On the bench with Miss Tourism World Africa.Wachira John
She came, she saw, she conquered! Veni vidi vici. She’s not afraid to chart a course in unfamiliar murky waters. I’d say she has the Midas touch, everything she touches turns to gold. And she attributes that to God. Caught up with her last week at Kaldis Coffee House. Meet a lady who’s keen on following her heart, who’s ambitious, visionary, aggressive, confident, God fearing, down to earth humble…I could keep going on and on but I’ll let you deduce that for yourself.
Jackie Komen is her name.
Guys, meet Jackie, the new Miss Tourism World Africa.
How would you describe yourself?
That’s a tough one… (Thinking) I think I am just a simple lady who…ummhh…Just let me describe myself how my sister does; (she knows me well) she says I’m an easy believer. When I trust God for something, I will not doubt whether He will make it happen.
I am a student of Law at Kabarak University.
What motivated you to contest for Miss Tourism Baringo (MTB) County?
Miss Tourism is mainly about marketing; promoting Tourism. I contested because I thought I would fit in. They look for confident girls, good public speakers, and such kind of things.
How was the journey to being MTB like?
I’d wanted to contest in 2013 but I couldn’t because I hadn’t attained the required age. I also hadn’t been so keen about it. Initially, I was in JKUAT but moved to Kabarak University. I had to pay a lot more fees than I had been paying. I did not want to burden my parents and the prize money for winning Miss Tourism Baringo was 80k. I needed that money and I felt that I could best represent Baringo County. So I contested.
My family was a bit skeptical about what I was doing; moving schools and wanting to contest for Miss Tourism Baringo. I really did try to convince them to support me though it was not easy. They finally agreed and when I contested I won the Miss Tourism Baringo County title.
What did your family think when you won Miss Tourism Baringo?
After I won, they gave me their full support in the levels that followed.
Is it a must to participate in Miss Tourism Kenya (MTK) competition after you become Miss Tourism <respective-county>?
Yes. Every Miss Tourism County must participate in the Miss Tourism Kenya competition. I contested and won. After that, I took part in the Miss Tourism world competition in Malaysia and won the Miss Tourism World Africa title. (Trumpets)
Once you became Miss Tourism Africa, did you have to relinquish Miss Tourism Baringo?
What responsibilities does the title bring?
The Miss Tourism Kenya title is a one year contract. Miss Tourism Africa on the other hand is more of an endorsement. Being Miss Tourism Africa is about being the face of Africa especially in matters that relate to tourism. So if Africa needed to be represented in matters of Tourism, I would be the person to do that.
So that means you travel a lot?
Yes, in and out of Africa.
I assume while in Malaysia, you all weren’t speaking the same language?
Yeah…I loved that actually, t-was one of the best experiences. We all were from different countries and spoke different languages. Miss Tourism Brazil could only speak Portuguese, Miss Tourism Reunion Island could only speak French; many others spoke Spanish and English. So we used applications for translation and needed interpreters; some of whom were among the pageants; for instance Miss Tourism Cape Verde could speak Portuguese and English and would often translate a conversation between Miss Brazil and an English speaker. It was a beautiful experience. At the end of the day, we found a way of communicating.
So how many friends did you make among the pageants?
About all of them; we were about 50 in number.
What cause are you championing?
Being Miss Tourism requires that you choose a cause that promotes Tourism. I sat with my county first lady Dr. Emmy Chesire who is my patron and the county minister of Tourism. We talked and I decided that I’d champion road safety. There aren’t many organizations that are into road safety. I found out that it’s only a couple non-Kenyan NGO’s that look into matters of road safety.
Take a look at the tourists that come to our country, after they’ve landed, they are always on the road to access our tourist attraction sites. Motorcycle incidents are increasing and every day, someone dies from an accident. And again this issue is universal. I’m now Miss Tourism World Africa, and I’m sure these same problems occur in other African countries. So I thought this affects everyone, it’s about saving lives, it’s about making sure that tourists are safe on our roads. I’m looking for partnerships with the Ministry of transport and other bodies interested in matters of transport and road safety.
Has it been easy balancing between being Miss Tourism World Africa (MTWA) and your personal life?
With these crazy meetings, I have to promptly put my projects together. Nowadays, I don’t get the opportunity to talk to people like I used to. It hasn’t affected me much but I can say that I’m busier that I was.
What’s challenging about being Miss Tourism World Africa?
I think that’s delivering on your responsibility. I’d want to leave a mark, so that when the next Miss Tourism comes she’ll realize that someone was here and be challenged to do more. The former Miss Tourism World Africa has left a mark. I can look up to her. I’d want to do the same and I think that’s the most challenging aspect about being Miss Tourism.
Biggest lesson from your journey to being MTWA?
You get what you pray for.
Has the title ever gotten to your head?
I really do try not to let that happen. In school, I reside in the hostels and people get surprised or shocked when they find that out. But then our hostels are very nice so I don’t mind staying there. I don’t think it’s ever gotten to my head. I have people who keep me in check and anyway there isn’t a reason why it should go to my head. The title won’t be here forever, its only one year then it’s gone. So I can’t allow that to happen.
Of course being MTB, MTK exposed you to Kenya on a level you had not known before. Tell me about that.
I’ve got the opportunity to travel around Kenya and I can say that Kenya is really a beautiful country. I loved the shores of Lake Turkana. My goodness, that’s one of the most beautiful places.
Where would you say we are as a country, politically?
I’m not that into politics. But I think we aren’t that bad..
What question do you get asked the most by people?
First, it’s usually congratulations. Then most proceed to ask how I’m able to stand in front of all those people, whether I’m trained to walk on the runway. Someone asked me whether I learnt it on YouTube… (Laughter, but hey, no kidding, there’s Yego right?)
And your answer to that question?
Except in the auditions, there is basic training that we’re given so that everyone’s on the same level.
Ideally I wanted Mass Communication. I was a smart kid; got an A in high school. When I looked at the aggregate points required for Mass Comm, I thought I did too well for it. The reason I did not choose Law at the time was because I hadn’t given much thought to what I wanted to do in life and probably because I was young and not so ambitious. That is how I ended up doing Engineering.
So I reported to JKUAT and did my first year. When I went home for my long holidays, I told my mom Engineering wasn’t what I wanted to do. She told me to try second year and maybe I would learn to love the course. I did not have the motivation to build myself outside of my classwork. After the first semester, I went home and told my mom I would not be coming back. That’s when I enrolled in Law school. Right now, I enjoy and put more effort into what I am doing. Sometimes I go the library to read for a CAT and I end up reading other things that are not related to that CAT. To me that’s beautiful because I’m expanding my knowledge. It’s not just about reading and cramming for exams. Law is interesting and fun to study.
A mention about our judiciary?
It should be independent as it should be.
A kid somewhere wants to be a lawyer. Asks for advice, what do you tell them?
Be a lawyer. (Laughter)
Book you’re currently reading?
John Grisham’s books. He’s a lawyer. The setting he writes about is mainly law.
What don’t we know about you?
I rarely watch movies, hardly. I’d rather read. This year, I haven’t watched a single movie.
Apart from school, being MTWA, is there anything else that you do, hobbies?
Yeah. I love swimming and when I have time I spend time with kids or elderly people. I run occasionally.
How many kilometers can you do in a session?
5 km. Give or take.
Who’s your role model?
Michelle Obama. I love how she’s kept herself elegant and young even at 50. And she’s a lawyer.
Being MTWA or basically a leader, you represent people including some who may have different beliefs or opinions from the ones you have. How do you handle that?
I think respecting other people regardless of their opinions and beliefs is crucial. Dr. Gladys from Kabarak asked me once, “Who said that Christian girls cannot compete and win crowns?” Ever since, I’ve upheld the premise that it is possible to be decent, be a Christian, participate in such contests and win. And while representing other people, it is important to respect their values, beliefs and opinions.
Explain to me something you think is complicated.
I think it’s us who make things complicated. Nothing is really that complicated. Anything can be learnt.
What’s your favorite bible verse?
Deuteronomy 20:1-4. And also the story of Joseph, God was with him all the way and I know He is with me too.
A word to someone who looks up to you. Wants to achieve something.
Be confident. When I contested for Miss Tourism Kenya, I did not think so much about the title. I told myself that if I came out of that place without winning anything, I still would have added value to myself. Be disciplined, guard your integrity. Be true to yourself. Don’t fake it. People will always know if you do because your real character will show at some point.
I believe that anyone can be what they want to be. There is no limit to what you can be.