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Ikeja Underbridge To The World: Ali Olakanmi

Ali
Ali Olakanmi

It’s not everyday you get to scout the perfect model on the streets of Lagos. So when Ali walked into the studio for this shoot, with a quiet and reserved energy about him, I immediately understood how he was cast for his viral ‘man in the green outfit’ shoot.

Some of you already know Ali from going viral when fashion designer/stylist Yomi Afolabi of Afolabi Lagos posted him on twitter.

For this issue Ali speaks with us about his life as a street hustler aka area boy. {Ali responded to his questions in English and Pidgin and the interviewer has chosen to leave it that way}

Introducing himself, our cover boy for the month, Ali Olakanmi is a 27 year old scrap collector, street hustler aka area boy and now part time model from Osun state. “I have a family, but they are far away in Osun state, my mother lives in Lagos though.” He says.

Ali
Ali Olakanmi

He became a street hustler after dropping out of secondary school in Jss2. According to him, he could no longer rely on his mother and had to make ends meet.

Ali is into scrap business where he buys and sells scraps. Even though there’s very little money in this business,  he tells us there are days and sometimes weeks where he doesn’t make a single sale from his scrap business. “I manage myself, if I get, fine, if I don’t, nobodi go know and if I get plenty, I go go give my mother sometin”

One thing is clear though, Ali wants to get off the street and if given an opportunity to choose, he would want to deal scraps on an upscale level; “I would like to be a waste manager’ he says.

Ali also enjoys modeling, as was evident by all his different poses and the ease he struck them with, he says; ”I like the model work and wouldn’t mind it full time if the money is good. Until then, I’ll just enjoy it part time and keep on doing the scrap work on the side also.

On his expectations from the first viral shoot, the ‘man in the green outfit’ says; “Omo, I no expect anything, I just did the shoot, then I begin to see say na blessing.” Even though he hasn’t gotten a lot since the shoot, Ali says Folabi has helped him in his own way since then.

When asked how his life had changed since the first shoot, he says  he hasn’t seen too much changes to his life since the shoot, but he reiterates his blessing is on its way. He admits his new found fame also “people de hear my name, dem don too know me, for m area dem de hail me, call my name.”  but according to Ali, making money is more important. “na money gan gan be issue.”

On the impact of staying on the streets on his mental health, he’s tired and fed up of the streets but he doesn’t think he has a choice, “no how I go do, so I just dey there, no be say I like the place.”  He also speaks on the ‘stigma’ and stereotypes generally associated with “street hustlers,” According to Ali, people look down on anybody they see on the streets and he believes its wrong as we are all humans and area bo or not, nobody deserves to be treated with spite.

If you had only one wish what would it be?

Ali Olakanmi: My own be say make I help my mother, my junior brothers, sisters them and people wey dey for street because people wey de for street dey hustle and me sef I no as e dey be for street. Make God help me too.

At the time of this interview, Ali’s management was working towards getting him an apartment and other basic necessities to get him off the streets. For more information, follow Ali on instagram: @aliolakanmi

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