London-born beauty Philomena Kwao is a force to be reckoned with and definitely one of our favourite international plus models. She isn’t bothered by the modeling industry that is so focused on all things surface, but it does irritate her that not all surfaces are accepted if they’re darker or don’t fit into a size 2.
That’s why being a part of Alexi Lubomirski’s Diverse Beauty campaign early this year alongside the likes of Lupita Nyong’o, Bethann Hardison, Pat Cleveland, and Herieth Paul was a major milestone in her career. With Kwao posing in a regal black-and-white photo, clad in a strapless black bra, underwear, and long silver pearls, the shot is a testament to the way she lives her life with complete confidence and love for who she is.
Faith Cummings of Yahoo Beauty, spoke to the model at the exhibition opening of Lubomirski’s Diverse Beauty project about how Lupita Nyong’o essentially kick-started her career and the liberation of being your most authentic self.
Yahoo Beauty: In talking with Alexi Lubomirski, the power of this exhibition, the photos, and the women in them is palpable. What does diverse beauty mean to you as both an idea and as being part of this project?
Kwao: For me, diverse beauty is an affirmation of every single person in his or her own skin. Curvy, short, dark-skinned, fair, black, white — whoever you are. But that we’re all beautiful in our own, unique right. It’s a great way to allow people to express themselves and remind them that you don’t have to look a certain way to be considered beautiful. This was quite liberating for me.
Inclusivity is important all the time, but it’s really having a moment in fashion right now. As a curvy model from overseas, what are your thoughts on how the industry is faring?
I haven’t been modeling for very long, as I just got into the industry four years ago. When I first started, I actually had no idea what “plus-size” meant because it’s a burgeoning category in London. So when I moved here and heard that term, it was new for me. And then being a woman of a darker skin complexion as well added another layer to it all. It was hard at first, but I’ve noticed over the past two years that people have started to speak up and speak out. The curvy community has really given me a voice because people want to see someone who looks like they do. They want to know their beauty is valid. Women of all ethnicities, complexions, and sizes want to be able to wear makeup and nice clothes. No one wants to go out and feel like they’re substandard or that there’s only one mold that they don’t fit. Diverse Beauty is awesome because there’s so many different women included to speak to every woman’s needs and kind of beauty. I personally haven’t seen something like this before.
It definitely feels like a one-of-a-kind book and exhibition.
Absolutely! And for Alexi to choose such a variety of women makes me feel good. I have little sisters, and I want them to be able to open a magazine and see their beauty reflected. That’s really important because they need to feel comfortable being themselves. Every woman should aspire to be unique, but that’s so hard for women of color because we don’t see ourselves out there.
Click HERE to read the full interview.
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