"Last month I had the pleasure of shooting the 'Curves Ahead' editorial for ESSENCE. It was such an incredible day, working with a familiar team," shared model Philomena Kwao. "It's refreshing when plus-size styling is exciting and pushes boundaries rather than safe and boring. Its encouraging that ESSENCE is including plus size models in its editorials and I hope there is more of it to come." Get to know more about the model below, and how Lupita Nyong'o's win has affected her.
Name: Philomena Kwao
Hometown: Deptford, London, UK
Ethnicity: Black British (Ghanaian heritage)
I was discovered: In a nationwide modeling competition in the UK to find a new plus model. The competition was held by Evans in association with Models1.
I'm currently working on: Building my portfolio in the US and working with amazing clients.
My best feature is: I have to say I love my body shape and I especially love to show it off in body-con dresses.
I'm beautiful because: I'm me. I've inherited so much culture, beauty and love and I'm the perfect mix of Philomena.
I also believe that if you can find beauty in everything, you can allow that to change your mindset and you radiate all the beauty you've absorbed; doing that makes you a happier person.
My favorite thing to wear to feel special is: Bodycon dresses. I like to channel my inner Beyonce and put on my "freakum dress."
My beauty routine is: Very simple. Lots of water and raw Shea butter. I'm also a religious user of Garnier Pure Active products (available in the UK and Canada); primarily the Garnier pure foaming wash and the Garnier pure active 24 hour moisturizer.
My health routine is: I try my best to stay healthy by paying attention to the ingredients in foods and trying to make sure my food is organic and not full of sugar or preservatives. I also try to do at least 30 minutes of cardio everyday in the gym. In addition to this I walk everywhere! New York City is one of the best cities in the world for walking, it's virtually impossible to get lost.
The best trick I use to flatter my curves is: I try to accentuate my waist and hips as much as possible. Anything that is relatively tight and shows off shape is perfect for me. In love with pencil skirts, body-con dresses and bodysuits.
My advice to budding plus size models is: Make sure you take the time to thoroughly do some research and call some reputable agencies and ask if they have walk-ins or if you can submit pictures. Don't give up!, even if you're rejected by one agency you may find luck with another! Develop a thick skin and never take things personally. Practice, practice, practice! Because if you really believe you can do something, you can do it.
I get into the zone while shooting by: Listening to west and south African music, more specifically music from Ghana, Nigeria, Ivory Coast and Angola. The beat just makes you want to get up and move and it gives so much energy. After a few seconds I'm ready to go. Definitely worth giving it a try, I recommend azonto (Fuse ODG) and Angolan house (Bela by Is Detroit).
My curvy style icon is: Beyonce, and not just as a style icon, as a role model.
My favorite places to shop: I love River Island, H&M, Mango and Zara. They always have such fashionable pieces at an affordable price and the cuts and styles flatter my shape. I'm almost never disappointed.
Favorite style blogs: I love 'Black Girls Killing It' BGKI. It's an amazing blog showcasing varying styles from around the world. I love how the fashion is shown on different sizes and ethnicities, I get almost all my style ideas from there.
Check out more of Philomena Kwao in "Curves Ahead" featured in the April issue of ESSENCE Magazine, on newstands now.