Q&A: NU grad Kemi walks NYFW runway while being a full-time student


Photo courtesy of Kemi

Kemi Areke. The Weinberg ‘16 graduate walked on the runway at New York Fashion Week modeling for Forever 21.

Laya Neelakandan, Arts & Entertainment Editor

A full-time model and a full-time student, Kemi (Weinberg ’16) recently walked the runway at New York Fashion Week as a model for Forever 21 while Zooming into her classes behind the curtains. Kemi, whose full name is Kemi Areke, is a finance student at Columbia Business School. The Daily sat down with Kemi to discuss her New York Fashion Week experience and how she balances school and modeling.

This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

The Daily: Can you talk about your background and time at Northwestern?

Kemi: I majored in philosophy at NU, which I really enjoyed, and I was very focused on academics in undergraduate. Going into NU, I was already set on pursuing a career in finance, and since the school doesn’t have an undergraduate finance degree, I wanted to pick a major that I really enjoyed and challenged me. I’ve spent the half decade since I graduated from NU working in finance, first at J.P. Morgan in electronic trading and then in real estate private equity. I recently started modeling with the extra time I had before starting my real estate/finance full-time MBA at Columbia Business School this fall.

The Daily: How did you get into modeling? What was the preparation like for New York Fashion Week?

Kemi: I got into modeling very organically, as in I ended up meeting and becoming friends with a lot of models, photographers, makeup artists and hairstylists in the industry. I shot multiple times a day before Columbia Business School started, and after working with several brands and photographers, I joined Genetic Models Management.

For New York Fashion Week, I upped my entire exercise regimen before the runway shows. I also practiced a lot of runway walks with my headphones playing runway music.

The Daily: What was your experience like walking the runway?

Kemi: It was so much fun — my practice paid off. I love runway music, so I just really felt the beat as I walked down the Forever 21 runway. We didn’t have a practice run beforehand, so it was interesting trying to figure out where to stop and pose since it was a square runway with four sides to walk. I was able to figure it out when I saw the wall of probably 50 photographers. I watched my runway videos from the show and loved my execution.

This was my first NYFW and I not only walked for Forever 21, I actually walked two more shows and closed one show with the designer. (On the) runway, openers and closers tend to be “big,” so I loved that I was able to close a runway show at my first NYFW.

The Daily: How do you balance modeling and school?

Kemi: I pride myself on excellent time management. I’m not going to say it’s easy — it definitely takes a lot of sacrifice and having to skip certain social events. I’ve had classmates tell me they can’t believe I am essentially working a full-time job on top of an intense quantitative full course load.

The Daily: What are your future plans?

Kemi: I intend to model full-time throughout (my time at) Columbia Business School, but after I graduate, I will work in an investment role in real estate finance. Once I graduate, I won’t be able to model as much, but hopefully I can squeeze in some shoots here and there on the weekends.

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