Indeed, Barbara Juliano has seen it all in the modelling world. She walks with a gait that promptly tells you she was born to be a model.
She is about six feet tall, slim but fleshy in the right places and possesses that unusual look of models.
She rhapsodises: “I started modelling in Paris at 17 while on holidays with a close friend. I was still in school then. He was a model and I used to accompany him to modelling agencies for casting.
I gradually joined in the model castings, did a few commercials on a part time basis and before I knew it, by 18, I was already a full time model. I did more jobs abroad than in Nigeria, modelling in London, Paris and Italy.
“I featured in quite a number of television commercials, editorial and magazine shoots for several high end products like Olay, Diesel jeans, Dolce and Gabbana, Lux etc. After giving in my all to modelling for 15 years, I gradually began my slow descent. This I did from 2005 through 2008 when I finally stopped. Then, I faced my shoe business.”
Explaining her decision for venturing into the retail of high end shoes, Barbara who runs Rose Barbara, a shoe company in Lagos, says it was borne out of a passion. Moreover, she considers modelling to go hand-in-hand with the art of wearing accessories.
“I believe that there is no modelling without shoes. No model goes on the runway barefooted. Their feet are always encased most times in stilettos which help to give one the needed gait. Oftentimes, the shoes are an advertisement on their own. So, I didn’t just start selling shoes, I became a personal shopper because people trusted my judgment on items that I picked out for them. That was after I stopped modelling.
“I am very particular about what I retail, I can tell the history of each pair of designer shoes that I retail. The modelling world really helped me to have a better understanding of what shoes are all about. My love for shoes knows no bounds. I collect shoes and I personally have a minimum of 200 pairs! That is how bad my obsession for shoes is. My husband sees my interest in the shoe business as an opportunity to acquire more pairs for myself and I don’t think he is far from the truth.”
Aside the shoe business, she has since diversified into luxurious hair retailing and also runs an African restaurant in London.
Born 37 years ago, Juliano who hails from Ikong, Cross River State, recalls her growing up years was fun filled especially as it spanned three cities— Cross Rivers State, Paris and Italy.
“Memories of my days in Cross Rivers State, especially during the holidays are so deeply etched that I sometimes crave for them. We would go to Obudu cattle ranch to have fun; horse riding, mountain climbing, and watch the water falls etc. My parents are avid believers in fun filled holidays.”
Turning out to be a success at her numerous ventures didn’t come to her on a platter of gold as she did have her trying period in her early days as a model.
“I dropped out from the University of Calabar, where I had enrolled to study Sociology. That was two years to my graduating year. I wanted to face my modelling career squarely,” she reminisces.
But with a father, who is a medical doctor and a mother who is an English graduate from Oxford University, didn’t she face stiff opposition at home?
She replies: “Nigeria is one country with people who are very particular about paper qualifications. Naturally, there was an outcry when I took that decision. My parents were to say the least, miffed at my action. I was strongly opposed but I was hell bent on pursuing a modelling career because that was what I loved and wanted to do at that time.
“I did all I could to assuage their feelings by constantly showing them my finished works. I wanted to prove that I had retained my decency while still modelling. But they had their beliefs and concluded that I was fooling around. It took a while before they finally came around to give me their blessings. I am persuaded that modelling is innate because even as a little child, the traits were very evident in me. I sometimes wonder where I got the passion for modelling from considering my background. My other family members are known for being quite cerebral. Ironically, my younger sister is now toeing my path.”
Now, she is in her parents’ shoes and feels what they felt many years back. Now, older and wiser, she constantly insists that her younger sister completes her education even as she (Barbara) also plans to complete her education.
“I have to, it isn’t like I need it right away but I will definitely. I believe I owe it to myself. When I decide to, it will be in a streamlined course in luxury management since that is my area of core competence,” she explains.
Barbara would tell you she prefers white men whenever issues of romance are raised.
“I prefer white men because I think they are more loving and respectful to women. I was once married to a French man for eight years but it didn’t work out. Now, I am married to the love of my life— an Italian. I have been with my husband for four years but we have been married for two years with a daughter. We met in Milan, Italy. He is a very understanding and humble person and I consider myself a very lucky woman to have him as a husband.”
Asked if she has any plan to give back to society through mentorship, Barbara quips that is no longer on her plate. At least currently but could be considered in the near future.
“I once imparted knowledge from my wealth of experience to young up and coming models while I was still a model and even set up an academy called, Amazon Modelling Academy. I shut down when I stopped modelling,” she says.
Models are considered stylish. Not far from one, she defines her style as unique but corrects that, “I will never be caught dead in a mini skirt or dress!”
She is a designer freak too. Hear her collection: “For shoes, I currently love Zannoti, Valentino and Cavalli. I am not very particular about the designers of the dresses I wear, as long as they are beautiful dresses.
For bags, it is Channel and Birkins. Oh! I love bags too and I have lost count of the regular bags that I have. I do have about 14 high end bags like Hermes Birkins, Channels etc. In fact, I once spent €68,000 for a hand bag. After shoes, my fashion fetish is bags.”
Her life’s philosophy is simple: Respect for people and loyalty. “Sometimes I wish I didn’t have friends having gone through some disappointments in life with friends”, she concludes.