My Pet Lion With Victor Ndigwe

Model Life EML East & West Africa
Victor Ndigwe represented Nigeria at the Elite Model Look World Final in 2014, alongside Mayowa Nicholas. Today, he has modelled for brands like Balmain, Zara and Dolce & Gabbana. We sat down with Victor to catch up on how life has been since taking part, and what it's like to have a very different kind of pet at home.

We saw on Instagram that you have a pet lion, tell us about that!

I live with my cousin and my friend from town, so he had this crazy idea one day. We like doing crazy things. But this was the one crazy thing we did that the whole world had to see. So he said it like a year before we got the lion, that we're going to get one! It was a real experience and we're trying to tame him now because we got scratches, but it was something different waking up to a lion, it was fun. 

Where’s the lion now?

He’s at a secret location! We left him to just roam around the house when he was a baby and he was really tiny, you know, feeding him with milk and he was running about the house, running upstairs and downstairs and peeing while trying to get a treat, but again it was lovely. We called him Kovu.

Apart from your phone and your phone charger, what could you never live without?

I really love jewelry, like necklaces and bracelets and right now I have four rings and I wouldn't leave them behind. So this is really my thing. Without them I really feel empty. I bought them in different cities, like Paris and Milan, It's always a gift to myself, the different places where I go, I just do it for me.   

You’re a musician too – what have you been working on recently?

I released the single last year, it was not a serious thing, I wrote it like four years before school. People didn't really know, I used to say I was an artist and people said, 'oh yeah cool', but you know after I did the song, I made the video, and I got really great feedback from musicians or people in the music industry and they said 'oh this has potential and work on your craft'. I took a year off as well working on music last year. I'm excited because I discovered myself again during the break. The music should be coming very soon and something that's really exciting. 

And how do you discover new music?

I listen to a lot of playlists on the radio and sometimes I just play around on YouTube or Spotify and discover some really cool stuff, I'm always looking for inspiration.

If you could go back in time to see any music artist live in concert, who would you go back to see?

This is a tough one, but I was thinking Michael Jackson or Bob Marley. I really like both of them and think they're really phenomenal. Maybe on a Friday, Michael Jackson, and on a Saturday, Bob Marley!

How would your family describe you?

I think the first thing they would say is crazy. I always look out for them as I am the big brother. I have four sisters, and I come second in the family. I’m like the second dad!

What is the proudest moment in your career so far?

Getting signed, actually! I loved taking part in the contest, and it meant I got signed with Elite. Applying to EML was a case of being in the wrong place at the right time kind of thing! I went to a casting, my sister was meant to come with me to the venue. But she called me that morning and she had exams. So, there was a music casting going on so, I just went to that with my Mum. I was walking around and met Laura Okah, Organiser of EML Nigeria (now EML East & West Africa), and she said, 'Wait I've seen you before, you should come in and try!' And from there, it happened. So that's why today I am very grateful for the whole experience that the platform gives you.

What do you enjoy about being a model the most?

I think the biggest privilege of being a model is travelling and the people you get to meet and when you work with big brands or designers. You get to meet the people behind the labels, and sometimes you get to have a personal relationship with them. And these are people you kind of looked up to when you were starting out. I think it is really amazing to be able to travel and experience different cultures at the same time working and doing what you love. For me those are the greatest privileges. 

Is there anyone who you've made friends with or met, where it was a real pinch me moment that you thought, “wow I never felt this will ever happen!”?

Yes, when I met Olivier Rousteing at Balmain, he was really nice and really welcoming and made me feel like family when we first met, before even giving me the clothes. That's why I love him. I've always done the fashion show with him every season. All that really matters is making you feel like you're part of something, not like you're just involved as a model – making you feel like you’re part of this life, like without you this will be incomplete, that they’re happy you're there. And we know it's not always like this with brands and clients. Zara as well, they have been amazing.  

So your name on Instagram is the Phoenix, what does it mean?

The Phoenix is a saying that goes with the ashes and rises. And when you try to figure out the path you really want to take. It’s about somehow finding a way to get back up go back to the things I love, and to keep pushing. So, I was reading and saw that ashes springs a new form of life, which I found was so relatable, because every time I feel like I'm down, somehow I managed to get through it. For me, it’s like a reminder that no matter what you're going through you can get through everything. 

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