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Kenyan beauties rock London

By Shamlal Puri | Jul 17th 2016 | 6 min read

They walked, talked, rocked, gyrated, danced and exhibited their best on the ramp — all 13 contestants who took to the stage in a brilliantly choreographed night at the 2016 Face of Kenya UK Pageant on July 2.

The fourth edition of the Kenyan beauty show at the Millennium Gloucester Hotel in the plush Royal Borough of Kensington area of central London attracted some 400 Kenyans and friends of Kenya from all over the UK.

Like each Face of Kenya UK event in the past, this was a place where diaspora Kenyans not only from London but also from as far away as Birmingham, Glasgow, Cardiff and other countries in Europe came together to celebrate the successes of Kenyan youth who were born and and are living thousands of miles away from Kenya.

The 13 contestants strutted regally on the ramp in the well-lit Orchard Suite of the Millennium Hotel and exhibited the best of fashion, music, dance and Kenyan culture.

In attendance was the Kenya High Commissioner to the UK Lazarus Amayo, Mrs Amayo and Dr Josephine Ojiambo.

Also present were the deputy Secretary-General of the Commonwealth and business persons, professionals, parents and friends of Kenya including Cllr Elizabeth Kang’ethe, former Mayor of the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham, prominent business woman Mrs Perez Ochieng, Director of Sacoma Global, an organisation that promotes Kenyan farmers’ produce, and Mr Juvenal Shiundu among many others.

The evening started with Kenya’s National Anthem followed by a lively sound programme from assembled DJs Josh Paps and Simba Sounds.

This year’s event brought together contestants from different parts of the UK and various Kenyan communities.

Each of these ambassadors was required to pick a charity connected to Kenya for which they had to raise funds.

The models were elegant and professional. The judges were in a dilemma but the leadership and philanthropic crown went to 23-year-old Ann Wainaina, a professional in the pharmaceutical industry, who had the perfect prescription for success.

She had raised a considerable amount — £957 — for an orphanage, the St Ann’s Baby and Children Home in Gilgil. Her campaign was on identity of the diaspora youth.

The first runner-up was a community champion, Maryann Kamau, who raised £1800.08 for Transform A Person Africa (TAPA) in Kibera. Her campaign was on bringing the community together in activities that would help the less fortunate.

The second runner-up was teenager Agnes Thiong’o, 17. She raised £945 for her charity of choice, the Makimei Children’s Home. She exhorted Kenyans to shun tribalism.

In an exclusive with Sunday Magazine, the winner Ann Wainaina said  she was truly overwhelmed and humbled.

“It definitely came as a surprise. I have never really managed to connect with my Kenyan heritage partly because of growing up in the UK and mainly because young Kenyans born and bred in UK tend to get carried away with the daily flow of life and culture in the UK,” she said.

“I would call this typical diaspora blues — not Kenyan enough to be a Kenyan and not British enough to be British. But since winning, my thinking has changed.”

She said her parents were her true mentors. “They have always been there for me besides my two older sisters. As cliché as that sounds, I would not be what I am without them.

“They all have very different personalities, and I am a mixture of them all. I look up to them more than anything or anyone else.”

Promote diplomacy

Ann says she is currently focused on her career in the pharmaceutical industry.

“I want to gain as much knowledge and experience as possible so that when the time comes, and if God will allow, I can see what skills I can take back to Kenya.

“I just want to make sure I am worthy of the crown and title of Face of Kenya UK.

“The real work starts now and I’m so excited and ready to give my best shot.”

Her father, Ayub Wainaina added that the Face of Kenya has brought out the Kenyan in his daughter.

“It is a major transformation as she has thrown herself into research and interest about Kenya that we have never seen before,” he said.

Founded in 2012 by the British Kenyan diaspora leader and British TV broadcaster Mrs Janet Wainaina and a group of like-minded Kenyans, the Face of Kenya project has become a leading community forum that brings a polarised Kenyan diaspora together.

This avenue aims to promote cultural diplomacy, youth empowerment, community cohesion, charitable initiatives and progressive branding of Kenyan products.

“Face of Kenya believes in investing in tomorrow’s leaders and works as a voice for Kenyan youths by fostering awareness among the UK Kenyan community of the importance of preserving Kenyan’s culture and heritage and its social, cultural, political and economic value,” says Mrs Wainaina, who is also the director of Face of Kenya.

“Our goal is to build, connect, and enable the Kenya Diaspora Youth and the community to prosper while creating ambassadors who portray Kenya positively.”

The Face of Kenya UK brand crossed British borders after the success of the first event a few years ago.

It is now in USA, Germany and France and there are plans to take it as far away as Dubai and Canada.

The aim of Face of Kenya brand is to utilise the skills of overseas-based Kenyans to their maximum potential only for the benefit of the diaspora communities themselves but also wananchi back home by improving the lives of the less fortunate communities.

Cultural values

This year’s event was no exception and broke its own record by raising £7,714 for 13 charities in Kenya.

Each of the 13 contestants was required to select a charity of their choice and raise funds for it.

They were all proud ambassadors of the UK Kenyan community, and they gave one simple message: Even though we are away from Kenya, we care deeply for the less fortunate back at home.

The event was not only about the beauty of Kenyans living in the UK but also their cultural values, and their love for their motherland.

All the contestants were put through their paces by the wonderful compere Maureen Natumi who was one of the contestants in the 2014 pageant.

High Commissioner Amayo paid tribute to the Face of Kenya event and said that it was a perfect platform for the Kenyan diaspora to act as the country’s cultural ambassadors.

He said even though there were few diplomats at the High Commission in London, the community was privileged to have a bigger network of Kenyan ambassadors such as the young contestants.

Dr Ojiambo also paid tribute to the younger generation in the diaspora who promote Kenyan values and culture. She said they must learn about the land of their parents and forefathers.

Fashion designer Sarah Arthman said that she felt honoured to have been among the three featured designers.

Well-known diaspora member Simon Muracia said the event was an honest effort to bringing Kenyans together.

Face of Kenya cannot be described simply as “an evening out but there’s much more to it — the intelligent and brave young men and women have redefined youth empowerment.

“It’s also about giving back to the community and the less fortunate.”

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