Beauty with scandals

They say beauty is how you feel inside and it reflects in your eyes. It is not something physical. Yet most beauty queens, despite being considered as role models, often serve their reigns riddled with murk, writes STEVENS MUENDO

With a charming smile complementing her sublime beauty, Alexandria Mills, the reigning Miss World brightened the airport lobby and stirred commotion as enthusiastic onlookers battled to catch a glimpse of ostensibly the fairest of them all.

Her gold pendant dazzled like a million stars as camera lights flashed. Her irresistible blonde looks shone even more.

 The pomp ushering her arrival on her first visit to Africa was crowned with a touch of African culture as the American-born beauty was presented with a Maasai leso to her delight.

So startling was the breathtaking heroic welcome that even her boss, Julia Morley, the Miss World franchise holder, was lost for words.

But yet still, how better could it get with the other two Miss World runners up — Emma Wareus from Botswana and Adriana Vasini of Venezuela — joining in the three-day tour in Nairobi.

“This is a beautiful country. I am glad to be here,” she sighed as she waved to the crowd and boarded a courtesy limousine to the world-rated Tribe Hotel.

It is almost a year since the soft-spoken 18-year-old, was named the winner of Miss World 2010 contest in southern China. Back then, the tall blonde stirred controversy and speculation was rife that Chinese judges blocked front-runner Miss Norway in favour of the American teenager.

As the dark cloud hang over her for months, spice was added to the broth with allegations of her nude photos surfacing on the Internet. The latter firmly put her in an endless list of beauty queens whose reigns have been saddled with scandals and controversies.

But all these seemed to be behind her now during this joyous moment. 

Beautiful attributes

“I have a passion for singing. I can recall my first public performance where my entire family joined in to watch the presentation,” she remarked.

“I like playing the French horn and percussions. I grew up singing country music and country rock. I enjoy travelling a lot,” added the beauty who describes herself as positive, spontaneous, open-minded and an outgoing person. She is also a vegetarian and an addict for Italian pasta.

“I intend to travel the world and pursue a career in landscape and architectural photography. I have this motto that the best things in life are worth waiting for, fighting for, believing in, and just never letting go of,” she quipped.

The excitement surrounding her visit could have no better impact than the ecstatic thrill that filled the Miss World, Kenya, academy booty camp, where she shared moments with raw beauty talents expected to battle it out for her crown later this month.

For a beauty industry, which has been marred by controversies and uncertainties, her encouragement came as a reprieve to the amateur models from whom a Kenyan representative will be picked for the Miss World 2011 contest.

Besides gorgeous Natasha Metto, the reigning Miss Kenya, who — representing Africa — won the coveted Miss World Beauty with a Purpose title at the 2010 Miss World pageant at Sanya, China, Kenyan representatives have always had a poor show in the global plat form. In fact, when it comes to the big four —Miss World, Miss Universe, Miss Earth and Miss International — Kenyan representatives hardly get the sniff of the finals.

It is even strange to learn that some of those representatives never make it to the contest abroad with squabbles, corruption and controversy stalking the organisers and franchise holders.

Faulty auditions

Claims of sexual harassment, bribery, nepotism and other forms of frustrations during auditions have in the past been levelled on some of the organisers and judges by some of the beauties, majority of whom, after being disappointed, have vowed never to attend any modelling auditions.

Fashion and catwalk events organisers fell out with each other further segmenting the industry down with showcase of what became ‘village’ modelling competitions.

“We have been trying to bring the fashion and modelling industry back together and that is why we formed the Kenya Modelling Fraternity which serves not only as a modelling and fashion initiative but also general talent search through a unique online talent management. Our vision is to bring together all the industry players in order to achieve sustainable growth,” says Tony Chirah of Kenya Modelling Fraternity.

According to sources, one is required to place a deposit of Sh10 million to bid for franchise holding for the Miss World event in a given country. This, many promoters feel, is prohibitive that making it almost impossible for young talented promoters who are ready to change the face of the modelling industry to place a bid.     

“To some extent, many modelling hopefuls and industry players lost faith in the way the auditions were conducted. That is why we have gone back to the town-to-town auditions as it used to be the case back in the days,” says Big Ted, whose company has been helping to scout girls for this years Miss World competition.     

Back in the days, the Miss Tourism beauty pageant was treated with dignity after it attracted government support. It was being viewed as an avenue to promote tourism.

We all remember Ajuma Nasenyana who was discovered in Turkana during the 2003 Miss Tourism search before she hit the international platform. It was during the Miss Tourism event that she attracted the attention of Lyndsey McIntyre of Surazuri Modelling Agency.

Soon afterward, Gamma Photo Agency came to Kenya to do a story on McIntyre’s scouting work and were so taken with Nasenyana that she became the main feature of the story.

It later ran in France’s Gala magazine. The pictures taken anchored Nasenyana’s portfolio, presented to international agency Ford Models, who entered her in Ford’s Supermodel of the World competition.

She soon signed with agencies in London, Italy, Austria, Spain, Ireland, Canada and Sweden.


Nasenyana participated in the New York Fashion Week alongside Naomi Campbell and Alek Wek for designers such as Baby Phat and Carlos Mienes before travelling to Milan to model for fashion houses such as Ungaro during the Italian Fashion Week.

Since then, Nasenyana has shot to several magazine covers, a video for Lacoste, and a catalogue for Issey Miyake.

“Beauty pageants were big back then. Government ministers could even attend crowning moments and pledge government support to the winners,” recalls Chris Kirwa, one of the consistent and reputable modelling event organisers in the country.

“Miss Tourism was big. We could scout for raw talent from town to town. We put them in academies where they were schooled on etiquette, good grooming and modelled to fit international standards. That is how we got girls who could compete on the global stage,” notes Kirwa who also played a key role in the birth of Miss Malaika.   

 However, controversy hit the pageant after Debra Sanaipei won it as critics raised the red flag alluding that she had been handed over the crown just because she had a famous father. She is Ole Ntimama’s daughter.

Years later, there was uncertainty as to who the Miss Tourism franchise holder was with two organisers claiming the rights to it.

But further confusion marred the once reputable modelling industry as organisers were accused of using the crown holders for their personal ‘businesses’ in the name of promoting the image of the country abroad.

“Most models used the platform to hook themselves with rich septuagenarians, mostly white men. Very few former crown holders put professionalism in modelling and that is why it all got watered down,” says Leakey Odera, a veteran events organiser now running Miss University.

“We have heard of former beauty crown holders turning into drug barons while others get arrested after getting involved in unbelievable scandals,” adds Leakey.

Kenyans are yet to embrace modelling. Countries like Venezuela take modelling seriously. Even closer home in Tanzania, the Miss World competition is treated with respect. Girls fight to win it. It is high time we upped the game in Kenya.

“Besides, it is not just about the crown but what one does with it during their reign that matters,” insists Cecilia Mwangi, a former Miss World,Kenya crown holder.