Meet Rehema Muthamia, Briton with Kenyan roots who is Miss England

Rehema Muthamia

Rehema Muthamia, Miss England 2021/2022, with her crown at Nation Centre, on Thursday.

Photo credit: Lucy Wanjiru| Nation Media Group

Rehema Muthamia wears many crowns. The Briton with Kenyan roots won the Miss England 2021/2022 contest, is an advocate against domestic abuse and was recognised by the Miss World franchise for being “beautiful with a purpose”.

During an interview with the Nation, she had just come back to Nairobi for the first time in 13 years.

The beauty queen, who was unanimously voted to represent England at Miss World competition that was held in San Juan, Puerto Rico in March, decided to bring her crown and title to Kenya before she hands over to the new Miss England on October 17.

The 26-year-old beauty is in Kenya with her mother, Patricia Karimi, who is also her manager, for holiday.

“I wanted to see where I come from: family, friends and experience culture. I also thought it would be an absolute honour to come and meet people that have supported me all the way before giving up my title next month,” she states.

Rehema was born in London. Her parents are, however, both Kenyan. She says that though she is British, she is still very much Kenyan. She can speak Swahili and studied at St Andrew’s Turi for some years of her childhood.

“I lived in Kenya when I was younger. I’m happy to experience Kenya as an adult now. It’s two different cultures (Kenya and England). The beauty in Kenya is we have a rich nation with warm, friendly, family-oriented people. Africans we have a way about us; a love for music and vitality. England is different in the way of life that’s also beautiful in its own way. The weather and food is also different. This has helped me be an all-rounded individual,” she says.

In 2020, as the world was just coming out of the Covid-19 lockdown, Rehema, who had just graduated with an integrated Masters degree in genetics from The Sussex University, wanted to challenge herself. She also wanted to do more charity work. The ethos of Miss World and Miss England is “beauty with a purpose” sounded like something fulfilling to Rehema that would also help her grow as a person.

Without having been involved in any pageant before, she applied for All African Colours competition, part of Miss England, which gives women of a minority ethnic background in England a chance to be able to be represented on a pageant stage.

“Luckily, I won and that took me through to the Miss England finals,” she adds.

All 10 judges felt that she was the best person to represent England at the Miss World pageant, a humbling experience for her to be the first Miss England winner to have had such a unanimous approval on August 27, 2021. She believes this was due to the fact that she was able to supersede the stereotypes of a black, ethnic minority woman living in London: educated, well-spoken, carries herself in a particular way and multi-faceted. She could also relate to different people from different social backgrounds and races.

“Women are able to be both beautiful and intelligent, and many of us are that at the same time. I had a passion for the sciences and spent five years to get my undergraduate degree in genetics and then studied for my masters. Times have changed and the pageant is no longer about women just walking in bikinis and being judged on their looks. 21st century women are modern, intelligent and ambitious. It’s indicative of how far we have come and I’m able to be a role model,” she says.

She presented bachata and salsa dances as her talent at the competition, something she had been doing throughout her university life.

Her win wasn’t taken well by everyone though. Through the UK press, some racists views were raised against her.

“I hate to say naturally, but when you look at me you don’t automatically think England. They said I shouldn’t have won because I’m black. But I know who I am as a person and what I represent. (When) Any other minority girl (sees me with the crown) they’re able to see themselves, and that helps overcome any racist opinions,” she says adding, “Stay true to who you are; you are beautiful, you are amazing, regardless of where you come from.”

At the Miss World competition, she interacted with Miss Kenya, Sharon Obara and Miss Somalia, Khadija Omar, two other contestants. Khadija was born and raised in Hagadera Refugee Camp in Nairobi, before moving to Canada in 2010.

“I’ll be meeting with Sharon while I’m here (for another week). We shared an incredible experience together in a foreign country and formed a sisterhood. We had an amazing time,” says Rehema.

Winning the Miss England title came with a £2, 000 (Sh266, 000) cash award as well as fees for different appearances Rehema makes in her capacity as Miss England. She has travelled to eight countries as part of the perks too. But she has also done some charity work in England.

Rehema  says when she joined the contest, “I was going through my own situation with domestic abuse with my previous partner” and this was also one of the reasons she joined pageantry; to help her turn something that wasn’t good into a positive.

“I was really passionate about domestic abuse, which encompasses a variety of behaviours and actions that happen throughout a relationship, to help women, especially my age, who go through this a lot but we don’t speak enough about it,” she adds.

Her course got her to the top six finalists in “beauty with a purpose” contestants at Miss World. She also wants to speak to children about healthy relationships in order to curb abusive ones.

Though she lives in Italy, her mother is her “right and left hand woman”. “To go through this experience with her is honestly Godsent. We do have few squabbles here and there but that’s natural of any relationship,” laughs off Rehema, saying their relationship is more like “friends with respect”.

Rehema, a health technology consultant, now looks forward to being a presenter for some TV shows back in England. However, she may still decide to go get a PhD in genetics. She loves travelling; experiencing new culture, food and places. She also enjoys going out to restaurants or having drinks with friends.

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