Here at AFRIKAN GODDESS MAGAZINE, we love stories of dreams and triumph. It’s why we cover them every month. These stories of triumph, perseverance, and driven women who rise victoriously, are what make what we do all the more worthwhile. We share these stories in the hopes that our readers will be touched, and be encouraged to fight their own battles a little harder and maybe even, a little longer. Before Samar Khoury took to catwalks and photo shoots, she dabbled in a few things here and there. But she knew that it would take something more if she was going to find the mother she lost many years ago in the Congolese war. So she turned to modeling and acting in hopes that as many times as she shows her face, in as many places as possible, one day, somehow, her mother would recognize her face and come looking for her. She knows there will be challenges along the way, and that she will deal with continuous dashes of hope. But she is not deterred, and something tells us she’ll keep going until she reaches her goal. We hope she does too. Meet Samar Khoury, the beautiful model who is rapidly rising to the top and who is undoubtedly close to her dream.
Tell me a little bit about yourself – where you were born and about your life growing up.
I currently live in London at the moment. I was born in the Republic Democratic of Congo in Lubumbashi to a Congolese mother and a Lebanese father. I have two sisters and a brother. In the early 90’s my parents escaped the war by way of a military plane and we landed in Brazzaville. I remember entering Kinshasa for the first time by boat with my mother and my sister. My father had to stay in Brazzaville to rebuild his business. When my father came back in Kinshasa after a year or so he sent me and my sister to live and study in Beirut, Lebanon for about five years. During those years, I and my sister did not see our parents. In late 90’s, however, we were reunited with them but not for long. Another war occurred. During the conflict between Congo and Rwanda, I got separated from mother. It’s been over 10 years now that my mother’s been missing. I do hope to find her one day…
I’m so sorry to hear that. That must be really hard for you. Tell me about your mother. You have held out hope that you will someday be reunited with her. How is your modeling career linked to this hope?
I had a vision that my mother will see me one day and say: ‘That’s my daughter’. I do hope that my modeling career will help me find closure in my life. If today she calls me or sees me, I will recognize her. By increasing my exposure in modeling, I have a chance to be recognized hopefully one day and raise my story about my missing mother.
Describe your journey to becoming a model. What was it like, what were some of the challenges? What was your inspiration?
In Early 2010 I started to socialize more, thanks to my old friend from Lebanon who made me open a Facebook account. I joined few online modeling castings and I attended social events in London and Paris. I had to discipline myself by maintaining by body shape, sleep at least six hours and making sure I received my acne treatments. I found it hard to maintain it but I was determined to be the best of me in each modeling assignment. My inspiration of course is my mother. I feel closer to her because in each of my modeling images I carry some of her features. ‘For me she is living through me’
Before you began modeling in 2010, what were you up to? Were you pursuing other dreams? What were those dreams and what happened to make you change to pursue modeling?
I was trying to find myself. I did not know which types of jobs would suit my personality so I worked in several high street retail shops as a retail shop assistant. I volunteered as a helper in Elderly homes as well as in a classroom for special needs students. I also worked for the British Red Cross as a sales representative and in a laboratory for a Pathology department.
I wanted to save money to do a Master’s Degree in order to pursue my dream to becoming a Pediatrician, but in late 2009, I received a message from Kinshasa, Congo saying that ‘my mother was being held as a hostage.’ At that point I realized that I needed to push myself to have a voice. I made a resolution in the New Year 2010 that I would change my lifestyle, so I started to socialize more. Along the way I met photographers who advised me to continue modeling.
Many people have misconceptions about models that are usually not at all flattering. Have you come across any such misconceptions? How do you respond to them?
Well, during castings it can be harsh at times! They will look at you and judge you by your walk, height, body shape, portfolio, and/or simply your face. For example, I went to a fitting casting in Paris for an Italian designer and she told me to my face that I was fat and that I should do glamour modeling, not fashion! It is a fact that I get rejected more times than I get booked! But, in my opinion fashion is not only for skinny models. It is how a model can bring the clothes on her body to life and make it sellable to the public! Modeling is not the easiest job as people think – by just standing there and looking ‘pretty’. It takes talent and effort. Art modeling is hard work and is very respectable. It is not the easy option either to make money by just removing your clothes. Do not generalize that all models are the same! Models have brains too and probably others just don’t know how to use it!
Absolutely! Which brings me to your brilliance. You speak three languages – French, Arabic and English – and that’s impressive. What other exceptional things don’t we know about you?
Thank you! I believe if I had never gone to Lebanon, I would have never learnt how to speak Arabic as my mother tongue is French. And coming to London, I had to learn how to speak English so I feel it is part of my life’s path. Apart from modeling, I studied Biochemistry in Kings College University where I also studies French Business studies as my optional unit.
You’ve been involved in some very exciting projects in the past and have also been the recipient of some very fascinating awards. Tell me about the hair images you did with Vidal Sassoon Academy and the awards you won with them.
Vidal Sassoon Academy was the first hair salon to cut my afro hair shorter and color it red and purple. It seems that each hairstylist from different hair salons gets inspiration of my hair from the previous hairstylist’s work. Anyway I was always open to cutting and coloring! Some of my hair modeling images entered the finals of the British Hairdressing Awards and got published in Black Hair, Black Hair and Beauty magazine, and Ghana Newspapers. My modeling image with Lathaniel Couture salon won the Weave Stylist of the Year Award and Black Beauty Sensational Hair Awards in 2011. I modeled for Josh Hair & Beauty salon and they won the Sensational Icon Weave Genius in Afro Hair Beauty 2012 Live Show and also won by Hair by Sleek Afro Hair & Beauty competition ‘Hollywood Trends’. Recently, some of my hair images entered the finals of British Hairdressing Awards and I will know the result by the end November!
Well, good luck! You’re going to win it! You recently participated in Congo Fashion Week. Tell me about your experience there and how it has affected your perspective of the modeling and fashion industry in the Congo specifically, and Africa as a whole.
It was one of the highlights of my life. I must say landing to Congo Brazzaville brought back memories of when I was with my parents and my sister escaping the war from ‘Zaire’. I was a little girl at the time. This time I was a woman and a model catwalking in the first edition of Congo Fashion Week. What an honor and it is fate! My sister joined me in Congo Brazzaville from Paris to share the experience with me and she said: ‘sister it is a sign’. I have uploaded some videos taken by my sister of my catwalk at Congo Fashion Week on YouTube. I must say that going back to Congo I felt safe and so proud! Before, I used to hear stories about rape, guns, blood, and war, but this time the Congo Fashion Week team was celebrating fashion in Congo and fashion in Africa. It was nice to be a part of something else besides politics for a change.
Do you have a favorite African designer? Who is he/she?
Adebayo Jones is my favorite designer. His couture clothing line makes me feel High Class, Sophisticated and Elegant. I felt privileged to model his collections in Congo and in London. If it was not for the Congo Fashion Week, I don’t know when I would have ever met him. I am looking forward to future collaborations with Adebayo Jones Luxury!
What are some of the big projects you have lined up?
Well, I am going to the Philippines in late October for almost a month to be part of a reality TV show for Fashion One with Bigfoot productions. After that I would like to pursue an acting career. Meanwhile, I am looking forward to more collaborations with more talented and creative teams in the fashion, film, music and video industry. I would also like to do more fashion shows and photo shoots. And I would like to travel the world and hopefully be represented internationally one day!
What are some of the humanitarian/charity works you are associated with, or involved in?
I recently attended an event called Unplugged Africa. I was invited by the team from ‘Save the Congo,’ a charity organization. I would love to be more involved in charity work in Lebanon and Congo in the future with an emphasis on medical research.
Do you have anything you would like readers to know that I may have neglected to touch on?
Yes. I want to state what great respect, support, and unconditional love I have for my sister. She put her life in Paris on hold and came to support me in Congo during Congo Fashion Week and stayed to help me as we traveled in and out of Rwanda and Kinshasa in search of our mother.
My motivation for modeling comes from the pain of missing my mother and from those who discriminate against me because of my color. I am showcasing versatility through my modeling images and representing the beauty and love of my parents.
Thank you for having me!
To learn more about Samar Khoury, visit her website at http://www.2facegemini.com/, or on facebook at http://www.facebook.com/internationalmodelsamarkhoury.