The hashtag, #PayModelsKe that started as an expose on the exploitation and sexual harassment of models in the fashion industry but later spread to show the general rot in Kenya’s creative economy, took no prisoners when it came to naming and shaming those culpable.
One of the companies named was Couture Africa, a high end fashion magazine owned by Olive Gachara. Gachara is not new to Kenya’s fashion industry, having started her career at the age of 17 when she tried her hand at the Miss Malaika pageant. In 2005, she started a modelling and talent agency called Kinkey. Besides fashion, Gachara has an imaging and branding consultancy firm, Image with Olive. Currently, she is a judge on KCB Lion’s Den, where startups pitch their ideas to secure investment.
Couture Africa came under fire for being one of the biggest exploiters of models, photographers and writers with victims claiming delayed payment, poor working conditions or no pay at all. In response to these allegations, Olive Gachara announced a live tweet chat where KOT could engage with her as she shared her thoughts on the modelling industry.
I guess it's time I shared my opinion! I remember the struggles we (all of us working @coutureafrica) went through. From working hungry to hassling the 'admin' for transport fees. We'd be told to use our own fare to job appointments ati to be refunded later. Where?😥#AskOlive
Nothing more malicious than wage theft. It's also criminal. 2) Nothing more discriminatory than than robbing Black Kenyan models who don't have agents, because you can get away with it. #AskOlivehttps://t.co/Sb3T8jU6Cl
Olive’s responses ranged from denial of the allegations, to her business experiencing growing pain, her company’s poor payment structures which she is committed to ‘refine’ and finally, asking all the unpaid talent to reach out to the magazine. LOL
It was a rough patch for the business and like a child leaving the nest, you sometimes need to leave a business to struggle if it must, and let it find its footing. WIt is now out of the red and we thank God. #AskOlive#PayModelsKE
In an organisation with records of some sort(including an exercise book) you should be able to know whom you have paid and who you haven't. It's not that complex. Are you running a kiosk or a magazine?#AskOlivehttps://t.co/PDg29Ei2S9
Whoever advised this misguided PR attempt to clear Olive Gachara and Couture Africa’s name was high on something very potent. A better idea would be to use the money to pay the talent instead of using it to engineer a reclamation of her innocence.