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Ajuma Nasanya: How Kenyan athlete became international supermodel & community champion

From Turkana refugee camp to international runways and community champion: The inspiring journey of Kenyan supermodel Ajuma Nasanya

How Ajuma Nasanya became international supermodel & community champion

Ajuma Nasanyana, a Kenyan supermodel, never envisioned herself strutting down the runway.

As a child growing up in Lodwar, Turkana County, her dream was to become a world-class athlete. She had an exceptional talent for running and became the 400-meter champion in Kenya in the early 2000s.

Her life took an unexpected turn when she was featured in a newspaper article after winning the 400-meter race.

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An agent from Ford Models, an international modelling agency, spotted her and invited her to participate in Ford’s Supermodel of the World competition in 2004.

"I was spotted on a newspaper. Actually i used to be an athlete. Also i was third runners up in Miss Tourism," Ajuma said.

Ajuma was hesitant at first because she believed that her dark skin tone made her unattractive. However, with some encouragement from her family, she decided to give it a try.

"Everybody told me that i could model but of course that is something i din't believe i could do because my skin tone has always been frowned upon. So i din't feel beautiful.

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"When people asked to model i was very surprised but i decided to give a go... Also, I used to watch The Face of Africa and i admired all the beautiful girls", she said.

Her decision paid off, and she went on to have a successful 17-year career in the modelling and fashion industry.

She has worked with top brands such as Victoria’s Secret, Vivienne Westwood, Fendi, and Vogue.

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In 2005, Complex magazine named her one of the world’s ten most beautiful women. In 2012, she was named African Fashion Week Model of the Year.

Ajuma’s success in the industry has allowed her to give back to her community. She is involved in several community projects through her Ajuma Foundation, which aims to promote education, health, and economic empowerment in rural Kenya.

"The reason why i started Ajuma Foundation is because i was also rescued as a child and given a dignified life. I have always felt like i need to go back and help my community.

"We have one of the biggest refugee camp in Turkana, I went back and gave youth through school based programs like make up artistry, make up design, photography, digital marketing sothey don't have to sit and wait for handouts from United Nations all the time," she said.

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Recently, she launched exercise books with animations featuring local communities to help learners appreciate Kenyan culture.

Despite her success, Ajuma recognizes the challenges facing aspiring models in Kenya. The modelling industry in Kenya is still developing, and opportunities are limited.

Ajuma encourages young models to try their luck in the international industry to grow their talent and gain more exposure.

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In 2013, she partnered with City Models Paris to open Africa’s first international model and casting agency, which aims to provide opportunities for African models to break into the international scene.

Through her agency, Ajuma hopes to give more African models a chance to achieve their dreams.

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Eyewitness? Submit your stories now via social or:

Email: news@pulselive.co.ke

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