Shapely, breath taking and standing at 6-feet plus, Somalian model and beauty queen, Fahima Kullow, will definitely strike you the first time you meet her. But beneath all that is a resilient woman who had to flee war-torn Somaliland at a tender age, seeking sanctuary as a refugee in neighbouring Kenya, with all the stigmas attached to it.
However, rather than be discouraged, Kullow, today, is charting a new course for Moslem women; and breaking barriers, as she is aspiring to be a pilot. In this chat, she opened up on her life as a refugee and how a Nigerian beauty pageant promoter denied her of her prize money because she refused to sleep with him.
Tell us about yourself?
I am Fahima Kullow, a cadet pilot studying at Flight Training Center, Nairobi, Kenya. I am 19 and my hobbies are traveling, reading and cooking. I was born in Somalia but due to civil war we had to seek for refuge in neighbouring Kenya. I have two brothers and four sisters. I thank God we all have access to education for it’s the key to life. Nevertheless, we can’t blame God that my brother is disabled, so he is the only one who couldn’t access education, but at least, he gets some tuition at home. My dad is a livestock keeper and my mum is a housewife. Growing up was a mixed grill of happy and sad experiences.
At what point did you discover you wanted to be a beauty queen?
I discovered I wanted to become a beauty queen when my school fees was hard to pay, and my family’s financial status was going down south, so I decided to go into modeling. I was like, ‘why not use my talents or shall we call it passion for modeling to make money and at least, get back to school?’ You see I was out of school for long.
How much were you paid for your first modeling job?
I was 15-years-old when I got my first ever modeling job and I was paid $100.
At a tender age, you and your family fled your homeland of Somalia for Kenya as refugees. Could you share that experience with us?
My experience fleeing Somalia for Kenya was full of lessons and memories. It was rough and hectic. It was a life of reading under a tree, a life of going to school on an empty stomach, a life of going to school without shoes. But who are we to complain? The best part for me in the refugee camp was that sometimes, we could get relief food from the United Nations, including sweets and peanuts.
Did you lose any of your family members?
Where there is no peace there is no life. I lost many of my family members and friends, but I never gave up on life. I decided to pick up the broken pebbles and try to fix them together since you only live once, and everyone is going to follow that journey of death. Death is a must we can’t escape or accuse Allah of. We can’t question him. No, it is life and you only live once.
Life as a refugee can be very frustrating. What were your challenges after you and your family settled in Kenya?
One of the challenges was that courtesy of being a Moslem and coming from a country well known for war and strife including terrorism, people look down on you and some go like ‘oh no! Don’t associate with those people, they are criminals’. Some just think that they could be poor by just looking at you. They treat you like you are sub-human and you don’t have life in you.
As a Muslim, you chose to project your country through beauty pageantry. What were your initial challenges considering your religious background?
Representing Somalia, or let’s say Moslems at large, was not just because I am beautiful or tall. My main aim was to show other people that even though, Moslems, who are perceived as terrorists, poor people and trouble makers, can stand anywhere and be leaders and role models. I thank God I have not received any bad complaints. I do model with my scarf on and I believe in being modest.
You are a voice for Moslem women who want to assert themselves. How does that make you feel and what is your message for Moslem women?
Being a Moslem hijab model or let’s say, a beauty queen, I stand tall as an ambassador to promote my Somali people and empower my Moslem brothers and sisters, by projecting the elegance and culture to the world stage. My message to my Somali women is that the world is changed by your action and not opinion so, wake up from the dark, trust your instincts and go for it. Never give up and please, eliminate the word ‘it is impossible’ and ‘had
I known’ in your dictionary.
Which of your parents did you get your beautiful looks from?
(Laughter) Both of my parents are good looking, and yes, definitely, one part I am my mum’s photocopy, and on the other side, I am my dad’s photocopy; I have such amazing parents.
What has been your happiest moment?
My happiest moment in life was when my mum and my dad finally said yes to my dream of being a pilot, because they didn’t want me to study piloting due to financial problem. But I assured them ‘just pay what you have’. Already, I was seeing myself at the airport. So, they paid $100. That was how I started my classes. I love watching planes taking off and landing.
Could you share your saddest moment with us?
My saddest moment was when I did all it takes to win pageantry and didn’t. I had to work hard in a beauty pageant in Nigeria a while ago; I can’t remember the name of the platform. I became one of the winners, so I was happy the money I will get, at least, will assist me in going back to school, but guess what, the CEO of the beauty pageant said he wasn’t going to give me the money. He insisted I marry him and send him my nude pictures but I totally refused because of my background. I may just be 19 but I am a very principled woman.
Tell us about your dream to be a pilot?
Training as a pilot has been quite exciting and I can’t complain. I can’t complain because what Allah has planned must come to pass, so who are we to complain? But it has been tough because of financial problems, so ever since I returned from Nigeria, I just stay at home praying for that one person who will take me back to the airport and start my flight classes again. I love flying; it is my strongest passion. Insha Allah, I have faith; I will go back to school someday, soon.
You see, my ultimate dream is to become a woman of substance in the community; I want to be an iconic power girl. I believe in the saying that what a man can do, a woman can do, even better.
Could you describe your ideal man?
My ideal man must be humble, loving, caring, and most definitely, God fearing. And, of course, he must be smart.
Are you in a relationship? And how is your lover coping with your status as a beauty queen?
My relationship status is just personal. I don’t think it is appropriate to share that in the media or do you (think otherwise)?
No, I don’t think so. I have to draw a line between my private and public life.
Could you marry a Nigerian?
Hmmm… Nigerians are okay. Yes, I can marry one if he has all the qualities. If he does, why not? I will gladly settle in Nigeria.