Gloria MangiComment

Kenya: Silvia Njoki

Gloria MangiComment
Kenya: Silvia Njoki

1. Why did you pick the career path you did?

Although neither my mom nor my aunts were focused on fashion in any way, I remember that even as a young girl I simply loved fashion.  I didn’t know about fashion styling or blogging 10 years ago, but had dreams of becoming a designer or a fashion model in order to gain access to that world of fashion.  My self-esteem was low as a teenage girl, and I was using fashion as an escape from being the shy introvert girl I was.  So the truth is that I didn’t choose this career path, but gradually entered it through an organic process by first being a designer, and then a bit of modeling followed by my first modest attempts at fashion writing and with every step of the process opening new doors of opportunity for me.

2. What should every woman try at least once in her life?

Embracing her flaws should be a basic rule although it can be hard.  But at least once in her life she should step way outside her comfort zone and expose herself to the scrutiny of the world and the world and savor the liberating feeling of having conquered a new territory.

3. What is on your bookshelf?

Besides the hundreds of fashion magazines I have collected over the years, my more recent additions of books mostly seem to be focused on women in one way or another.  Women authors are among my favorites including Vivienne Westwood, Karen Blixen, Christi Paul and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, whose novel Americanah I really love. I enjoy reading about how women cope with their lives and how they have arrived at achieving their accomplishments.  Not surprisingly, you will also find books about fashion including The Vogue factor by Kristie Clements the former editor-in-chief of Australian Vogue.

4. What item in your closet do you wear the most?

I love dresses and especially maxi dresses. They are so easy to wear, and designers tend to make a special effort to make them sexy and edgy.  In fact the range of designs is endless, and a great thing about wearing a maxi dress is that you don’t need to worry about the top and bottom etc. My absolute fave is a maroon crochet dress which I bought from River Island some five years ago.   It is still in my closet and I am not lying when I tell you that I wear it at least one to three times every single month since it is so very versatile and still looks brand new.

5. What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you?

At high school I was a dedicated athlete and in spite of my introvert nature. Once I organized a fashion show at the school which was strictly against the rules and had to be done secretly – probably by first fashion related initiative.

6. What is one thing you wish you knew when you were younger?

It would have been nice to truly appreciate that there was no need for me to strive to end up in a white collar job in an office or wherever and not to feel bad about focusing on creative activities.  Which, thank God,  I eventually did.  And looking back I can see that every successive decision I took along the way was leading me to the person I am today

7. What is your beauty secret?

Laughter and love. But also a lot of water, my green tea and hot lemon waterI believe in natural remedies and pamper my skin daily with a lot of coconut oil. Finally, let me not forget my sleep, which is also great for my spirit.

8. What’s the biggest personal change you’ve ever made?

I used to love a juicy steak and other red meat, but a few years ago I decided to start my transition to be a vegetarian.  It’s hard to drop things you love so it didn’t happen overnight but in the form of a gradual elimination of meat and other foodstuffs which I consider unhealthy. I still eat fish, seafood, and chicken, so I am still not a vegetarian in the true sense of the word, but I am slowly getting there.  It’s a process.

9. What motivates you to improve yourself?

In my personal life my biggest motivation is to give my daughter the best possible life by being as good a mom as I can and a good example to her. I want her to look up to me and love me as a role model.  I love what I am doing in my professional life as a fashion stylist and blogger so much that I want to be the best.  Maybe I can sum it all up in a brief motto: “live it – love it!”

10. What are some struggles you faced in your life that came about because of your gender?

At home as a child I had two brothers, but our parents made sure that we all were assigned the same household chores, and later I attended an all girls boarding school until I graduated from high school; so gender was really not an issue up until that point.  And now in my chosen profession I can enjoy the fact that the fashion industry including the fashion blogosphere is predominantly women dominated.  So all in all I don’t feel that I have faced any struggles worth mentioning.

11. Who and what are some of your influences?

I am influenced by the beauty of nature,  In my own more specific universe of style, fashion, and beauty I am subjected to an avalanche of images and texts on all the social media platforms as well as TV and printed media.  I am submerged in a sea of fashion and beauty influences 24/7.

12. Do you wish you could’ve done things differently if given the chance? Please explain.

The answer is no.  Everything of importance I have done in my life has led me to who and where I am today. I am happy with my decisions.

13. What and who inspires you?

I am wearing two professional hats, as a stylist and as a blogger.  Both professions thrive on inspiration from all aspects of the fashion world especially on the social media and TV, but my blogging also receives important impulses from other bloggers irrespective of the orientation of their blogs.  I consider the time I spend on absorbing all that information as time spent on the job, since my success depends on having my finger on the pulse day in and day out.  Of course, I have a handful of style icons as well as bloggers who I check on frequently for this shot of daily inspiration I love Marianna Hewitt and Chira Feragnni

14. What do you count as your greatest achievement?

Nothing really prepares you for motherhood with all its challenges and responsibilities of taking care of an initially helpless child starting from day one.  I had to learn everything from scratch, and as the months go by the challenges and the requirement that I meet them continue to grow and demand my best effort.  To be honest I think I have done it rather successfully. I am proud of myself.

15. How have you overcome these struggles and/or insecurities?

We all have our insecurities, and my approach has been not to let mine get in my way. I have decided to work consciously embrace my flaws, and not to be a slave to them.

16. In your experience, what do you think are some of the prevalent issues women face in everyday life, professionally?

I suppose it depends on what profession you are practicing and the situations it brings you into.  In my field of fashion, my experience is very positive, but I could imagine that others might be less fortunate if they don’t possess the required skills to for instance demand respect and power in a negotiation with male counterparts.

17. What do you think needs to be done to address these issues?

As I see it there are two basic possible approaches to address the issue of gender stereotyping.  One is to gradually change the views men often have of women in situations where male dominance is still the norm, such as business negotiations as I mentioned above.  The second approach, which is more likely to succeed and which I would advocate is to give women negotiators the tools and the savvy to take the upper hand.

18. What would you tell another young woman who wants to go down the same path that you have chosen?

This is my journey, find yours and follow it passionately with all you have got. For those who want to work in the fashion industry, make sure that you are not simply fascinated by the glamour of the fashion industry, but that you are sufficiently passionate about succeeding to work hard on acquiring the required know how and skills.

19. What do you do to give back to your community?

I have started a charity project“Dress a Girl in Kenya” based on an international model.  The idea is to urge women to sew very simple dresses – sometimes we call them pillow case dresses because they can be made so easily from old pillow cases – and donate them to little girls in orphanages with limited financial means who especially in rural areas have very few nice dresses if any to feel pretty in.  I have promoted this project on my blog, which is also a platform for inspiring and assisting young women to become more fashion oriented with simple inexpensive means.  Some of them approach me with requests to mentor them and help them to move up in the fashion industry, and I do that with pleasure including accepting them as interns on my styling jobs.

20. If you could tell young women one thing, what would it be?

Whatever you do, do it with passion and dedication, strive for perfection regardless of the effort, and above all be true to yourself, pray and you will be the best you can be.

Gloria Mangi is an award winning, creative, journalist, activist and founder of the award winning African Queens Project and host of Queen Things Podcast.