Interview: New York Based Kenyan Model Giannina Oteto Dishes Out On Working With Kanye West

Giannina Oteto

New York based Kenyan model Giannina Oteto has been the talk of the year.

In February 2016, she joined star models – including Kylie Jenner – to showcase for Kanye West’s Yeezy Season 3 at Madison Square Garden. The show attracted 20,000 people and was one of the most talked about happenings last year. It was during the same event that he streamed his new album at the time, Life of Pablo.

It was during this busy day when Giannina had her most memorable encounter with the “All of the Lights” rapper. She is a super busy model but she managed to have sometime for us to converse about what she’s been up to. I was awed by what she told me.
Giannina Oteto

“Kanye West is such a great person. Lots of us always hear how unfriendly or not nice he is. But from working with him, he was a really genuine and very kind man. Very respectful and caring. One show I did for him I was wearing his son’s necklace which he took off his own neck for me to wear. And I remember him saying “after the show, please personally return this to me”, she revealed.

Of course you can imagine how worthy this piece of art was. If Kanye insisted that she return it to him, then it means that it must have been a gem to the creator.

“So of course I did just that, but while I was waiting for him to finish speaking with his wife. I went up and asked him to help me take it off, then one of his stylists insisted she would take it off for me, I kindly refused and told her I had told him I would return it to him. After approaching him and returning the necklace to him, he thanked me and mentioned he had forgotten that he let one of the models wear it due to how busy the day was. He was very grateful though,” she added.

This is one of the rare moments that gets shown on media. There was one time when Kanye actually smiled for the camera and the whole thing went viral. He was hanging out with my good friend Nqobile Danseur, a London based South African dancer and model.

Giannina’s experience is just one of the many interesting stuff she’s done since she flew to the USA. Last year, she made headlines when she was chosen to be on the cover of Childish Gambino’s Awaken, My Love! album cover. The album debuted at number 5 on the US Billboard Top 200. It also received Album of the Year nomination at the 60th Annual Grammy Awards

Childish Gambino.

She was nominated for the Abraynz Style & Fashion Awards 2017 as Female Model of the Year (Africa). She’s also proud to have traveled to countries such as England, South Africa, Italy, Mexico and other beautiful places.

“Theres so many milestones I have accomplished and I am still so excited for what’s to come! Just to sum it up, there’s a lot of things but would take me forever to list,” she adds.

Interview conducted by @harunmomanyi. Harun is an accredited lifestyle and entertainment journalist, known for working with the likes of Yemi Alade, Vanessa Mdee, Sauti Sol, Eddy Kenzo, K.O and other big celebrities. You can check out more of his work at www.momanyiharun.com.

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Top Kenyan Model Olivia Sang On Nude Photography: “Art Comes In All Shapes And Forms”

Olivia Sang

By Kimani Judy, BMRA Ambassador & Contributor

As one of the finest models Kenya has ever produced, Olivia Sang is representing the country very well.

The passionate professional model dished out on her success journey, which has seen her getting signed to Boss Models, a leading model management agency in South Africa. She has also appeared on reputable magazine publications, including Elle South Africa, Marie Claire South Africa and True Love East Africa.

Here’s what she had to say:

Judy: : Being a BSc. Finance graduate, i am aware that you had other options in your career path, speak to us about your decision to do modeling and what was the first job you got as a model.

Olivia: My first modeling job was on a gospel music video with a few other friends of mine for a local artist while I was in my second year in college. I did have a couple of other jobs in my finance career but my passion for modeling was more and I decided to pursue modeling full time.

 

Olivia Sang

Judy: I understand that you were teased when growing up about your skin color, how did that affect how you saw yourself as a black model in the industry? And generally how have you dealt with the stereotypes of being a black model?

Olivia: I view myself as an individual who has the opportunity to knock down stereotypes of there being a token black model and to being hired because of how good I am at what I do. I do still have some days that are not all great which happens to us all as individuals.

Judy: Speaking of stereotypes of being black model, would you change yourself for a modeling job?

Olivia: Everyday I grow, learn and evolve into better versions of myself but I would never change my character for anything.

Olivia Sang

Judy: You have worked with leading fashion houses, leading designers and photographers the likes of, Woolworths South Africa, Mr. Price, Brandon Barnard, Truworths and others. How do you keep yourself grounded? How do you keep in shape for such big roles?

Olivia: I do take my health and physical fitness very seriously. Getting enough sleep and hydration always keeps me in high spirits and therefore I can do my job effectively. I keep myself grounded by keeping my goals in mind, where I came from and where I want to be in my career.

Judy: Being brought up in a typical Kenyan household usually entails conservative guardians, and we see the likes of Kendall Jenner and Gigi Hadid do nude photography, tell us what your opinion on nude photography is?

Olivia: Art comes in all shapes and forms. Everything we set our eyes on is art as long as it’s conveyed in the correct way and in a manner that is not offensive to anyone.

Olivia Sang model

Judy: How did you end up working for Boss Models in Cape Town and how has it been adjusting to life in foreign country?

Olivia: 2017 has been a year full of blessings for me. Adjusting to life in South Africa has been pretty exciting because of all the wonderful people I have met and all the places I have worked. It has been an adventure. Boss Cape Town scouted me from Johannesburg where I still am signed and work from time to time and that’s how I ended up working in Cape Town.

Judy: Speaking of relocating to South Africa from Kenya, did your parents support your move to follow your dreams, despite being so far from home, and what do you miss most about home?

Olivia: My parents were very supportive of my move. Being so far from home so often, I miss my family all the time but I get to meet all kinds of people and make friends from all over the world. It’s an experience.

Olivia Sang

Judy: let’s talk about the cliché idea that most casting agents or even designers have about how models should look — body size,body type or even what eat — have you ever fallen victim of not being accepted for a casting because of such and generally what are your views about this?

Olivia: Personally I have not experienced this ideology of what to eat or how to look. There are so many times that as a model I have not been what the client is looking for which is fine because you will not always be right for the job. Models come in different shapes and sizes and I believe a model is as good as he or she believes.

Judy: Is there someone special in your life right now, and would you date in the industry, like a fellow model?

Olivia: I have always kept my personal life private because it tends to make one’s work subjective which is not the goal when you are trying to build a brand. That is not to mean that there is a lack of existence of personal life, it just means I choose to keep mine private.

Judy: What are the five things you can’t travel without?

-A rosary
-A maasai blanket my mother gave me
-A frying pan(everywhere I go I carry it, basically because I can’t stand burnt omelets .)
-A vaseline tub
-Atleast 2 interesting books

Olivia Sang

Judy: There are so many young, beautiful black girls out here that are actually being teased about their skin color and haven’t really been able to rise above all the hate, if you had the opportunity to meet and talk to them what would you like them to know?

Olivia: I would tell them, love yourself because you are a beautiful girl with skin that is gonna stop ageing at 25 lol.

Be confident because the people that are staring are wondering why you are so beautiful. So hold your head high and be the gorgeous girl you really are, hold eye contact with people and do not be afraid to wear the clothes you want to wear.

Judy: Finally Olivia who do you look up to in the modeling industry and what’s your goal in modeling or rather what would you like to achieve?

Olivia: I look up to many people in the industry. People who inspire change everyday with the pieces they create. I am inspired on how to move by what a designer creates. I specifically look up to Alek Wek because I have seen her break boundaries since I was a young girl and I have always wanted to emulate her and do a job as good as she does, maybe even better.

I have so many things that I want to achieve in life. One of them is being a person that will inspire people to be who they really want to be and to not be afraid to follow their dreams. I also have personal goals which are going to play out as time goes by so stay tuned.

November’s Biggest Highlight: Nairobi Fashion Week In Detail

By Kimani Judy, BMRA Ambassador & Contributor

The fashion industry in Kenya is growing bigger and betters each year and what better way to celebrate our African fashion prowess than dedicating a whole week to all things fashion.

This past weekend (24th – 26th Nov 2017) the summer/spring edition was held at the Nairobi International Convention and Conference Centre and the theme was ‘Arise’.

Nairobi Fashion Week
Model Syra Iqbal with her pal Maryam

The 3 day event was an all glam affair from the designers pieces showcased, to the red carpet moment, the street styles from models and the pop up shops. The runway featured international designers from all over the Africa and beyond. Some of them include Alexander Akande (Cameroon), Matseliso Mphaka (Lesotho),Paakow Essandoh (Ghanaian), Armstrong Loga (Cameroon), Thokozani Freedom Mbatha ( Durban), Sam Omondi (Kenyan), Rawan Bahabri (Saudi Arabia), Yaan Djossonou ( Benin), Ines Claudia and Diane Umugwaneza (Belgium), Safietou Seck (Senegal), Idil Abdi Mohammed ( Kenyan), Alexandria Garcia ( Spain), Brian Lenze ( South African), Ingo Shanyege ( UK),  Debbie Oyugi  (Kenyan), Fatuma Asha (Ugandan),  Irina Karataeva (Russian), Rosalina Sina Tlelase (Lesotho), Megan Smith ( USA).

Nairobi Fashion Week
Guests at the event made us regret why we didn’t show up by reminding us that fashion is an art, not merely dressing.

 

Nairobi Fashion Week

Diana Umugwaneza of Seraphina.rw (made in Rwanda) walking down the runway after her collection was showcased in the fashion event.

 

Nairobi Fashion Week
One of the runway looks from Fatuma Hasha collection; her garments reflect modesty, glam and sophistication.

 

Ethnic Jewelry
Display from @levitandoenafrika ethnic jewelry macrame designer that uses her trips in Africa as her source of inspiration in her pieces.

 

Cameroonian Designers
Design by Alexander Akande (Cameroon) of Atelerakande a brand that aims to redefine the public perception of African fashion.

 

Nairobi Fashion Week
Sam Omondi is the Kenyan designer behind this runway look, classic and modern is the vision in his brand as he couples the rich Kenyan culture with the very refined British craftsmanship.

 

Nairobi Fashion Week
A piece by Idil Abdi Mohamed a Kenyan designer, who offers women an edgy sense of fashion with a lot more of modesty to go with it.

Victoria’s Secret 2017: The Best Of The Black Models Who Graced The Show

Herieth Paul

By Kimani Judy, BMRA Ambassador & Contributor

This year’s Victoria’s Secret edition went down in Shanghai, China.

The main aim is to tap into the burgeoning Chinese fashion economy. The event took place at the Mercedes Benz arena. The theme was pink, glitter and more pink, focusing on sportswear and nightwear.

The occasion was one of its kind. Usual models like Gigi Hadid, Behati Presloo and Kendall Jenner were nowhere to be seen and a lot of new faces were spotted and more importantly plenty of melanin was served.

The inclusion of black models in the show speaks volumes to young black girls all over the world who feel that some jobs or dreams are not achievable. Here’s a quick summary of the black models that owned the runway and are on their way to being angels.

Grace Bol

Grace Bol
In her pink custom Victoria Secret robe.

 

Grace Bol
With Balmain Creative Director Olivier Rousteing

She started her modeling at age 19, when she was scouted at a mall in Kansas City, Missouri. Her family had relocated to the USA from South Sudan when she was just a child. Grace has a number of agencies representing her i.e. New York (The Lions), Paris (Oui management), London (Core Artist Management) etc. Bol is all the black girl magic we needed and so much more for the Victoria Secret.

 

Grace Bol
Grace at the after party of the Victoria secret show 2017

Herieth Paul

Herieth Paul

The Tanzanian model joined the list of the few African models that have made it to Victoria Secret Fashion Show. She has worked with various agencies in New York (Women Management), London (Elite London), Paris (Women Management) etc., since the tender age of 15, before finally strutting the Victoria Secret runway.

 

Herieth Paul
Herieth with her fellow angels backstage at the Victoria’s Secret show

Amilna Estevao

Almina Estevao

Amilna has already made her mark in the fashion world at only 18 years, by walking for one of the world’s biggest and exclusive fashion house. The beauty hails from Angola, and was discovered at 14 years when she starred in elite model look contest and won the competition in Luanda, Angola. She has worked with other agencies apart from Elite Paris, Elite London i.e. The Society Management New York.

Almina Estevao
Amilna showcasing her lingerie piece at the Victoria Secret runway.

 

Kenya’s Magline Jeruto Emerges Top 5 At Miss World Finals

Miss World Kenya Magline Jeruto

By Kimani Judy, BMRA Ambassador & Contributor

Over the weekend, Miss World Kenya Magline Jeruto became the talk of town. The 24-year-old hit headlines, making millions around the world want to know who she really is.

She managed to be among the top five finalists in the just concluded 2017 Miss World pageant held in Sanya, China.

Magline not only defeated over 100 contestants by emerging top five but she was also crowned as Miss World Africa, a title that she wears with pride for her country, Kenya. The beauty, who hails from the less known Elgeyo Marakwet County in Kenya, represented her country  so well in the pageant. She showcased the beauty, grace and talent that Kenya has to offer.

The winner of this year’s Miss World pageant is Indian Manushi Chhillar. Other top 5 contestants were Sophia Hill (England), Miss Mexico, Andrea Meza and Aurore Kichenin (Miss France).

We are so proud of or Jeruto.

Miss World 2017
The list of the top 5 contestants in this year’s Miss World

 

Here are some of her photos:

Magline Jeruto
Magline with other contestants on the stage.
Magline Jeruto Miss World
Magline Jeruto with Miss Mongolia, Enkhjin Tseveendash

 

Magline Jeruto
On the runway

Miss World Kenya Jeruto

Miss World Kenya Jeruto
With Miss World Malta Michela Galea