For the first time, two Tennesseans will compete to become the beauty queen of the Kenyan-American community. The contest, called Miss Kenya USA, is happening in Seattle this week.
In this competition, now in its seventh year, showing beauty and fitness matter as much as being committed to a cause.
"My platform is girl child education,” says Winnie Aluoch, 27, from Nashville. “I chose this platform because, growing up as a child, I was in and out of school because of lack of money."
Aluoch used to work as a farmer and a house helper to pay for her school fees. She immigrated to the United States when she was 12 to complete her education.
She now works as a security guard and is studying criminal justice.
“Even though education is free in Kenya, our girls are still facing a lot of challenges, such as buying school uniform, school textbooks, transportation fees,” she says. “And if the family do have a little income, they would rather take the boy child to school instead of a female child.”
Another one of the 15 contestants is 20-year-old Amina Hassan, from Gallatin. Her platform is to work against bullying, which she says she experienced a lot while growing up. Hassan was born in Kenya and moved to America in 2004.
Gloria McCarthy, CEO of Miss Kenya USA, says the event is important to create role models inside the Kenyan diaspora. “The goal of the contest is to get Kenyan girls of Kenyan descent to actually empower their community.”
McCarthy says they encourage the women to find organizations that support their platforms in the U.S. and in Kenya.
Nearly 2,000 Kenyan-born people live in Tennessee, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Miss Kenya USA will be crowned Saturday night.