47 years ago, the fashion industry in Zambia changed forever with the first ever Miss Zambia competition.
Christine Munkombwe, who was 18 at the time, won the competition and became the first model to represent Zambia at the Miss World Pageant in 1974, where she became a voice for the injustices towards women of colour in the industry.
In honor of the fashion legend, Lusaka Star came up close with the model to tell her story.
I was fresh out of high school and thought why not compete in the local Miss Southern Province competition for fun and to my surprise, I won,Christine.
Christine was later signed to Mesara M&G Promotions and proceeded to take part in the Miss Zambia pageant where she came out victorious.
To say that I was beyond excited is an understatement because I knew that I automatically qualified for Miss World and would travel to London for the first time,Christine.
During the competition, she became friends with then Miss Jamaica Andrea Lyon who in her own words described Christine as:
The most down to earth and really natural person in the contest.
The model described the pageant as being both amazing and terrible due to the negative attitudes towards the models of colour.
She said the black contestants were denied publicity while the white ones appeared on television and in the newspaper every day.
Contestants from Zambia, Botswana, Jamaica, Bahamas and Bermuda nearly protested against the organizers over the National Dress section of the competition because judges had to judge from television scenes which we were obviously not a part of,Christine.
After the pageant, she returned to the country and told Times of Zambia newspaper about the racism she faced throughout her stay in London.
Christine explained that her sponsors asked her to revoke her statement on racism and that she would be stripped of her title if she did not do so.
I know that due to my young age at the time they thought I would keep quiet about the injustices I faced despite them sitting on my rewards for winning Miss Zambia and not sponsoring my trip and competition costs as we agreed on. So I sued them,Christine.
The model was stripped of her title and the court battles went on for a little while, before she told them to keep everything and walked away from modelling.
I was quite over it, I spoke my mind and was not going to pretend that women of colour did not face racism and besides, I joined the competition for fun so the money was not a great loss on my part,Christine.
The legend has been off the radar for the longest time and in her words, she has lived a happy life and built a family.
Along the years, I went to school, got married and had three beautiful daughters that have given me many grandchildren, and I couldn’t have asked for a better life,Christine.
She added that one of her granddaughters is interested in modelling and has recently started to participate in the local pageants.
To Peggy my granddaughter and any other young girl starting out in the industry, my advice to you is to stay true to yourself and don’t forget to have fun, the world will adjust,Christine.
The modelling industry has grown over the years and has gained prominence throughout Africa and the world at large, with many women of colour that are breaking the boundaries set by medieval standards of society.
For Zambia, kudos to Christine for breaking those boundaries as she put the country on the map.