Armel Massissou is of Chadian origin and resides in Canada. Becoming a model was never his intention until he was approached by a model scout while waiting for the train at a subway station in Toronto. He is the titleholder of Chad’s first male beauty pageant and aside from modelling he loves to write and travel. Armel is our Model of the Week for this week as he shares with us his experiences in the modelling industry. 

Armel+Massissou+Zen+Magazine+Interview

Zen Magazine: What inspired you to get into modelling?
Armel: It is something that I naturally enjoy doing. I believe there is a fit between a passion I have and assets I’ve developed over time.

Zen Magazine: What has been your most memorable shoot so far?
Armel: First, I think it is important for me to outline what makes a shoot memorable. It’s about the people I get the chance to know, having fun, and what contribution the shoot brings in terms of moving me forward. I’ve worked with many great people and so far all the shoots have been memorable.

Zen Magazine: What do you like the most about modelling?
Armel: I believe it is fair to say that modelling is almost a world of its own. For me specifically it comprises shows and photo shoots. They both provide me the opportunity to stretch and accomplish things I once taught impossible while inspiring others. At the same time it is a chance to be daring.

Zen Magazine: What would you say is the most challenging aspect about being a modelling?
Armel: There is a challenge in everything and for everyone. Models come in all shapes and sizes, while some have more challenges, others have less, and depending on where they find themselves. Challenges may be temporary or sustained, formatted or natural. So whatever the challenge that I face, what matters to me the most is my passion and moving past that obstacle.

Armel+Massissou+Zen+Magazine+Interview1

Zen Magazine: Supermodels like IMAN and Naomi Campbell have all called for an end to runway racism. Do you think racism exists in modelling?
Armel: Discrimination does exist in modelling and perhaps everything else. Is it racism when specific models are needed for a campaign or a show? Yes and no. Yes when exclusion of other ethnicities is unnecessary, and no when it is a preference unrelated to race or just a market necessity. Nevertheless, modelling in general is not diverse. Designers, retailers, agencies and the media play a key role in the fashion industry and they need to be more inclusive, objective and avoid partiality. The effects of racism are negative and serious, one race or a few races are set as the standard while others being excluded are underhandedly labelled as not good enough.

Zen Magazine: Have you ever experienced any form of racism since you started modelling?
Armel: It is sometimes difficult to tell whether an action is racist or not. Unless I was openly rejected for being black then I wouldn’t know. At some castings I’ve been favoured for my skin tone and I didn’t make some castings, perhaps for the same reason. But openly I have not experienced racism.

Zen Magazine: What can be done to end this or what attitude can be changed to end this?
Armel: Minorities are practically absent in key sectors of the fashion industry. We need them there. We also need places such as Africa to be less conservative and more open to modelling and fashion. If fashion is about innovating and moving forward then we also need to move ourselves forward in realizing that we are more than just a skin color.

Zen Magazine: Who are your top 5 favourite African models?
Armel: My top 5 are Alek Wek, Djimon Hounsou, Herieth Paul, David Agbodji and the Cabral brothers (Armando and Fernando).

Zen Magazine: Any advice for aspiring models?
Armel: I’ve written an entire article on this question on my blog and it has gained a lot of page views. To summarize my long article, I advice models to be patient, to remember that looks are not the only thing that matters, to network, and to put on a thick skin! But models, don’t let my advice be too frightening; modelling is also fun when you put passion first.

Armel+Massissou+Zen+Magazine+Interview2

Zen Magazine: Describe your style to us.
Armel: My style is that of someone who wants to portray uniqueness, effortless fashion that is elegant and modern. I see myself in Zara, Massimo Dutti, and Dolce & Gabbana, just to name a few.

Zen Magazine: Who are some of your favourite African designers?
Armel: While I do not have a single favourite designer, I like African designers who are promoting a fresh and creative fashion made in Africa, and I also like African designers who are thriving abroad and internationally.

Zen Magazine: Which designers would you love to work with? Why?
Armel: I’d like to work with designers or brands that match my style, as mentioned earlier they include Zara, Massimo Dutti and Dolce & Gabbana.

Zen Magazine: 1 item you completely can’t live without?
Armel: My MacBook and along with that an access to the Internet. I like to write therefore my Mac is very useful and I need the Wi-Fi to stay in touch and informed.

Zen Magazine: Movies or Music
Armel: Both. I am very flexible with music. As for movies, I favor comedy and action.

Zen Magazine: Which magazines do you follow on social media?
Armel: I’ve been following Zen for a while now. Other magazines include Vogue. But I also like to keep up with the news so my list of magazines is quite diverse.

Zen Magazine: What do you think of Zen Magazine Africa?
Armel: Zen Magazine is doing an awesome work. Your contribution to the fashion industry is greater than what you are known for that is to promote African talents. Your contribution extends to shaping the industry to become more diverse.

To connect with Armel on Instagram, click here @armelmassissou

Photographed by Constantine Digovets
Makeup by Rainier Croft
Clothes by Som Kong
Styled by Irina Shad