Megababe Philomena Talks Diversity in the Modeling Industry

Philomena Kwao holds a bachelor’s degree in economics and a masters degree in global health management.

Oh, and she’s a super successful model. But for the humanitarian and human advocate, her career as a model came almost by accident.

She was finishing up her degree, when she entered a new face contest that her friend entered her in — and she won.

The British Ghanaian bombshell has worked in London, Germany and now the U.S., gracing big campaigns like “Swimsuits for All,” and being a featured brand ambassador for the fashion brand Torrid.

She has been featured in both Paper Magazine, and i-D for her eloquently stated opinions on some of the issues currently circulating within the modeling industry, and has had writing pieces advocating for women’s rights published in the Huffington Post.  She has been intimately involved with the charitable Lily Project as a spokesperson, and has hosted the annual Women for Women International gala.

So basically, girl is goals. Seriously, she’s gotta have more than 24 hours in her day.  We just had to chat with her and get some of the brilliance out to you Galore Girls, so read on as Philomena tackles some serious issues and gives us some healthy life advice below.

Swimsuit: ASOS UK | Headwrap: Philomena’s own

Do you believe the modeling industry’s diversity issues are improving?

Much noise has been made about diversity in the modeling industry, and from all appearances it seems so. Although we seem to be breaking barriers, many of these changes have actually been quite temporary. According to the Spring 2016 Diversity report, which is presented by the Fashion Spot every season, we are regressing. When it comes to actual ad campaigns, editorials and runway appearances, the visibility of different groups of models, such as plus, trans and black is decreasing, and has been for a while. This may seem bleak at first glance but, as a working model I feel that the successes of this year shouldn’t be overlooked. With every ground breaking cover and every new editorial comes a conversation. When enough people talk about an issue, change happens. in my personal career, i have felt and seen an improvement in the industry and i am excited to a part of the evolution.

What are your hopes for the future of the modeling industry?

A beautiful end goal would be true equality. When size is no longer an issue, or used a selling point. When models of color are represented not only in straight size modeling but also in plus. When all models are judged on the quality of their work as opposed to their size or skin color. I know that one day, booking a beauty campaign or walking down a high fashion runway or staring in an ad campaign will be a possibility for all models.

How can consumers be better allies to black models everywhere?

By using their voices to demand change and speak up when they don’t feel like a brand accurately represents themselves. Your voices are powerful, use them!

Can you talk a little bit about why it is so important for young women to have role models that they can see themselves in?

In a world of over saturation and false aspirations, social media can sometimes be a bad thing, adding to the insecurities that many young girls face. But within that, social media also adds validation to every single girl around the world who may have thought that they were alone. It has opened up a world of different communities and all of a sudden, my unique dress sense doesn’t feel so weird or isolating. My body type isn’t strange, its actually quite normal and there are other people like me. To see a celebration of yourself in someone, whether that be a famous person or another person on social media is amazing thing. it is important that young girls see this so they know that it’s okay to be yourself, and you don’t have to be or look a certain way. In a way, we are all role models and we should all pay attention to the message we send out to others.

What do you think about the prefix “plus” being used to refer to models?

Plus means different things to different people and I’m indifferent to it. I think too much noise is being made about the word itself and it’s time for us to move past our need to constantly label everything. I don’t have a word that I use to describe my body. I never have and I don’t think I ever will. Over time, there are so many connotations that you have with words, especially words like plus or curvy or whatever, and some of them are negative. I feel like if you use specific words to describe yourself, you’ll then take on those connotations.

Coat: River Island | Bodysuit: Topshop | Shoes: Atmosphere |  Sunglasses: ASOS

Best timeless beauty advice passed down to you by a female role model?

My mother has always relayed the importance of moisturizing your skin.

What are your health and or fitness philosophies?

I don’t think about ‘maintaining’ my size, really, it’s just about feeling great. I have a green juice every day because it makes me feel more awake; it makes my skin healthier. I try and work out as much as I can because when you exercise, it releases endorphins and makes you feel really good. I also make sure I schedule time with my friends, family, and loved ones because I realize that, as well as your physical well-being, you have to look out for your mental well-being too. We spend so much time worrying about the physical that we don’t remember what’s going on inside the mind, and the mind’s really powerful. 

How would you describe your personal style?

Simplicity and comfort always, with an injection of my Ghanaian heritage

Glasses: Coco & Breezy | Jacket: Milk | Swimsuit: MLB

Do you have advice for young girls thinking of attempting a modeling career?

Be yourself! No matter how hard that can sometimes be. Staying true to yourself and your journey is very important because what works for someone else, may not necessarily work for you. Also, don’t let criticism get you down. You have to be very thick skinned to work in this industry. Although not all criticism is good criticism, eventually all your experiences will hep you grow. Don’t give up and enjoy the journey

When you aren’t modeling you are….
Reading everything and everything, writing and working with different agencies to bring awareness to issues around the world; particularly maternal health.

Coat: Georgine | Top: N/Nicholas | Skirt: ASOS UK
Photographer: Anastasia Garcia
Stylist: Tiffani Williams (IN Artist Management)
Makeup: Maggie Connolly (Utopia)
Model: Philomena Kwao (JAG)

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