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Curvy and fabulous

By | February 16th 2011

Miss Face of Africa Texas 2010, Tina Chege proves that you don’t have to be a size zero to win a beauty pageant. She talked to Shirley Genga during a recent visit to Kenya.

In what way is the Miss Face of Africa Texas 2010 different from other pageants?

The Texas pageant is not the regular pageant, as it involves women of all sizes and height, all that matters is that you are African. It’s not just about beauty and talent but more about having a personal purpose and project . You are required to come up with a project that gives back to the society.

What project did you choose to get involved with?

‘Good health, great life’; it’s an HIV-Aids project. I know that a lot has been said and done about Aids but what drew me to this particular project was the fact that Aids still has a stigma attached to it. I know that it sounds clichÈ, but right now it is the number one thing killing black Americans. Stigma is still very much alive because of ignorance. My project involves visiting people with Aids and assisting them by cleaning their homes and cooking for them because they have no one to help them. Also, I help to create awareness about the disease by talking to young girls

How did you come to know about the pageant and have you taken part in any other pageants?

I‘m naturally shy and I have never fitted the size requirement for beauty pageants, so I have never taken part in a competition of this nature. A friend found out about it through Facebook in March last year and was very persistent in pushing me to try out for it. After a lot of persuasion I finally caved in and agreed to try out for the pageant.

What were the auditions like for you?

Oh! They were nerve wracking; I never do such things! To make it to the finals, you had to cat walk, perform a talent, then do a choreographed five-minute dance routine then finish by talking about your project to give back to society. It was crazy. There were girls who were very tall and had modelling experience and there I was with no experience at all. I seriously did not think that I would win.

What was your talent?

I do poetry. I started writing poetry when I was a little girl. It has always been an outlet for me. I had never shared my words with anyone, so it was my first time

What was going through your head when you were named as the winner during the finals?

I was in shock; I even thought that they had made a mistake. I could not believe that me, with my shyness and lack of experience could win

What did you win with the title?

Fifteen thousand dollars (Sh1.2M), two tickets to fly anywhere in the States, three magazine spreads and a six-month modelling contract. Also sponsors to help the winner with their project when it comes to things like travelling expenses.

How has you life changed since winning the title?

It has made me more outgoing. At least now I can speak in front of people. My whole family is shy; I do not know what is wrong with us (laughs). I have also learnt to prioritise my time. Holding a title and going to school at the same time is not easy. Because of my project, I’m usually on the road or attending events to talk about what I’m doing.

How long have you been living in Texas and how is it different from Kenya?

My family and I moved to Texas when I was six, so I have been living in Texas for 15 years. The weather there is much hotter and people are different. They are not as friendly or warm as Kenyans. Their whole culture is different, everyone is basically on their own. This is the first time since I left Kenya that I have been back and it has been a wonderful experience; everyone is so open and free.

What was it like being in a new country when you were six?

Adjusting was very hard for me and it was even harder because I am an only child so I dealt with all the changes on my own. When we first arrived, I did not even know English. The kids there were very ignorant and it is not their fault, it’s just the type of environment they have been brought up in. They would ask me very funny questions, like if we lived on trees in Kenya. They do not know about other cultures, so I was picked on a lot. When I got older, things got better because as kids there get older they become a bit more aware of diversity in the world

Which university are you in and what are you studying?

I’m currently at the University of North Texas and I am studying psychology. I chose psychology because I love to give back to people and psychology involves creating an environment to listen to someone and to help them. I hope to finish my bachelors so that I can go to Grad school. I also intend to continue with my project, ‘Good health, and great life’.

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