There’s a prevailing misconception that Poland is an ethnically homogeneous country. Yet with a population size of over 37 million people, that’s simply not true, especially when it comes to larger cities like Warsaw, Krakow, and Lodz. Victoria Okonkwo, CEO of D!fference, a leading agency representing multiethnic talent notes: “Poland is already a multiethnic country that warmly welcomes students from Africa, Asia, and South America. I’ve also seen more and more families move here from abroad for work, before settling in and deciding to stay.”
Victoria set up D!fference in 2012, drawing on her own experience as a person of mixed heritage - her father is Nigerian and her mother is Polish. The idea for the agency came to Victoria “a long time ago” when she first started working in the advertising industry and noticed that people were very interested in working with her on commercial projects. She realised that over time that the interest only grew and she knew she had to do something about it.
“It got to the point where I started to invite my multiethnic colleagues to participate in commercial projects. Whenever the client needed multiethnic, African or Asian models, I offered my support to find them. At first it was just a friendly gesture but with time, as the number of projects increased, I decided to turn it into a business,” she explains.
On the agency’s books are a huge number of commercial multiethnic models under the D!People division; D!Artists represents singers, actors, athletes, and dancers; while D!Creatives looks after photographers, make-up artists, stylists, food stylists, and stage designers. To date, D!fference has worked on over 200 ads for the likes of BMW, Samsung, Avon, Price Fx, Lego, Swatch, Infiniti, Kfc, Mcdonalds, Volkswagen, Picard, Klarna, Neff, Puma, Merkle, and TK Maxx.
Since 2012, the agency has gone from strength to strength. D!fference is partnered with OTO Film and the organic relationship is one both companies are extremely proud of. “I got a call from Jacek [Kulczycki, founder of OTO Film] one day and now here I am!” laughs Victoria, adding: “The longer story is that OTO called looking for a make-up artist experienced in working with black-skinned models. I shared my contacts and that was the start of our flourishing collaboration.”
“We’re creating a ton of opportunity for a hugely talented and marginalised demographic. Everyday is enriching, so many cultures and stories, we’re having a blast doing this. Victoria’s database is like walking into an 80’s poster for Benetton there’s colour everywhere! Together we’re responding better than ever to our clients’ needs by making BIPOC casting so much easier, in Poland,” says Andre Troubetzkoi, head of development, OTO Film.
One of Victoria’s focuses for the agency’s D!People division is helping the multiethnic talent become comfortable in front of the camera in order to book even more jobs. “We are currently developing our talent and client bases and within that is a vital initiative to assist our talent, who don’t always have industry experience when singing with us, when it comes to delivering the best work on set. That’s something that’s in development right now,” says Victoria.
As for what’s next, D!fference is taking the forthcoming years to expand its reach beyond Poland and cement its reputation, hoping to become one of the best multiethnic talent agencies in Europe. Victoria concludes: “We’re really excited to continue supporting a new chapter of Poland’s growing production industry.”