Sylvia Owalla - Photo from Color Cafe store Zambia
I recently had the pleasure of catching up with the charming Sylvia Owalla. She shared with about her modelling career, how she manages to juggle school and work, as well as discussing some of her other interests which include a love for travel and interior design.
How did you get started in modelling?
As a young girl I’d always enjoyed watching the Miss World pageant shows; something I still enjoy to this day and I remember once telling my mom that I’d one day bring the crown home. This interest in modelling ,however, never picked up until the day I was assisting a stylist and happened to walk onto an ongoing set. The creative director spotted me and requested to work with me.
What are her aspirations as a young, African model?
To achieve equality and global diversity in the fashion world.
What’s the most frustrating thing about being a model in Kenya?
The lack of professionalism, not only in modelling but in most creative related pursuits. Talent is not appreciated with many agencies and casting companies paying minimum remuneration and treating models with little or no concern.
We have seen a lot of conversations online about exploitation, late payment and harassment in modelling in Kenya. Have you encountered it and if yes, how did you overcome it?
#PayModelsKE was an eye opener for the whole fashion and commercials industry. The most recurring challenge is payment and value placement of the services offered by models. Modelling is not given the due acknowledgement as a profession; an issue which I have encountered so far.
My approach to modelling opportunities involves researching on the agency or individual offering the job and ensuring that if I pursue the opportunity there is always an official agreement in writing. This agreement should include details such as the kind of job being offered, duration and what is to be expected of both parties as well as the timelines of payment.
How has your university experience been? Was it a challenge to balance books and modelling?
My university experience has been good. I’m a third year student of International Relations at USIU- Africa; I chose International Relations because I’ve always been interested in interacting with people from various cultural backgrounds and matters of social development. Although, I am not as active as I used to be in social development initiatives.
It wasn’t difficult to balance books and modelling because I think it’s all about planning. Knowing what you want to do and prioritising your time accordingly. Thankfully, USIU-A offers a flexible class schedule which worked to my advantage. I was able to pick classes at times that were favorable to me and in case I get a job that clashed with my classes I am able to excuse myself. I think if I was at a different institution it might have been difficult to juggle the two.
What are the favorite shoots you’ve done so far and why?
Maumbo was a random project I did with stylist Kevo Abbra which I feel really picked up my career; it shifted it to a more edgy angle.
Color Cafe was a project for a Zambian brand which I really enjoyed working on. It was artsy and colorful, I got to do five images for the brand which is really nice and the fact that it was for a client from a different country who handled everything professionally and was willing to put financial value into what we were doing. It was fun to work on and the results were beautiful.
Queen of Ice is the most recent shoot I have worked on. This was an interesting concept which hasn’t been worked on in Kenya before, so it was nice doing something new and unique. Just like Maumbo, I worked on this with Kevo Abbra who brings a lot of freshness to the projects which makes it an enjoyable experience.
Days on set can get pretty exhausting; what’s your perfect way to unwind after a long day of shooting?
I’m not a big fan of make-up so usually I can’t wait to remove the make-up and have a fresh face. Then I take a warm shower and enjoy some good food afterwards.
We noticed you enjoy travelling. What’s the most memorable trip you’ve gone on?
I can’t pick with one trip in particular because I really enjoyed them all, each trip is offers a different experience and a lot to learn. So far, I’ve been to Paris, Amsterdam, Addis Ababa, Uganda and Tanzania.
Tanzania is most my most recent travel. I went with a group of friends and we got to visit quite a few historical places; the slave town in Bagamoyo, an old German Consulate and a local museum that is found on the grounds of the oldest Catholic church in East Africa.
What are your favorite possessions?
My books and a mug with the quote ‘I’m the Boss Lady’ which was gifted to me. Currently I’m enjoying the book ‘A Path not Taken’ by Joseph Murumbi and next I’m keen to get a copy of Bob Marley’s biography.
Life can get overwhelming sometimes, how do you manage to stay motivated and focused in such moments?
I believe patience pays; there have been times I have doubted my journey as a model or when things are not going exactly as I hoped which can feel discouraging. At such points being patient has helped. Things work out on their own. I also try to maintain a positive attitude.
You have amazing skin! What’s your skin care regimen?
I actually don’t have a particular routine. Currently, I’m using Nubia soap and then faithfully apply coconut oil which has always worked well for my skin. Another thing is I drink a lot of water so staying hydrated also helps.
If you weren’t a model, what other job do you think you’d be really good at?
Interior Design and Party Decor. I enjoy this and even occasionally offer my services in organising themed parties.