Before 2011, Nigerian model Bertha Amuga would not have predicted the path her career would take, or that she would turn a part of her that people had teased her for, into a career. However, today, Bertha is one of Nigeria’s most successful models, but that’s not all there is to this amazing woman. In this interview, we talk to her about starting her career, giving back to society in the form of her charity, and being true to herself regardless of what others think or say.
“Growing up in Port Harcourt as a child I was very skinny so I was a laughing stock among my friends and people around me,” she says. She never took it to heart, and soon enough, that all changed when Nigerian model Agbani Darego won the Miss World competition in 2001. “Suddenly, my name was changed to Agbani,” Bertha laughs. “Till date some of the people I grew up with still call me that name.”
Yet, at that time, she still did not consider modeling her future career. “In the Estate I lived in Port Harcourt, there was a bar close to the house and a man they called Chairman was always on my case to go into modeling. Most times, I shied away, but look at me here today after all the drama,” Bertha says. In 2011, Kinabuti scouted her, and her career took off. It has been a journey of growth and success for Bertha since then. “Looking back at where I am coming from, where I am today, and where I am going, I will say am truly grateful to God. For me, modeling was a life changing experience,” she says. Yet, as much as her career has empowered her and influenced her personal growth, it has not been a journey without its own obstacles.
On Being Focused
“I have grown over the years in my personal life and career; that is because I love to improve myself,” Bertha says. “Whenever I see someone doing something new/big I get inspired.”
The Nigerian model places huge value on proper work ethics, and keeping one’s head regardless of what else is going on. “I am very professional when it comes to my job and when I’m asked to do something during work I give it my best, 100%. Most times, people misunderstand this and think I don’t have time for anything other than my job sometimes. They use the word ‘bitch’ to describe me, but the good thing is that I don’t get worried about these things. I don’t even think of them so am good.”
Often, people quit on things they love when it gets hard, but Bertha is not one to be deterred by any obstacles, rejection or stereotypes though. Her outlook on such situations is refreshing, and worth adopting: “Rejection doesn’t mean you’re not good; it just means that you don’t fit into what the agency or brand is looking out for.”
On The Nigerian Modeling Experience
Bertha has had considerable local and international experience as a model, and from that she says, “I would love to see Nigerian models being appreciated. I want our society to see models as brands not just good looking people.”
Many other misconceptions and stereotypes are rife about the modeling industry; however, Bertha considers it important to know what one wants as an individual, and make it happen. “Everyone in this part of the world sees models as sex symbols, but I don’t let it bother me. In my case, I try to put my energy into things that matters not just what people think or say because all that doesn’t add to my life or who I am.” She is also fierce about debunking stereotypes and doing the work she loves. “It’s like how many people say modeling is not a lifetime career; it’s for certain age,” Bertha explains. “Yet, people like Naomi, Iman, Alek, and Cyndy are still working and they are constantly breaking barriers.”
On Giving Back and Supporting Women
Bertha is more than a model; she also runs a non-governmental organization for your young girls. Her NGO, AMUGA’S HOPE, is focused on providing support to teenage girls/moms.
“Amuga’s Hope was inspired by some close friends and relatives who are teen moms. I saw how they couldn’t pick up with life after becoming moms at young ages,” Bertha explains. “At Amuga’s Hope, we counsel, educate, and empower teenage girls and teenage mothers because of things like sexual and physical abuse, molestation, and rape. We counsel and educate these young girls and also get them lawyers to fight their cases if need be.”
The NGO empowers the moms by facilitating access to learning skills, and encourages them to go back to school.
Advice to Aspiring Models
Young women should have successful people they look up to, whether in their immediate environment or not; it’s no secret that Bertha loves supermodel Naomi Campbell. She sees her as an inspirational figure.
“My love for Naomi is endless; she is one strong woman,” Bertha says. “In the modeling industry today, being a supermodel is not just about how many jobs you have done, but also how well you can deliver and looking at all this, I will say yes I am qualified to be called a supermodel.”
Thinking about her younger self, and all that she has since learnt, Bertha has brief but concise advice for aspiring models: “Hard work pays.”
Fun Facts about Bertha:
Career: The highlights of my career have been: walking at the Arise Fashion Week, seeing my photos in Vogue online, and walking at the New York Fashion Week.
Beauty Regimen: “I eat a lot of vegetables, drink lots of water, sleep as much as I can and exercise.”
Photos courtesy Bertha Amuga.