Sunday, 8 February 2015

Interview with Imanni da Silva

Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honour to interview Imanni da Silva, an Angolan model, painter, and beauty pageant queen. Hello Imanni!
Imanni: Hi Monika. Thank you for the opportunity and is a pleasure to take part on this interview.
Monika: Imanni, you look absolutely stunning! What is the secret of your everlasting beauty?
Imanni: Thank you for the compliment. I always find important to have a healthy lifestyle. I take care with what I eat, I drink lot of water and home made fruit juices I also take good care of my skin and for time to time I do pay a visit to a beauty clinic. But the most important thing also is to have a good mind and positive attitude towards everything around you as it truly helps you glow.
Attending an event in Angola.
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Imanni: I am a very easy going person, I do appreciate the simple things in life such as a laughter and beauty of mother nature. I have learned on time that happiness is a moment, so we can enjoy it all the time in those little but significant daily situations. I am very strong minded person with a revolutionary spirit, I always fight to be the change that I want to see in this world.
I live between London and Luanda for professional reasons. In London i have my own apartment and in Luanda I stay at my mother´s which is quite spacious and spending time with her is great as she is young at heart. I am a simple person who gets on with anyone as long as they show respect.
I am simple as a person but demanding as a woman (smiles). I eat and breath elegance and sophistication. For me glamour is a lifestyle and I do embrace it.
Monika: How does it feel to be a beautiful model?
Imanni: It feels great to me to simply been able to work in this though industry. It is for sure something you need to love to do otherwise it can get too much specially when you can constantly be a victim of prejudice and discrimination. I have to kill a lion every day and show it so I can convince little by little that I am good at something. It pays off the effort and the best reward is the recognition of your talent.
Modelling in Angola.
Monika: How did you start your modeling career?
Imanni: I started my career in London at the age of 21 but I did not work as much as I wanted because back then I was very androgynous and most agencies had no place for someone so exotic and intriguing. You were either a feminine girl or a masculine boy and I was in between.
When I fully transitioned at the age of 29 then I started to work more. I could resent the fact that I did not enjoy the most of it when younger but all I can think is how blessed I am to live the dream and get acceptance in my country.
I have just be recently recognized by the British magazine HEDONIST as the first transgender model to currently work in Africa and that for me is quite something.
Monika: Who is your favourite fashion designer?
Imanni: There is few I like very much but if I have to pick only one it has to be Valentino because he never got it wrong and any woman looks a million dollars in a Valentino piece. His creations are simply timeless and he managed to prove that fairytales can be lived just by wearing a piece of art.
Monika: The fashion industry is full of beautiful transgender models: Roberta Close in the past, now you, Lea T, Felipa Tavares, Andreja Pejić, Valentijn de Hingh, and many more. How could you explain such a great interest of the fashion industry in transgender ladies? 
Imanni: It simply shows that the times are changing. The fashion industry just like fashion itself needs change, needs freshness and a bit of daring, strong individuals. Beauty has no boundaries and when a transgender girl who can model and sell a product as well as any other girl, a chance should be given and today we see that, we need more but it we are getting there.
Modelling in London.
Monika: What kind of outfits do you usually wear when you do not do modeling? Any special fashion designs or colours?
Imanni: I like to feel comfortable most of all. I grew up surrounded by women who always took good care on what they wear, so I do wear according to the occasions and circumstances. I can be in a pair of jeans and a strap top in Sabrina shoes or a more classic cut dress in heels. Overall I like ladylike feminine clothes and I always love to play with accessories from earrings, necklaces and scarfs.
Monika: In addition, you are a painter …
Imanni: Yes, I am a contemporary artist and is one of the things I dedicate myself most lately, is something I always wanted since I was a child and so far is going well. I manage to constantly participate in exhibitions in Angola and England and the feedback as been positive, fortunately.
Monika: With your talent, beauty and intelligence, you would be a great actress. Have you ever thought about acting?
Imanni: Thank you, I am flattered. I always dreamt of working as an actress and is just a matter of time. I have done small jobs in London for TV shows and series but nothing famous. I keep taking part on castings for Angola Soap operas and advertising but as I am already known some producers still a bit skeptical but some professionals do fight to push me forward so just like the others achievements I have to be persistence. I have just finished my work experience as a radio presenter, voiceover and reporter and the public as enjoyed it and has been a great experience.
Miss International Queen 2012.
Monika: In 2012 you participated in the Miss International Queen pageant, organized in Thailand for the most beautiful transgender women in the world. How do you recollect that event?
Imanni: For me is definitely one of the greatest experiences of my life. Was amazing to first represent my country and get its support. Been able to meet and exchange ideas with girls with similar paths from around the world. It was fun all the way. I absolutely loved it.
Monika: What was the atmosphere among the pageant contestants? Did you have a chance to make friends with some of them?
Imanni: The atmosphere couldn't be better. The girls were all very nice and friendly, and yes I made great friends and we still keep in touch.
Monika: At the time of your transition, did you have any transgender role models that you could follow?
Imanni: By the time I was 10 years old I said to myself that I wanted to become a woman. Then was the Roberta Close explosion and at 13 to see such beautiful woman with such a great story awakening fascination and desire on both men and women was to me very inspiring. I have been called the Roberta Close of Angola and It felt quite special. 
Monika: What was the hardest thing about your coming out?
Imanni: Was without a doubt the discrimination and mistreatment I received everywhere. People get confused and have no idea how to treat you and others see you as perverse person with serious mental issues, but as the time went on I became more and more comfortable under my own skin and that helped and keeps me on my toes and makes it easier to deal with people. I am more confident and accept myself fully.
Exhibiting in Angola.
Monika: What do you think about the present situation of transgender women in the Angolan society?
Imanni: As I currently say we are still vaccinating our society on the subject. Obviously there is pros and cons but I am lucky to be Angolan, this is one of the most open minded African countries and you have the freedom to live life as you wish without the fear of been murdered or arrested.
With me and few other transgender as well as gay men in the media, world of arts and entertainment it helps our society to see us in a positive light and like us for what we can bring as a contribution to our society, history and culture.
Monika: Are you active in politics? Do you participate in any lobbying campaigns? Do you think transgender women can make a difference in politics?
Imanni: I am not active in politics but who knows, I love a challenge. I am currently a spokesperson for V.A.P.A a non governmental association that fights for human rights and I am the face and voice of the campaign that calls attention for the protection of sexual minorities.
Yes, I think that transgender women can make a difference everywhere and that includes politics, the simple reason why is that with all the things we had to fight for to become ourselves we are strong, determined and fearless individuals so we are basically wearing a bullet proof vest against all odds. 
Monika: Could you tell me about the importance of love in your life?
Exhibiting in London.
Imanni: Love is important in anyone´s life. I thankfully found the greatest love of all which is to love yourself, then is easier to love and be loved by others. I have a great supporting, loving family, fantastic friends. A man in my life would come to add more color and flavor.  
Monika: You have a perfect figure. What do you do to stay so slim?
Imanni: Thank you. I do workout every two days and I have a healthy diet. I eat a bit of everything as moderation is the key.
Monika: Many transgender ladies write their memoirs. Have you ever thought about writing such a book yourself?
Imanni: Yes I have thought, but I don´t feel is the right time yet. Would like to conquer more and touch more lives through my actions and work then I'll be ready.
Monika: What is your next step in the present time and where do you see yourself within the next 5-7 years?
Imanni: Right now I am just blessed to be able to do things I dreamt of doing. I do have projects and I want to carry on working on it. Within 5-7 years I would love to continue on this path where I am able to work and help my country´s culture and art world get more rich. Be able to look back and say it was all worth it and feel proud of what I have accomplished.
Monika: What would you recommend to all transgender girls, dreaming about such a career like yours?
Imanni: Believe that nothing is impossible and mostly believe in yourself, because when you believe you can do something you will find the way to do it, and do it well. Don´t let prejudice let you down and bad people can only make you stronger. I also advice that a good education is important and running constantly after knowledge is a must. A book and a pen can be great weapons. And please I do beg all of you: NEVER GIVE UP. Hope should only die after we do.
Monika: Imanni, thank you for the interview!
Imanni: Thank you for the opportunity, it was a pleasure.

The main photo: Photoshoot for CARAS Angola magazine.
All the photos: courtesy of Imanni da Silva.
Imanni's art work:

Done on 8 February 2015
© 2015 - Monika 

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