Written by Sheryl Aronson
Actor/Model Henry Gee from Lagos, Nigeria started off 2017 with a bang. He booked the lead for the Lagos Marathon Run Your Race with Aquafina Water commercial for Billboards, Internet and Print. He also had an amazing 2016 as an actor and a model. He played the leading role in the international Careers 24 Advert which was shot in Lagos, Nigeria and was televised world-wide throughout 2016. It is currently running as well. He also played an Executive Board member in an Airtel Advert that was shown internationally.
Not only is Henry Gee an actor, he also co-designs many original specialty African-style outfits which he models in different fashion shoots; plus he creates his own suits, tailored shirts, and high fashion trousers. His Western style clothes are branded with his unique design flair.
“I see fashion as a person’s factor of life…it reflects the person’s intelligence of dressing. My own way of representing my culture and origins is to design outfits that reflect my unique style that combines elements of the Western dress with the traditional tribal elements. It can be classic and elegant together,” said Henry Gee.
Henry’s modeling career began in 2003, after he completed his education with a computer hardware engineering degree. A friend recommended Henry audition for a modeling agency. The Agency immediately accepted Henry as a client enrolling him into their training and grooming program. It took him seven years before he booked his first professional job, but after this opportunity his career skyrocketed. His chameleon like ability to transform himself into a young business professional to a sizzling- hot underwear model, to an African ethnically dressed man to an all American boy, captured the attention of many designers and casting directors.
“My first job was for a Malaria drug where I played an extra. After that spot, I began to do fashion shows and then I met a lot of designers who wanted me to model their clothes line.” He’s been actively working in the entertainment industry since 2010.
In August 2014, Henry was chosen to represent the State of Taraba, Nigeria in the Mr. Universe Nigeria competition. Thirty-two out of thirty-six states participated in the contest as thousands of men competed from their different territories. The finalists, who were called the Gladiators, spent one week on Lagos Island preparing for the Mr. Universe Nigeria show. From sunrise until the early hours of the next morning, Henry trained with the other men. They started the day in Morning Prayer for one hour then onto exercising. Other activities included practicing the lion-stride walk for modeling, choreography for the group dancing, and practicing diction and speech skills for speaking in front of judges. Henry had a personal designer create the ethnic fashions for him to wear throughout the competition. His final outfit sported a white suit jacket over zebra print pants with a matching cap.
“We only had about three hours of sleep each day. It was a very supportive environment where we were all like one family. We accepted ourselves like brothers and we all loved each other. I had a designer who was a friend and he designed my costumes for the show. He designed a white suit jacket, a white shirt and zebra pants with a zebra hat to compliment the suit. So he combined an African flair with a British classic look.”
The entire competition was filmed and shown on YouTube: Mr. Universe Nigeria 2014. Mr. Gee won the judge’s vote and the Gladiators Vote (who also voted among themselves) for Best Body. He was escorted out on the runway by two stunning female models for receiving his sash.
“I was one of the five top winners for the contest. It gave me a lot of exposure and confidence to stay on top of the world in modeling.”
For the last two months, Henry Gee has been very busy working with his tailor/stylist and fabric dealer in creating a new collection of traditional African men’s clothes and Western style suits. He just completed a fashion shoot in the studio and displayed some of his work in these top photographs by Exultant Photography.
When discussing how Henry visualizes his emblematic look that reflects the cultures of the Igbo, Hausa, Yoruba mixed in with his own unique flair, it appears that this artist thoroughly enjoys every step in the process.
“I like dressing in an African traditional style and choosing my material from a special fabric person. I tend to go more for an elegant look with the long tops fitted to my body. Making the caftan my own design, I like the top to go almost to my knees so the shirt shows off the broad design palette of colors or the configurations of patterns.”
First step, Henry Gee gets his material from a dealer. The material dealer contacts him when he gets new fabrics in then he comes to Henry’s home. “I pick and choose the combinations I visualize. I make sure the material is a good quality and that it will not wash out. The material might have very rich and vibrant color or the material might have beautiful designs in it that flash out creative ideas for a particular style. The fabric might be silk and I will use that for suits, which makes them so unique… but classic. I see the opportunity within the fabric.”
Then Gee gives the fabric to his stylist/ tailor and they collaborate on what the costumes will look like.
“We ask each other, what do you see, what do you visualize…we put our heads together to come up with the style. Although I make more of the decisions. I tell him what I want.”
Commenting on some of the special fashions in the photographs, Henry Gee said,
The powder blue shirt with the trim is following the style from the River States in Nigeria. It’s a wide shirt, it has the freedom of the body from the waist down, it’s tight at the wrist with the dark blue decorative bands, the neck is rounded with the blue ties of fabric draping down.”
The navy blue traditional outfit with the sky blue pattern on the breast, is described as, “It’s a deep blue outfit with a light blue design in it. I love the elegant top with three buttons of sky blue material that can open at the shoulder. I think navy blue is very mature, but the sky blue adds a lovely touch.”
“The material is very sophisticated and streamlined. However, the black and white trim with the bigger pockets gives it some flair.”
Topping off the versatile outfits, Henry Gee adds a fun touch with a black fedora or the traditional red or black kufi cap. Finally, we see why Henry Gee won Mr. Best Body as he models a pair a blue dress trousers shirtless.
“My dress is trendy, elegant and unique. I call my style Gee-Whiz. It means being happy and flamboyant about the fashion or embracing the Global phenomena of happiness, being excited and happy about who you are. Knowing who you are . . . so happy.”