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Meet Kenya’s Most Successful International Model, Ajuma Naisenya.

 Something about Ajuma’s beauty just stands out. It’s that unexplainable thing that makes someone stand out. It’s the x- factor that most modelling agencies look for. Truth is, you won’t find many like her in our TV commercials or on the bill boards or on the cover of Kenyan magazines because for some particular reason, being too dark isn’t what our media houses are interested in.

She spoke to George Muiruri and below is an extract of that interview.

Did you ever think you would become a model?
“I participated in all sports when growing up and captained all my teams. After completing high school I was sent off to the Kipchoge Keino Camp where I spent a year training. I trained alongside champions like Janet Jepkosgei and Ezekiel Kemboi.

When did you break into modelling?
I joined “miss tourism” competition just because people told me that I would make a great model even
though I considered myself a tom boy. In 2003, I was crowned Miss Nairobi.

When did you get your big break?
Lindsey McIntyre, a photographer, approached me and convinced me to consider modelling. What began as a three week trip to Paris turned into years of travelling, strutting on international runways and a vocation in modelling.

What are your most notable experiences in the modelling career?
Participating in the Ford Supermodel of the World Competition and New York Fashion Week and the most recent award I got in 2012- Africa Fashion Week Model of the Year.

What do you think about the modelling industry in Kenya?
While the opportunities of making it in Kenya are minimal, some will go to any extent to make it. When they do make it, they often have a hard time balancing work and life. What was once a career is now used as a status symbol: thus the degradation of the whole meaning of modelling.

What advice do you have to give to upcoming models?

I try to remind those that I mentor that modelling is just a job and once you are done with strutting the runway then revert to the essence of your being. As appealing as the world of modelling appears, the reality in Kenya is harsh, but even harsher if you aren’t light skinned.

How was growing up as a dark skinned girl look like?
It made me feel like I did not belong as all eyes stared at me. This is something that I still experience when walking around the city. Over the years I have learnt to shut it out- it’s the only way that I have coped.

What do you think about young girls bleaching?

Skin bleaching has become a trend in a bid to attain that acceptable look. Even young girls in Turkana are doing it. In addition, bleaching exposes one to the harmful chemicals that may even bring skin cancer or damage the skin entirely. I intend to show young girls that black is beautiful too.

What are your latest ambitions?
I have an organic beauty product business which is inspired by my movement against skin bleaching. I am currently working on a show called East Africa’s Next Top Model and I want to open a modelling school where I could train models.

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