After a one-year reign during which she represented Kenya at the Miss Universe beauty pageant in Thailand, 22-year-old Wabaiya Kariuki speaks about preparing for her exit
Pulse: It has been about a year since you were crowned Miss Universe Kenya. How was your reign?
Wabaiya: It has been a roller-coaster of a journey with great lessons that I would have otherwise not learned.
P: Has being a beauty queen changed your lifestyle in anyway?
W: My life hasn’t really changed. I still do the things I used to do, the way I used to do them. The people who are close to me recognise the need for me to remain the person I have always been so they treat me as such.
P: What are some of the major challenges you have picked as well as lessons learned along the way?
W: Being a beauty queen in a country that isn’t impressed by beauty queens made it really hard to negotiate for partnerships for potential work and sponsorships for my causes. But I have learned to have a fighting spirit and to build networks because those go a long way.
P: What would you say has been the highlight of your reign as Miss Universe?
W: Those would have to be two. This Miss Universe main competition in Thailand last December was literally a dream. I made great friends with girls from all over the world and had a good time. The other would be the community service with Smile Train and my mental wellness campaigns. Touching lives even in the smallest ways gave me so much joy.
P: Being Miss Universe must come with good tidings. Does it pay?
W: Good tidings come when you look for them. Miss Universe Kenya gives you a platform. What you do with it determines everything.
P: What roles where you expected to play?
W: I am a Goodwill Ambassador for Smile Train and at the same time, I have my own cause which is the area of mental health. This means I have had to attend various outreach activities promoting the two.
P: How has the support by the pageant holder been?
W: It was good in that they facilitated my travel to Bangkok for the main competition, they managed to get me sponsored clothing, shoes and even classes on applying makeup.
P: Have you had some major deals coming your way as Miss Universe as it is sometimes the case with such openings?
W: I am hoping for some in the future.
P: If you would start the process afresh, what would you do different?
W: Research! I would research on all things pageantry, personal branding and PR.
P: You are an Actuarial Science graduate from Daystar University. What next after the crown?
W: I expect to get employment in my field of study then hopefully go into business. I don’t think I was born for the glamour world so it’s highly unlikely that you will see more of me in it. But life tends to surprise us at times. Let us see how things go.
P: With this experience, what would you say is the biggest misconception about the local modeling industry?
W: That it’s not for smart girls. Ironically, for one to get through this industry you need to be real smart. Given a chance, I would create more awareness about beauty pageants so that it makes it easy for people and organisations to want to work with beauty queens.
P: On a lighter note, describe Wabaiya in three words
W: Strong, loving, silly!
P: What tickles you?
W: Making people happy makes me happy. I love watching movies more than I would read books. In my wildest fantasy dream I see myself living on my own island.
P: You must love maths to be an Actuarial Science graduate. Tell us about that and growing up…
W: Well, I am the second born in a family of five children. I lost my mother at the age of 17. I have a step mother who together with my father have created a comfortable life for us. In school I loved maths, hence my choice course to study.