Cork model Busi Zulu: This is for every black person who has felt ‘cut off’

Cork model Busi Zulu arranged a photo shoot to celebrate ‘Black Creatives in Ireland’. Here she tells us the reason why and shows us the stunning results
Cork model Busi Zulu: This is for every black person who has felt ‘cut off’

Busi Zulu wearing the Lavender Robe - €55 from M.I.O Prints. Picture: David Nwokocha (Cupid Visuals)

I HAD reached the finals of a model search, and this alone was a massive achievement for a 5ft 3in, gapped-tooth girl with a big bum, because every model I had seen on magazines was the complete opposite.

My best friend, Jim, had asked if he could put me forward for the competition. We were both just starting off - he loved photography and I loved fashion/modelling, so you can only imagine the amount of fun we had putting together the entry pictures. Our friend did my make-up for one of the photos too. The big excitement was ‘Imagine if you end up in a magazine or newspaper, walk on the runway, and end up on telly’.

Busi Zulu wearing the Lavender Robe - €55 from M.I.O Prints. Picture: David Nwokocha (Cupid Visuals)
Busi Zulu wearing the Lavender Robe - €55 from M.I.O Prints. Picture: David Nwokocha (Cupid Visuals)

The event night was so much fun, my friends were there to offer support. Each category had their group photos taken, which were going to be published in a magazine.

Fast forward to when the pictures were published, I recognised the others but I was nowhere to be seen – I looked closely at my category and I could only see the end of my dress at the bottom of the photo, but the other girls were photographed fully. I had been cut off from the photo!

I remember my first thought being ‘I probably showed my teeth, that’s why they didn’t include me’, but then I remembered I had barely showed them, I used to even cover my mouth when I laughed to not draw attention to them.

It then dawned on me – how come the girls featured were all white and the only black girl in the category wasn’t included? The embarrassment I felt at that moment!

Busi Zulu wearing Red & Gold Zainab Set - €30from M.I.O Prints. Picture: David Nwokocha (Cupid Visuals)
Busi Zulu wearing Red & Gold Zainab Set - €30from M.I.O Prints. Picture: David Nwokocha (Cupid Visuals)

I don’t even think I mentioned this to anyone until I said it to my boyfriend last year. Looking back, there was absolutely no reason for me to feel this way. The whole situation was out of my control and someone simply decided ‘no, not her’. I decided to say nothing and continue because I didn’t want to come across as being difficult, but I should have said something!

I remember after a while thinking I didn’t care about that, because I was finally doing runway shows!

Hey, I even made my TV debut modelling for an amazing designer - Claire Garvey - years later.

The shows were so much fun, I had made friends with some of the models and whenever I travelled to a new location it didn’t feel daunting thinking I’d just be on my own until showtime.

Busi Zulu wearing Red & Gold Zainab Set - €30from M.I.O Prints. Picture: David Nwokocha (Cupid Visuals)
Busi Zulu wearing Red & Gold Zainab Set - €30from M.I.O Prints. Picture: David Nwokocha (Cupid Visuals)

I was finally doing what I always wanted, I should’ve been happy – but every show came with a thought of: what will I look like once the photos have been taken? 

The questions would start flooding in my head – ‘I wonder if they have a shade that will suit my skin, will the powder make things worse’.

Make-up for dark/black skin was so scarce then in Ireland, until Beyonce became the face for L’Oreal – an iconic beauty brand. I remember for the first time ever being able to buy a shade that suited my skin and I ran around my friend’s house saying ‘I can also be airbrushed-looking!’ Hollywood truly had us by the grip!

I thought make-up was going to be the least of my worries now I had the ultimate tool – my foundation. Until, that is, my name was the new topic. A boutique owner showcasing her designs had simply yelled “Where’s the black girl?” back stage instead of addressing me by my name, yet had no issue trying to remember the other models’ names. By the way, it’s Busi – kinda like Lucy, with a B! (A joke my friend came up with many years ago, it stuck). When I say this now, I always think of Denise Chaila, a black female musician in Ireland who has a song about the mispronunciations of her name.

Busi Zulu wearing 
Busi Zulu wearing 

The industry has been a learning curve and with all that I experienced, I also started to notice that the Irish beauty industry was trying to improve and make some changes. 

A good few years after my experiences in the modelling industry, I was one of the models for a makeup training day for people of colour. A popular Irish makeup brand had invited black girls and people of colour to be models – they were training their artists on how to use specific products and tools to get the best result for own skin tones. This was a major step forward, but I strongly believe that black artists should be part of the creative team as well. They have not been represented in the industry as much as they should be and their skills have been overlooked.

I decided to have an all black creative team for this shoot, because of that! The whole team is based in Ireland.

Busi Zulu wearing Red & Gold Zainab Set - €30from M.I.O Prints. Picture: David Nwokocha (Cupid Visuals)
Busi Zulu wearing Red & Gold Zainab Set - €30from M.I.O Prints. Picture: David Nwokocha (Cupid Visuals)

MEET THE CREATIVES

M.I.O. Prints – A lifestyle fashion brand exclusively available online, which is based in Dublin, by Florence Olufemi-Ojo, that pulls inspiration from afro-descent patterns.

It has quickly become the go-to for people looking for soft, high quality vibrant coloured pyjamas that are becoming more than just sleeping items but luxurious comfort wear. An Irish Black-Owned brand that has gained international recognition from ‘Entrepreneur’ music video by Pharell Williams and Jay Z.

David Nwokocha – photographer based in Cork, brings moments to life through the lens - from the aisle to the runway (Also known as Cupid Visuals).

Oonagh Nwankwo – make-up artist who also goes by the name Una Artistry, is based in Cork. Most certainly not afraid of a pop of colour! Only started her Instagram page in February, 2021, and is continuing to go beyond the traditional trends.

Busi Zulu wearing the Lavender Robe - €55 from M.I.O Prints. Picture: David Nwokocha (Cupid Visuals)
Busi Zulu wearing the Lavender Robe - €55 from M.I.O Prints. Picture: David Nwokocha (Cupid Visuals)

All clothing featured is available from M.I.O Prints.

Lavender Robe - €55

Red & Gold Zainab Set - €30

Yellow Stone Mesh Dress: €78

Credits:

Model, Stylist & Writer: Busi Zulu: @busi_zulu

Clothing: @mio_prints

Photography: @cupidvisuals

Makeup: @una_artistry

Braider: Scola (Ebony Trends), Hair Boutique (021 431 5871)

Location: Nano Nagle Place, www.nanonagleplace.ie

More in this section

Sponsored Content

Echo 130Echo 130
EL_music

Podcast: 1000 Cork songs 
Singer/songwriter Jimmy Crowley talks to John Dolan

Listen Here

Add Echolive.ie to your home screen - easy access to Cork news, views, sport and more