Born in Lodwar, Turkana County, 34 year old Ajuma Nasenyana’s modelling career began when she had just completed her studies at prestigious Greensteds International School, which she had attended courtesy of an NGO from Lodwar.
Despite her success in modeling Ajuma had never thought that she would end up on the runway but instead had her eyes set on being an athlete and later on went into training for 400 metre and 800 metre-track running. She won the World Junior Championship National Trials in 2002 then came in third in the World Championship National trials.
After a while, she participated in the Miss Tourism beauty pageant in 2003 and was crowned Miss Nairobi. She was first scouted by Lindsey McIntyre, who was wowed by her slim, well-toned features and scouted her at the beauty pageant after she had won.
Later on when Gamma Photo Agency came to Kenya to do a story on McIntyre’s work as a scout model, they developed interest in Nasenyana and arranged a meeting with her at the airport as she was about to leave for Sweden.
The pictures were compiled into a portfolio and presented to Ford Models, an international modelling agency based in the United States, which then entered her in Ford’s Supermodel of the World competition.
During the finals the following year, Nasenyana won the $50,000 (Sh5 million) finalist’s prize, making history by becoming the first black model to win in an international contest that did not focus on black models only. During that same year, she won €6,000 (Shs 690,000) for being voted Best Model during the Spanish Fashion Week.
Under McIntyre’s guidance, Nasenyana soon signed with modeling agencies in London, Austria, Italy, Spain, Ireland, Canada and Sweden which put her name on the map as one of the few black models to walk the runway during her time.
In August 2005, she was voted among the world’s 10 most beautiful women by Complex magazine and in 2012 she was named African Fashion Week Model of the Year. In 2013, Nasenyana partnered with City Models Paris to open Africa’s first international model and casting agency.
As a young girl, Ajuma was teased for her dark skin, and for a long time she struggled with self-love. She has in previous interviews said that she felt like an ugly duckling because she did not fit into what society defined as beautiful.
The money and fame did not stop her from finding love. Ajuma met her husband Gustav Ericson when he was 17years old and she was 15. According to the supermodel, he describes him as her first love. Despite the fact that their love has experienced its ups and downs, she has in previous interviews admitted that they always found their way to each other and always end up stronger than before.
The couple has two sons.
Besides modelling, Nasenyana has acted as a spokesperson for black models who often face discrimination within the industry.
European standards of beauty place a lot of pressure on black models and black women in general, thereby causing a rise in practices such as skin bleaching, which is common in Kenya.
Ajuma has been vocal in her campaign against skin bleaching and has severally expressed interest in launching a cosmetics and natural skin care line for dark-skinned women with hopes that her products would inspire people of African descent to love their skin, instead of attempting to alter it through bleaching and skin lightening to have to fit into societal expectations.
(All photos Courtesy)If you were arrested with no explanation, what would your friends and family assume you had done?