A brief encounter with male models rehearsing for Mr Nairobi in 2002 saw Odada Okello who had gone to deliver a suit to a client change his career path and win while at it
Odada Okello joined modelling by chance. Yet he ended up taking the Mr Kenya crown in 2002. Okello owned a clothes store where he boasts of dressing the great in the modelling industry such as Yolanda Masinde, Miss Kenya 2000 and renowned male models.
A request from one of the male models to drop his suits at the Carnivore where they were rehearsing for Mr Nairobi changed his career path and plunged him into the modelling industry.
“I remember hanging out with models and watching them go through their routine. I became interested. Then the Carnivore Events Manager showed up and said he wanted to guess who would be crowned Mr Nairobi. He looked around and said I would win. Mark you, I wasn’t part of the team,” he recalls.
That is when Okello decided to give it a shot in modelling and requested the organisers to slot him in for Mr Nairobi. Unfortunately, Okello was told it was already too late to join the Mr Nairobi contest, but was told to travel to Kisumu to try his luck.
This, he did and fortunately became the first runners-up qualifying for the finals of Mr Kenya. In his first try and a hotly contested competition, he became Mr Kenya. “I was elated—it was a super amazing feeling. I was competing with the likes of top models then, Leakey Indiazi, Cliff Mboya, Silas Otieno and many others. So, I was excited when I was declared the winner by a panel of 12 judges,” he says.
What made him win, as he recalls, was the fact that he had the best talent as a stand-up comedian, which left all the judges as well as the crowd in stitches. And besides being Mr World Kenya, he was also crowned Mr Congeniality. Okello, however, retained the crown for five years. “Because I brought the title back to life, the franchise owner thought of only crowning the queens and retaining the Mr World Kenya,” he clarifies.
A born-again Christian, Okello found balancing modelling and being a minister of the gospel had its own fair sahre of challenges as many people didn’t believe that one could do both. “I remember being interviewed by the judges for Mr World Kenya why I was interested in modelling being a born-again Christian.
I quoted Genesis 3: 21 The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. I told them the whole modelling thing was started by God with the first models being Adam and Eve and the first fashion designer being God himself.”
During his reign, he was in the front-line fighting for the rights of male models and their representation, privileges his successors are presently enjoying. Apart from helping build a bridge in the slums of Kibera at Katwekera, Okello pioneered and was involved in other numerous charity projects all over the country.
Some of the projects that he participated in were feeding the street kids, Jaza Lorry, Vijana Tugutuke and Kick the world into recycling. He gave motivational talks in colleges and universities. “I believe I was more passion driven. Models back then were paid peanuts,” he says.
In 2014, Okello was appointed director of Ashley Modelling Academy by the renowned Terry Mungai. As the director, Okello was charged with the responsibility of scouting, training, choreography and show production. He was also the principal in charge of training at the Miss World finals boot camp.
He is proud that all his students became Mr or Miss Kenya. “My first student, Idah Nguma, Miss World Kenya 2014 became Miss World Africa.
In 2016 two of my students, both Miss World Kenya, Evelyn Njambi and Mr World Kenya, Kevin Owiti, became Miss World Africa and Mr World Africa respectively. And in 2017 another of my students Magline Jeruto became Miss World Africa,” he says proudly.
During this time, more beauty pageants such as Miss Universe Kenya and Miss Earth came to be, which brought conflicts. Okello was irked by how, according to him, the pageants ‘didn’t stick to their lane’.
“We all know that a crowned Miss World Kenya represents Kenya in the Miss World pageant. Miss Universe Kenya represents Kenya at Miss Universe. And Miss Earth Kenya represents Kenya at the Miss Earth. The owners for the Miss Earth Kenya franchise for whatever reason went and registered a company and called it Miss Kenya.
They insisted to crown Miss Kenya to represent Kenya at the Miss Earth pageant. I thought that was foolish as it would bring confusion to the public and the models. We can’t have two Miss Kenya pageant in the country. I was angered by their actions and up to date I don’t know why and how they did it,” he recalls.