|Story by Bobastles Owino Nondi
Published December 14, 2006
|Miss Global Kenya 2006, Catherine Wangari Wainaina
Catherine Wangari Wainaina, a second year student ofcommunity development at Daystar University in Nairobi, Kenya, has recently been crowned Miss Global International (Miss Commonwealth) Kenya. Rather than being content with a pretty face, Wainaina has her eyes trained on the top UN jobÂ She speaks to ArtMatters.Info’s Fashion and Beauty specialist, BOBASTLES OWINO NONDI, about her family, character, plans and her involvement in beauty pageantry and world affairs.
What attracted you to the catwalk?
I have always wanted to be influential across the world. So I have been looking out for ways through which I could realise my dream and beauty pageants happen to be one of them. With this crown I can endear myself to many people and help how people look at things.
What are some of the things you would like to change?
Insecurity, terrorism and poverty! I grew up in Eastleigh in Nairobi where people trade in arms from the neighbouring politically unstable countries. The guns they sell cause insecurity across Kenya.
While terrorism virtually affects every corner of the world, poverty is ruining lives of people in the Developing World as the gap between the rich and the poor widens.
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How do you intend to realise these big dreams?
I am working on a formula through which I am going to talk to the leaders of the communities where small arms are accessed so that, together, we can persuade people to engage in other forms of trade. I am going to rally the support of governmental, non-governmental and inter-governmental organisations that are already working on disarmament to discourage civilians from arms. This means first guaranteeing security to all for there to be no need for arms for self defense.
We also need to create socio-cultural platforms from which Muslims and Christians can interact freely and frequently to understand that we all belong to same world which, when it goes down, it goes with all of us.
As far as poverty is concerned I believe favourable and vibrant trade is the answer. So many people can miss out on education and therefore good jobs but almost all can participate competently in trade. There is need, therefore, to open up free trade within the Commonwealth Countries for instance, and give equal opportunities and incentives for it to be vibrant. It might start at the state level but will obviously trickle down to individual citizens.
That means that we must invite visitors and investors to Kenya as often as possible and this should not only end with Nairobi but spread to other towns and rural areas so that the bigger Kenyan population can benefit.
Could this be the reason why you chose to compete for Miss Global International which was previously known as Miss Commonwealth?
|Catherine Wangari Wainaina receives a congratulatory sisterly hug after clinching the Miss Global Kenya crown
This is more of a coincidence. None of the girls who registered for the beauty contest were given the chance to choose the category in which to compete.
Except for Miss Teens contestants, virtually all the other girls wanted to be either Miss World or Miss Tourism. So when the day came for ‘Reaching for the Stars’ competition, we were grouped by organisers who told us the categories under which we were to contest; that is how I found myself in the Miss Commonwealth category. I did not necessarily register for this crown because we were told not to specify. However I would still have been comfortable with any of the other three as well.
As Miss Commonwealth, what is expected of you? What is your job description?
I do not have any job cut out for me. But it is obvious that the world expects something if not so much from me and other beauty queens. This means that I have to define my job, design it and go ahead and implement it. So far I am convinced that insecurity and poverty are some of the subjects that would plaster my name in the books of history if I do it well and make substantial changes.
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What are some of the challenges you faced on your way to clinching the crown?
Lack of resources; I got everything that was required for the contest(garments, transport, make-up)from my mother. This added pressure on her resources as she is the one who pays my school fees and those of my three sisters.
Do you anticipate more challenges?
I am already faced with challenges and obviously more are on the way. For instance I thought once you have the crown things work themselves out for you but I am learning that was being naÃ¯ve. Publicity alone, which is expected to be the easiest to come with the crown, is not forthcoming. Yet, without publicity you cannot be known and therefore there is no difference between you and that girl who is not Miss Anything.
Then there is the international Miss Commonwealth contest in London in June 2007. I want to make an impression there and preferably bring the crown home. Considering that a woman can change so tremendously so suddenly, sometimes I just get obsessed with worry. And it also comes with greater demands in terms of preparation ; again garments, jewellery, air tickets and accommodation.
As a role model there are expectations from the people around you on how you carry yourself around and this could be very challenging because at the end of everything you are just that humble girl like all the other girls. Changing one’s lifestyle can be a headache especially if the change is monitored by people around you and the world in general.
What didnï¿½t you like in the process of selecting the beauty queens?
|Commonwealth Kenya 2006 queen, Catherine Wainaina with those she beat to the crown
Because of the selection criteria you realise that most beautiful girls are left out. The demands are far away out of reach of many girls in Kenya. There is the registration fee and designers asking for money for the garments. I believe there should be a way through which every one who aspires to be a model or a beauty queen is given equal chance to compete. For instance, why should modeling agencies and suppliers of beauty products and services wait for such shows to scout for the models? They should join in the process from the villages. This would turn beauty pageantry and modeling into serious business where money is made to uplift the lives of the participating girls and not where money is expected from the girls in order to participate. The latter cannot sustain an industry.
Cat-walking is largely viewed in some quarters as immoral, an activity that objectifies women for the pleasure of men. What do you say about this?
It is easy to see it as immoral or exhibiting women for men depending on what you believe. I see it as a way of appreciating beauty and using the same beauty to advance various beliefs, values, inventions, products and services. At least that is the purpose of my beauty in line with this year’s theme: Beauty with a Purpose.
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Would you run a contest for Mr Handsome if you were given a chance? What would you look for?
Yes. That would be very exciting. I would consider height, masculinity, intelligence and charm.
What are your personal attributes?
Love, passion and impatience! I love all people irrespective of their background. I engage in whatever I do passionately. I can’tÂ entertain any one who stands in my way or breaks my heart. I smile and laugh a lot. I also listen and observe my environment.
What is your family background? Say something about your family
I come from a family of seven-three sisters and three brothers. My mum and dad separated when I was six months old, but I am happy with my mum because she has done everything to ensure that we are happy. I know my dad is somewhere and although I don’t have a relationship with him, I still love him and I always pray for him.
What disturbs you most in society?
|Reach for the Stars 2006 queens (left to right): Livoi Wendo, Catherine Wainaina, Sheila Ominde, Khadija Kiptoo
I hate tribalism and broken families. I am a product of a single mother but I believe children should be brought up under the care of both parents because women and men have different values, different ways of viewing and reacting to situations; a child should not be denied the chance to share in both values simply because of the adults’ mistakes.
Tribalism is a drawback, especially when it comes to competitive leadership. Most people in Kenya would offer the best jobs or positions to their tribesmen even if they are not qualified.
Where do you want to be long after this Miss Commonwealth crown?
I want to hold an influential position at the United Nations like Anna Kajumulo Tibaijuka who has recently been appointed head of the UN in Kenya; she is also the head of UN-Habitat. This way I would shape things for the better of humanity.