Ugandan American Kiara Kabukuru is undoubtedly one of the most successful black models of all time. The Supermodel in a recent telephone interview with Ladybrille Magazine’s Emmanuel Bagwana from Los Angeles provides insight on her illustrious career as well as future plans.
Kiara was born on July 31st 1975 in Kampala, Uganda and grew up in the city of Los Angeles. At the age of 17, a local photographer Bill Bodwell discovered her at a shopping mall and it was at this point that she started a 15 year journey that has seen her rise to the top of the industry. Kiara’s consummate professionalism and soulful expression captured the attention of the fashion industry which in turn led her to supermodel status.
Kiara’s big break came when she was cast for a Gucci charity show in London. The head designer at the time, Tom Ford chose her to front their ad campaign which was a smashing success and launched her to international stardom. She went on to do other campaigns for brands like Versace, Chanel, Moschino, Tommy Hilfiger, Ralph Lauren, Armani and The Gap. She also got to work with some of the world’s top photographers including Steven Meisel, Paolo Roversi, Patrick Demarchelier, Mario Testino. Bruce Weber, Craig Mcdean and the late Herb Ritts.
Kiara’s other groundbreaking achievements in the industry included gracing the cover of American Vogue and being nominated as VH1’s Model of the Year. She was also featured in the Pirelli calendar, has appeared on Oprah Winfrey, America’s Next Top Model, and guest hosted MTV’s Fashionably Loud.
Some of the more lucrative commercial modeling work Kiara has done includes Victoria’s Secret and Coca– Cola TV ads as well as contracts with L’Oreal and Cover girl.
Today, Kiara is pursuing an acting career and also serves as the vice president for ‘Women for the World’ a nonprofit organization. The organization is supported by singers, actors and models who volunteer their time and services. Women for the World improves education around the globe by supporting and bringing attention to the most effective non-profit organizations and teaming with them to fund projects that produce results. They do this by educating, acting, supporting and engaging.
Another project that Kiara is involved in is a documentary that chronicles how immigration has played a big role into making her who she is today. Kiara’s grandparents emigrated from Rwanda in 1920. Her immediate family also moved to the United States during Uganda’s political crisis due to her father’s involvement in politics at the time. The documentary also follows her as she left her family to launch her modeling career in Paris at 17. She has been interviewing several people connected to the documentary including her grandparents and her parents. Kiara says her motive for making the documentary is to “highlight the importance of family as well as the consequences of the choices we make.”
Kiara is now represented by the Trump modeling agency and is still actively involved in modeling. She recently shot for the black issue of Italian Vogue where she and other black models made history by appearing in the first ever all black issue of the magazine.
When I asked her if there was any advice she could give to aspiring models, particularly African models that want to make it internationally, she said, “They should take modeling as a business not a hobby. They also have to know about the industry including the trends and the major players. They should be grounded and never forget where they came from because the industry may be focused on what is outside, but it is what is inside that makes people remember you.” Very important words from someone that has achieved what many consider impossible for a black model.
~ by Emmanuel Bagwana
Founded in 2007, Ladybrille® Magazine is a California based pioneer digital publication demystifying the image of Africans in the west through contemporary African fashion and celebrating the brilliant woman in business and leadership, with an emphasis on the African woman in the diaspora. Our coverage includes stories on capital, access to markets, expertise, hiring and retention, sales, marketing, and promotions.