The debate about ‘size-zero’ models may not stir much controversy in Kenya as it has had in the UK when Alexandra Shulman, an editor with Vogue magazine, broke the silence about fashion designers who force fashion magazines to use girls with jutting hip bones as the garments they send to magazines for photo shoots are substantially small. But the commercially-driven racial favouritism fashion industry has had its effects on the black models, something Lyndsey McIntire of the Nairobi-based Surazuri Models seemed to address during the official launch of the CFC Stanbic Bank-sponsored Ford Models Supermodel Search of Kenya 2009 on July 15, 2009 at the Westgate Mall in Westlands, Nairobi, Kenya.
“The uproar last year about black models not being given work in the modelling industry will be nothing more than a fleeting cry if we don’t back it up with affirmative action,” remarked Mclntyre, the casting director at Surazuri Models and organiser of the Kenyan version of the Ford Models Supermodels event.
“The only way a beautiful, hopeful girl from Africa will ever get the opportunity to travel abroad and meet the people in the industry who can make them successful is through competitions like the Ford Models Supermodel of the World Search,” she added during the event dubbed CfC Stanbic Bank Catwalk challenge.
Surazuri Models has since 2002 held the Ford Models Supermodels event that has enabled girls the opportunity to join the fashion industry; it has taken five women to the international finals over the years, the most famous of whom is Nancy Ajuma Nasanyana from Turkana who became the first black model to win a contract worth US$50,000 in an international competition. She has been based in New York for several years now and is enjoying an exceptional modelling career. The others are Anne Kemunto, Issabelle Karithiru, Farida Diba and Alice Niyonkuru.
Auditions and the final show that will see the winner travel to Brazil in January 2010 for the international finals will be held on August 8, 2009 at Silverbird (ex Nu Metro) Cinema at the Westgate Mall where 15 girls will be selected by the judges. The winners will be offered a contract with Surazuri.
According to Mclntyre, girls aged 15-22 years with a height of 5 feet 8 inches (5′ 8″) and a maximum hip measurement of 37 inches qualify to audition at the event.
In the finals that will be held at the same venue in the evening, designers and shops will take part in the fashion show. International Ford Models judge, Robert Knapp from Paris, is scheduled to preside over the event.
The shaped up model will then travel to Brazil in January 2010 where she will meet other participants from 50 other countries to compete for 5 contracts worth US$50,000-US$250,000.
During the launch, Mclntyre introduced three new faces that have just registered with Surazuri: Sarah Kubai, a 21-year-old Communications student at Daystar University; Susan Nyumba, a 22-year-old teacher from Kisumu and Marsha Makatini, 22, who works as a volunteer with a human rights organisation in Nairobi.
According to Makatini, who joined the Surazuri Models a month ago, it is passion that has propelled her to join the modelling agency in order to see what the future holds for her. She hopes to grace the catwalk runways soon though, she says, she fears tripping down on the catwalk.