Off Duty: Nneka Ibeabuchi, Freelance Model

Written By James Kicinski-McCoy

Photography by: The Bleu

It was an early morning in Los Angeles, and I had just packed up my things and secured my suitcase. I watered the plants in my friend’s apartment, which she was so kind to let me stay in while she was away visiting family out of state. Having a free place to crash when traveling for work really makes things easier, especially when said work is a start-up. I was heading back home that afternoon and had one final shoot before my departure. That morning I was feeling quite ill. I had been sick in the weeks prior and think that the combination of getting on a germy airplane with shared air, plus throwing myself into back-to-back meetings and photo shoots was not what my fragile immune system needed. As I arrived at twenty-something, Nneka Ibeabuchi‘s apartment, I was feeling very unwell. Soon after she greeted me at the door and led me inside, I began coughing. And, we’re not talking the kind of coughing fit that only lasts a few seconds. I couldn’t stop for an embarrassing amount of time, even with the cool glass of water that Nneka so graciously handed me.

Needless to say, this particular shoot was a short one. It may even go down in the record books as fastest editorial shoot in history. Luckily for me, the Lagos, Nigeria native and freelance model is so incredibly photogenic and chill that she helped me execute the task at hand in just 19 minutes. Yes, we counted.

Jumpsuit by ASTR The Label, iWatch by Apple, shoes by Jaggar.
Jumpsuit by ASTR The Label, iWatch by Apple, shoes by Jaggar.

Tell us about your home.  “My home is not just a home, it’s a mood, a place to truly relax. It has a vibe to it. A Mother Nature vibe with calm settlings.”

What are some of your favorite things in your home?  “My palm tree plants — they’re a symbol of peace and they do bring a sense of peace. My bed — so comfy! I love to cook, so my kitchen is one of my favorite places in my house.”

Is there a story behind the hot pink chair barber chair?  “The pink chair was the only salvageable piece remaining from an entire set of Inglewood hair salon furniture that was discarded in front of my boyfriend’s neighbor’s house.  It took him three days to get that thing cleaned up. There were decades worth of hairspray and nicotine coating it. You may have noticed there’s an ashtray in the arm of the chair — so dope. Classic Inglewood.”

What’s your go-to dinner recipe when at home?  “I love this shrimp alfredo recipe.”

Breakfast or brunch of choice?  “Brunch. Rice and stew with fried plantains and fish.”

Coffee or tea?  “I’m a tea girl, but I just started falling in ‘like’ with coffee. Sweet and creamy, please.”

Favorite local cup?  “Starbucks.”

Any supplements you take/magic elixirs you make or swear by?  “I drink a glass of turmeric and warm water every morning.”

Regular Postmates order?  “Always shrimp alfredo!”

Do you work out?  “I ride my bike six miles 3-4 times a week.”

What does self-care look like for you when you’re off duty?  “In my bed under the covers doing research. Now that I’m in L.A., I go to the beach in the morning and relax with my iPad and listen to the sound of the waves for a good hour on my off days.”

Tell us about what you do.  “I’m a full-time model (not signed) and also a creative director. I come up with ideas for my projects and other people’s projects, too.”

How did you get started?  “I started modeling when I went viral back in 2014 after a random shoot I did with a friend. I always wanted to model, so I took that as a sign from God and started pursuing it.”

What does a typical work day look like?  “Whew! I either have three auditions and a callback in one day (different locations), or I’m shooting the whole day — 12 hours on set.”

Vintage Argenti blazer, Levi's cut-offs, vintage belt, shoes by Jaggar.
Vintage Argenti blazer, Levi's cut-offs, vintage belt, shoes by Jaggar.

Describe your personal style.  “Simple, but extra. I’m a vintage kind of girl. I like to thrift.”

Favorite fashion splurge?  “My first white and brown Fendi crossbody purse.”

What current trends are you loving this season?  “I love the whole oversized blazer and sweater look. I also like how big belts are in style again. Some people make it look so good.”

Who, what, where inspires your style the most?  “I get inspiration from Pinterest most of the time. I like runway pictures, and I try to recreate some of my favorite designer looks with my own twist.”

The five wardrobe staples always on rotation?  “Ankle boots, a plain white tee, slippers, a baseball hat, and a jean jacket.”

Favorite designers or brands?  “Maki Oh, Andrea Iyamah, and I.N. Official. All three are Nigerian designers with unique and eye-catching style. I would wear everything from their collections.”

Very favorite online shop?  “I like Romwe. I get my accessories and swimsuits there. The prices are very affordable.”

If you could raid one person’s closet, who’s would it be?  “I would totally raid Rihanna’s closet! I love everything she wears.”

Jeans or dresses?  “Dresses.”

Heels or flat?  “Heels.”

Vintage or new?  “Vintage.”

Favorite places to shop vintage?  “I usually thrift at Goodwill, which is worldwide and MyUnique on the East Coast.”

Signature scent?  “YSL Black Opium.”

What are your hobbies?  “My hobbies include making wigs, hiking, biking, and cooking. I like long walks alone, creating ideas.”

Night in or night out?  “Night in. I’d stay home and be lazy.”

Favorite Netflix series/shows/movie?  “My favorite Netflix show right now is You. I also watch reality TV. I love Keeping Up With The Kardashians.”

Song on repeat?  “Killin Dem by Zlatan and Burna Boy.”

Any must-read books you can suggest?  “Yes! The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle, Frequency by Penney Peirce, The Power of Negative Thinking by Bob Knight, and Think & Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. Love them all!”

Tell us about your unique and stunning art collection.  “The paintings around the house are just a throwback of what my boyfriend grew up around. The hair style paintings are very old. Most hairdressers don’t use paintings like that anymore as style display. They have photographed pictures now.”

Who painted the big red letters on the wall, and what’s the meaning behind them?  “The words ‘Bar Tabac Presse’ were painted by L.A. artist Joe O’Neill. Joe’s work features many stylistic elements of sign painting. He painted the letters from a photograph of an abandoned Bar Tabac near Bayonne, France. Joe’s a nice guy and an incredible talent.”

Where do you shop for home decor?  “Definitely IKEA and Target.”

Rice bag curtains in the kitchen.
Rice bag curtains in the kitchen.

How often do you travel back to Nigeria? Do you have family there?  “I don’t travel as much, unfortunately. Last time I was in Nigeria was early 2017, but this year is going to be different.”

Thrifted pajama set, shoes by Jaggar.
Thrifted pajama set, shoes by Jaggar.

How do you spend a day off at home?  “I like to get work done early in the morning on my laptop before relaxing on my free days, then I get comfy and catch up on my favorite TV shows. Snacks are definitely a must. I get lazy and just eat and watch.”

Do you sleep in on those days?  “Oh, I definitely sleep in on my days off.”

What do you wear when you’re spending the day comfortable, at home, and off duty?  “Always sweatpants and a tank top.”

What’s currently on your bedside table?  “My Apple Watch, a book I’m currently reading, The Power of Negative Thoughts, my mini speaker, and my iPad.”

Tell us about the big oversize black and white print in your bedroom.  “The oversize print is from a French-Gabonese photographer named Michèle Bygodt. It shows a simple little scene from Lomé, Togo. It’s a woman sweeping in front of her home. Michèle is based in Vancouver now, and has a show coming up April 15. She’s definitely a talent to watch. Her eye for small details is really impressive.”

Written by: James Kicinski-McCoy

James Kicinski-McCoy is the 40-something Founder and Editor-In-Chief of The Bleu. She likes tequila, picks fights with her husband so she can have the bed to herself, and is trying to figure out that work / life balance.


  1. Essence

    April 1, 2019 at 12:57 pm

    Wow! She so beautiful and I like her style. This was fun to read and to take a look into someone else’s world! Best wishes Nneka! And same to you James, looking forward to more great content!

  2. Mobe

    April 1, 2019 at 7:20 pm

    Dope model, dope space!

  3. Jami-lyn

    April 1, 2019 at 11:16 pm

    Happy to see this article come to life. Love you guys! xx

  4. Laura Brandt

    April 11, 2019 at 1:52 am

    This is stunning! She is effortless cool. She makes me want to wear silk pjs and vintage bedroom slippers for my everyday look! Also she has the most incredible hair.


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