Kenyan supermodel Ajuma Nasenyana never thought that she would end up on the runway. Growing up in Lodwar, Turkana County, she had her eyes set on becoming a world-class athlete.
In a recent interview with blogger Robert Alai on The Audit show, the 36-year-old opened up about her stint in the sport which saw her crowned 400 metres champion in Kenya in early 2000.
“I used to be a tomboy in school. I was a runner and captain of every sport. Modelling was a far-fetched dream…an idea I couldn’t even think about,” the down to earth beauty queen said.
“I was really fast in running in school.”
She schooled at the prestigious Greensteds International School on full sponsorship from an NGO based in Lodwar.
One of the first people to identify her unique physique and talent in sports was legendary athlete Kipchoge Keino’s coach, the late Fred Hardy.
“He saw me running and he was like I want that kid after she finishes school, I want to give her a scholarship to Virginia Military Academy. They were starting a military academy for girls at the time.”
Later, Kipchoge took her to the International Olympic Committee Training Camp in Eldoret where she trained for a year.
“At the end of the year, I became the national champion in 400 metres,” Nasenyana revealed.
She was at the time also training for 800-metre races under the coaching of Paul Ereng.
Ereng, who also hails from Turkana, is a former athlete and winner of the 800 metres at the 1988 Summer Olympics.
After winning the 400-metre race, Nasenyana was featured in a newspaper and attracted the attention of an agent from Ford Models, an international modelling agency based in the United States.
The agents found her and listed her in Ford’s Supermodel of the World competition in 2004, paving way for a successful 17-year career in the modelling and fashion industry despite believing that she was not beautiful because of her dark skin tone.
In August 2005, she was voted among the world’s 10 most beautiful women by Complex magazine and in 2012 she was named African Fashion Week Model of the Year. In 2013, Nasenyana partnered with City Models Paris to open Africa’s first international model and casting agency.
She has worked with the world’s top brands including, Victoria’s Secret, Vivienne Westwood, Fendi, Vogue among others.
Locally, she is engaged in several community projects with her Ajuma Foundation. She recently launched exercise books with animations featuring local communities to help learners appreciate the Kenyan culture.
The model encourages upcoming models in the country to try opportunities in the international industry to grow their talents due to limited offers and low rates in Kenya.
Watch the interview below: