Robai Khamasi, with Mr University Kenya on her right, during the national attire competition in Seoul
Could you describe your journey to becoming Miss University International?
I had designed an outfit from bottle tops of soft drinks during my long holiday as a second year university student. Since I didn’t know what to do with it, my mother suggested that I model in it. So I joined Miss Catholic University competition when the college commenced and I emerged second. When I went to Miss University Kenya stage I won the crown and went on to represent Kenya in Seoul, South Korea.
What kind of preparations did you undergo for the contests?
We used to go for choreography training to be shown how to walk on stage for the various categories of competition. Each university paid Sh2500 per candidate for registration.
How did you win the national title while you had been beaten to second place in your own college, did the winner chicken out for you?
She also contested but I guess at this stage the judges consider many more things than at college level; you never know what went wrong.
How many were you and did all universities in Kenya participate?
We were about 15 – 20 female contestants. Moi and Kenyatta universities didn’t participate as they were on strike. Colleges like Kenya Polytechnic, Augustana and Graffins also contested.
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How was the competition?
It was stiff and I thought Miss USIU [United States International University] would win. I felt intimidated by the judges and the unruly drank revellers at Village Market’s Club Sikiliza where the catwalk took place. The crowds booed and made all kinds of noises. That the university fraternity did attend the show scared us all the more.
How old were you when you became Miss University Kenya?
had just turned 21 and my win was a great achievement for me. The perfect birthday gift!
What made you stand out among the competitors?
I guess it was my personality and character.
How has your Miss University International crown changed your life or that of people around you?
First my parents are so happy. It has been a challenge to my brothers and sister who now have to do something to get past what I have achieved; and I like this spirit of competition. The win has proved to me that nothing comes easily.
What is the Miss University title about and how different is it from other beauty pageants”Miss World, Miss Universe”?
Miss University is more to do with internal beauty and factors like height and body size are not stressed. Your ability to learn and overcome challenges, the general make up, and character are considered. Although we were in Korea for two weeks, the pageant took only three hours.
So what did you do for 14 days?
We went to the de-militarised zone between South and North Korea and mingled with the villagers, and worked on their rice farms, cleaning the river “doing things for the sake of others. ” So through that we were being judged but we didn’t know.
Where did you stay during this period?
We stayed at a former elementary school where we used to sleep on the floor on very thin mattresses.
Oh, but you were beauty queens and not prisoners of war?
That is why Mr and Miss University is different from other beauty pageants. Over the first two nights we stayed at Sun Moon University, then we went to NNC for the next five days and our manual labour began. We harvested rice barefoot as the wearing of sneakers was forbidden. I hanext four nights at the Grand Hilton Residence in Seoul were fun. On the final day, one had to give a two-minute speech on a topic of one’s choice. I talked about sexual immorality in universities. The judges considered one’s oratorical skills and confidence.
What exactly did you say about “sexual immorality” in universities, and did you have a prepared speech?
No prepared speeches for me. I never write as my speech just comes naturally. I used a case study of Kenya where university students cohabit without being married.
Does this also happen at Catholic Universityï¿½a Christian institution?
Catholic University is just like any other university.Â I asked what we as campus ambassadors could do to end this immorality. I proposed that we live as an example to the rest by not emulating their immorality for an HIV-free world. If everyone has AIDS, then what kind of future do we have as we are the future generation?
How was this taken?
One of the judges told me, ‘Not only are you a good story-teller but also a good public speaker.’ What was the sincere feedback about your speech, didn’t some people feel you are living on your own planet? Of course I can’t say that everybody was on my side. Definitely there has to be such kind of people. But it wasn’t so evident.
Does this title come with any responsibility?
Yes, winners at every stage are expected to become Campus Ambassadors for their various universities. And I think the values of Mr and Miss University International is living for others and doing things for them to make the world a better place. Miss and Mr University International are supposed to represent others in peace-making initiatives.
What role should beauty play in socio-cultural and economic development of a country like Kenya?
Once you are identified and you wear that crown everyone wants to be like you. So when you get a spade and start lifting garbage from the streets everyone wants to emulate you and I think that counts towards national development. Because if everyone starts doing that then you save the money you would have cleaners. It all starts with, “don’t just sit there and be beautiful. Do something in your beauty because it doesn’t mean if you pass through smoke the beauty is going to disappear”. Are your duties spelled out, or is there a way of you being assessed? It is not stipulated. All you have to do is work and report on it on the www.mnui.org website. I am working on ‘Cleaning up Dandora’ and ‘African Peace Foundation’ projects.
How do you go about funding these projects?
look for sponsors. The Green Belt Movement of the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize winner Prof Wangari Maathai has already responded. I have talked to NEMA (National Environmental Management Authority) and Nairobi City Council on the possibility of removing the garbage dumpsite from Dandora to its rightful place, Ruai. The argument that they were dumping garbage in Dandora to fill up the quarry no longer holds water as the garbage is now flowing onto the nearby primary school while the quarry remains unfilled.
Do you work with the area Member of Parliament, David Mwenje?
I have neither approached Mwenje nor do I want to talk to him
Because all we are going to do (even with the NCC) is just to inform them on what we are doing. They are fully aware of the environmental harm as it has been publicised in the media yet they do not act. I have seen Mwenje on TV demanding the City Council stops dumping in Dandora.
But when does he do this?
Only at election time. I live in Dandora and James Gichuru Primary School, the school that is being buried in garbage, is where I studied. We may not really remove garbage from Dandora, but we can clean the road and put a wall fence around the school. Once this is done, we will push the government and the City Council to take the garbage where it is supposed to be. Or the garbage can then be pushed into the quarry as it is not full. Who dumps garbage in Dandora? The City Council and all the private garbage collection companies.
So why do you think the dump should be taken to Ruai and not Dandoraï¿½what are the issues here?
Khamasi with Miss University Colombia, Angela Araujo
How would you describe yourself?
I am first born in a family of four. I was born on March 26, 1983 and I love acting, singing, and writing drama and poetry. My values are honesty, truthfulness and not doing anything that displeases God. I dislike politics and soccer but enjoy discussing God and relationships.
You sound like a deeply religious person, are you one?
have been a Christian all my life but I got born again in 1998 when I was in second form.
How is the experience of being born again?
It is nice knowing that in everything I do my conscience guides me. When I got born again I was in Form Two. After fourth form those who had become Christians with me just backslid. But for me, I was not going to let go just like that. After getting to university was the hardest part of my life as people expect you to do things that your conscience can’t allow and you have to tell them off.
What are some of these things?
As a young person you have to go rave but I said no rave.
Raveï¿½what do you mean?
Hey, which language do you use? ‘Heng’, ‘clubbing’ or going out at night, and drinking. You are expected to drink, smoke, dress scantily. Smoking for women as well?
Girls smoke Youï¿½ve never smoked?
What else do they do?
Youï¿½ve never done that?
Does that mean you are by-passing a whole phase in life that you may be forced to revert to at some stage in future?
That is what people say. But I have my own kind of fun. I go out with my friends, make jokes, swim. But it does not mean you have to drink, smoke and have sex to be having fun. It looks like there is lots of pressure on young people to have sex. I think sex has been commercialised or it has been made to look like if you are a virgin there is something wrong with you, and so young people play along lest they be considered abnormal. This is why HIV/AIDS is spreading. impose anything on the people.
How do you choose your friends?
It is so hard to determine who is the right person, but I guess by the time you are 15 or 16 you already know who are the right people to go out with. I always try to be with the right people and at the right places. For lunch we go to open and public places like Nando’s but never to revelling joints like Carnivore after 6.00 pm. My friends and I decided that we want people to fit in our clique and not us in theirs.
Had you ever considered modelling in your life?
I had vowed never to model despite being pushed by people to do it. I had never seen anything good in a model.
You were not inspired even by Kenya’s most famous model Khadija Adam, the first Miss Africa–not even Iman Majid, or the newest Ajuma Nasenyana?
I really didn’t find what I was looking for in a model. Any model.
What were you looking for?
I wanted to see that ‘real person’ and not what they are made to be by make-ups and I didn’t quite find anyone. Of course I used to admire their physique and I said to myself, I am tall, slim.
Has your emergence as Miss University Kenya and Miss University International changed your perception?
Yes. I realise that the outcome depends on individuals. Maggy Sande, former Miss University, is still the same nice old girl. I also have not changed.
What are your height, size and weight?
I am 5’9″, measure 36′ 28″ 39″ and weigh 62 kilos.
What kind of modelling would you like to do product, catwalk, etc?
I had never known the difference before. But now I wouldn’t mind modelling for products as long as you don’t make me wear something that , you don’t let me dress into nothing. Like a bikini. I wouldn’t put on a bikini. You wouldn’t find me posing on a magazine in a bikini. What I know is that you might lose the popularity by refusing to play along with societal expectations of a model but you don’t have to lose the integrity of your character by exposing yourself on the catwalk.
What do you think of Kenyans who become beauty queens?
I think it is good being this miss something. I think like the current Miss World Kenya, that Juliet, she is a real African beauty. It has gotten to a point that people have to realise that we have beauty in Kenya.
Juliet Atieno Ochieng is not only shorter than you but also has extremely short hair
That is her style and it is really good. I think she is 5’7″, a bit shorter than myself.
If opportunity presented itself, would you consider modelling in the fashion capitals of Paris, Milan, London, New York?
Yes, I would.
Can we refer to you a Kenyan beauty?
As opposed to? Yeah, no problem.
In your title acceptance speechï¿½what did you say you would do for society?
You are just asked how you feel and then you move around and wave to the crowd. At that timeyou are so overwhelmed you can’t start remembering things so all you say is “Thank you so much and with this chance you have given me I am going to use it to the best of my capability to live for the sake of others”. There is no time for specification on how you are going to live for others.
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At the end of your reign, what would you like to have achieved?
The international reign ends next July while the Kenyan one ends in April/May. By this time I want to see that the dumping site in Dandora is cleaned and out of site, and at its right place.
What if it isn’t, can you give an ultimatum?
I think giving an ultimatum is a defeatist approach. That is my dream and I want to achieve it even if it takes pushing to the extent of going to the mayor’s office and asking him, “What is wrong with you?”
Describe your childhood,what kind of family did you have?
I have that kind of family where you are allowed to do whatever you want to. If you have an idea, you are expected to present it to Daddy, a retired field technician with ICRAF who is now in business with mom in Kakamega. My siblings are in high school. One is in Friends School Kamusinga, the other one at St Cecilia’s and the last one in Musingu. Our father is disciplinarian but not strict in the sense of being dictatorial. Our parents are very interested in what we do and they allow us to grow. ..
What legacy do you have from home?
My Dad and mom always tell us that “You can be anything you want in this world it doesn’t matter who you are or where you are coming from. So don’t be hindered”.
What is your motto?
Tough times don’t last but tough people do.
Do you have a boyfriend?
Mmh…let’s see,Do I have or don’t I have? Let’s leave it at that… Yes, I do have.
Considering marriage any time soon?
I want to complete my master’s degree studies first. Maybe I will start thinking about marriage after 27.
Do you watch TV and films?
I don’t watch films so much. During my pass time I write, watch some specific programmes on TV or some emotion-packed movies. I don’t watch Kenyan films because I don’t like them. I have watched Naliaka is Going but it has given me a bad impression of local productions. The film lacks creativity. I guess the same could be said of Kenyan music.
Have you have acted in any play?
Yes, Heaven’s Gates and Hell’s Flames production of Nairobi Pentecostal Church in Karen.
Who is your favourite musician or music group?
These are performers of Christian music?
How about the likes of CMB Prezzo, Nazizi & Wyre, Wahu, Nameless?
I know many of these musicians. I listen to them and other Kenyan musicians once in a while, but you see, what they do is just ‘Ya Yo Ya’. They don’t have any creativity at all!
You donï¿½t like their style?
No, I would rather sit down and read a book.
What kind of books do you readï¿½any Kenyan books?
African yes. I love African novels like those of Ngugi wa Thiong’o and Chinua Achebe. Or serious writers like them.
Not Danielle Steel, Sidney Sheldon, or Harold Robbins?
OK, I was hooked to novels when I was in primary school and read so many of these.
Donï¿½t you find these Western writers more interesting g that the Ngugis and Achebes?
They are interesting but the reason you say they are more interesting is in the sense of being popular? No, the likes of Ngugis are more serious. They leave you thinking.
What do you want to do in future?
I want to become a psycholinguist and work with dyslexic children. But you are completing your bachelor of Education studies in English and Literature. Did your stint in the classroom as a trainee teacher leave a sour taste in your moth? I still want to teach. But as a lecturer in early childhood , not a primary or secondary school teacher because I would feel caged and I hate being caged. I don’t like this thing of “Be here at eight o’clock, you have to leave at 3.30pm .”
How did the girls take you at Pangani Girls you are young, chic and not matronly?
That was fun because we understood each other perfectly well. But what did they think about you? I don’t know what they thought about me.Â
How did you deal with those who failed to do their assignments?
You look at the one who hasn’t done her work and you make her answer questions in class. She feels humiliated and she does her work next time. On the whole, teaching was fun for me. I love teaching, teaching any one. But not teaching in secondary or primary schools.
What languages do you speak?
French, English, Kiswahili, Sheng, and Luisukha (Luyia)
Where is your home?
It is in Ileho in Kakamega District, Western Province.
So how do you intend to go about your dream of becoming a psycholinguist?
I complete my undergraduate course in April 2005 after which I will embark on a two-year master’s degree course at Kenyatta University.
What is the best thing that has ever happened to you?
Winning Miss University International title.
Any last message to Kenyans?
We must wake up. There are some things that happen here and I just wonder. For instance borrowing money for fighting corruption. How? This isn’t realistic!
d my old tyre-made akala sandals. After this, the