This week’s feature is on the reigning Miss Africa. We had a chat about the pageantry world, her experience in her role and the dreams she has for Africa. Get to know her a bit more in these 15 questions. Go ahead and dive in…
1. Who is Irene Ng’endo?
Irene is the reigning Miss Africa 2020, thank you very much (haha).
She is an International Model based in Kenya. I have walked high fashion runways here in Kenya by Darling Kenya, Ajuma Limited and Samantha bridal among others.
I ventured into the pageantry side of modeling late 2018 where I won Miss Jkuat. I went ahead to represent my country at Miss Progress International in Italy where I was one of the finalists. Later I represented Kenya At Miss Africa Calabar in Nigeria and brought the crown home.
I love to describe myself as a woman of faith. I am driven to look within for the solutions to humanity and discover what my contribution can be.
2. What inspired you to join the pageantry world?
I joined pageantry at first because I love the runway but I got hooked when I realized the challenge it puts on young people to be the change they want to see. Pageantry really avails a platform to be heard more and to participate in positive social change.
On top of that it allows one to dive deep into a journey of self discovery and awareness, because before you can confidently talk to thousands of people you have to really know who you are and what you stand for. I would personally encourage everyone to try out a pageant if they are looking to know themselves better to understand their purpose and to break free from a small mindset.
3. Was winning Miss JKUAT the start of your pageantry world or had this always been a career prospect?
Yes and no. I had the dream yes but I had never really given it much thought.
I remember from when I enrolled into Jkuat I told myself I would participate but only seriously considered it and what it would mean in my 3rd year.
4. Having served as Miss JKUAT 2018/2019, and Miss Progress Kenya 2019 what key lessons did you learn from these platforms that continue to guide you.
I learnt to always tell your truth. It is the most authentic girl that wins. This Of course requires that a girl be really in tune with her person because you cannot tell your truth if you haven’t accepted and aren’t confident in who you are, flaws and all.
5. As a Mathematics and Computer Science student in the creative modelling world, how have you made these two complement each other?
I don’t. Both of these are two very demanding things and at the moment because of the demands of my reign (that includes constant travel and availability for short notice activity) I am on an academic break.
I believe in applying myself fully to where I know God’s grace is over my life and doing that sometimes requires sacrifices or to pause on certain things. Furthermore I would prefer to apply myself to my full ability in my studies as well, so taking a break seemed wiser to me.
6. You previously shared that, being different is not a disadvantage and one should not be required to change.’ In your view, how can we do better at accepting people’s differences in everyday life?
I am a believer that the solutions to humanity’s issues lie within us in different and beautiful forms but because we are busy copying others we are letting the world ache longer.
Letting people grow authentically requires a culture of encouragement, tolerance and understanding and I believe the first way we can learn how to do this is by doing it to ourselves and then to the ones around us.
7. Tell us a bit about Miss Africa Calabar.
Well, I’m the reigning queen but the registration for the next contestants are ongoing.
I love the platform of Miss Africa Calabar because it’s beautiful to see Africans take up spaces where they were deemed unworthy and redefine them. Unlike most international beach pageants Miss Africa celebrates the African woman as a worthy queen in all her diversity. This pageant shows me that it is possible to not only take up spaces we were not let into but to also create our own and to use them to give to and celebrate our own. So make sure you register.
8. As the reigning Miss Africa 2020 Calabar, what was the most memorable part of your journey before ascending to the throne?
It was getting to work with Kenyan and African brands. I worked with Brassed Crafts Kenya for jewelry , niketch amor and Qikwetu for clothes. On top of that sitting down and coming up with a project or at least examining what I could give to Africa was also my best moment because it helped me break free from a “victim” mentality.
9. During your coronation back in 2019, you confidently wore your natural hair. Was this a conscious decision, if yes why was this important to you?
Not so much, I had thought about it but I had no issue rocking a wig as well and I did all through bootcamp actually.
The thing is the luxury of not worrying whether I should wear my natural hair or not is available here because this is a pageant that celebrates the diversity of African women and I planed on enjoying it as it is not quite available in other spaces. Regardless, I loved being in my natural hair and I especially loved the way people were encouraged and inspired by it.
10. In 2019 Zozibini Tunzi won Miss Universe and she too wore her natural African hair. For some this was utterly rejected while others felt that ‘Miss Universe looks like me’. As someone in the pageantry world why is it important to embrace these unpopular aspects that do not conform to the ‘normal’ standards of beauty?
Normal is created by us therefore we cannot let it control us.
Representation of the African person is so little. It’s important for young African children to see themselves because of how impressionable children are. If they do not see people like them in powerful seats its easy to assume these seats are not for them.
In terms of beauty, we need to embrace authenticity and goodness as beauty and not physical attributes. But of course before we can change the definition of beauty we’ll have to start by it’s inclusivity and that is why I believe it’s important.
11. One of your causes is being a Humanity Activist, what does this entail?
It simply means being open to help and influence positive social change.
I like the broadness of it all because there is a whole lot of work that needs to be done and not enough hands on deck.
12. In a previous interview you shared, that you plan to engage and interact with the community, especially the indigenous and marginalized ones… The aim being to look at their strengths and portray their beauty through arts and creative entertainment. How do you intend to achieve this?
I’m currently doing a series on my IG live and IGTV that is an African virtual tour actually.
One of it’s objective’s is to have Africans describe there own country and there own problems, strengths and unique solutions. On top of that I collaborate/assist existing NGO’s that do these good works in the most ethical way . For example, I am doing a fundraiser, for an NGO in Uganda called No White Saviours, in form of a giveaway where if you contribute just 100ksh you stand a chance to win a 3day and 2 night trip to Mombasa!! Check that out on my Instagram!
13. As a goodwill ambassador of M-Kaya Hub that helps in establishing maternal healthcare in indigenous communities; how can modern medicine be integrated in these communities without overruling their traditional customs and practices?
The first step is listening! So many times do gooders assume to know exactly what to do. They fail to factor in that this communities have the advantage of living their lives and so they can understand better what would work and how it would.
14. What lies in the future of Miss Africa 2020?
Hopefully some travel before my reign ends to best accomplish the lined up projects. But you’ll have to keep up with me to find out.
15. If you could give your younger self any advice knowing what you do, what would it be?
Instead of obsessing over what to do or who to become invest in getting to know yourself. That means to try out everything you are inspired to.
Write down what you find out about yourself in this experiences while celebrating and appreciating each step.