When it comes to models that are women of color, more specifically African-American women they are often looked at simply as sexual objects and trophies. The way they are portrayed and quite honestly portray themselves in the media from reality shows like, Flava of Love to any rap video, it’s hard to see or recognize the true beauty of women if skin and body parts are the only things that are the focus. International Supermodel Teiko Dornor is here to change that, with a degree in Political Science from the University of Reading, outside of London and the founder of her non-profit Miss Plus Africa, Ms. Dornor wants to change the image and perception of models not with her body but more importantly her mind.
Q: Did you always know you wanted to be a model?
Oh no, definitely not, it never crossed my mind when I was growing up. I always wanted to help others somehow but I never thought about modeling.
Q: How exactly did you get involved with the modeling industry?
A friend of mine, Tina Atiemo and I worked on the same TV show, she’s a designer and asked me to model for her collection. I accepted and got my first taste of life behind the lens.
Q: Were you ever shy going into it or were you immediately comfortable with it?
I’m naturally shy, and it was so strange initially. The photographer was like ok give energy, give me hot, I’m like, oh my goodness this is crazy!!! Now I’m at the point where I can switch it on when I have to, it’s a performance to me, very liberating!
Q: At what point did you know this is what you wanted to do?
When I started independently looking into the field, I had a natural drive to be better and explore my potential, I loved how versatile I could be and became passionate about it.
Q: You are a plus size model, was that ever a fear you had breaking into the industry, and with that, when did you get your first big break?
Well being a plus size model it was like ok, this is a whole new side of the industry, I had been used to seeing the Naomi’s and Kate’s of the world front major campaigns, but never plus size models, it was daunting I wont lie because modeling can be insecure, and I didn’t have many models to say, well she has “made” it so you can to. Definitely faith over fear. With regards to my big break, it would have to be appearing in Pride Magazine, a UK based woman’s magazine and I was all over the country, it was a special moment, I have that page pinned up.
Q: What advice would you give to other aspiring models that are plus size?
Stay focused and stay secure. There is a market, for plus size models, do your research, never totally leave your career development in the hands of other people, but are totally committed to pushing yourself. Beware of scams, it’s hard when you want something so bad and it doesn’t seem to be happening but patience is key. Understand the nature of the game and play to win.
Q: Talk a bit about the in-depth education and degrees you’ve attained in addition to your organization Miss Plus Africa?
Ok, so I studied and obtained a B.A. in Politics and International Relations from the University Of Reading. It was amazing, really opened my mind to world affairs, the nature of political organizations and society, definitely an invaluable experience. I studied Politics because I wanted to be an instrument of change, and in many ways I’ve done that with Miss Plus Africa. My co-founder and I began the organization in 2006, not only to highlight women who are not always seen as typically beautiful but also to raise funds and awareness for Africa. Its especially close to my heart, as I said when I began modeling there was no major plus size model, and you want positive role models who you can relate to. We have had an incredible response from women who love the concept, and it feels great to have encouraged other accept their body image.
Q: In America models of color more specifically African-American women models are looked at more as sexual objects than for their beauty and brains, what is your perception is any of how women of color are perceived overseas versus in America?
Unfortunately, when you see a woman on the front cover of the latest information technology or car magazine in a bikini and smile you realize it’s not just an American thing. People love to place women in a box, she can stand there and look pretty and we don’t need her input because it’s not that important! It happens all over the world, not just the states. It’s something that’s almost force fed at times, I don’t think there is anything wrong with celebrating a woman’s shape and allure, we are all aware that women have more than just looks on our side. It’s just unfortunate at times when you have young girls and boys only seeing one type of beauty and image. It’s not a reflection of a women’s place in “real life.”
Q: Great answer… since you’ve conquered the fashion industry what’s next on the agenda for you?
I want global domination!! Teiko Dornor — it’s a brand name people! Ha! Well – I’m glad you think I have conquered the fashion industry, but there is a lot more I want to achieve; to continue to show that it’s not about plus size or regular size models, it’s about recognizing a beautiful woman, about allowing your mind to see outside the box. Of course working hard to make Miss Plus Africa a success, it’s in Washington D.C. this year so a lot is hard work is going towards making that a reality.
Q: Great I’m here in D.C. so we can finally meet. Is there anything else you want to say before we wrap this up?
Yes indeed, can’t wait to meet you in person. Before I wrap up, I want to encourage anyone out there chasing his or her dreams. Stay focused in whatever field you are in, don’t allow fear or self doubt hold you back. As Marianne Williamson said, “You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world” and as Teyana Taylor says “Google Me Baby” Teiko Dornor that is!
For more information about Teiko Dornor please visit www.myspace.com/teikodornor