When she walks into a room, just as cool as it may be, men stand, some swarm around her – and a clatter of smartphone shutter sounds would follow like a round applause – of people taking selfies with her; reason being? She is the most beautiful woman in Africa, and the fourth most beautiful woman in the world.
Her name is Evelyn Njambi – the reigning Miss World Africa, Miss World Kenya, Miss Kiambu County.
Men and women took selfies with her on the date set for this lengthy – but pure – profile interview. I did not miss out on the selfie-seekers’ list because Njambi is phenomenal!
Humble, composed, yet appealing.
Njambi recently represented Kenya in the global Miss World competition held in the capital Washington District of Columbia on December 20, where she was crowned fourth out of 130 plus models, in a contest won by Stephanie Del Valle from Puerto Rico.
While the 23-year-old interior design student at Maseno University may not have won the Miss World crown, Evelyn stands as the new Miss World Africa – a beauty, a force to reckon with, a penetratingly sharp and eloquent woman.
I sat down with Njambi, and she divulged details, interesting details, about her personal life and career.
Describe your personality
“I don’t know how to describe it; maybe it should be you describing my personality. I don’t know, I don’t know (laughs).
Charming, charismatic, hospitable, smart and warm, I tell her.
“Thank you, thank you so much,” she responds, breaking into a smile of pure appreciation.
“I am outgoing, yes I am outgoing. I remember I had already made friends on day two while at Miss World competition. All my friends and myself made it to top 20. We used to work so hard together and just keep cheering on each other, and of course there were some categories which I did not do so well – like talent.”
I break in on her memory: “Are you not talented? You come across as someone gifted.”
“(Laughs). I am, you know I am. I can swim, but obviously at such a global competition they won’t ask you to swim, you know. Talent category had stuff like gymnastics, singing and… I tell you, people are talented out there! There is someone who has been doing gymnastics since they were four. You can’t compare that with here (Kenya). And you know in Kenya, I think people realise their talents fully in or after high school; like you have time to invest in talent after high school. But you see in other countries, from the time you are little your talent is identified and nurtured.
“Nonetheless, I performed an African dance – and it was good, but not that good. So, the other girls were really, really good at their talents; some were nice musicians, pianists – and they were really amazing.”
Her reaction to winning Miss World Africa
“I don’t even have words to describe. It was really, really emotional and overwhelming because I was overjoyed to have come this far for my country and also for my family. My family really backed me up, gave me so much support; they used to call me every day when I was at the Miss World competition.
“So being in top five was a plus and a really good sign for my family, who were so happy – and also for my support staff and my passionate team of Ashleys and Miss World Kenya office, it was really, really nice to have done this for them. It was a success for every Kenyan, every African – more so to those who voted for me; many thanks to them.”
Memories from Miss World competition
“I met so many beauty queens who were so passionate about championing amazing courses and purposes for their respective countries. It was really, really amazing.
“There was a point where communication between us, the contestants, was hindered due to language barrier. There are very many Spanish speaking nations; in fact I was really surprised. Our different mother and second languages posed a challenge to our communication but there are ladies who knew both languages, so it made it easier to communicate with each other. If I wanted to say something, let’s say to Miss Honduras – who only knew Spanish –, Miss Mexico who speaks both English and Spanish would translate to either of us.
“Our schedule was fun. There was a time we were given a trip, we went to New York. We woke up at 4am, drove for four hours to New York; we went to the Statue of Liberty on a ferry, we were shown New York City. We also saw all the fashion lines. It was cool.
“After the trip, we returned to our normal schedule – which used to be waking up at around 6am or 7am, and then rehearsals, rehearsals. We’d sleep sometimes at midnight, especially the last weeks. You know it is supposed to be a live show, so everything has to be perfect; so, we’d sleep for four or five hours. It was crazy, but fun. That was the only opportunity we had to be around such a people.”
Key lessons from Miss World competition
“If people came together and used their voices to raise an awareness of the different problems that different countries face, instead of tearing people down, then the world would be a better place to live in. That is what I learnt.”
Of succeeding Roshanara
Roshanara Ebrahim was decrowned as the Miss World Kenya 2016 after it emerged that she had taken nude photos of herself, breaching the terms to hold office as Miss World Kenya.
“She (Roshanara) has congratulated me on Facebook, which I really appreciate. And I wish her all the best in her endeavors because I am sure she is also doing well in her modeling. And whatever life has to give or bring to her, I wish her all the best and…yeah, let’s do this (smiles).”
Lesson learnt from Ms Roshanara’s unfortunate dethronement
“There was a time I was asked how I separate my private life from public life. I said that: ‘I live everyday as if no one is watching, or no one is looking. What I mean by that is whoever you are, even if you want to live for the moment and do crazy things to mark a phase in life, be careful about it – because you might grow up to be the President, you might grow up to be Kenya’s Attorney General and someone might just leak those videos and photos of you and it would be a shame for you to build so much and then just see it crushing. It is important to be careful about the people we interact with and the photos we take. You want to make memories? Fine. But make them in a sweet and nice way.”
Project as new Miss World Africa
“I am very passionate about girl child education. My main focus has been and would continue to be anti-FGM campaigns. I believe every girl should be able to take full advantage of the possibilities that the future has to offer them – and that means that you give them a platform to reach for their dreams, and just be able to achieve whatever passion, whatever career that they want to do in life. That means if it comes to cultural beliefs that put us back, or set us aside, I think it is important to focus our efforts on what would build the girls and not destroy them.”
About her childhood
“I am the third born in a family of five siblings. I was born and raised in Parklands, Nairobi – and then we moved to Ruiru, and that is how I became Miss Kiambu 2016 because my dad built his retirement home in Ruiru. I grew up watching a lot of The Princess Diaries (film) and Fairy Tale with Barbie… So, I am a girly girl. I always wanted to have a tiara on my head, so I would wonder when that time would come. And every Christmas, I used to watch Miss World competition – the finals; from the time I was seven or six. I really liked the whole aspect of pretty girls walking on a stage, on a runway, and they have crowns. But what just gave it in for me was when I had a beauty with a purpose, meaning you are not only just a beauty queen – based on your beauty – but based on the kind of course, the kind of reputable course you are championing in your country. That is what gave it in for me – I was like: This is what I want to do; this is what I want to become. That is the power of a dream; and that is why I would want every girl to believe in their dream and achieve whatever that they want to achieve.”
“I went to Hospital Hill Primary School in Parklands, and then later attended Pangani Girls High School (nicknamed Pango). Life in Pangani was so strict, I remember I used to complain every day, saying it was like prison – there were no school functions… By the time I was joining Pangani, there were so few functions that we would grace. It was all about reading, reading and reading! But it was fun. The elements of fearing God and discipline were instilled in me when I was a student at Pangani.”
When she began modeling
“I could not model when I was a student at Pangani. I only had a break to try modeling after clearing high school. So, when I was in Maseno University in my first year, I competed for Miss Maseno and I did not perform well at all, at all, at all. Maybe I was not ready. Of course I was little bit depressed but later on when Miss Kiambu auditions were announced, my brother told me about them and I was in Maseno all the way in Kisumu. So, he sent me bus fare then I traveled to Kiambu for the auditions and went back (to school). And then I became Miss Kiambu. For me I felt like my dreams had a meaning – and my dreams were valid and at some point they would actually come true.
“I did not make it as Miss Maseno, but I made it as Miss Kiambu, then Miss Kenya, then Miss World Africa. At least people can borrow a leaf from that; that not every first attempt will come out as the niche for you or the breakthrough for you. Don’t give up in your dream. Keep revising, keep practicing in whatever field that you are in and just believe that one day – by you being yourself and passionate about whatever it is that you love doing –, you would have a breakthrough at some point. It could be around the corner. So, don’t give up.”
Mood in Maseno following her unmatched victory in Kiambu – and later in Miss World competition
“I used to have a grudge with Maseno because my Miss Maseno mishap. I had the grudge for a year. Then when I became Miss Kiambu, I was like: ‘You know what? People make mistakes’; and maybe at that time I wasn’t the best candidate either. So, I just let it go and I was like: ‘You know what? It happened and someone else won and I am happy for them’. Maybe my breakthrough was going to come just around the corner. So, when I became Miss World Kenya, I got turns of congratulatory messages from Maseno students; and I was like: ‘This is so, so amazing!’ And what they did for me was create so much noise on social media when I was in the capital DC, and they even made a poster and I was like: ‘Wow, just be true to where you come from; your roots, your background’; and they were there for me – a big shout out to Maseno University students, you are awesome.”
Advice to girls who have interest in modeling
“Be yourself. That is where your truest and sincerest treasure lies – and that is the only time you have a hundred percent chance of winning. Sometimes, there could be a hair-do that is trending; maybe there is a look that you’d want to pull off. If you look like others, no one would want to pick you. But if you stand out, embrace your unique self and are confident in who you are then I believe your breakthrough is around the corner. Yeah.”
Challenges she’s faced in modeling career
“For modeling, one has to be very careful. I remember when Miss Maseno did not work out for me, I came to Nairobi and I wanted to join an agency and they were like: ‘You need to give us KSh10, 000’. I was only 19, where was I supposed to get that kind of money from? I was like, if modeling is not for me then let me just give it up. And again, issues of sponsors (older loaded men seeking to take advantage of young women) are there. What I’d want every woman to know is that you don’t have to depend on a man to get that car that you want, or that phone, or that bag. You can do that by yourself – through hard work and setting goals, which you work toward achieving. Sadly, nowadays girls want an easy way out. Easy come, would easily go. What would you do thereafter? Have your principles and believe your dreams will make you independent and stand for yourself.”
“I love nude colours for my bag, nails, make up. I believe make up should be there to enhance, not to replace a lot of features. My style is chic, simple; less is more. Nowadays less is more.
“You’d catch me dead wearing rugged jeans. Oh my God, rugged jeans, no!”
“I am not dating. I am very single and I am not looking for someone right now. I have a course and a focus, plus I can’t really tell who is genuine to approach me right now; maybe someone would make advances at me because I am the current crown holder, and not because of who I am. If it is someone who is genuine, he will wait till I am ready to mingle, but right now no, thank you.”
Qualities of a man that she prioritises
“God fearing, taller than myself.”
I break in on her revelation, saying: “Men taller than yourself are few.” She responds almost immediately: “Wewe shinda hapo (laughs). They are there, mine is chosen and I know he is walking somewhere and he is taller than me. Yes, yes. I’d also want someone who is focused and has a drive, because the last thing I would want to do is push someone around to do something every day. He should have dreams which he is working toward achieving.”
Message to Kenyans ahead of 2017 general election
“We are one. At the end of the day when someone out there, for example in the US or the UK, meets a Kenyan who has flown into the countries, he’d say: ‘You are Kenyan.’ They won’t say: ‘What tribe are you?’ You meet your fellow Kenyan there, you become a family despite your ethnic orientation. What I am trying to tell everyone is that we are one. And if we used our different platforms to preach peace, then the country will develop. But if we keep on tearing down each other, then what will our small children grow up to be? Someone is watching, someone is always looking at what you are doing. So be a role model that a girl or a boy somewhere would look up to. Let’s not throw rough words at each other, let’s build this country together.”
Evelyn Njambi is really smart, isn’t she?