JOAN Isioma Okorodudu has worked tirelessly to bring a significant international modeling presence to Africa.

Her efforts have paid off and her modelling agency, Isis Models, is one of the fastest growing in Africa.

With more than 20 years of operation, the former beauty queen has opened many doors for many models.

Her models have graced the Cape Town Sanlam Fashion Week, Joburg Sanlam Fashion, New York, Paris and New York Couture Fashion Weeks. Her models also feature at the Africa Fashion Week that started yesterday in Sandton, Johannesburg.

Okorodudu is known as the godmother of modeling in Nigeria.

Among her other achievements is the very popular Nigeria's Next Super Model, a reality television series launched in 2007.

Under her watchful eye Olubunmi Ademokoya won the Best Model of the World 2007 in Istanbul, Turkey, while Eunice Eyo won the Best National Costume at the Miss Model of the World 2007 in China.

She has been sending models to both events every year. Under her tutelage, at the 2009 edition of the Best Model of the World, Bryan Okwara won the Best African Male Model.

What is her secret?

Okorodudu says the adage that a model is only as good as her last picture is true. Equally an agency, or rather a booker, is only good for a model if they share that certain chemistry.

"We have worked tirelessly, successfully and nearly single-handedly to create a legitimate international presence for African models. We created the agency with the commitment and understanding that all talent will be equally represented.

"Our principles are consistency, professionalism and aggressive operations that works for both model and client, and discipline in an often undisciplined business," Okorodudu says.

Her efforts continue to pay off since Isis Models is currently one of the largest modeling agencies in Johannesburg and one of the most respected on the continent.

Okorodudu has been interviewed by the world's media, Reuters and Associated Press, and has featured in Der Spiegel, Europe's largest newspaper.

The 52-year-old daughter of Chief and Mrs Morgan Elumelu of Onicha Olona in Aniocha, north of Delta State, Nigeria, studied at Boston University in Massachusetts, US, where she set records in athletics, winning the Florida relays in 400m at the Gator relays.

In 1981, she became Miss Nigeria Kaduna State and later Miss Nigeria First Runner Up.

She has walked many ramps and staged many fashion events, including Nigerian Fashion Week and DC Fashion Week.

She started her fashion career in Wilmington, Delaware, where she opened her first shop called Euro Afrik.

When she moveded to Nigeria three years ago, she launched into the Nigerian market with yet another label, House of J'ola.

The happily married mother of one son is also chief executive of International Business Consortium Nigerian Limited.

Operating a modeling agency in South Africa has not been a walk in the park and she had to fight opposition left, right and centre.

"Being a black foreigner in this country has its challenges. I have learnt to weather the storms with prayer. I have turned challenges into excitement. Those who work in the fashion industry will agree that it can be an addictive profession," says Okorodudu.