Although Eva Apio was consistently knocked back by agencies, on account of her height, her persistence prevailed and now the model, influencer, DJ, founder of the Eva Apio Foundation and Hello! Fashion cover star has a successful career - and has worked for fashion houses including Louis Vuitton, Fendi and Off-White.
Eva Apio on her Hello! Fashion cover shoot
But Eva’s first booking was actually long before she was signed to a London agency as a teenager. When she was living in Uganda her mother, Eva Mbabazi, who was a model and is a former Miss Uganda heard that a catwalk show she was walking in needed a six-year-old girl to model so suggested Eva. “I still have the video of myself walking down the runway,” she says of the clip she posted on her Instagram feed last year.
MORE: Hana Cross on making music, acting lessons and dealing with Instagram anxiety
RELATED: Leonie Hanne on how she made it as an Influencer in a "saturated" market
Hello! Fashion Magazine - April/May 2023
BUY YOUR COPY
Despite her mother's success Eva didn’t know she was a model until she moved to London to live with her at the age of ten, where she is still based. “It is hard to know how out of touch I was whilst in Uganda,” she explains.
At first her mother was very protective of Eva’s choice of career. “She gave me the down low and would say, ‘I’ve been in the industry and know what it’s like, it’s not all what you see’. Then, obviously because of my persistence, she’d tell me to try it, ‘But I just want you to know… this or that’. When I would go home crying because someone had said ‘no’ to me, she’d be like, ‘It’s how the game goes’.
MORE: Inside Hello! Fashion x Mark's Club's Female Entrepreneurship Breakfast
RELATED: Rochelle Humes on public image, motherhood and tackling inequalities in the music industry
Dress, £350, Kate Spade, Sandals, £525, Paris Texas
Now 22, Eva believes that, thankfully, modelling is now more about someone’s personality, rather than their height and size. “The industry is definitely changing in a good way. And a lot of it is due to social media,” she construes. “People are showing their personalities more now, so brands are booking people for their talent. They want to book someone that looks authentic or has a different look. Someone that people can relate to in real life – they can open a magazine or a newspaper, or look at Instagram and think, ‘I look like her’.”
MORE: Luma Grothe has conquered modelling and now she's ready for her next role as actress and filmmaker
RELATED: Rising stars: Meet the new faces of the Hello! Fashion September Issue
Top, £220, Kate Spade, Earrings, £95, Ring, both Kate Spade
Giving back to her country of birth, Eva founded the Eva Apio Foundation in 2020 to help Ugandan children and youths, providing them with positive lifestyles through sports, education and a safe haven to visit. “The main goal was to build a youth centre, because they don’t have that back home. When I moved to London, there were youth centres everywhere. It is a different environment to go to if the home is becoming toxic, or they want to be with people or learn a new skill.”
Last year Eva returned to Uganda for the first time in ten years. “I stayed for four days, mainly for my charity, but I saw my family and I am very religious, I’m Christian, so I had some quiet time to refocus everything.”
Eva has 826k followers on Instagram, “I hit 10k when I was 16,” she says. “I think my profile grew before social media became a blow-up thing, before influencing became like an actual paid job. “My account could have stayed at 10k, but to gradually gain a following takes consistency and a lot of time. Just to have this many people watching me is a blessing in itself, so I’m still very much grateful for that.”
Something she has a lot of is girls messaging her on Instagram for advice about how to become a model, but doesn’t quite know how to answer. “I can’t say that I worked so hard to get signed to an agency,” she laughs. “So most of the time when I’m asked, my reply will be very generic, like go to some agencies, literally the same thing that I did.”
Styling: Laura Weatherburn
Photography: Lulu McArdle
The full interview with Eva Apio appears in the April-May issue of Hello! Fashion, out now…
Like this story? Sign up to our Hello! Fashion newsletter to get your weekly 'Fashion Fix' delivered straight to your inbox.