fashion award uproar

AFRICAN models are up in arms after they were upstaged by African-American supermodel Sessilee Lopez.

AFRICAN models are up in arms after they were upstaged by African-American supermodel Sessilee Lopez.

The leggy Victoria's Secret model was given the coveted Model of the Year Award at the Africa Fashion International on Monday night. And her African colleagues were not pleased.

A group of vexed models, guests at the glittering Africa Fashion Awards ceremony at the Sandton Convention Centre, ridiculed her and passed snide remarks as Lopez collected her award.

Later they told Sowetan they were unhappy about the choice of Lopez. They complained that she did not contribute anything to the fashion industry in Africa.

"She is an American model and we are true Africans. We do not understand why we were overlooked

"We thought these were African awards," said one of the model,s who spoke on behalf of the group.

The model did not want to be named "because this is a small industry and we do not want to be victimised".

She said Africa Fashion Week founder Precious Motsepe was very kind to them and they did not want to cause strained relations.

Leading stylist Felepe Mazibuko supported the models. He said he was hurt by the judges' choice.

"We have a lot of deserving girls in Africa. Why can't we empower our own? Why did the judges overlook dark beauty Hugette Marara, for example. She is a rising star, is beautiful and is the face of Africa Fashion Week."

Deon Redman, one of the judges, told Sowetan that the models did not have a leg to stand on.

"These girls can never compete with Sessilee," Redman said. " She is a supermodel. The awards acknowledged excellence of people of African descent.

"It is not easy for a black girl to make it on the international circuit.

"She is the most influential and biggest model at the moment. She is edgy and beautiful. We could not overlook that.

"You just cannot compare the work she does with the local girls."

Lopez, who walked for David Tlale during the Africa Fashion Week, has a string of celebrity admirers, including Usher, Justin Timberlake and her ex-boyfriend rapper Kanye West.

Kanye hand-picked the beauty to star in his Flashing Lights music video in 2008.

Lopez refused to speak to Sowetan, referring all questions to the organisers.