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You are only a loser if you quit- Model Letoya Johnstone

My Man

Model, talent manager and counsellor are some of the many hats worn by LETOYA JOHNSTONE. ESTHER MUCHENE talks to this charismatic and one-of-a-kind young Kenyan who is going places.

You have quite an interesting name. Is Letoya Johnstone your real name or a nickname?

Yes it’s my real name. I was born Letoya Johnstone David although later in life after my parents’ death, I had to take my adopted father’s name too.

How did you get into the modelling industry?

I grew up around a model in the USA when I was a child. The passion then swept me off my feet as I was growing up and before I knew it, I was nurturing this specific talent.

When did you get your first modelling job?

When I was in Form Two at Otok Secondary School and I had to travel from Kendu-Bay to Nairobi for the Fashion High Tea organised by Grace Makosewe and Dorothy Oliech. Thank God no one asked for identification.

Which are some of the magazines you have graced or been featured in?

Elle magazine, Vogue Italia although it was small space I am still humbled. Bweb magazine in Holland and Couture Africa magazine, just to mention a few.

How did you get into model management?

Rejection drove me to it and I started Toy Toy Models Management after I almost quit this industry. Also my passion for the art and the magic of correcting people when I see the wrong things they do. I’m not perfect since perfection is a disease but I also wanted to see what I could bring to the table challenging models through positive competition.

Is it a lucrative business?

Well like any other business, it has both challenging and lucrative moments. It is a business and like I say “the people who are worst losers are those who quit.’’ You have to adapt.

What are some of the challenges models in Kenya face?

Oh they are so many like lack of modelling techniques, fake modelling agencies, lack of cohesiveness in the industry, sexual harassment, corruption, models willing to do anything instead of everything to get a gig, show organisers running away with models’ money... the list is endless.

You also work at a hospital. What do you do?

I work as a psychologist and a counsellor. I deal with people living with HIV/AIDS, sexual reproductive health, peer education, child counselling and providing youth-friendly services and many more under Women Fighting AIDS in Kenya.

How do you balance all that you do?

I am flexible but again I arrange most of my modelling jobs during my leave days and weekends. I am honest and genuine hence I communicate with my bosses and I also have the ability to work under minimal or no supervision having in mind what brought me to Nairobi. My work at the hospital will always come first.

Tell us about your family?

It is a painful story. I come from a polygamous family. I was adopted there from age seven going to eight. I love my sister Elizabeth Houston very much but again all my family members count. Aulgah Nato of Nato design house, Catherine Obura and Lilian Anyona are my rocks. They taught me well as an adult but all the best shout out goes to my mama Rosemary Adongo and my dad Cyprianos Odira Mwai.

Given the chance to change something in your life what would it be?

The only thing I can change is either shoes or clothes because I need to be stylish but apart from that I will never change anything about me because I am unique and beautiful the way I am.

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