Since 1902

By Julius Mbaluto

To some people beauty pageants are just about one thing — beauty. But to Pauline Long, editor of UG Pulse Beauty, an East African news and entertainment online magazine, and the founder of Miss East Africa UK it is more than that. She says: "It’s not enough to say you are beautiful — beauty should be accompanied by skills and enthusiasm to do a lot for the society".

Pauline founded Miss East Africa in 2006; Mr and Miss East Africa in 2008 and is currently the co-founder of Miss West Africa beauty pageant in the UK.

Last year she founded the acclaimed Black Entertainment Film Fashion and Television Awards (BEFFTA) in the UK.

The awards, which took place at the Hilton Hotel, Metropole in London on October 17, recognise the contribution of individuals of African descent to the entertainment industry, and especially that of ethnic minorities. They honour the best entertainment personalities in UK’s black community and internationally.

Says she: "There are so many talented people out there that aren’t being acknowledged, I wanted to change that."

She hopes to inspire people to achieve within the black community from all types of creative work.

Pauline Long, 34, is a Kenyan causing ripples in the social scene in the UK. She has an online magazine and organises beauty pageants.

"I think an award pushes you further to go out there and achieve what you can achieve," she explains.

The event was featured in BBC Northampton, a radio and TV station in the UK. Pauline has franchised BEFFTA due to its success and in September this year, the awards will be held in the USA.

Mother and wife

This strong woman was born in Mombasa but her parents, Paul and Agnes Odhiambo are from Migori in Nyanza Province.

She is married to Keith Long, a Briton, and has two children, four-year-old Kacy and her brother seven-year-old Kiernan.

Her mother was a hairdresser who ran a boutique and salon, where Pauline cut her teeth, while her father is a retired civil servant.

True to her philosophy that beauty is nothing without a purpose, Pauline has ensured that her beauty pageants are not in vain. The winners and contestants of Miss East Africa have helped raise funds to support several charities in East Africa.

Maureen Nyakaira, who is the Miss East Africa 2007 title holder, visited children’s orphanages in the region and helped to highlight their needs to donors abroad, an endeavour that attracted substantial donations.

As well, the 2008 title holder, Vicky Ngari, represented East Africa in high profile events such as Face of the Universe in Ghana, and the Milken Institute Global Conference in USA, where she hobnobbed with the likes of Bill Gates.

And Pauline is doing jolly good for herself in the UK. Last year, she received an invite from Her Majesty the Queen of England to a special dinner in Buckingham Palace. She was also featured in BBC Celebrity Scissorhands, a hairdressing academy on a reality TV show.

Her work speaks for itself and Pauline continues to gain recognition from many quarters. Last year she got the UK Kenya Achievers’ Award for the innovation and entrepreneurship category.

She also received the GAB Awards recognised within the entire African Diaspora in the UK. Pauline is a motivator and is in the process of publishing a book from Pauline Long’s Daily Motivation, her pick-me-up notes on Facebook.

Pauline attended St Albert Ulanda girls and after her O Level exams, worked in her mum’s boutique and salon in Nairobi. She took a course at Labelle School of Hairdressing hoping to learn more skills to help her take care of her mum’s outfit.

Pauline decided to pursue hospitality and applied for a course in Westminster College, London. While studying, she enrolled in computer studies. She worked in Mandarin Oriental Hotel as a chambermaid, cleaning and prepping hotel rooms. She was then promoted to deal with guest relations. Pauline didn’t finish her studies but met Keith and got married.

She attributes her success to her husband Keith.

"He has done a lot for me and is always encouraging me," says the chocolate-skinned fashionista.

When they got their first child, they decided that Pauline should be a stay-home mum. One day, while looking after Kiernan, her first born, she saw an advert by Oxfam and was really touched after seeing children suffering in Africa. Her mum’s inspiration as a fashion lady aided her decision.

Training contestants

Says Pauline: "All I wanted was to combine my skills in fashion with beauty for a good cause — that’s how the idea of a beauty pageant was born."

Pauline now realised she could not stay at home for long and devised a strategy that would help her combine family and work.

"My family always comes first and so I organise all other activities around the family diary and commitments," says she.

She has employed an assistant who can successfully work on her behalf if need arises.

Pauline says there are challenges in running beauty pageants. Some have come and gone within a short time due to lack of money. In that part of the entertainment industry, there are astronomical expenses and not as much money to make out of it.

She notes: "It is a challenge to get funding and sponsorship for the beauty pageant. It is also not easy to get people to commit to your vision. It is difficult to deal with people. Also most of the contestants require more training to bring out their confidence, and this falls on my shoulders."

How does she do it all? Pauline says: "You must keep your passion for it and throw your weight behind it all. Work hard knowing no one will come to help you. It is also important to have enough money before starting so that you can run smoothly."

charity projects

Pauline has incorporated entrepreneurship into her beauty pageant activities and this year’s winner will win money that she will use to set up a business.

Pauline is proud of the activities Miss East Africa does through its Shout Campaign. Through this campaign they have fed 1,900 street children in Kampala, assisted Kenya’s Rafiki Children’s home and Nyumbani Children’s Orphanage in Tanzania.

What’s next? Pauline plans to launch her shoe line soon. Not even the sky is the limit for this shooting star.