Benjamin Atieno Opiyo, a final year student pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Geology, at Chiromo Campus, and the outgoing Mr UoN is a happy soul with so much going on in his life. With the upcoming Mr & Miss University of Nairobi event, being a finalist, which means projects and term papers, and not forgetting all the other numerous responsibilities that come with being a well-established model. I had the chance to have a sit down with him, despite the busy schedule and got to know him more, beyond the good looks and the magnificent struts on the runways. So here goes:
MR: Besides having had the Mr UoN title for the past two years, what other titles have you bagged?
BAO: I am the brand ambassador for the Pamoja Africa Initiative that is geared towards the supply of sanitary towels to less privileged girls in various regions within the country. Currently, we are targeting Kwale, Kilifi and Taita Taveta Counties and we are hoping it will be a success as it has been in the past.
Also, I am a co-partner of J’n’B Apparel and Couture, which is all about dressing people for pageants, events and high end occasions. We are like collectors, get attires from different places or designs and get the clothes custom made to suit the occasion.
Besides that, I have choreographed various runway events such as the recent Mr & Miss Chiromo and the upcoming Mr & Miss UoN. I have also been a judge at various beauty pageants in some of the universities and colleges such as Mr & Miss Kenyatta University, as well as Mombasa Youth Talent Fiesta. And lastly, I am a model at City Models Africa.
MR: Do people ever take you to be a joker or a simple mind just because you are a model? Do people not take you seriously at times?
BAO: Yes, that happens a lot, and at times people don’t understand why I’d be coming from the library like right now. And considering how social and outgoing I am, that assumption by most people is expected but really, I am a serious student, looking to attain a First Class Honors and just focusing on the bigger picture.
MR: After school, do you plan on getting a job related to the degree course you are taking or will you focus on modelling and the other entire project?
BAO: I intend to do both since my parents and I have invested so much in my education and I will not let that go to waste. I will continue working on my projects as long as I have informed the employer that I have a serious career in modelling and that unexpected plans pop up.
MR: What’s your take on the whole #CondomsForKids vibe?
BAO: (laughs) I don’t support that, because we don’t expect the kids to be having sex. I mean, condoms for university students does make sense because that is for their own protection since we know most are already having sex, but for primary school kids, that’s like giving them the go-ahead to start having sex. So I really don’t advocate for that, I have younger sisters so, no.
MR: Your take on campus politics?
BAO: I hate politics, I don’t support politics. In fact, I came to hate it more after goons ruined the whole Mr & Miss Chiromo event.
MR: Would you date or are you dating a model? Beauty or brains? Light skin or dark skin?
BAO: I wouldn’t mind dating a model but I am currently not dating, since I have so much on my plate that I can’t manage more stress due to a relationship. And of course, brains at all times, but she has to be both; I wouldn’t date an ugly sharp person. So that should explain why I am single, because finding a perfect beauty and brains combination is sometimes very hard. And finally, #TeamLightskin, but chocolate skin tone can do. I don’t think I have dated a dark chic before but no discrimination.
MR: Would you be okay with a come we stay marriage arrangement?
BAO: It’s a funny arrangement, I wouldn’t do that basically due to my Christian upbringing and also because, my dad is a great mentor and role model and has huge influence on how I take life.
MR: Speaking of family, how supportive are they towards your modelling career?
BAO: My parents are very supportive of what I do provided my school work is still going great. Moral support and prayers from my family really keeps me going.
MR: Do you consider yourself a success? And what are some of your achievement?
BAO: First, yes, I do consider myself a success, looking back on the much I have been able to accomplish since 2013 when I started modelling. Some of my achievements include organizing and overseeing the Mr & Miss Chiromo event for a second year now, with the help of ONUSS (Organisation of Nairobi University Science Students), something that hasn’t been there previously. Also, together with Pamoja Africa Initiative, we managed to have Jamii Bora High School re-opened; a school that had previously been shut down due to lack of funds as well as supply sanitary towels to different parts of the country.
MR: What are some of the challenges that come with being a model? And how do you handle them?
BAO: Biggest challenge is dealing with ladies especially after you’ve done remarkable work on the runway and photos of your bare chest are all over the internet and some of them have outrageous requests and demands. Another issue is achieving balance between school, modelling, working, the whole matter of maintaining an image because of who people know you to be so it somehow demands that you always look sharp but once in a while I let loose and just be like any other person. Another concern in modelling is that of petty designers who lock out really good models on the basis of very minor issues such as a height difference of just 2cm. It would be really be beneficial to the industry if such matters we dealt with.
MR: How true is that that for a person to make it as a model in Kenya they have to ‘know people’? And a word of advice to aspiring models in Kenya?
BAO: That isn’t true. To be a model you have to be good at what you do, have perspective, discipline and most importantly, define yourself, work and push your brand.
MR: Who/What inspire you? Parting shot?
BAO: There’s this quote, “Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact, It’s an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration, It’s a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing” – Muhammad Ali. I draw lots of inspiration from him. And that’s it; impossible has never existed in my world.