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Stormy lull in modelling industry

Despite gratuitous efforts from talented models and dedicated industry stakeholders, the general mood within the walls of Kenya’s modelling industry is the yearning for executive powers to pull up socks and empower it, writes Alfayo Onyango

The idea to be forever young is as enticing as a beautiful sunset in Marrakech. Life being the kind of movie it is, leaving Earth is the inevitable part for us all and our legacies may be all we can latch on to help memories of us survive among the living.

If one could argue in the same breadth, it would be frankly unfair to beauty models because many people bluntly believe that particular line of livelihood may not be too far from that of a brainless and lazy person.

Each day, beauty queens wake up with a daunting test of their character on what to do with their artful gifts. As they gallivant around the city looking for purpose, time sadly waits for no one, not even the beautiful ones.

Even bushmen know aging isn’t the best gift to models considering it’s a young person’s sport. Models in Kenya are now forced to find basic amenities such as workshops, agencies, mentorship programmes — to put food on the table. But the cloud looks like it won’t pass anytime soon.

“For me, modelling is the ability to create art using my body with the help of other creative minds; showing the beauty of dark skinned women and ensuring others are confident in their skin. Atime will come when I would have travelled all over the world to share my content and talent.

“My mission is to ensure Africa’s art, fashion and culture is presented the way we want it to be seen. It takes me a lot of practice as well as deep research on designers, events, key players and everything related to this field,” model Shamina Rajab tells Spice.

It is increasingly becoming more lucid how frustrated models and workers in the beauty industry are becoming. Off the back of 2018’s conundrums where Kenyan models exposed what supposedly everybody knew, but hadn’t confirmed, the mistreatment of models and underpayment from agencies, it was only time until the dirt was hang out in the open for everybody to see.

The activism

Despite the melancholy the modelling world tries to spook models with in secret, the journey can be intoxicatingly fun and the rewards of being successful are priceless.

“Oh man! It’s most beautiful moment of my life so far. Being among the top five with the ‘Alejandros and Rico Suavez’ isn’t a mean feat if you ask me. That was an experience I’d love to experience more than twice if I could. What I took home from it is that the world is really your oyster.

“That’s an opportunity that life threw my way and I ran with it. From competing with people all around the world to growing a multi-cultural family with the same people you were competing with. At least I don’t have to worry about sleeping on the streets when I go to Japan knowing Mr Japan is around, you know,” Mr World Kenya 2016 Kevin Owiti says of his experiences contesting the title.

Kenya has always been generous enough to produce talented models that go beyond offering the beauty aspect, but bringing more to the party. With Owiti’s charitable efforts with mentoring peers, supermodel Ajuma Nasenyana’s spirited activism against skin-bleaching or Miss Kenya 2005 Cecilia Mwangi’s anti-jigger campaigns, there are no models with hearts as big as Kenya’s.

“There are many opportunities available in the industry. Just be passionate as always and never give up. Nowadays, there are many places to be scouted as a model, especially the Internet. There weren’t so many pageants in our days, but today there are new entries such as Mr and Miss Albino, so that is tremendous growth.

“Even with socialite models who mostly make the current faces of TV and billboard commercials, I encourage girls to believe in something, and at worst, have something to do on the side just as I did and if they are going to be just fine,” says Cecilia.

Terry Mungai, who is the current licence holder of the Mr and Miss World Kenya franchise, has also been attributed as one of the biggest catalysts for positive change in the industry with her tough jurisdiction and unmatched philanthropy.

Mr World Kenya contestant Kevin Owiti says: “I watched Terry Mungai single handedly carry the load on her own and she did it very gracefully and willingly. I went to the UK fully catered for, with more than I required and with all the support I needed all courtesy of her. I appreciate her every day for that.”

Government neglect

The jejune and nonchalant manner the Kenyan government and legislature have been acting towards the beauty and fashion modelling industries has been highly distasteful for many people. Busy snoozing for its entirety, they sabotaged the first ever Mr World Kenya contestant Kevin Owiti when he was nominated for the dreamy global prize.

“The beauty industry is just like any other industry on earth; it is flawed. There is a desperate call for professionalism, education impartation, capital investment and wholesome support from the government and more so, the Art, Culture and Heritage ministry whom we have held meetings with for certain bills to be passed in Parliament to make modelling industry a respectable and profitable one at least.

At the moment, Kenya is years away from competing with global heads in runway and beauty professions such as Milan, Paris and even some African countries,” Kenya Casting Agents of Models and Talent Welfare Association secretary general Wilson Malaba tells Spice.

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