When Taylor Swift advised her best friend Selena Gomez on making the right choices in life and surrounding yourself with people of color in your life, it reminded me of how Kelly Davis made such a bold step in her life. She let go of her high school mates, chose to pursue her dreams and did not even attend the graduation after-party.
She has since worked won Miss Kenya 2014 in the Queen of the Universe pageant on March 16, 2014 and as if not enough, went on to act alongside Hollywood heavyweights. Kelly has acted as Kevin Hart‘s dietrician on BET’s Real Husbands of Hollywood and appeared on the Queen Latifah Show. She got to nurture her acting skills since she was a kid and her life-changer came when she, having worked hard, got a scholarship to study at the New York Film Academy in Los Angeles.
Kelly is undeniably beautiful but that does not compromise her choice to be humble. Despite having grown up in Wichita, Kansas, Kelly did stick to her roots.She was born in 1992 to a native American dad and a Kenyan mum.
She has chosen to use the adorable blend of her beauty with her inner decor, her glowing personality to give back to the society. She’s the founder of Kelly W. Davis Running International Foundation which works to stop female genital mutilation and early marriages in Kenya and around the world.
She’s very passionate about it; it is an issue close to her heart since some of her family members have gone through FGM. She traveled to Kenya this past June to kick start her foundation. Kelly visited schools and rescue shelters with girls 8-15 years old who have run away to escape FGM and early marriage. Running International intends to build 8 pit latrines for one school, Kiwanja Ndege Primary School, as well as provide food for Beloved Daughters of Olosho-Oibor Rescue Shelter in Kajiado county.
I had a lovely conversation with Kelly on her journey, her foundation and future prospects. Enjoy!
Me: Kelly, first, I would love to congratulate you for your incredible win of the title Miss Kenya – Queen of the Universe – it is a huge achievement that will surely bring unprecedented opportunities for you. How did it feel being honored as the best in the beauty pageant
Kelly: The whole experience was an exciting, thrilling few months. We practiced and prepared for long hours, nights on end, and I would not take back any minute of it. I made lifelong friends and beautiful memories I will cherish forever.
Kelly: My mom is my biggest hero in my life. She was a hero to her whole family, and literally “rescued” her family out of poverty in Kenya and gave them opportunity. She worked hard in school and started her own business. She is a strong woman of God, fantastic wife, and an attentive, caring mother. She is our hero.
Me: Are you starting to venture into film?
Kelly: Yes, I am venturing into film, recently signing with new acting management. All aspects of the film industry intrigue me. I am totally fascinated by the work behind and in front of the camera, in film and television.
Me: What do you do for your free time?
Kelly: In my free time, I enjoy exercising, spending time with my friends and family, traveling to see new places around the globe, reading, learning something new.
Me: Who inspires me you in acting and what movies do you enjoy watching?
Kelly: My favorite movies are comedy and romance, drama, and those who inspire me in acting are: Will Smith, Angela Bassett, Liz Nyagah, Halle Berry, Wynona Rider
Me: You’re the founder of Running International Foundation. You’ve chosen to raise awareness about and help stop female genital mutilation and early marriage in Kenya and around the world. One third of the world’s girls are married before the age of 18 and 1 out of 9 are married before the age of 15. That is a big number and it means that their dreams in education and having good careers are cut short. What inspired you to choose to fight FGM and empower the girl child? What are some of the activities that you’ve engaged in and who do you have on board?
Kelly: My family and those close to me inspired me to work to stop FGM. Our tribe embraces it as a rite of passage and it has affected my family in a negative way, I see physical, emotional, mental damage it causes these young girls and I am very passionate about doing all I can to bring awareness to the matter.
Currently, our foundation is working on a few different projects. One is to build pit latrines for the students of Kiwanja Ndege Primary School in North Laikipia. Another one is partnering with Sister Ephigenia of the Loreto Sisters in assisting in building the Abundant Life Center. This is a center that will educate the elders of the tribes/communities in Kenya of why it it is so important that we must stop FGM now.
On board for the foundation with me, Doctor Gilbert Omido, in Wichita Kansas is the Co-Chair and his wife Margaret Omido is the Treasurer. My mother, Cecilia Wambugu-Davis is the assistant co-chair. And Tony Nzomo is the foundation manager.
Me: You’re young and beautiful. Many girls out there look up to you. You’re smart and humble – in fact I felt that when I learned that you were back to Kenya to initiate your Foundation’s project and from the way you talk and carry yourself. What defines your personality? What has shaped the way you conduct yourself and your dreams?
Kelly: My faith defines my personality. Growing in my Christian faith and my relationship with God has shown how to live my personal best day and day and treat others with love and respect. My faith has shown me who I am, the individual God created me to be. It has also shown me my purpose in this world, which is to help and empower these young girls across the world.
My mother and father have been a huge influence on how I present myself and the person I am. My mother taught her daughters how to be a woman. I look up to her and try to follow her example of being a classy, gentle, God fearing lady. My dad is very wise and he always taught us to never fear any situation, and to never be scared of man. Always believe in ourselves. Be confident. Also, my dad was an actor and writer in his younger days, and he is where I get my performing background.
Me: What’s the best thing a person has ever done to you?
Kelly: My manager Tony Nzomo. When I first met him, he believed in my foundation and my vision. He assisted me to build my platforms and helped me in gaining connections with the Kenyan media and various important contacts. He was a continuous mentor. It was one of the best, kindest actions anyone has ever done for me. The foundation would not be where it was today was today without him. He later became the manager of the foundation affairs.
Me: Who do I look up to as a role model?
Kelly: Jesus Christ and my Mother. I aim to be like both of them.
Me: What’s your favorite food and drink?
Kelly: My favorite food is cheese pizza and my favorite drink is French vanilla cappuccino.
Me: What is your favorite book?
Kelly: Currently I am reading Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali. It is great. I read my bible, and a lot of self help/spiritual books and blogs as well.
Me: What is the biggest lesson you learned from your teenage life?
Kelly: Friends and being popular and “reckless” is not important…doing the right thing will be rewarding. You will thank yourself in your 20s.
Me: What do you do to keep fit?
Kelly: I am a vegetarian…I enjoy eating clean and I find healthy foods that I like and incorporate that into my meals every day. I workout often. I take classes at my local gym: muscle building classes, Bollywood dance, Pilates. I hike in the mountains every week with a friend of mine. I enjoy power walking and jogging as well.
Me: What’s your biggest fear?
Kelly: I pray for my families safety quite often. I would not say it is a fear, I just ask God to protect them when I am across the country/the world.
Me: When I finished high school in 2011, I did not know what to do next. I embarked on working on my maiden novel draft. I then explored whether to do Computer Science (which led me to start working with an IT company) but later chose a BSc. Tourism Management degree. I’ve now realized that my passion lies in Journalism; educating the society, especially my fellow youth. There are many youth out there who make choices that turn out to be not their passions and end up failing in their education and career. What advice do you have for them on making the best choices in life?
Kelly: One must have a purpose in their life. God will show you your purpose and if you pray, he will guide you to it. Do not get discouraged through trials and tests because those are what you go through to get the real reward. Also, never give up because everything you are going through is a stepping stone to the next step in your journey. For example, I got an acting scholarship in Florida at 18, that was (one step), went to film school (second step) God totally detoured and shows me to Miss Kenya in Queen of the Universe and started a foundation (step 3 plus my purpose). Between steps two and three, there were MANY tests and trails, but He brought me through them and led me to purpose.
Me: One of the greatest problems in Sub Saharan Africa is underemployment and unemployment. Partly, this is due to most youth taking popular course choices in university and end up being in an already saturated job market. They ignore STEM courses – which they perceive as hard to tackle. Studies show that STEM is largely unexploited. What do you think should be done to make youth aware of the opportunities present in the STEM fields?
Kelly: At each university school, I would do presentations on the issue of the “popular overly saturated” jobs and I would do a visual presentation on STEM jobs with all the new students : present the opportunity, the pay, why students have such a great chance at employment and a better livelihood for themselves and their families.
Me: What’s the best thing you love about your homeland Kenya?
Kelly: The best thing I love about Kenya is Mtu Nguyaz (my people)! I love the Kenyan people; everyone is so friendly and nice. It is just always a nice time. I also love chakula (food) in Kenya…mzuri sana (so good).
Me: What’s that special thing about you that most people do not know?
Kelly: I can tap dance. I trained in tap dancing for 12 years.
Me: What is your favorite Quote?
Kelly: “Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment” I do not want to have many goals and no accomplishments.
Me: As your fellow youth who has passion in youth empowerment, what question do you have for me, having heard my story?
Kelly: My question for you is: What is your long term career goal for your career/business? What would you like to see your brand and your career blossom into in the future?
Me: I would love to be an inspiring, successful author and media personality. I would love to help empower my fellow youth and in the future, and have a youth empowerment organization in the future.
Me: Finally, you having gone through acting school and known what’s needed for you to be on the Big Screen and having done modeling, what advice do you have for young people out there who would love to take your path in their careers?
Kelly: I would say, pray about your career goal in entertainment and ask God to lead you where He wants you to go. I always felt inclined to move to Los Angeles, since I was a girl. And when I was 18, I got a scholarship to study acting in Los Angeles. He will make it happen, you have to trust Him.