try out for Project Runway: All Stars season 2; and they cast me. What is great about All Stars is that you work with the same designer throughout your tenure on the show.
It is also great to be back on primetime television. Some people may not agree with me, but if you are smart, television can open a lot of doors for you as a model. So many more people will get to see than will ever flip through the pages of a fashion magazine or attend a runway show.
FR: It is important as a model to have a sense of your own personal style. That said; what is your own personal style?
Aminat Ayinde: It is so important for an industry model to have a sense of their own personal style because in a major market there are so models that have charm, beauty and a great personality balanced with a great sense of style. You have to stand out among the plethora of working models, and one way to get noticed is to have your own personal style.
Now, that does not mean you should wear too much make-up and jewelry; you still want to look industry appropriate. But, you need a style that speaks to your personality and your perspective on fashion.
My personal is sophisticated, sexy chic. And I love to mix and match high-end designers with affordable clothes that show off the feminine silhouette. I actually have booked jobs just walking down the street based on my personal style.
Aminat Ayinde: My immediate goal is to get agency representation with a top NYC agency and to walk in major shows in London, Paris, Milan and other major international cities. I would also like to transition into more television and film work.
—William S. Gooch