It is said that the most attractive accessory any public figure can put on is humility. This is the first impression I got of Leah Lisa Tesfamariam. She has to be the most un-assuming public figure I have come across on campus. Dressed in form fitting blue jeans and a yellow spaghetti top and with minimal make-up on, she is beautiful and stands out anytime. She has an easy and welcoming smile and as we strolled around looking for a quiet space to do the interview, I could not help but marvel at her simplicity that brings out her natural beauty in the most captivating of ways. She is currently pursuing a Degree in Diplomacy & International Relations.
How did it feel being crowned Miss Maseno?
It was both exciting and surprising as well. I had entered the competition out of the passion I have for modeling and put my very best into it. The other contestants were equally beautiful and talented but I am thankful to God I emerged overall winner.
When did you start modeling?
I started modeling in High School. I participated in a pageant where I emerged runners-up and I have never looked back since then. I happened to do part of my High School in the U.S.A and did a diploma course in modeling while there as well.
In what ways have you used your title?
I am involved in several projects, majorly anti-Malaria campaigns. I am currently involved in a free mosquito nets distribution drive in Kisumu Town West Ward.
Being crowned Miss Maseno comes with a lot of publicity, how do you handle that?
Apart from being pointed out on the streets by people, nothing much has changed. I have remained myself throughout and am level-headed. My beauty is only to be used for positive purpose. I have also gotten used to the attention and having cameras focused on me during photo shoots.
Talking of beauty, any stalkers?
(Laughing) Yeah, yeah. Currently I have two guys who are seriously stalking me. I have however learnt how to set boundaries. I immediately cut communication with anyone who tries to cross limits. I am also very principled and this makes things easier for me.
Apart from Miss Maseno, what other pageants have you participated in?
I recently participated in Miss Tourism Western Circuit. I also took part in the Miss Kenya auditions in Kisumu and I am among those short listed to participate in the national competition. I am however not attached to any modeling agency as most of them exploit models.
Any challenges so far?
Getting funding for my projects is the main challenge so far. I have to go out of my way to make sure they go through. My parents were also against my modeling career but I am passionate about it and that is why I am still doing it. Working with the current S.O.M.U has also proved to be challenging as there is no direct co-ordination.
Now that you mentioned S.O.M.U, controversy has it that during Miss Maseno models were not paid as is required, your take?
I do not mean to bad-mouth anyone but getting paid was difficult. After the event we were not given some of our presents or even paid in full including other contestants despite there being a budget allocation for the same. It took several trips to the Dean of Students and the S.W.S for us to get paid. Long after the event took place.
In the past, Mr and Miss Maseno have not had a close ties, is it the same with you and Charles?
Mr Maseno and I have very close professional ties. We are friends as well and we do most of our projects together.
What fashion faux paus do most Maseno ladies make?
(Sighing) Go slow on the weaves ladies. They are a too much plus most of them are not properly maintained. Most girls also tend to over dress.
Any advice you would give to aspiring models?
They should be ready to work hard. Modelling requires patience and versatility. They should also be careful not to let their morals loose as most people out there view models as sex objects.
What is your personal style?
My style is simple, stylish and natural. I do not have a specific dress code I stick to but mainly dress according to the occasion. You won’t find me strutting in heels 24/7 as they are harmful to the back.
Is there anything about you that we may not know?
I love my friends to bits. I also like traveling a lot and I stick to my principles all the time. My studies also come before anything else. I am a perfectionist and do everything to the best of my ability. I also take my faith seriously. (she would stroke her Rosary most of the time while talking). I hate tribalism as well.
Are you in a relationship?
No comment. I prefer to keep my private life that way.
Pursue what you love when you still have the opportunity. It is also important to strive for perfection and stay true to your principles.
As I walked away after the interview, it struck me that Lisa has got to be the best Miss Maseno we could ever have. She is a neat package of brains and beauty all wrapped with humility. Her passion for International Relations & Diplomacy was evident throughout our conversation and with the hindsight of an interview I read about Amina Mohammed, the Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary in a local Daily, I could not help drawing parallels between the two of them