Pretty, chic, fun and focused are just a few words that describe Model/Media Personality Isio Wanogho. With a huge array of campaigns in print and on TV as both a model and presenter in her eleven year career, she gracefully surpassed her peers, earning a great reputation and popular acclaim.
Being the last born of five children to a ‘very intellectual’ family, Isio did not relent in her educational pursuits, endlessly breaking the stereotype of the bimbo model.
With her modelling career taking the back seat in the last few years, Isio’s bountiful career still sees her recognized as ‘Isio the model’ even though her other exploits have brought in more income.
Equipped with her effervescent and elegant personality, Isio sits at the Scarlet lodge and discusses with BN in-depth about her new projects and how she’s about to woo the world yet again.
As a model, one of your most striking features is your very beautiful eyes. Your eyes have raised a lot of comments as to if you’re mixed-race or have some Asian blood in you. So, are you?
To the best of my knowledge, I’m not Chinese (laughs) or mixed. I get a lot of disappointed faces when people ask, mostly abroad, where I’m from and I tell them that I’m African and more specifically, Nigerian. They seem to expect something more exotic, like my grandfather is Japanese and my mother is Egyptian. But, no, I’m a pure bred Urhobo, one hundred percent.
I read in a tabloid that you are related to Cynthia Bailey from the Real Housewives of Atlanta because you two look alike.
May be we had a common ancestor or her Kinta Kunte was taken from my tribe (laughs). Honestly, I wasn’t like this when I was a child. It was there but it wasn’t so obvious and the older I got, it became more obvious so I decided to highlight it. It’s very easy for me to do the wind thing because I don’t have to spend so much time contouring and all that. The older I got, my nose started becoming straighter and my eyes started going upward. When I was younger, I was the butt of a lot of jokes because of that actually.
Where did you grow up?
I was born in Lagos. When I was five, I went to boarding house. A school called May Flower at Ikene, Ogun state – Tai Solarin’s school. The reason for that was my father wanted all his kids, male or female to be very strong and very self-reliant. I had barely formed and he just bounced me there. All of us were in the school so there was no whining about it. I spent twelve years there and came out when I was seventeen. I started modelling when I was eighteen.
You’ve made quite a comeback on the social scene. What was the reason for the hiatus and where have you been?
I was away for two years. I’m such a nerd. That is something a lot of people don’t know about me. I love to read and study. I come from a family of intellectuals so I can’t be lacking in that regard. So, I went away to do my Master’s degree in Europe. I went to a design school in Italy to study Interior architecture. I couldn’t imagine just having a bachelor’s degree and being done with it. I have a bachelor’s in creative arts and wanted to delve a little further. Apart from that, I have several diplomas – it’s ridiculous, about four actually.
So you have quite a love for school?
I love to study. I went to finishing school. I studied Italian and did some computer programming courses. I did fashion design. I really just love to study because I was lucky enough to know my strengths and know what I like to do. And, maybe it is because of the boarding house influence as I was allowed a lot of expression. If you are good in many things, you owe it to yourself to pursue that many things and find out which one you like best and that’s just what I do. I love to model. I love being a socialite because it’s fun. I love to paint, read and study so I do all these things. For me, it’s not just about one thing and ignoring all the others. I do everything I love.
You were recently made the Youth Ambassador for Global Unity, Peace & Development. How did this happen?
Before this happened, an organization, African Youth Society told me they had been studying my life and career for about two or three years. I had no idea. They wanted to give me a role model award sometime back in 2010. They let me know, as they had studied me and found out that I pretty much made myself. They were quite impressed and wanted me to mentor other young people; especially since people thought that modelling was quite frivolous. They wanted to use me to show people that you could be a good model, be well-educated; have a good image and still sustain a great career. After that, its governing body decided to make me a youth ambassador instead. I am still very excited about it.
So, what duties have been bestowed upon you as a result?
I will soon start up my own foundation. I have an interest in hunger because it’s very dear to me. Out of the three most important human necessities – food, clothing and shelter, I decided to focus on food because I can relate to it. My foundation is going to be about alleviating hunger. I want to have a soup kitchen where twice a day, every day for the rest of your life if you wish, you can come and have a good meal. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re coming from. Some people are so poor and it is sad how we take some of these things for granted.
Every day, as a model, I am reminded about this. People come to me saying, “You have a great body. I am too fat. How do I lose all this extra weight?” And, I’m thinking to myself, “You don’t know how much of a luxury ‘being fat’ is”. Some people are so poor and hungry that they have no choice but to be thin and skinny. I was in a boarding house for so long in a school that was very hard. I know what it is to be hungry and be crying. I know what it is to eat fish bones and treat it like your chicken or to be so thirsty that I would be crying. Don’t get me wrong, my school wasn’t a poor school but it was very hard, almost like a military school. So, if food is one thing I can give back so that you never have to cry, I think I have done my part.
What are some of your fondest memories as a child?
Growing up, I used to love Kung fu. I was a tomboy. And, with my love for modelling since six, by the time I was becoming muscular at thirteen, I had to stop. You know those mops you can unscrew the head from the stick? I used to use those sticks to smack anyone who was getting on my nerves. I used to play fight with my friends and siblings. I love action movies. I’m not the type of person to watch romantic chick flicks.
(Gasps) My mother never knew about this, but she’ll find out now, sorry mummy. There was this neighbour of ours who had a flat roof. My siblings and I would climb up to the top of his house and jump into a pile of sand from it. And, we kept doing it over and over again until we got dirty and tired. It was so exciting. I had an amazing childhood.
How about your fitness now?
I do pilates regularly.
No diet regime?
Well, I don’t eat a lot of grub. I try to eat healthy. I don’t take a lot of milk because I’m lactose intolerant. You need to know how to mix your food. There are a lot of foods you shouldn’t eat together. For example, you shouldn’t eat watermelon with other fruits. It doesn’t digest well. Your body is a machine. Would you pour water and petrol into your car’s fuel tank? No. If you’re not having a very active day, I don’t think you need three full meals. And, even then, I might have one real meal and maybe two light snacks. I cook a lot but I make sure it’s diverse.
What’s your specialty in the kitchen?
I make a very good Edikan kong soup. Also, my coconut rice with chicken is very yummy. I can cook most things that are not Hausa food.
Does your man love your cooking?
I try not to spoil people I’m dating. I would cook for you but we’re not married so don’t be expecting you’ll see a meal every night. There are certain privileges I have reserved for only my husband. As a boyfriend, you get only a little bit of a taste. You can’t get the privileges of a husband without taking the responsibilities of one.
What was it like kissing Chris Attoh at Mai Atafo’s “Dream Wedding II”?
Chris is such an amazing person. It was so short that a lot of people missed it. I actually got a prank call from a girl shouting, “you kissed Chris… blah blah blah” and I was like “Sister, it is not that hard. Relax”. It was a really short kiss. It was supposed to be long and deep and romantic but it was nice.
Did you two rehearse the kiss before the big day?
No, we didn’t rehearse. I had gotten the brief and I knew it was going to happen but all I kept saying was “Chris, don’t come and spoil my market”. He just laughed and kept reminding me that it was acting so it’s fine.
Would you say Chris Attoh is a great kisser?
Kissing Chris was… (giggles) He was very gentle. We’ve been friends for about six years and we’ve done a lot of wedding shoots together. If I was going to kiss someone, I would rather it be my friend. To all of Chris’ female fans, please don’t send me any hate mail.
With the chemistry you had on the stage, some people made comments that you and Chris have dated before.
No, we haven’t. He’s a nice guy and he’s just a friend. Also, the fact that I said we’ve been friends for six years doesn’t mean that we hang out regularly.
In that case, who’s the man in your life right now?
I’m not among the school of people who think that being single is a death sentence. On the contrary, I have lots of fun. I’m more successful when I’m single because I’m driven and focused. I don’t like dating but I enjoy being in a relationship which is tough because I need to date before it can evolve into a relationship. What I mean by this is that I’m not one of those girls who goes in and out of relationships. I give myself time to deal with whatever went wrong and if we can’t fix it, then we move on. I give myself a long time to make sure I don’t repeat past mistakes. And, yes, I’d have lots of suitors during that period but, you don’t just date because you’re scared you’ll be alone. You date because where you’re going to is better than where you’re coming from. Until I can find someone that can give me that, there’s no point. So, I’m at that point where I’m ready to make the decision. I’m single right now.
What about marriage?
My mother has never for once, pressured me about marriage. Right now, I’m twenty nine and I’ll be turning thirty this year. My mum got married when she was twenty six and then my dad was in his mid thirties. She always tells me that a bad marriage is the second worst thing in the world, next to going to hell, so I should take my time and be with the right person. And, we don’t believe in divorce so my mum always tells me no one will give me an award if I rush into it.
Have you been engaged before?
Yes, I have and that is more of a reason why I don’t want a repeat of any of my past mistakes. If you’ve been engaged before, you realize that before you do it again, you need to make sure it is worth it.
Do you have any celebrity crushes?
I really like Chiwetel Ejiofor but nobody is going to tell me if he’s married (laughs). My type of man is very masculine. I also like Usher and Jason Mamoa – ‘Khal Drogo’ from ‘The Game of Thrones’ TV series. I like Michael J. White.
Are there any celebrity females you ‘admire’?
People tell me I have a great body but I think the person with the most amazing body is Blake Lively. I also like Amber Rose‘s body.
How about your TV career?
I’ve got a few projects in the works.
Back to your art, you mentioned that you love to paint. How did you get into painting?
Yes, I do. I actually have a studio in my house. During my bachelor’s degree, I majored in painting and sculpture. I have an exhibition coming up soon around September and I have to showcase about ten paintings. So, that’s another aspect of me.
I was born with the gift of art. I never ‘learnt’ how to be an artist. You know that kid that would just sit somewhere and scribble on all her notebooks? That was me. It was only natural that I pursued an education in it. I’m an artistic and creative person. When I tell people all the things that I’ve done and all the things in my CV, they say – “Wow! How can one person do all these things?” But, it’s not so difficult if you allow yourself to be fluid. It’s all about creation and expression and there are so many mediums to do this. For me, there are no limits – from fashion to oil on canvas; or graphic design, whatever. If you throw me in a desert, I would make sculptures with sand. As long as I can express myself, whatever medium is fine.
Did you miss modelling while you were getting your Master’s degree?
I did. I modelled in Milan, not professionally though. The primary reason of me going abroad was to get my Master’s so I was focused but I just couldn’t resist. Modelling is such a beautiful thing. I can’t explain it; you just have to feel it, especially when I’m on the ramp. It’s like how a dancer feels when they are in the zone. I love Latin dance, by the way.
As a Lagos socialite, there aren’t so many opportunities to salsa at events or at the club. What is night life like for Isio Wanogho?
I go to events to meet my industry friends and have chats. But, I won’t dress up and go to a club. I would dress up to go to the movies with my friends or go to the park or maybe even go jet skiing. I’m not a club person. I would rather dress up and go to a Salsa club.
What else do you enjoy doing while you’re ‘off-duty’?
I love to cook. I love to read. I love to laugh so I hang out with people that make me laugh. I swim but I would only swim if I knew that my feet could touch the floor. My head has to be above the water. I would swim in the ocean if I had a life jacket. I actually prefer that to a pool. I did that when I was in Porto Venere in Italy. We swam in the Mediterranean and it was a lot of fun.
Most recently, a lot of Nigerian models have braved the art of nudity in photography. Being an artist and a model, would you ever consider posing for such?
Oh no! Why would I do that? Modelling is about selling something; it’s about an ideal. Because I use my body as a vessel to promote someone else’s creativity; that is what it is. You can make the clothes scanty, nudist or what have you, but I’m not selling my body to you. I’m selling your clothes on this body so people can say – ‘Wow! That looks nice’.
As an artist, I understand body art and the body as an art form. If I see a nude portrait and I think it looks nice, I would applaud the photographer. For crying out loud, I’ve painted live nude models in arts class while we’re studying the body’s anatomy so I’m no stranger to nudity. But, for me, it’s a no. My body is a very nice gift so I’ll keep it under wraps (laughs).
Speaking of covering up, you always look very fashionable at events. How would you describe your style?
What would you never be caught wearing?
Brown fishnets. There are other things but that is at the top of my list.
Do you have any favourite African designers?
Frank Osodi, Mai Atafo, Deola Sagoe, Tiffany Amber, Da Vida and most recently, Folake of House of Maflax.
Are you putting your Master’s degree in Interior design to use yet?
Yes! I have my own design company, Isio DelaVega Design Studios (IDDS). I have staff who work with me on a wide array of works. The company also has fashion and communications departments. For now, all our energy is focused on satisfying our interior architecture clients. Over time, we’ll be able to expand in the other areas.
Tell us one of your unusual habits
When I get really happy sometimes, I go completely naked and sing at the top of my voice all over my house. I only do this when I’m alone though. My neighbours think I’m very crazy. Generally, I also don’t sing if there’s anyone there. I just do it for my own personal pleasure.
It was great chatting with Isio and from BellaNaija, we wish her the very best!