A model, a geologist and the task awaiting in Ghana

Model Grace Achieng'.

Photo credit: Jeff Angote | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • She won this accolade in May this year after trouncing models from 30 other African countries.
  • Grace was raised by her grandparents while her mother worked in Nairobi to make ends meet.
  • She believes she can merge modelling with her current field of study – geology.

Born in Kisii and bred in Kisumu, Grace Achieng’ is a force to reckon with. She has determinedly broken many barriers, and her latest feather on her cap, literally, is the Miss Pan African Beauty Queen crown.

She won this accolade in May this year after trouncing models from 30 other African countries. She was in a team of six other Kenyans, and she garnered 15,700 votes while the runner up, Sarah Njambi got 11,000 votes.

The two will be representing Kenya in the Miss Pan African Pageantry this November in Ghana.

“It felt so great. I felt like I was finally moving closer to my dreams. I believe so much in Africa. I believe in our capabilities and I will use my platform to spread this message.” She says.

But none of this came on a silver platter. Grace was raised by her grandparents while her mother worked in Nairobi to make ends meet. She went to seven different primary schools, living with different relatives throughout her childhood. Life was not easy for the 23-year-old.

Raise school fees

Throughout her education, the longest period she has ever stayed in one school was the two years he spent at St James Academy where she sat her KCPE exams and scored 398 marks.

With that, she booked herself a place at St. Mary’s Lwak Girls in Nyanza. Before this, she had been forced to repeat Grade Seven and Eight to give her mother more time to raise her school fees. In her first attempt in KCPE, she got 250 marks.

In high school, Grace discovered her passion in modelling. Right from Form One, she got involved in beauty pageants and vied for Lwak Girls’ Miss Environment title. She finished fourth, but she tried again the following year and won!

“That is when I made up my mind about this. No one in my family had ever engaged in such competitions, but I kept visualising myself on the big stage. I still do,” she says.

However, for a long time, she never shared her ambitions with anyone.

“I was too scared to even share my dreams. I wanted to make my mother proud by doing well at school, getting a job and helping her take care of our family,” She says.

Grace soon encountered a major challenge. She had always wanted to study law, but she didn’t get the grades required to join law school. She settled for geology and enrolled for the course at the South Eastern University of Kenya.

Interestingly, she never engaged in any beauty contests while in campus. Instead, she ventured into politics, which was a very different ball game. She vied for the Secretary General position but lost it narrowly to her rival.

Natural resources

She believes she can merge modelling with her current field of study – geology.

“Africa is endowed with so much natural resources but often, we don’t see these things as blessings,” she says.

Despite her warm smile and radiating confidence, Grace has had her fair share of challenges. At one point last year, the Kenyan beauty queen contemplated suicide.

That is not all. Her career choice was not acceptable to everyone in her family. No one seemed to understand why she was still interested in a career in modelling yet she was studying geology.

“I used to cry for very long hours. Once, I let my tears flow freely and I ended up praying fervently. That day, I rediscovered God’s love. I moved out shortly afterwards and vowed to follow my dreams come the year 2020,” She recalls.

And she did just that. In April this year, she registered for an online competition dubbed “The African Activity week” which was all about celebrating African attires. She posted a picture of herself wearing a lovely African dress and she ended up winning the top prize.

She kept in touch with the organisers of the competition – Adat Art and Science Academy – and the director of the institution agreed to mentor her. Before long, Grace joined the academy as a brand ambassador.

“This academy is all about branding Africa as the land of opportunity. People are being westernised and forgetting their culture and heritage, and we want to change this,” she explains.

Grace does not believe in belittling or condemning men in the quest for gender equality.

“A woman does not have to act, behave or think like a man to be respectable. What if the men decide to bring down women the same way some self-professed feminists are doing? This world would be a chaotic place!

Respect women

“We all need each other. The society should treat women with dignity and respect and give them an opportunity to make contributions to society. It doesn’t have to be a competition.”

Grace knows exactly what she wants from Ghana later this year.

“I want to win, and to interact with women from different parts of Africa,” she says.

Sadly, lack of adequate sponsorship may shatter her dream. She is looking for sponsors to support her journey to the continental finals in November, and is appealing to the government to come to her aid. She is on Facebook as Grace Akinyi and Instagram @Akinyi_Gracey.

“Someday, people will hear my name and think only of Africa. My goal is to promote Africa. I do not want to be famous, I want to be great, and to travel across the world spreading positive stories about Africa.” She concludes.