Last week, Kenya’s representative to the Miss World International beauty pageant Shamim Fauz returned home from China without a crown.
That’s not news!
What’s news is the fact that Kenya is yet to get this most coveted crown for many years. For the last 10 years, the best Kenyan contestants have ever gotten to is the top 15, and whatever happens from there, only God knows.
Why this is a big deal is because if you look at this year’s competition, it is hard to understand why a country like South Sudan, with their contestant Atong Demach, could get to the fourth position overall.
Perhaps the best Kenya has ever done was 12 years ago when Yolanda Masinde went up to the sixth position during the competition in London.
“That was the closest we have ever gone to winning the crown. Yolanda was asked who her role model was and she said Mariah Carey, who was attracting negative press at that time,” recalls Leakey Odera of Pambazuka Models, who worked on that particular beauty pageant. “I just wish she said her mother, and Kenya would have clinched that title.”
Over the years, some of Kenya’s models have been able to make it to the top 15, but none have come so close to the title. What could be the problem?
One of Kenya’s most popular Miss World International contestants, Cecelia Mwangi, still believes that it has nothing to do with the girls.
“We have some of the best girls in the competition. The biggest problem that we have so far is lack of support,” says Cecilia, who represented the country in 2005. Support means corporate sponsorships and the government involvement, she adds.
“I remember when I walked on that stage in the finals I walked as a Kenyan contestant, but not Cecilia. I represented Kenya. So why shouldn’t the government take this as a tourism project and support the cause fully? Other countries do that,” she says.
Julliet Achieng Kenya’s contestant in the 2004 pageant echoes Cecilia. “When we get to the competition, we are mostly intimidated by other countries. They have delegations of over 20 people accompanying them to the pageant giving them moral support, whereas we could be only three or four of us,” says Julliet.
Miss World Kenya franchise owner Terry Mungai says that more sponsors need to come on board and support the competition.
“As much as we need the government to come on board and help us, we need more corporate sponsors to make the event bigger and even give the girls the confidence to face other contestants from different parts of the world. However, some corporate bodies are responding well with time,” Ms Mungai said in a past interview.
However, Leaky still thinks that more activations need to be done here in Kenya before the girls get to the international stage.
“During the times of Yolanda, Maryanne Kariuki and Daniella Kimaru, there used to be many competitions countrywide before getting to the finals in Nairobi. The provincial competition helped the girls get more confidence by the time they were getting to the finals in Nairobi. We have lost that.”