Q&A with Naro Lokuruka

Photography by Billie Chiasson & Make up by Ashley Readings

Photography by Billie Chiasson & Make up by Ashley Readings

Meet Naro Lokuruka. The young model who has been jet-setting around the world since her early twenties. Qweens’ co-founder Elizabeth Oloidi had the opportunity to speak with her while she was in Paris for Fashion Week on her experience being a Muslim woman of African descent in the model industry. Currently signed to Plutino Models agency in Toronto, Lokuruka’s experiences have not always been easy being signed by agencies and booking jobs as a dark skin black woman. But, that has not affected her tenacity in pursuing a successful career as an international model.  

Why did you want to become a model? 

I never necessarily wanted to become a model. I was raised in a very conservative African family and can remember being about 15 and receiving a card from an agent along with my younger sisters. It was the first time the possibility was presented to me but my parents thought my age too young and the industry far too risky.  It was only once I moved to Toronto after a few years in University by myself did I decide to give it a try when I received another card from a small agency. I am glad they did and I got into it a bit older. 

As a black woman, what hardships have you faced being a model?

Xenophobia is an issue I am constantly having to deal with, work-wise and in my daily life. For one, it is not always easy travelling as a visibly African woman I must say.

Work-wise searching for more agencies all over the world the one answer I almost always get is, “we already have one or maybe two black models already”.  Or, “our market won’t understand your ‘look’ but come by if you find yourself in the country and we might try it.” We are all different people.  We all look nothing alike. I am still not sure I understand why this happens, it robs us of so many opportunities. There is surely enough work for everyone.

What were your experiences like with makeup and having the right foundation shade available to you on shoots?

It has not really been a problem these days especially with all the brands available now when it’s only myself they are shooting. I still make it a point to know what is being used on my skin. I have an orange base and only certain brands cater to my skin. Some might be slightly offended but most do not mind as they understand as artists. I often wonder how can one call themselves a proper makeup artist if they are not ready to take care of all skin types at any given time; especially when they already know the variation of skin tones they most likely will be working with. It sadly comes back to the fact that most of the time only a few artists carry the darker tones as they are not “widely used”.

You are known for your natural low-cut hairstyle, how have your experiences been with hair stylists at shoots?

It has often happened that I find myself the last girl in the makeup chair because I am “easy” to do as I have no hair to style (you would think the reverse would be what gets done). I recently did a fashion show and they were finishing off my makeup (I was the only one not done) as we were waiting in line, changed and everything. It ruins your whole working experience and I love shows. Most of the time, it’s because only a few, usually one artist can “take care” of “dark” skin. There were about 4 of us for the poor lovely girl who I still keep in contact with, herself a black woman to work on. It doesn’t happen all the time but far too often for it to be right or fair.

In the modelling industry and beauty industry do you think we are doing enough for the women of colour (in terms of representation and having tools available for them)?

There has been a push in recent years that has seen more designers and brands be more inclusive but it’s still very rare that I get to work with more than two or even three women of colour at once, and that’s mostly at shows. I have observed that it sadly happens with girls of say Arab or Asian backgrounds for example. I truly hope we keep seeing diversity being more than a “trend” and part of daily life, as it should be.

What about models modelling makeup brands? Have you noticed a shift towards advocating for more diversity? 

There has been a big shift yes. More brands are being more diverse in terms of representation and I truly hope it continues and grows. The world is so diverse and its time it was reflected properly.

Read the full article in the "Naturally Radiant" issue here.