Monday, August 5, 2013

Exclusive Interview - Malaika Firth

Timing is everything in modelling and fashion, and for nineteen year old Malaika Firth her timing couldn't be more impeccable. Firth's spellbinding Spring/Summer 2014 runway appearance at the Prada Menswear show preceded her landmark campaign slot in the label's Fall/Winter 2013 campaign alongside industry icons Christy Turlington and Freja Beha Erichsen. Lensed by model maker Steven Meisel, Firth's inclusion in the illustrious campaign marks the first time a black model has been featured in a Prada campaign line-up since Naomi Campbell's Fall/Winter 1994 appearance. Represented by Premier Models in London and New York Model Management, interest in Firth has been steadily building momentum with promising editorial appearances in Teen Vogue, Another Magazine, i-D Online, and the latest issue of Love. With Ashley Brokaw and Miuccia Prada's nod of approval, all eyes will be firmly trained on Firth as she takes on the Spring/Summer 2014 show season.

The Mombasa native's bi-racial background and transcontinental upbringing translate into a formidable rare beauty which has fashion editors, photographers, and model aficionados marking Firth as a newcomer with serious long-term prospects. Firth's expressive Bambi-like gaze, luxuriant caramel skin tone, and tempestuous pout are a photographer's dream while her willowy 175 cm frame and powerful runway presence combined with an infectious personality make for an overall package that is impossible to resist. In an industry where pretty faces are easily dispensable, a model's individual allure and persona are the crucial elements for galvanising and maintaining the attention and interest of key industry players and indeed the public. Firth's multi-dimensional personality and her interests outside of modelling make her a compelling interview subject with plenty of insights to share. Firth squeezed in time in between modelling assignments to chat exclusively to IMA about her hopes for the future, what inspires her in life, and her other life passions - acting, cooking and nature.

Malaika Firth
Photographer - Matthew Priestley
Image courtesy of Premier Models


Inoubliabliable Model Army (IMA): Hi Malaika, thank you for hanging out with IMA and a super congratulations on your phemonemal Prada Fall/Winter 2013 campaign slot! Tell us a little bit of your backstory...
MF: I was born in Mombasa, on the coast of Kenya, but was raised by my family in Barking, Essex (we moved to the UK when I was 7). My heritage is a mixture of British, Swiss, Ugandan and Seychelloise. I'm 19 years old! I was discovered after watching the first episode of "The Model Agency" (the Channel 4 documentary which featured my agency Premier Model Management). My mother called up the agency the following morning and spoke to Carole White (the agency's founder) suggesting that I meet with them. After attending an open casting with my mother, I was lucky enough to be signed on the spot!

IMA: You first popped up on IMA's radar last year when you were featured exclusively in a Fashion Gone Rogue editorial shot by Matthew Priestley. Where are you currently based and do you get the opportunity to visit your native Kenya often? What do you cherish most about your home country?
MF: I'm currently based in London, having just flown the nest. I'm super excited to be going back to Kenya in December with my family! I'm really looking forward to being able to help my grandma with her restaurant (http://www.porini-kenya.com/) and learning some new recipes. What I most cherish about Kenya is definitely the local food, but above all else my family!

IMA: What do you hope to achieve in your modelling career and do you have any dream assignments on your bucket list? What career path would you have followed, had modelling not interceded?
MF: I hope to have a successful modelling career and continue to get the opportunity to travel the world exploring and learning new things as well as meeting new people! I love experiencing foreign cultures, religion, and food - which life as a model often immerses you in. If I was not modelling, I would be focused on becoming an actress! It's my dream and my interest in acting is beyond words. I love the fact that you can mould into a different character when on screen and convey emotion just through use of facial expression. It's the perfect way for me to express myself and I love, love, love it! I was part of an amateur drama group back home in Barking and we used to put on short plays at my local theatre. I once played the role of Juliet in a production of Romeo and Juliet!

Prada - F/W 2013
Photographer - Steven Meisel
Source - thefashionspot.com

Prada Menswear - S/S 2014
Photographer - Monica Feudi
Source - style.com

In the Wings
Prada Menswear - S/S 2014
Source - premierblogstyle.com


IMA: Racial diversity has been a contentious issue in modelling for eons. Iman, Beverly Johnson, Naomi Campbell, Tyra Banks, Liya Kebede, and Jourdan Dunn have all been outspoken about the adversity they have faced as black models in a mostly white-focused industry. Do you feel that things are improving for models of colour?
MF: I have been lucky so far I have not experienced any inequality, but I think it is great having models like Jourdan Dunn as role models.

IMA: Did you feel beautiful growing up as a child and how important was it to you during your formative years to see people of colour being represented in the media and in fashion?
MF: Growing up, I was made to feel beautiful as I grew up in an extremely loving and caring family. However, in my teen years I was bullied at school just because I was different to the rest - since that time I've grown up and learnt a lot from that experience. I think it is important to love yourself and don't look back on the negative, just concentrate on the positive!

IMA: You've already worked with every model's dream photographer - Steven Meisel. Are there any other photographers in particular that you would love dearly to collaborate with and why?
MF: I would love, love, love to work with Inez Van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin, that would be a dream come true! I really love their style of imagery particularly their focus in texture and form.

Love Magazine - F/W 2013
Photographer - Sølve Sundsbø
Source - thefashionspot.com

Another Magazine - F/W 2011
Photographer - Ben Toms
Source - thefashionspot.com

Photographer - Matthew Priestley
Source - fashiongonerogue.com


IMA: Fashion Week can be a real test of stamina and endurance with endless castings, around the clock fittings, and prep for shows. How are you preparing for the onslaught of the Spring/Summer 2014 show season?
MF: I'm currently practicing walking in really high heels while I do the housework. It's also really important to eat healthily and to have a beauty routine. I also exercise at home - nothing too strenuous just some light weight repetitions. I'm also planning on spending as much time with my family and friends before the show season starts.

IMA: For newcomers the casting process for Fashion Week can be a gruelling and nerve-wracking process. How do you approach castings and what is your secret to wowing casting directors?
MF: It's so important to have positive energy when you go to a casting. It also helps to be friendly and personable... a smile goes a long way!

IMA: An important aspect of a model's overall package is her personal style. How would you describe your street style and which three designers best represent your personal aesthetic?
MF: I'm constantly inspired by what people wear on the street - particularly during the show season. If I had to describe my look I would say I'm very casual, I don't try too hard and dress for comfort more than anything. I'm a huge fan of what ASOS does, but in terms of designers, I love contemporary brands like Religion and you can't beat a Burberry trench coat - such a classic!


House of Dereon - S/S 2012
Source - newyorkmodelsblog.com

Rachel Zoe - S/S 2012
Photographer - Alessandro Garofalo
Source - style.com

Odilon - S/S 2012
Photographer - Peter Curti
Source - pcalldayeveryday.blogspot.com


IMA: Your modelling career has been carefully developed and nurtured by your mother agency Premier Models. What three words would you use to describe Premier's approach to management, and what has been the best advice that your agents have given you?
MF: Family, Friendly, Fun! The best advice my agents Annie and Aidan at Premier have given me is probably how important it is to leave a good impression, no matter what the situation.

IMA: Imagine you're on the cover of British Vogue much like the famous Peter Lindbergh cover featuring Linda, Naomi, Christy et al., who your of the current generation of top models would you most like to be featured alongside?
MF: Haha, that's a tough question... If I were on the cover of British Vogue, I would love to be featured alongside anyone who is an inspiration to young people, hardworking and who loves what they do! If you need me to name names, I would have to go with Jourdan Dunn as she is an inspiration to me. I met her once and on asking for her autograph (which I don't think she was expecting), she was so incredibly humble and nicer than I could have imagined!

IMA: Beauty is in the eye of the Beholder. What do you find beautiful?
MF: I find people who are not afraid to come out of their comfort zone beautiful - there is something about confidence which is extremely attractive... I also love nature and I'm constantly sketching trees, mountains, and clouds on my travels.

IMA: What makes you "Inoubliable" (Unforgettable)?
MF: I enjoy cooking... you won't forget me if you tried my chicken curry, which I season with onion, garlic, ginger and my secret "royco" seasoning!

Malaika Firth
Photographer - Felix Wong
Source - thefashionspot.com

Photographer - Felix Wong
Image courtesy of Premier Models

Teen Vogue - April 2013
Photographer - Jacob Sutton
Source - thefashionspot.com

Hot & Cool - S/S 2013
Photographer - Ben Weller
Source - thefashionspot.com

Burberry Girl
Photographer  - Uncredited
Source - thefashionspot.com

Special thanks to Alex Shah at Premier Model Management. For more information on Premier Models, please log onto www.premiermodelmanagement.com

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