“A day after World AIDS Day, we celebrate Menaye Donkor-Muntari (Menaye) as our December 2011 Ladybrille Woman of the Month. Menaye is a Fashion Model, Philanthropist, Entrepreneur and wife of Inter Milan and Ghanaian international footballer Sulley Muntari. The youngest of seven siblings with four brothers and two sisters, Menaye was born in 1981 and raised in Accra, Ghana. She, however, attended and graduated with honors in Marketing from York University in Toronto, Canada.
Shortly after college, Menaye began modeling after winning the “Miss Universe Ghana 2004” pageant. She graced the covers of numerous magazines in Ghana and also did fashion editorial work for magazines in South Africa, Milan and Canada. Today, Menaye operates her own charity, the Menaye Charity Foundation, which helps disadvantaged children in Ghana.
Menaye’s charity supports several orphanages in Ghana that are also responsible for children infected or affected by HIV/AIDS; and also provides for The Menaye International School in the central region of Ghana which offers education to over 150 underprivileged children.
In 2006 Menaye met Inter Milan footballer, Sulley Muntari, at the World Cup finals in Germany. They became a couple in 2007 and she began managing his brand under her management company MENMUN Ltd. In 2010 the pair got married in Accra on Christmas Day.
Menaye is now based in London and Milan but is passionate about giving back and continues to give back to the communities in Ghana that need it most. We are delighted to introduce you to this hardworking, brilliant and caring woman as Ladybrille’s Woman of the Month December 2011 to close out 2011. Read her interview and be inspired as you prepare to take on 2012!
LADYBRILLEmag.com: You look like you might be of mixed heritage. Share with us a bit about your ethnic background?
Menaye D: Yes I’m very proud of my mixed heritage, my mom is half Irish and half Ghanaian, and my dad is Ghanaian.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: Neat. We will get into your business ventures very soon. First, let me take you back to when you won Miss Ghana Universe in 2004. What exactly was that competition all about?
Menaye D: It all happened so fast! I had just finished my marketing degree in Canada and flown back to Ghana to get a job in marketing when my sister suggested I enter the competition. I had about two weeks to prepare and believe me, it was the busiest 14 days of my life! After the competition I moved to New York and launched my modeling career, so it really was a whirlwind life-changing experience!
LADYBRILLEmag.com: What were the emotions that ran through you when you heard your name announced as winner?
Menaye D: It was surreal! It all felt like a dream to me. I would pinch myself from time to time during my reign, constantly asking myself “is this really happening to me?”
LADYBRILLEmag.com: What kind of perks did you get from winning the competition?
Menaye D: Winning the competition put me on a global stage and gave me a platform and voice to help others. After I was crowned Miss Ghana Universe and had traveled across the world doing photo shoots and living the glamorous life, I went back to my roots and set up a charity to help underprivileged children in Ghana.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: Let’s get into your charity. What exactly is the mission of Menaye Charity Organization?
Menaye: My charity focuses on the welfare of underprivileged children in the rural areas of my home country Ghana. Our primary focus is to support Menaye International School but we have also extensively worked with orphans affected by and infected with HIV and AIDS.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: I understand you also have a school Menaye. Tell us about your school?
Menaye D: My father founded the Menaye International School in 2000 to give back to our community in the central region of Ghana. I later on adopted the school in 2004 after winning the Miss Ghana Universe pageant. Winning the pageant gave me the opportunity to use my title as a platform to raise money to support the school. We have provided education for about 500 children since 2000 and there are currently over 150 children enrolled in the school today. I met the new students last month and they are adorable! With the help of my charity we are going to continue to build and expand the school and have recently installed a great computer lab and a new library!
LADYBRILLEmag.com: How very exciting. How do you raise funds for your non-profit(s)?
Menaye D: In the past I have raised money through holding fundraisers in New York, where I used to work, and in my home country of Ghana. Currently I support my charity through my own personal funding but am looking to hold some more fundraising events in the near future.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: For Ladybrille readers interested in donating monies to your efforts, what level of transparency does your organization have so donors can feel their monies are directed to what they intend it to be used for?
Menaye D: As the Menaye Charity Organisation is a registered charity in Ghana, all the accounts are audited and I also personally oversee the charities operations to ensure that all the funds donated are put towards the most worthy cause! I am also always sure to contact donors to thank them personally and let them know where their money is going so they feel as involved as possible.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: I understand you met Inter Milan footballer Sulley Muntari, in 2006, at the World Cup finals in Germany. You married him last year on Christmas day. Happy one year upcoming anniversary! For you, how did you know he was “THE ONE?”
Menaye D: Well, thank you (big grin). Our relationship was definitely not love at first sight, it developed over time after we became close and developed a really good friendship. I took my time to get to know him and I fell helplessly in love with him. The rest is now history!
LADYBRILLEmag.com: You now manage his brand under your management company MENMUN Ltd., correct?
Menaye D: Yes! Sulley needs to focus on his career and playing the best that he can for his team, so I took it upon myself to help out with how his brand was managed. Now I am usually behind the scene orchestrating things and nothing is approved until it goes through MENMUN LTD.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: I know you got your degree in marketing but what has been some of the challenges in managing a personal and popular brand like Sulley Muntari?
Menaye D: It’s has been extremely difficult working with a popular brand like Sulley Muntari especially as he happens to my husband as well!! (Laughs) I had to learn to separate work from being a wife to avoid misunderstandings! As much as he is proud of my achievements and appreciates all the hard work that goes into managing his brand, he still needs me to be his wife! So I know when to switch the on/off work mode button. (Laughs)
LADYBRILLEmag.com: What has been some of your successes?
Menaye D: My greatest success as a business woman would have to be my work with Sulley as we have managed to maintain his stable career at the same time as growing his great brand image.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: Let’s see, you are a new wed, you operate your foundation, school, manage Sulley Muntari and I understand also operate your own property development company. How many hours of sleep do you get per day?
Menaye D: None! Do you see the dark circles underneath my eyes (Laughs). My life might seem quite glamorous looking in from the outside but it really isn’t. I am a hands on type of person and like to be involved from the planning to the end a project and that also means I can ensure that everything is done to the highest possible standard! My life is a never-ending story and I wonder how it will all fall in place when we start a family. Exciting!
LADYBRILLEmag.com: Speaking of starting a family, I hate to ask the “balance” question partly because I don’t like when people ask me. But, I gotta ask, how do you do it all? (Laughs)
Menaye D: I sometimes ask myself the same question but I never seem to come up with the right answer. I just don’t know how I do it. I guess I try to prioritize all my objectives, working from top to bottom and just allow the rest to fall in place. But it’s never that simple and when things happen to fall off track, I just PRAY!!! God always knows best!
LADYBRILLEmag.com: What drives you?
Menaye D: The love of my parents! They have made me who I am today and I owe it all to them. I talk to my mother four to five times a day. She is my driving force!
LADYBRILLEmag.com: What excites you the most about life?
Menaye D: I like the challenges life throws at me. It’s exciting when I am able to work through obstacles and succeed in the end. If it’s worth fighting for its worth having!
LADYBRILLEmag.com: What keeps you awake at night?
Menaye D: This is a great question because I am usually up at night thinking about my next venture and how to expand my empire! Call me selfish but I want to do it all from restaurants to health care centres in Ghana! I love to dream, I guess it’s the Pisces in me!!! But the best part is I put it to work even if it’s bigger than me!
LADYBRILLEmag.com: What are the daily principles you live by?
Menaye D: Having a clean mind and a pure heart!
LADYBRILLEmag.com: Let’s get into fashion and music. I see you are a fashion forward woman and love to attend fashion weeks etc. Who is your favourite African designer?
Menaye D: Oh gosh! I love them all! But I usually wear clothes by Knaf Couture and Manis.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: How about just your favorite designer, period?
Menaye D: I admire the work of many designers but Dolce & Gabbana never disappoints me.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: Describe the hottest pair of shoes you own?
Menaye D: You wouldn’t believe this but the hottest pair of shoes I own are too high to walk in and they just happen to stay sitting in my shoe closest most of the time! It’s such a pity as they are gorgeous Alexander McQueen shoes and my lovely husband picked them for me!
LADYBRILLEmag.com: (Laughs) What do you love most about Ghana, your country?
Menaye D: The positive energy in my country is indescribable! You instantly just fall in love with the place – it’s like love at first sight! And believe me once you have a dose of Ghana, you keep coming back for more!
LADYBRILLEmag.com: Beyond Footballer Asamoah Gyan (laughs), who is your favorite Ghanaian musician?
Menaye D: Reggie Rockstone and Sarkodie! Two of the most talented artists Ghana has ever produced . . . well speaking from my generation’s point of view (laugh)
LADYBRILLEmag.com: Yup! Reggie Rockstone is great. Sarkodie happens to be my personal favorite as well. (Laughs) Define a Ladybrille (brilliant) woman?
Menaye D: A Ladybrille woman is one who is able to balance her career and personal life (family) and does it effortlessly. It is extremely difficult to accomplish both, because you can get completely caught up in one and neglect the other so easily. She is grounded and manages at all times to put things in perspective no matter the circumstances and keeps smiling.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: How does it feel to be celebrated as Ladybrille Woman of the Month for all of your accomplishments and drive?
Menaye D: I am extremely honored and I thank God for the strength he gives me each day to do what I do. I must be doing something right and truly thank you all for recognizing what I do.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: Thank you.
Menaye D: It was my pleasure and thank you!