AINA 25 MAR 2020
Wakenya Clewis, a Kenyan-born art enthusiast has appealed for support in her bid to become the next cover girl for Ink Magazine, a lifestyle magazine covering tattoo culture. According to the ‘Kenyan Hippie’, getting on the magazine’s cover would achieve more than just showcasing her art.
“Landing a spot on the cover of an international magazine would mean more than just a chance to showcase my art. There isn’t nearly enough representation of black women in the American tattoo industry, and I am determined to change that,” she said.
Voting for the competition which is at the quarter-final stage ends in two days with the winner taking home $25,000 and a photo session with celebrity photographer Christopher Kolk. Wakenya’s bid received a boost after musicians Nameless and Naiboi urged their fans to vote for the mother of two.
Early life in Kenya, tough times
Born in Kenya to a mechanical engineer and a school teacher, the 33-year-old, who is currently based in Florida, graduated from Daystar University in 2010.
She worked as a PR practitioner before immigrating to the US in 2013 to settle down and start a family. The next two years in the US as a full-time mum were tough for Wakenya following the death of her son.
“I lost my firstborn son when he was an infant resulting in my introversion,” said Wakenya.
However, things took an upward swing when she welcomed her second son in 2016.
Falling in love with tattoos, stereotypes
Wakenya fell in love with ink in 2017 after accidentally meeting her tattoo artist, marking the beginning of her tattoo journey.
“I had gone in to get my eyebrow pierced and the rest, as they say, is history.”
With the tattoos, came assumptions.
“Unfortunately, some close-minded people assume that tattoos are for ‘uncultured’ people, which is a sad and uninformed rhetoric. I am seeking to change that. I am an educated, hardworking business owner, a mum and overall, a good person, who just so happens to have many tattoos. I wish people didn’t judge others by their outward appearance.
“My parents have mixed feelings about my body art. They are traditional African parents, but they also understand that I’m an adult so they respect my choices. My mother loves my tattoos, but her concern is with the quantity,” said Wakenya, adding that 90% of her tattoos are nature-themed.
The art lover who also has a passion for singing and dancing is also a model.
“In 2019, a well-known portrait photographer reached out and asked if I was interested in doing a photoshoot with him I said yes! A few months later I was in New York doing a nude shoot with a man who used to be a celebrity photographer! The shoot was both enthralling and scary, but I enjoyed every minute.