ESSENCE.com: In what way has Lupita's major wins this award season affected you?
PHILOMENA KWAO: Lupita's OSCAR win was like a breath of fresh air. I was nervous watching the awards ceremony. And as someone who shares a similar look to her it was refreshing to see that a women of colour, more specifically a darker woman of colour is being fully accepted as beautiful, elegant and graceful. I love that Lupita is changing the conventional standards of black beauty, breaking down barriers and creating a conversation within our communities about what is beautiful, encouraging us to be happy in our own skin, no matter what shade you are.
She is also much more than just a beautiful woman and an incredibly talented actress; she's also highly educated. I love it. I have a masters degree myself and I'm further inspired by her achievements and the positive message she represents.
ESSENCE.com: How do you think this will affect the perception of women of color in the media?
KWAO: I hope that by hearing Lupita's story, other young women understand that you can be educated and have a successful career in the entertainment industry. Her success adds confidence to my dreams.
ESSENCE.com: Lupita's inspiration is model Alek Wek. As a model with a similar look to Lupita and Alek Wek, in addition representing women with curves, how does it feel to be looked up to?
KWAO: Sometimes you never realise how much of an effect you're having on people until you're told, and the fan mail I receive has made me very aware of the positive effects I have on other people. Its a blessing to be able to inspire others the way I was (and still am) and I hope I can continue to positively do so. I'm very grateful that I'm able to do this.
ESSENCE.com: Lupita's unconventional beauty has been praised by mainstream media. Because you have similar features do you think it will make your "look" more appealing?
KWAO: Yes I do. However I hope that Lupita's rise represents more than just a phase; I hope it permanently opens doors for plus women of colour in mainstream media.
Get to know our March Curvy Model of The Month Philomena Kwao here, and check her out in our April "Curves Ahead" fashion feature, on newstands now!