We talked about your favourite fashion eras! Tell us why you love fashion in the 70s and 90s.
Fashion in the 70’s was sultry, powerful, and downright badass. I love the body flattering sexiness of bell bottoms to the big platform shoes, and the big afros which was the beginning of black people’s acceptance of their blackness & beauty as is. And I love the authentic effortless beauty of the 90’s; with the short hair looks of Nia Long, Halle Berry, Jada Pinkett etc. (which inspired my recent short haircut 🙂 and slightly baggy pants of Aaliyah, and Janet Jackson. I Love the sexy tom-boyish vibe.
Who would you say influenced your love for fashion?
Seeing models in different campaigns growing is what made me fall in love with fashion. I love the creativity and the ways in which we can express ourselves with fashion, but I’m in no way hung up on the idea that “fashion” means exotic brand names and expensive tabs.
Have you always wanted to be a model?
I always wanted to be a model but never actually thought I could be one full time. I actually never realized it would be a viable career for me because coming from an academically high achieving family, I was expected to go to college and get a job that was “respectable”. But since I could remember, I was very drawn to modeling. My first “modeling” gig in fact, was when I posed for my church brochure in Switzerland at the age of 6! I think I was in love with it ever since.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned as a model?
As a model, I have learned to be authentic and to be myself. The industry and the world will have you bending to fit its narrow moulds of what a woman should and should not be, but I have found that I am at my happiest, and can then perform my best when I am being my most true self. Period!
How would you describe the modelling industry now considering the recent happenings of the “Me Too” movement?
Since the #MeToo movement started gaining traction, I feel as though the lid has been lifted off of so many of the terrible things that were happening to women in the industry. Models, including myself, are many times put in compromising situations where we are afraid to speak up on injustices and less than ideal situations where we feel unsafe while working. Dare you say anything, and you may be blacklisted. So a lot of the time, we remain mum. But the movement gave a voice to the voiceless and a warning to the perpetrators like photographers, casting producers, and designers etc. that often do not get held accountable for their abuse of power.
What inspired you to start your model workshops?
I was inspired to begin my model workshop for young models because I am always getting messages from young girls and guys asking me how I became a model, and how I got where I am today. And so I wanted to create a way for me to directly reach out to those wanting to pursue a modeling career and teach them everything that I wish someone had taught me when I first started out; things that it took me years to learn from trial & error. Things like what model agencies look for when scouting for new models, what a model’s duties are, and things they need to be aware of in order to succeed in the industry. It was super successful and well received so I am looking forward to expanding the workshop in different ways soon 🙂
Tell us about your experience as the winner of Miss Maryland and a top five finalist of the Miss USA pageants?
Being Miss Maryland was such hard work! I honestly wasn’t expecting that when I first competed. I was very green to the pageant scene so I had the complete wrong idea of pageantry being all fun, with glitz and glam. I was tasked with coordinating my own non-profit programme where I was touring schools and holding workshops, and made many appearances. It ultimately taught me so much about personal branding and handling myself as a business. And being on the Miss USA stage just gave me so much confidence because I felt like if I could go up and perform in front of thousands of people in that audience, answer questions under pressure with millions more watching, then I could do anything.
If pageantry taught you one thing, what would you say it was?
Pageantry taught me how to be a BOSS. It ultimately taught me so much about personal branding and handling myself as a business by learning what set me apart from other accomplished women and how I can package that to make myself marketable.
2019’s Miss Universe winner was a black South African. What are your thoughts on the implications of Miss Zozibini Tunzi’s win?
I absolutely love that fact that finally, our ideas of what beauty is has changed even slightly enough to allow for a brown-skin woman with short natural hair to win, just as she is. I feel proud to have been a part of that legacy being one of the few black women on the Miss USA stage my year, which led to more and more women of colour breaking the barrier and going even further in their respective years. For so long, we had been left out of the conversation completely so now to have black women as title holders for four major titles, is a beautiful thing to see.
If you weren’t a successful model, what would you be?
I would probably be a successful human rights lawyer working in the UN. Or a pop star 🙂
Tell us more about your multi-cultural upbringing. How was it like navigating the different cultures?
It was pretty amazing traveling from the US to Ghana to Switzerland, and learning to adapt to all of those different places, cultures, and languages. It definitely allowed me to relate to almost anyone that I came in contact with, and taught me to appreciate my place in this world and how best to contribute to it, having seen life from all those different perspectives.
What’s the one thing you remember most about growing up in Ghana?
The food! When I’m away, I’m always missing my mother’s cooking and all the Ghanaian street fare like kelewele, boiled ground nuts, and even the simple fresh coconuts. I also miss the banku with okra, and fufu with palm nut soup; I’m drooling just thinking about it haha.
Did you have any insecurities while growing up? How did you overcome them?
I never had many real insecurities growing up. I didn’t feel like I was perfect but I also did not necessarily hate anything about myself that I really wanted to change. I just learned to love myself at an early age by accepting myself as I was, because I didn’t think changing anything I didn’t like (such as my big forehead, or big calves for example) was an option. These days loving yourself wholly seems like a revolutionary act.
On a more personal note, how was it like growing up without your parents?
Growing up without your parents was tough. I really had to learn to be my own motivator, my own navigator, and support system. That was the hardest part.
On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate your skills in DJing?
On a musical level, I would rate my DJ’ing at a 12! Haha so hire me for your next event!
(BUT on a technical level, I would still rate myself at like 7, because until I reach the level that I know I can get to, when it comes to mixing and transitioning, I won’t feel like I am operating at my best) so always a work in progress.
Photography– Frozzen Second
Creative Direction and Styling – Brimah
Looks – Yartel & Larry Jay
Make Up – Woena MakeUp Artistry