Philomena Kwao Talks Beauty in Individuality, Changing Fashion & More in i-D
In her interview, Kwao discusses aspirations aside from modeling, breaking down barriers in the fashion industry and her charity The Lily Project, where girls and boys can get advice about issues.
Check out a few snippets along with images from her photo shoot, with makeup and styling by Vera Antwi Kwarifa.
On what she would be doing if she wasn’t modeling:
“I would be working within the government to improve the NHS or alternatively I would be working for an international health agency such as Doctors without Borders working to improve the quality of health and access to health in developing countries.”
On what she would change about the fashion industry:
“I would change the separationist mentality of the industry, especially at editorial and campaign level. I see no reason why size or color should be a barrier against a model booking a high level editorial or a big campaign.”
Her advice for when you’re feeling down about your looks:
“We all have down days, and honestly that is ok. But it’s not ok to not be your own best friend and cheerleader. Whenever anyone says they’re feeling down about their looks I always remind them of the beauty in individuality. There is no one on the planet who looks like you or has your unique features so you celebrate them and don’t put them down. I’m a big advocate of the extraordinary or the different and I believe everyone is inspiring because we are all different. Confidence comes from understanding that you only have one life so make the most of it! You can’t compare yourself to anyone! Be You and Love You.”
Her goals for her modeling career:
“Of course I dream of the ultimate heights of modeling; a Vogue cover, a beauty campaign (Lancome would be a dream), an international mainstream campaign for a store such as H&M, United Colors of Benton or GAP, but it’s bigger than that. Ultimately I would like to use my voice to advance healthcare access around the world.”
One of her most memorable encounters with The Lily Project:
“I received a question on my Tumblr about how I’ve learned to love my dark skin. I remember it clearly because the girl in question listed all the bleaching products she had tried and was reaching her wit’s end with desperation. She wanted to try out an injection or something before she saw my picture and decided to message me. It touched me because I remember not always being so confident in my size or my skin color. I wanted to be lighter like all the celebrities and beautiful women I knew as I didn’t see one black female celebrity who was dark skinned and beautiful.
I told her that she should stop with all the bleaching products, not only are they expensive, but they are dangerous and can cause cancer. I also told her that her skin color is unique and beautiful and she should look after it. I love watching how my skin has a rich golden hue to it and hers did too. If she was to really look at her complexion, she would see that she was a stunning beauty and that changing her skin tone wouldn’t change her life or opportunities. I also showed her things that helped me. I watch YouTube a lot and YouTube beauty gurus such as Jennie Jenkins and Chanel Boateng really helped me understand the beauty in my complexion.”