From ‘Blanket Maker’ To ‘Top Model.’ Those Who Dream Of Being Models

Abdou Touray

A non-profit project started in Spain that demonstrates the talent of those young Africans to become model or actors. The objective is clear: they can change the streets by the catwalks.

Abdou Touray always wanted to be a model. A vital objective is difficult to achieve in the Gambia, the African country that saw him born 29 years ago and from which he decided to flee accused of treason by the regime of the dictator Yahya Jammeh. 

“I left Africa through Libya in 2013. From there I traveled to Italy and then to Switzerland. In 2015 I arrived in Spain”, tell Abdou Touray. Although he also speaks French, six African languages ​​and is learning Spanish; Despite his computer skills during his stay in Switzerland, Touray has not been able to find a way to leave the streets in Spanish territory. 

Like many other compatriots, he travels the capital trying to survive with what he earns as a blanket maker.”I do not like to make blankets. It’s not what I want to do, but I have no choice. I’m in the streets because nobody gives me the opportunity to do something else,” he laments. Your destiny could be about to change.

Abdou has been selected, along with six other manteros, as part of the first casting of models of Top Man Model, a non-profit Spanish initiative that offers these young people of African origin a showcase in which to show their talent for modeling or interpretation. 

Under the motto “from sidewalk to catwalk ” this project, which has just seen the light serving as a bridge between these aspiring models and brands that may need profiles similar to their own, aims precisely that these young people can change the streets for the catwalks. 

Behind the platform is the publicist and creative director Julian Zuazo, who along with Susanne Pfingsten and a group of prestigious professionals in film production, advertising and fashion, has directed a video that shows the skills of these young people to be future mannequins.

According to him, the idea arose from his own professional need to find black models. “I’ve always had to look for them outside, in New York or Los Angeles, and one day walking down the street I realized we had them here, “explains Zuazo. 

That’s how he came up with the idea of ​​creating a website that could connect these guys with brands. “Your photos, a short biography and a contact telephone number appear on the page to be called directly. We give the support and legal advice so that they can make a contract for work, “says Pfingsten, in charge of project communication.

 “We collaborate with an immigration lawyer who is in contact with the Secretary of State for Migration, Consuelo Rumi, and manages everything from the legal point of view. There is a section within Spanish law that allows you to hire an undocumented alien as long as a Spaniard is not able to do the job. As there are not too many black Spaniards of two meters, nobody is being taken away and we all win, “he adds.

“Being a model was my dream forever, but I never had the opportunity. In Gambia, it was not easy to access a casting and I did not have the right clothes to introduce myself. When I did the photo session and the video with Top Man Model, I felt very good and very comfortable. This type of project is very important for us because we have no options. 

I hope my dream finally comes true, “Abdou Touray wishes aloud. Next to him appear in the video six more manteros and four immigrant dancers (Miriem, Grace, Yanis and Yonaria) who can also be contacted thanks to the web.

Abdou Sakhor arrived in Spain from Morocco, on a boat trip in which he was about to lose his life. Like Mama Gore, another Senegalese who also crossed the Mediterranean with the hope of financially helping his family, an objective that he now hopes to achieve “leaving behind the life of a mantero which is dangerous, hard and painful”. 

The stories of Bamba, Dieumba Cisse and Cheick are very similar: they all left their countries in search of a better future.