Meet Ami Anselle… The striking Congolese native model knocked down 17 awesome finalists to be crowned this year’s Miss Flavour. Her fierce walk and personality shone through, winning over the judges. At 5ft 9”, she’s far from camera shy, and rocked that catwalk like never before. But there’s more to Ami than good looks. We find out what this title really means…
Where did you grow up and what was it like?
I was born in Congo, Me and my mum moved to France, Toulouse, when I was six months old, to a village where we were the only black people. Kids are innocently mean and racist. They didn’t know any better; it was the first time for many to see black people. The way I grew up gave me the strength to do what I do now anyway.
How did you end up in London?
I finished my degree in Communications at a university in France, and then I moved to Paris. To get jobs in communications and marketing you have to work in the big cities, but I didn’t like Paris at all. I started to model part-time in university. I decided to move to London to pursue modelling seriously, as well as improve my English. When I started working I realised English was important; mine wasn’t very good.
How did you get into the modelling industry?
When I was younger a lot people said I should model; I was always taller than all my friends. In my village a lot people were racist, so my mum always reminded me I was beautiful and should never forget. As a child I thought I was weird: my hair, my skin colour, everything was different; even the people on TV were nothing like me. I started to see black models like Naomi and Katoucha on TV and thought maybe I could model. When I was 16 I went on holiday to Barcelona with friends; the uncle of my friend was a photographer and asked if he could do a shoot with me. I didn’t know what to do, how to move, all that kind of stuff; but then I got into it, I thought it was something I would like to pursue.
Which model inspires you the most?
Katoucha Niane. She’s a big role model for me: she used her career to help expose issues like female genital mutilation in her country Guinea.
Why did you enter Miss Flavour?
I did a fashion show about four months ago and someone there suggested I enter. They said it would be good for me and would give me some exposure seeing as I want to model full-time.
How did you feel when your name was announced as the winner?
I was really happy. It’s hard pursuing modelling full-time, without an agent. Doing all this by yourself, sometimes you feel like giving up; you give a lot but don’t receive anything sometimes. When I heard my name, it was like, wow! All this effort for something at the end finally.
Who was the first person you called?
I put it on Facebook first – when you put something on Facebook, everybody knows. My mum’s not on Facebook, so I called her. She was so happy; she’s really religious, she was like, ‘See, I told you. God knows you were meant for that competition.’
As Miss Flavour 2011, what do you hope to gain from this opportunity?
I want more exposure to boost my career; I really want to become a public figure, like an ambassador for my country. There are some issues back in my home country Congo that I would like to make people aware of.
We have so much war. Young children and women are being raped. The different army groups are trying to intimidate people to have them on their side; they use rape as a war weapon to keep them from speaking out about the crime and injustice that goes on within the government. Women in Congo are like sexual slaves. When you destroy people mentally, it’s a way to control. It’s a very complicated conflict and I want people to be aware; when you have the exposure and are a public figure it’s easier to bring such things to light.
When I was telling my friend about the condition in Congo, they were so surprised. It’s a shame because other countries are aware of what’s going on, but nobody talks about it. I want to do campaigning; there are a lot of young Congolese people in Europe not even aware themselves. If people know, it’s the only way we can start to change things; if people don’t know, nobody cares and things stay the same. I know it’s not going to be easy.
I was raised in Europe so I have a passion to help here too. With the past riots in the UK I can see these young people need people to steer them in the right direction. These young people are the adults of tomorrow – the governor, the future banker, future doctor. We have to do something, we can’t just leave them on the side.
How did you prepare for the contest?
I practised with my friend Cynthia, who was in the competition as well; she really helped me, and I don’t have family here so it’s great to have her. We rehearsed in my house, we downloaded the music and we practised over and over again.
What did you think of the other contestants?
Most of the other girls were really good; the runner-ups are models, so I never thought the competition was going to be easy. It was good to have professional contestants to compete against; it gave me a bigger drive to do well. It wasn’t all about looks and height, it was about personality – all the girls had great personalities.
Who did you get on with the most?
Salena; it was strange because I only met her on the day, she didn’t come to any of the rehearsals. She was so nice and always wanted to help; we were giving each other tips and rehearsed together backstage.
What part of the competition was the best?
I love being on the runway! For me it was like another fashion show; usually people are so quiet, so it’s a bit more stressful. When everyone was cheering it made me much more confident.
If you could be in any magazine, what would be your number one choice?
Obviously Vogue, it’s a big achievement for models that feature in there. I also like Sports Illustrated and would love to feature in there too.
How did you find the Flavour shoot?
I was really looking forward to my Flavour shoot. I prepared myself by reading articles and looking at magazines for poses. I needed that to boost my confidence, even though I’ve been modelling a while now I like to learn. Modelling is like acting: you have to embody different characters. I feel really blessed to have this opportunity. As a beginner surrounded by all those professional people I felt so lucky. I did feel a lot pressure to do well; I didn’t want to disappoint anyone. I gave it my best, the result is awesome.
What was it like having cameras follow you?
It was really cool, I felt like a real celebrity. [Laughs] On a serious note, I think it’s important to have a record of what’s happening backstage, too many people don’t realise how much work happens behind the scenes.
Tell us about the Ben TV interview.
The Ben interview was great; it was my first TV interview, so a bit stressful. It’s not something I’m used to. I was happy Annika [that’s our ed] was with me, it helped me feel more relaxed, she had my back. [Laughs] I’m ready for the next one.
How was the Black Beauty and Hair shoot?
I loved it, I always love it when I’m on a shoot, especially when the team is on the same vibe. The photographer was nice and funny, that helped. I loved my stylist, she was really creative. I couldn’t be happier.
Tell us about other work you have done since winning Miss Flavour?
I did a jingle for a TV show called What’s Da Hype. As Christmas is approaching I’ve done a lot of charity work. I’m still living the same life really. I’m currently negotiating TV and press interviews for 2012. I am also preparing my own charity event for next year too.
Which has been your favourite so far?
I loved everything, I don’t have a favourite because each has been a different experience. I really enjoyed the Flavour cover shoot. The fact I’m on the cover is a big achievement for me. I am a proud ambassador of Flavour Magazine.
Describe your ideal man, looks, personality…
Physically, the rapper Game is my ideal man, but I also like a smart-looking guy too. Wentworth Miller – personality; I like a strong personality and men that are secure and confident, but not overconfident; humble and ambitious, a hard worker, passionate, polite as well as educated.
Are you single?
Yes, I am single.
What’s the most embarrassing thing that has happened to you?
I tend to delete the embarrassing moment from my memory (laughs), but I recently ignored a phone call while the person calling was watching me hide and ignore the phone call.
What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?
I don’t really know, my life is crazy every day. I like craziness, it makes life more fun.
How will you link your degree and career?
During university I learnt how to connect any company, product and event with the support of communication, press, TV, internet and radio. I also learnt how to organise an event, as well as launch campaigns. I really want to use those skills to organise my own events within fashion or charity; I kinda have a plan already, but ssssh! I can’t say anymore [laughs].