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This Columbia MBA Student Walked The Runway At New York Fashion Week

Columbia Business School MBA ’23 Kemi walked in the New York Fashion Week earlier this month. (Courtesy photo)

Her day began with an early-morning statistics midterm. It ended with a red carpet interview.

In between, Kemi attended an economics lecture via Zoom and walked in a runway show at New York Fashion Week. 

The Forever 21 fashion show on September 10 was the first appearance at New York Fashion Week for Kemi, a Columbia Business School Class of 2023 MBA student who recently started modeling. It seems unlikely to be the last.

‘QUITE THE EXPERIENCE’

Kemi — whose full name is Kemi Areke — is definitely getting attention. She’s posed for international magazine covers, interviewed with Yahoo Finance and the Daily Northwestern, and worked with brands such as Danessa Myricks Beauty. She does it all while maintaining a full course load with a focus in real estate/finance at Columbia.

“It was quite the experience having an 8 a.m. statistics midterm, accounting class, then running from accounting class to the runway where I Zoomed into my economics class,” Kemi tells Poets&Quants. “I really don’t like missing class for anything so I decided to Zoom in. People were doing pre-show checks for the Forever 21 runway show while I was Zooming into my economics lecture.

“It was well worth it, though, as I was able to complete my midterm and other classes, walk two looks for Forever 21, and then had two red carpet interviews.”

In between it all, she took some to answer questions from Poets&Quants about doing it all: business school, modeling, and planning for a bright future. 

When did you first become interested in modeling?

I started modeling a couple of months before my MBA. It happened, honestly, by accident. I became friends with many models in the industry who pushed me to model, and I started getting opportunities very quickly. My first paid modeling job, a couple of months ago ironically, was one of my biggest both in terms of brand and exposure. 

Tell us about your undergrad experience and what made you decide to pursue an MBA?

I went to Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill, where I received a bachelor’s in philosophy. Northwestern doesn’t have an undergraduate finance degree, so I chose to major in a challenging subject instead. I then went on to work at J.P. Morgan in Futures & Options Electronic Trading and then transitioned into Real Estate Private Equity. 

I wanted to pursue an MBA to take more real estate finance coursework in an academic setting. Before business school, I completed the Wall Street Prep Real Estate Financial Modeling course and the Real, Estate Finance, and Investments: Risks and Opportunities textbook by Peter Linneman to prepare. Still, I wanted to spend two years studying more real estate finance in school.

Kemi walked two looks down the Forever 21 runway at NYFW. (Courtesy photo)

Why did you choose Columbia?

I chose Columbia given its strength in real estate and, specifically, its strength in NYC. I have been in NYC for half a decade since graduation and intend to continue residing in NYC post-graduation. I definitely feel that I have made a great choice choosing Columbia Business School, and I am excited about the new Manhattanville campus that we will start classes in soon. 

How do you juggle an MBA and modeling?

It’s definitely quite demanding! I am quite good at time management. I still make time to attend various social events and am involved in several CBS clubs including the Real Estate Association. I joined Genetics Model Management two months ago and definitely having an agent helps in terms of managing schedules. 

What other modeling have you done?

I walked New York Fashion Week for Forever 21 and I also walked several other NYFW fashion shows (including closing a runway show). I modeled for Danessa Myricks Beauty and have been featured on brands’ social media including Bellami Hair and Tatti Lashes. I’ve also appeared on several international magazine covers that have appeared on newsstands. I have done all of this in the few months of extra time I had before starting my MBA. 

Tell us about being selected for New York Fashion Week? How did that happen, and how did you prepare?

NYFW runway shows have castings that are done a week or two in advance. The castings and fittings (which can take four hours in a day) were all during my midterms week, so it was quite a lot to manage. I not only spent many hours practicing my runway walk, I also upped my exercise routine significantly. I call NYFW the “Olympics of fashion!” Fashion week makes the week sound very calm and relaxing, and it is quite the opposite of that. 

You posted about taking a midterm in the morning, zooming into class from the runway, then walking in Fashion week. Tell us a little more about that?

Yes, it was quite the experience having an 8 a.m. statistics midterm, accounting class, then running from accounting class to the runway where I Zoomed into my economics class. I really don’t like missing class for anything so I decided to Zoom in. People were doing pre-show checks for the Forever 21 runway show while I was Zooming into my economics lecture. It was well worth it, though, as I was able to complete my midterm and other classes, walk two looks for Forever 21, and then had two red carpet interviews. 

Why is it important for you to both model full time and study for an MBA?

For me, the time I have during my MBA is really the only time I have to be able to model full-time. Post MBA, I will return to working in finance full time. I really enjoy both the MBA program and modeling. I am someone who is used to being extremely busy so I find it manageable. 

What are your plans for modeling and career beyond the MBA?

I will continue doing more modeling during my MBA and really will see where things take me! Like I said, I ended up accidentally starting to model a couple of months before my MBA so I went in with an open mind.

Post MBA I will work in investments in Real Estate Private Equity. Pre MBA I was also in Real Estate Private Equity after starting my career in J.P. Morgan in Futures & Options Electronic Trading.

DON’T MISS COLUMBIA BUSINESS SCHOOL GETS $75 MILLION FROM DAVID GEFFEN FOR ITS NEW CAMPUS and ANOTHER MY CLASS PROFILE SHOWS REN EWED STRENGTH OF THE MBA