*I first stumbled across Soraya Khalil via the Benetton competition blog and thought she was beautiful –and a potential winner. A few days later –one of my friends at a big fashion glossy rang me -to check out a fabulous new black model –and low-and-behold; that beautiful model turned out to be Soraya! I was so pleased when I found out [later] that she was of Ghanaian and Jamaican heritage. The following's an insight into the fabulous life of one of the most beautiful women of Ghanaian origin [http://ghanarising.blogspot.com/2010/04/most-beautiful-women-of-ghanaian-origin.html] and also, -one of my favourite interviews on Ghana Rising. Enjoy.....x
GR: Hi Soraya how are you?
SK: Asides the fact that I'm living in the library these days with my exams round the corner, I'd say I'm fab, thanks.
GR: Thanks for the interview –what are you up to right now?
SK: Well I graduated from Durham University last year with a business finance degree and since October last year I've been studying towards my ACCA (chartered accountant) qualification, while working part-time as a model. So yes, I kind of feel like I'm living two lives at the moment, juggling accounting and finance lectures and castings, but its what I love to do, keeps me active and going because I hate being idle. In between, when I can I do a bit of dance and I'd say I love a bit of the London party scene.
GR: Soraya can you tell us about your ethnic origin –and how it’s shaped you –culturally?
SK: Well I was born in London but moved to Ghana at a very young age and spent most of my life there. My mums from Ghana and currently lives there, while my dad is Jamaican but currently lives in Dubai. Living in such a multicultural city like London, studying in Durham and being raised in Ghana has had a great impact on my life, right down from the way I even speak and relate to people; I can generally interact with anyone. My dress sense I'd say is at the moment very retro, chic, a little but bohemian but I still do rock my African jewellery and fabrics all the time. I currently have afro hair, it’s my signature look, maybe influenced by my Jamaican background, but I love being natural- its different. I listen to Ghanaian hip-life and highlife all the time but you will still find me busting a move or two to a rock tune, drum and base, funky house or dancehall. I think my Ghanaian upbringing in general (attending a catholic school and church, boarding school life in Ghana, etc) has been beneficial in the sense that its made me content with myself, able to appreciate the good things in life, know myself and values enough to stand my ground when faced with difficult or compromising situations and act responsible in my best interest as opposed to following the crowd. I am grateful for that.
GR: Congratulations –you were chosen as one of the winners for the Face of Benetton Competition?
SK: The Benetton competition was a global casting in search of real people to represent the brand. There were over 65000 applicants and a lot of them were amazing in they're own way. The first 100 selected had the highest public votes and out of that -the Benetton team and judges chose the final 20 to be the faces of the autumn/winter campaign in NY. It was an amazing opportunity, especially the chance to shoot with famous photographer Josh Olins. It was a 4 day trip and my best friend got to come along as my plus one. It involved a lot of touring, parties, reception, celeb events, -and a 2 day shoot where we got to do a lot of interviews and meet with a lot of members of the press. The entire trip was also recorded for a documentary, Benetton intends on doing -on the lives of the models. It was excellent exposure and I managed to get some interesting jobs after that, a possible one with Uniqlo in Tokyo this summer. Since I've been back I'm signed with Bookings agency and I'm enjoying working with them - an excellent team.
GR: Yes, I saw you on the ‘New Faces’ Board at Bookings Agency –they are a big agency with big names on their books –and I love your portfolio. Can you tell us about the first shoot you did through Bookings –and what your dream job would be [right now]?
SK: My first shoot was actually pretty cool, the idea behind the shoot was using household appliances on the streets. For example; blow-drying my hair at a traffic light, -hoovering at a zebra-crossing, drying your laundry in a telephone box, etc. The team I worked with were amazing and I loved every bit of it, even the embarrassing moments, giving that we shooting right in the centre of Liverpool Street. I'd say my ideal job would be where I can combine my passion for fashion and finance background, especially since I've been studying finance for the last 4 years, possibly a job in the management side of a fashion firm maybe.
GR: Is there a photographer you would love to work with?
SK: Working with Josh Olins was an honour, he is extremely talented. Nigel Barker (America's next top model) is one photographer I would love to work with.
GR: You’re based in London right now -can you share some of your favourite London haunts with us:
SK: Depends on what type of cuisine you prefer, Nobu and Cocoon are great oriental restaurants; Pasha is a great mediterranean restaurant and Cipriani's for continental.
SK: Maddox club is great, music is good, diverse crowd, very sophisticated, great atmosphere and in a central location. The roof top balcony of Aqua bar (especially in the summer) as well as Sketch bar is also definitely in my top ten.
GR: Best place to chill out?
SK: Baglioni hotel bar or Hyde Park.
GR: Best place to buy make-up?
SK: Bobbi Brown!!!!
GR: The most stylish Londoner is?
SK: Victoria Beckham!!!
GR: The best place to buy Ghanaian food [in London]?
SK: hmmmm, Gold Coast!!
*Soraya loves the food at Gold Coast http://www.thegoldcoastbar.com/
GR: And now to Ghana.... You was born in London but moved to Ghana at a very young age and was raised there. Do you go back often?
SK: Yes certainly, I usually go back every Christmas, a good excuse to escape from the snow, hehe.
GR: So do you miss Ghana when your not there?
SK: Of course, there's no place like home. I miss my family, the food, the beaches, the atmosphere, the inside jokes we have, even the funny advertisements on TV that crack me up.
GR: Can you share some of your favorite Ghanaian destinations/sites/clubs/boutiques with us?
SK: Melting Moments -is a really cosy cafe. Magellan and Tante Marie (Labone) -are great restaurnats. Monsoon -is a really cool bar I like to hang out on a night out, they do some really good calamari - yummm!!! There's a really great local spot where they make the most amazing jerk chicken/pork with kenkey or friend yam, its called Chums Jerk in Osu, when I discovered it last Christmas, I practically lived there!. Obviously we all know Epo Spot, the 24-hour spot where you can get Ghanaian-made Chinese meals after a late night out. Clubbing wise I prefer Exclusive (also known as XL) night club, -it’s got a mature crowd, really chilled out, and just as the name suggests, -it’s very exclusive too. When it comes to clothes, I mean the best thing about Ghana is that there are a lot of designers so as opposed to going to an actual boutique I usually have my clothes made, that way I can choose my design, style, fabric and have it fitted too for perfection!!!!
*Moonsoon is loved by Soraya –and is located above the Osu Food Court in Oxford Street Osu, Accra –and is famed for it’s [Mojito] cocktails. Tel: +233 21 782307
GR: We know you love hip-life, which artists are you listening to -right now?
SK: Lets see, my fav hip-life is 'I think I like am' by VIP; Wengeze by Eazzy is actually a cool track, sort of like a Ghana funky-house track, and the popular track 'Swagger' by Ruff and Smooth is awesome.
*Soraya’s loving ‘Wengeze’ by Eazzy –right now.....
GR: Have you ever modelled in Ghana, if not will you like to?
SK: No, I haven't actually, probably because I'm not currently based there and when I'm there it’s only for a short period but I would love to in the future.
GR: London so hot, so important in terms of fashion- can you ever see this for Ghana?
SK: Certainly! Ghana obviously does not have the exposure or recognition as a fashion city but with the emerging designers these days, the people's eye for fashion and Western influence, I definitely think Ghana has got a lot of potential. Some of the collections I have seen from Ghana are mind-blowing, unique and could definitely dominate the catwalk one day.
GR: Where do you see yourself in five years time?
SK: Boy, does this question make you think a lot!! Hmmm, to be honest, I’m not sure. I mean the Benetton opportunity itself was unexpected. For now, I do hope that the exposure I've got from the Benetton campaign is good enough to kick-start a career in modelling but at the same time I’m currently studying towards my ACCA (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) qualification which I hope to finish a year from now. So in any case I guess I do have accounting and finance to fall back on, possibly secure a job with a solid salary, and who knows, maybe even put down a deposit on a nice little house in London. I'm an all-round person so I try my hands on everything. I love dancing, I've done ballet, tap, jazz and street dance. I was actually part of a street dance crew called Phoenix up until last year. I've got into riding and I am eager to learn to play polo. I think it'll be challenging though. I love languages. Unfortunately I only speak or understand two other Ghanaian languages besides English but I am teaching myself French because I already know the basics. I am hoping to be able to speak up to four languages by the time I am 27 - there is a geeky side to me. I enjoy learning and reading about trading because its something I've always wanted to get into. When I was younger I never really understood how the stock market operated and I always had a desire to figure out how it worked. A year ago I read the book "the Naked Trader" by Robbie Burns and I've found trading fascinating ever since. After my ACCA I am hoping to start of with a career in that field, possibly as a stockbroker for the next five years, hopefully earn enough to start a business venture of my own, as I can't see myself working for someone for too long. Modelling is usually a short-term career for most people so while I'm young, I might as well enjoy it. What I do know is that I aim to be a millionaire before 30 :)
GR: And finally -what are your hopes and dreams for Ghana?
SK: I am a proud Ghanaian!! Having watched Ghana progress over the years, I can honestly say the Ghana I knew 10 years ago is completely different from what we see today. We, as a nation, as people, have so much to offer, we are more united than before, we recognise the potential in the economy today, and I do have faith in the economy getting even better because unlike before, I see young people making plans of moving back and settling there because they share this same vision; and for those of us that do, -we can take that first step ourselves and also encourage others around us to do so. As opposed to sitting back and letting one person try and build our nation, we must all make a conscious effort in our own small way to bring something back, no matter how little. Little drops of water,.......!
GR: Thanks for the interview Soraya, –stay beautiful and God bless all your dreams...x