My friend Frank is an uber-talented designer, and when he showed me the look of this Nicolay and Kay release, I had to know who the gorgeous woman on the cover was. Turns out that she's a London-based model named Teiko Dornor — and she's much more than just a pretty face. She's a working model, a law student (who's on a break), a television presenter with OBE-TV, and the organizer of a pageant called Miss Plus Africa. The Ghanaian-British beauty took a few minutes to talk about being a plus-size model, learning to appreciate herself, and, of course, her best beauty tips.
Did you struggle with your appearance while growing up? How has modeling changed the way you see yourself, if at all?
While I was growing up I was rather on the skinny side (little did I know I would become a plus-size model) so my parents where concerned which then made me a little paranoid. Modeling has changed the way I interact with others. I’m naturally introverted and rather shy, so it's really forced me come out of my shell; it has changed how I see myself and made me a stronger woman. I’ve really come to terms that it's what I think about Teiko that’s most important.
For the full interview, read more.
You’ve said that you’ve felt pressure to lose weight. I think most women feel that same kind of pressure because of the bizarre cult of thinness that reigns in fashion/beauty. Any advice for regular women as far as self-acceptance is concerned?
It's so strange: The fashion and beauty industry celebrates us and inspires us but sometimes it creates the opposite effect. Self-acceptance is something I’ve unfortunately struggled with. I would know exactly what I wanted to change about myself to an obsessive point, and all I can really say is start from the inside and ask yourself what really determines your happiness and inner peace. I’m happy now — not because I’ve dramatically changed my appearance, but because I committed time and energy into accepting myself, my relationship with God has brought me a long way, and I’m making better choices and happier now.
Anybody who’s been paying attention to the fashion shows knows that women of color and plus-sized (read: average and normal!) women are few and far between. What do you think it will take to make the industry more diverse?
Gosh, truth hurts, huh. Those are unfortunately two very valid points. Slowly but surely, I'm seeing changes. Jourdan Dunn being featured in the Prada show was encouraging. I would love to see plus-size models front mainstream campaigns, doing high-fashion, not just commercial work. I wish I knew exactly what it will take, but with most issues around equality and representation, once the problem is identified, a solution is not far away. Let's hope it’s the same here!
Tell me about Miss Plus Africa. How did that come to be?
Miss Plus Africa was borne out of passion and frustration! In 2006 myself and Joi Onyeukwu decided to establish a pageant that celebrated women with curves, and the African culture which has almost become synonymous with poverty and disease but is so much more than that. Joi and I also wanted a way to give back to our continent, with a percentage of funds generated going to organisations that support development in Africa.
I love being part of this because I know firsthand that it's not the easiest thing when you see the same type of woman being the prototype for beauty all day, every day. The women who have come forward are plus size and proud! I love seeing that because its so easy to light up when someone asks if you’ve lost weight and slum into depression when someone suggests you’ve put on weight, No one is promoting obesity, but as long as you stay healthy there is nothing wrong with being a bigger woman. Miss Plus Africa is an organization that celebrates this fact, encouraging women to embrace themselves.
How do you take care of your skin and hair?
My skin? It's been said a zillion times but drinking loads of water is a simple way of keeping my skin hydrated and healthy. There is a lot of pollution in London, which can leave my skin congested, so I have a deep cleansing facial at least once a month and exfoliate on a weekly basis with Japanese cleansing grains, leaving me radiant. My hands can get really dry, so I stock up on shea butter when I go to Ghana — I love its texture. I'm studying holistic massage at the moment, so I massage my face every evening for around 30 seconds to stimulate circulation and I’m certain it leaves me glowing!
I always seems to be adding or taking away from my hair. I change styles regularly; whatever hairstyle I have, I ensure that my hair is always well-conditioned, whether this means hair masks, hot oil treatments or steam treatments.
What are some of your best beauty secrets?
- Always wear SPF. I’m Ghanaian-British, and also dark-skinned, but I have made it a rule not to think that’s any excuse to not cover up!
- Blushers are great. Blush can really alter your look and lift the colors and life in your face.
- Always carry lip balm!
- When you are happy its almost like an instant beauty treatment. So stay happy, people!
And what are some of your favorite beauty products?
I have loads. Australian company Aesop has some great products; when I’m flying I use their Ginger flight therapy. I just roll it onto my pulse points and I’m good. Aveda does a great lip glaze in Mango Juice, and Carol's Daughter’s hair smoothie Khoret Amen, is a great conditioner. Iman has some great products, and her blush in Freesia is an instant lift. MAC have a good range of glosses; Wet Wild and Wonderful is a personal favorite. I’ve just discovered i.d. mineral makeup. It's light and flawless and lasts a while.
Finally: When do you feel the most beautiful?
I feel most beautiful when I’m surrounded by love, surrounded by positivity and enjoying the endless possibilities life has to offer.