A Moment With… Teurai Chanakira

Teurai Chanakira is a Model, Writer/Blogger, Fashion Editor and Founder of the Elizabeth Chanakira Cancer Trust in Harare, Zimbabwe.  Teurai left Zimbabwe when she was 13 to live in Bonn, Germany with her parents.  Since then she has lived and travelled all over the world, including living in the UK for ten years and in Australia since 2008.

Her modelling career has seen her win several titles, including being the September 2009 Female Winner in Beautiful People Magazine online; she became the inaugural Brand Ambassador for the clothing label, Authentic Fashion Renaissance; was the Face of the Zimbabwean International Music Awards 2010, was in the Top 100 of Naomi Campbell’s Global Model Search, out of 8,000 entries worldwide; was named Top Inaugural Model on Zimbo Jam (a Zimbabwean online Arts & Cultural website) and in April 2011, was the first African Finalist ever in the Miss Fashion Australia Awards 2011, since its inception.

Teurai also holds a Bachelor of Laws and a Master of Laws from the University of Birmingham, UK and the University of Wolverhampton, UK respectively.  She studied Law because she had a deep desire to help those who face injustices.

Teurai Chanakira - Photo by Mia Huddleston

Teurai founded the Elizabeth Chanakira Cancer Trust (ECCT) in Harare in honour of her mother who passed away in December 2010.  The ECCT is the first organisation of its kind in Zimbabwe as the only one which provides financial support to poverty-stricken Zimbabwean cancer patients and has a focus on Natural Health & Fitness to reduce the risk of cancer.

3-mob hustled her a bit and it turns out she had a lot to say

What is your Government name?

Lol…my government-issued birth certificate reads Teurai Chanakira. It also includes a middle name, but only the relevant government departments of some nations, my family and a few close friends will ever know what it is.

What do you like to call yourself?

Teu or ‘T’.

 What’s the most ridiculous nickname you have ever had?

When I was younger, ‘Ostrich’, because of my long neck, small head and the short hairstyle I had at the time. It used to make me cry, but now I just chuckle about it.

Which side of the bed do you sleep on?

The side closest to my phone charger.

 Left-handed or right-handed?

Right.

Favourite instrument?

I play the piano but my favourite instrument in terms of sound and the way it’s held, has to be the saxophone.

First song you fell in love with?

 TLC’s “Baby baby baby”

Best show you have ever been to?

As a little girl – UB40’s ‘Labour of Love’ concert in Harare, in the 80’s, sitting on one of my favourite uncle, (Sekuru Fungai’s) shoulders, and waving my arms along to the music.  Oops…now you can guess my age lol.

Most memorable shoot?

A shoot I had with an Australian photographer, Stu Allen, where I swam into the middle of a pool of water flowing down from a waterfall, with a wedding dress on. We wanted to get a shot of me flicking my hair back, with my back arched.  The water current was so strong that I tucked my toes in between two rocks so I would stay still; I must have flipped my head back at least 15 times, whilst concentrating on having a calm expression, arched back and praying there was nothing in the water underneath me lol.  However, that is one of my best images to date.

 How do you deal with groupies?

Ha…’groupies’…I don’t like the word, ‘groupies’, as the word tends to have a derogatory connotation, but when people sincerely comment on my work and understand the purpose behind my modelling, writing, the founding of my Cancer Trust and the things to follow, I am appreciative, because I share a part of my soul in all that I do.

Were you excited when the first groupie hollered at you?

My first experience at a form of ‘hollering’ was when I got a message which read, “Hey Legs!” and the feeling was definitely not one of excitement lol. However, I appreciate all the people who send me messages of support and encouragement.  I have also made many good friendships, which blossomed from the first encouraging message sent.

Where is Zim’s modelling industry going?

I think that Zimbabwe’s modelling industry is blossoming; however I have noticed that models are not often regarded in a very respectful manner, often seen as women with no brains and loose morals.  Models need respect as creatives and as people.

There is still a lot that the Zimbabwean modelling industry can learn from industries around the world, so that models are given even more training and opportunities, particularly in photographic/print work; the chance to interact with and share knowledge with photographers and others in the industry more.    It would be useful to have networking opportunities such as the ones provided on sites like Model Mayhem (www.modelmayhem.com), but tailored specifically for people in the Zimbabwean Fashion Industry.

More importantly, people need to value the Zimbabwean product and hence in this context, the Zimbabwean Fashion industry, as having great potential to be a competitive contributory factor to our economy, for example, by valuing and promoting locally-grown materials and local designers.  It is so painful for me to see how so many of our talented designers struggle to sell their items to Zimbabwean retailers.

Where is your modelling going?

My modelling involves much more than the label, ‘modelling’ and has followed a path directed by my heart: the desire to be inspired, to inspire, spread positivity, encourage and empower.  I use what I feel to follow my passions through various projects.

When I started modelling in Australia, my main drive was the lack of Aboriginal, Indigenous, other models of colour in the Australia media and indeed of black models in fashion industries worldwide.  As I gained more global exposure as a model, I rekindled my love for writing and started a blog at www.teuraimodel.com.  As my blog received more exposure, I got offers to be a Zimbo Jam Columnist (with my own column, ‘Teurai’s Lists’); Fashion Editor for the AfriQan Times Australia and Fashion Blogger for Afrimarque Events, Australia.

My mother’s death from cancer in December 2010; the harrowing statistics of cancer deaths in Zimbabwe (which have now overtaken HIV/AIDS); my recognition of the limited help available for cancer patients and my love of Natural Health & Fitness, resulted in me founding the Elizabeth Chanakira Cancer Trust (ECCT) in Harare (www.elizabethchanakira.org).  It will provide financial help and other support to poverty-stricken Zimbabwean cancer patients, with a specific focus on Health & Fitness, including promoting locally-grown Zimbabwean products.

What do you want to be remembered for?

For being someone who wasn’t afraid to dream or follow their heart; who followed the path less-trodden, regardless of anyone’s imposed expectations; someone who spread as much positivity as possible; who left a legacy for countless Zimbabwean and other cancer patients/their families, through the selfless spirit of her mother, in the Elizabeth Chanakira Cancer Trust and…as someone who never stopped smiling or loving.