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Meet London’s first black Queen

London’s first black Queen

VIMBAI CHAPUNGU

The style interview By KENNEDY NYAVAYA

When the news that 24-year-old Vimbai Chapungu (pictured) had been crowned Miss London broke a few weeks ago, it spread like wildfire across the world and Africa in particular was ecstatic.

Bold and naturally beautiful, the Zimbabwe-born beauty made history by becoming the pageant’s first black queen. She had cat-walked, proudly popping her melanin with confidence while sporting a natural look to the satisfaction of many.

If this was not the reflection of the city’s diversity, it is definitely an inspiring story of an African girl who dared to dream and believes in herself just like the translation to her Shona name suggests.

Standard Style reporter Kennedy Nyavaya (KN) caught up with Vimbai Chapungu (VC) to relive the historic moment and her prospects for the future.

Below are excerpts from the interview.

KN: When you first decided to take part in the Miss London pageant this year, had it registered in your mind that if you won, you would become the first black queen?

VC: It had not crossed my mind at all. This was my first pageant, so my pageant history wasn’t exactly robust. But it was actually discovered well into competing for Miss England when
reminiscing with someone. It was a nice discovery, and it made me appreciate my title even more.

KN: What are some of the opportunities you found in the short time you have held the crown?

VC: I am now able to collaborate with people in philanthropic and empowering efforts, which I find the most rewarding part of the job. For example, I was a guest for School College
Fashion Week, which was an event hosted by Caramel Rock, a charity that aims to provide opportunities for students who wish to pursue a career in fashion. I look forward to working
with more organisations in the near future.

KN: How do you balance between your studies and modelling?

VC: It is not an easy task, but I see modelling and travelling as my outlet for when my studies become hard. I am a task-shifter,. so I find it hard to just concentrate on one thing.
Both my studies and modelling have been the base to my growth and I have learned a great deal from both. I wouldn’t substitute one for the other, because they have taught me things
equally. Arguably, people would say studies are more important. However, for me the essence of learning is important, and I have learned something from being a model and student. My
advice is, whatever your background — never stop learning!

KN: You wore your natural hair during the pageant and that appears to be your look most of the time. Would you have any message for African women who are not confident in their natural
look?

London’s first black Queen

Vimbai-Chapungu-4

VC: Our natural hair is and always has been a part of our identity since ancestral history, and I would at least encourage everyone to read a bit about our history to help make
connections about our hair. But the natural hair movement is about giving people a choice about what to do with their hair, so I am not judging people who have a different aesthetic. I
just believe it is important to be educated about the origins of our hair and hair health in general.

KN: Please briefly take us through your Zimbabwean roots, were you born here in Zimbabwe?

VC: I was born in Zimbabwe, yes, but I was raised in the UK since I was about four years old.

KN: I read somewhere where it says you plan to represent the continent during your reign as Miss London, are there specific projects you have put in place for this specific reason?

VC: As Miss London, I aim to represent multiple cultures and nationalities across different continents as this is essentially what London does as a renowned world city. I aim to work
with various communities and provide my support with projects that would help to empower them. With regard to my charity efforts, working with children is important to me, as they
are the future.

KN: What or who inspired you to pursue modelling as a career?

VC: When I was a teenager I was mesmerised by the world of runway. I used to stay up until dawn, observing outfits and runway shows. My favourite shows to watch were by Chanel because
they were so creative. Their runways were more than the traditional up and down layout; they created a grocery store, railway station and even an airport.

To me fashion became more than just clothes, it was a platform where designers could essentially showcase a narrative that is close to their hearts or about issues happening in the world. That is essentially what I am inspired by.

I am inspired by stories, creativity and curiosity about the world. As a model, you are more than a muse, you highlight current trends. If you look carefully, there are
even more models nowadays with natural hair, and that is already showcasing a Black narrative that hadn’t been prominently showcased in a while.

KN: What would be your advice to young girls who have given up on their modelling talents because of the negative view it is given by some sections of Zimbabwean society?

VC: I’m not sure what the negative views associated with modelling are within the Zimbabwean community, as within my family I have only ever been warned about protecting myself from
being exploited by the industry (which I believe is good advice). But what I can say is to never give up on something you believe is for you, purely based on other people’s opinions. I remember my sister telling me that quote which says “God already had a purpose for you, before people had an opinion” — and I think sometimes those are words to live by. But I also
highly recommend to do your due diligence in any creative industry, be realistic and show a lot of passion and determination.

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