Jaws drop every time Evelyn Njambi walks into a room. Statuesque, she stands a head taller than most. Favouring six-inch heels, then, even without her sash and crown, she is awesome to behold. Presence is what they call it in pageantry. And Ms Njambi, 22, is well aware of the statement she makes and is used to having all eyes on her. “I am 5’ 9”,” with a straight face, masking the amusement in her eyes, she tells my colleague who just had to ask, “How tall are you?”
That she would be a model or a beauty queen is rather obvious but the chance did not present itself until she joined Maseno University for an interior design degree course. As long as she can remember, she has loved watching pageants and staying up to watch them. In her own way, she tried being as glamorous as the contestants. “I loved dolling myself up and made my family late for church as they waited for me to get my makeup done.” This should have annoyed, her only brother, Andrew Mbugua Thung’u.
“I tried for the Miss Maseno title, but it was won by a senior student and I was not ranked among the top, so I gave up on modelling and pageantry entirely and focused my energies on other things.
The god-fearing beauty was, therefore, surprised when her brother called to tell her about Miss World Kenya tryouts.
“Out of respect for him, I heard him out but I was not enthusiastic as my experience with pageants had left a sour taste in my mouth. I, anyway, told him I would give it a thought and promptly forgot about it.”
“He insisted I audition and he sent me bus fare to travel back home for the Kiambu County title,’ she says. Impressing the judges, she sailed through and was crowned the county representative and then the hard part of journey began.
“Nothing about this crown is easy,” she says of the boot camp that county queens are subjected to in preparation for the Miss Kenya title. “I had to go from zero to 150 just like that,” she says of the push-ups and the tough physical exercises she and other contestants went through. “We woke up at five and it was relentless, the workouts and trainings did not stop until late in the night, only to start the next morning.”
But she wouldn’t quit. “I learnt a lot during my time at boot camp and when I came second at the finals, I packed my bags and went back to college. While my colleagues were impressed with my performance, I wasn’t.” says the self-professed perfectionist. Ms Njambi would then help organise pageants and fashion shows and it was in during a college break in August when she received the life-changing call. The lady who came first had been dethroned.
“I was born ready,” she answered at the time, after Nation sought to know if she would be ready in less than three months to represent the country at the Miss World finals. Her statement now rings true with her beautiful performance at the gala event in Maryland, Washington DC, on Sunday evening.
With her crowning, Andrew was at her side. Her biggest cheerleader, playing chaperone, watching out for her and being his sister’s keeper, he took his little sister where she needed to be.
“It has been her passion for as long as I can remember and I am proud of her. I am humbled at the role I was able to play in helping her achieve her dreams. She is a wonderful person and I am happy that Kenya and the world now knows.”
Ms Njambi arrived back into the country on Tuesday to a warm welcome.
Beauty with a purpose
Miss World Kenya is working towards raising awareness and on eradicating female genital mutilation.
Miss Kenya office represents the aspirations of many youth across the country. Many title holders have used the Miss Kenya platform to champion causes near and dear to their hearts.
Previously, the pageant has partnered with Ahadi Kenya on its anti-jigger campaign and Smile Train that assists people and children with cleft lip and palate.
Additional reporting by Mary Wambui.