When you think of the UK urban modelling scene Kosher Osei-Yaw has made it his job for you to think of his agency first. Kosher is the owner of Femelle a London based model agency and Femelle photographic studios. With his stunning eye-ctching photograpy and beautiful models on his books he has built one of the UK’s most reputable urban modelling agencies, and has set his sight on being part of an international modeling market. Flavour caught up with the South West Londoner to find out how he plans to change and conquer the scene here, the US and beyond.
What is Femelle’s Dream Team?
An elite team of the UK’s finest caliber urban models, trained, groomed and grown to be the best. Within FDT you’ll find strength in numbers, there’s something for everyone – looks, shape, sex appeal, elegance, charisma and attitude. This is more than just a group of pretty girls, it’s a movement!What is your opinion on the current state of the UK urban modeling scene? There are too many flaws in the UK approach to the business conduct and treatment of models of an ethnic background in regards to income, profile and general management. There is so much potential for our models yet we don’t have the exposure / status we deserve, plus I don’t think we should be scared to do better yet we don’t sell ourselves enough to get that status the state of play is that from the model perspective, there are too many girls that are simply deluded and suffer from delusion of grandeur in regards to their look, image and worth. What I mean by this is that there are a lot of girls in the industry that if we’re brutally honest don’t have what it takes to make it.
Everyday we get emails from girls that want to get into the game and they are either 5ft1 (LOL) and stout and are adamant that the only work they want to do is editorial and runway, OR you get girls that want to get into the urban glamour scene, but haven’t got a clue of what it actually entails to make it and how hard it really is. Bottom line is our industry will only be taken seriously, if the girls that are pertaining to be models actually look like models and study the hustle.
How is the industry seen by our US counterparts?
From a business perspective the industry is laughed upon by our overseas cousins and our non-urban domestic counterparts because it seems that anybody and everybody can set up an agency on a whim. I’m sick and tired of looking at agency’s books and not seeing credible girls, as well as often hearing from girls how they are signed to this and that agency and the nonsense that comes with it i.e. exclusivity to an agency that can’t guarantee you work, let alone the agents operating from the passenger seat of a friends car with a mobile phone, not even from a basic business premises- how can we expect to make money and be taken seriously if we’re not willing to put in the money to set up and operate.
Then you have agencies demanding girls to pay unreasonable sums of money to be on their books, but again can not guarantee work, as well as agents that assign models to jobs that do not promote the models in a positive light, nor lines their bank account with funds. We’ve even come across guys forming model agencies as a front in order to try to date and bed girls which then makes girls dubious as to signing or working with reputable people.
I think we need to as business people in this industry become more uniformed and regulated in our approach and conduct when it comes to business, the fact is the urban fashion and music industry in the UK is a £multi-million industry, yet most models can not earn a decent wage from it and agencies seem to pop up and fold every 3 months.
How did it all begin for you?
It began when we helped a friend set up an agency and after some consideration and all the hard work we had put in doing so realizing that this was something that we could do ourselves. That was 5 long years ago, we started off with girls, just girls, now when we look back at some of the girls and the work we were putting out, we can see the progress we have made from then till now. Back then we were moonlighting out of an office premise in Brixton where I was delivering youth programmes for young vulnerable people, after 2 years of dragging our girls to various studios to be shot by various photographers and paying good money and receiving poor quality we felt the need to set up a purpose built space that catered for our modeling, photographic and business needs. That was when we got our first studio based in Pete Waterman’s old Hit Factory studios on Union St in London Bridge. The building was subsequently sold a year later, at which point we relocated to our current studio in Elephant & Castle.
What does it take to be an entrepreneur in today’s industry?
It takes a clear vision, drive, ambition, determination and staying power. I believe they are the key ingredients, once you have those in the pot then you need to add contacts, ethics and a little reputation. Let that cook on a low heat for a while and then serve with a generous portion of knowledge and patience. What comes over night goes overnight, the longer it takes to come, the longer it lasts, and Rome was not built in a day. All great entrepreneurs have vision and can often see opportunities where others fail to do so.
How do you balance your personal life with a hectic business?
There isn’t a balance. The person you work hardest for is yourself, and when running your own business it is hard to switch off, there is always one more thing to do, one more call to make, always a new idea to help elevate the business and brand, therefore there is no time to rest. At the moment my personal life is on hold until I feel I have got the business to where it can sustain itself. I acknowledge it is important to know when it is time to recharge, but I guess it is easier to work non-stop when the thing you work at is what you love.
What’s unique about what you’re doing?
Nothing! It’s not what I’m doing; it’s the way I’m doing it. In regards to the UK I genuinely believe there is no one within my sector that is as hard and as diverse as we are in regards to our brand and our product. This is 5 years in the making and its still growing. I guess the uniqueness to what we do is the vision and the way we are approaching it – all bases covered. Watch this space!
How did you get all the equipment to set up your business?
Hardwork and funding from our own personal pockets. There have been no sponsors, no investors, no bank loans, just sheer work.
What are some of your short-term goals?
To launch FDT in February 2009, launch I-Candy magazine in 2009 and continue in the vain that we are currently progressing in.
What are some of your long-term goals?
To be acknowledged and established internationally both in US and further afield. To have Femelle Studios franchise / units around the country in key cities e.g. Birmingham, Manchester and Cardiff.
I hear you’ve teamed up with a few people to create a UK men’s magazine called I-Candy. What can we expect?
You can expect the first and ultimate UK Black Men’s lifestyle magazine with that urban edge. With Butterfly Models & Flavour Magazine being the partners I believe we have all bases covered. Flavour brings years of publishing and editorial clout to the table whereas Femelle brings all the beautiful girls and stunning visual representation to the table and Butterfly Models is the leading film and editing team out here at the moment. With this team you can expect a high end UK lads mag packed with beautiful eye candy with intellectual articles supported by amazing moving images and videos. Keeping you up on the latest trends, fashions, sports, music, entertainment, gadgets and gismos.
Can UK urban models ever be valued at the same level as American models like Esther Baxter and Buffy the Body?
Of course. The first thing you have to appreciate when making comparisons to the US is that the music video girl phenomena that is firmly established in the US is new to the UK, and in general the UK is always 5-10yrs behind the US. I genuinely believe that with the likes of Channel U, BET, and other UK music channels that there is great scope for us to be able to develop and promote our own home-grown Buffy’s, Esther’s and Megan Good’s, but this is all dependent on the management and development of 1) the models and 2) the scene and culture that it is. It has happened already in regards to the non-urban scene whereby models such as Katie Price, Jodie Marsh and countless others who have made successful careers based on their looks whether it be signing autographs at car shows for money, to setting up websites where people subscribe and pay for downloads, calendars and other merchandise.
Who is your favourite US video girl and why?
Ki Toy. I think she has distinctive features with regards to her facial structure not to mention a great body. She also has a certain attitude and presence both on-screen and on shoots.
What advice can you give models wanting to get into the industry?
Do your research, study the game, invest in yourself, connect with the right people, be selective about who you work with.
Interview by Annika Allen