“Having your own signature style and personality is important,” says pro stylist and fashion model Yaa Bonsu. “You want people to identify you just by seeing your work. That’s what makes you stand out!” We had an amazing interview with the vibrant young talent as she talks about life as a stylist, model and her favorite beauty secrets.

Yaa+Bonsu+Zen+Magazine+Africa+Interview+2015 (2)Yaa Bonsu is a Kenyan/Ghanaian model, stylist and aspiring designer. She
is currently signed to 20 model and artist management
in Cape Town, South Africa

Zen Magazine: Tell us a little bit about your background. Where were you born?
Yaa: I was born in Mombasa Kenya from a Kenyan mother and Ghanaian father. I am the last born of 4 siblings. My official name is actually Queen Esther Bonsu. But I later changed it to Yaa, my traditional Ghanaian name as my father passed away and this was the only connection I had with him.

Zen Magazine: At what stage in your career did you decide you wanted to get into the fashion industry?
Yaa: When I was 15, after I graduated from high school, I started flipping through high fashion magazines that my sister would bring home from work. I remember being drawn into this world and really wanting to be a part of it. I remember watching the movie “The Devil Wears Prada” and I’ve always envied Andy’s job until this date (Laughs). So then I started sketching my own designs. But at this point I was still pretty clueless on how I would venture into this exciting world.

Zen Magazine: How did you know modelling was for you?
Yaa: (Laughs), now that’s a tough question. Well, my sister Aqua Bonsu was a former top model in Kenya who made quite a name for the family. Back then when I was young, her friends in the industry always thought I would take after her footsteps. I imagined it, but to be honest I never really saw it happening. I was quite tiny and I’ve never really fit in the Afrocentric market in Nairobi like the other models. So I decided to concentrate on my styling and recruiting models for private fashion shows. But every time I would work backstage or at a shoot as a stylist, people would confuse me as a model, (Laughs). So I gave it another shot. I got in contact with a model scout and agent in South Africa and she was excited to get me signed up immediately. It kind of opened my eyes to see how far I could go with it. I realized my full potential and stopped selling myself short.

Zen Magazine: What’s your most favorite shoot till this very date?
Yaa: Shooting with fashion photographer Marnus Meyer. He is quite experienced and gave me important advice to help me both in styling and modelling.

Yaa+Bonsu+Zen+Magazine+Africa+Interview+2015Yaa is sister to beauty queen Aqua Bonsu. Her sister won 11
crowns including Miss Earth Kenya 2001 and Miss
Tourism Nairobi 2001 just to name a few

Zen Magazine: Which African models inspire you?
Yaa: I am inspired by Adeola Ariyo. She seems really humble, committed and has worked hard for her career. I believe every model needs that kind of work ethic and humility. I also like Yasmin Warsame and Candice Swanepoel.

Zen Magazine: Who would you like to work with next?
Yaa: Mm let’s see. Well locally, I have my eyes on photographer Thandiwe Muriu. She has grown so much as a photographer and I love her attention to detail. Internationally, I would love to work with Daniella Midenge, her work really inspires and translates to me. I would also love to work with David Tlale. He has definitely put Africa on the map, with his bold Afrocentric and fashion forward clothing.

Zen Magazine: How did you get started as a stylist?
Yaa: When I was 16, I met Liz Ogumbo, a South African based Kenyan designer who saw my design sketches and saw my potential. Even though I was clueless about clothing construction, she saw my passion and talent and hired me immediately to work as a stylist. Back then she used to manage models as well and conduct shoots with photographer Jim Chuchu so it helped me grow a lot. I would usually hang around and help out. I then used my network to spread my wings. I worked as a stylist in Nairobi for about 4 years. I styled for local musicians, TV shows, music videos and local magazines such as Healthy Woman, Kenya Concierge and Drum Magazine.

Zen Magazine: How do you stay updated on the latest trends?
Yaa: I do follow designers such as Tom Ford and Balmain and magazines for inspiration but honestly I don’t think I’m the type of person who chases after trends. It’s funny sometimes when I flip through magazines I coincidentally happen to be in sync. I believe in timeless style and I’d rather be a trend setter than a follower. I also pay attention to music, I believe mainstream fashion and music go hand in hand.

Below is one of her styling works, photographed by Andrew
Mageto. Makeby was done by Cultured Ego

Zen Magazine: What’s the key thing every stylist needs to have to make them different from the next?
Yaa: Having your own signature style and personality is important. You want people to identify you just by seeing your work. That’s what makes you stand out. An exceptional stylist’s work should also be timeless. You shouldn’t over trend, you want people to admire your work 5 or 10 years to come. Finding yourself and your personal style is important. Practicing and experimenting can help you to get to that point, that’s why I keep shooting from time to time.

Zen Magazine: Which styling jobs are your favorites?
Yaa: I love fashion shoots. Especially the ones I can coordinate myself, with no restrictions, I can fully express myself. I also enjoy it when the whole team is in sync, from the make up artist, to the model and photographer. Everything just falls beautifully into place when everyone is thinking at the same pace. I really enjoy studio shoots. Shooting on location is fun but I’ve had funny experiences (Laughs); like cows trying to chew on my wardrobe. I also love gigs that give me the opportunity to meet and network with successful and established creatives in the industry.

Zen Magazine: If you had a chance to style on celebrity, who would it be? Why?
Yaa: I would definitely love to style Kanye West and/or Victoria Beckham. I really dig their style and they are both my fashion icons. Even though I don’t think they need a stylist. To be honest, I think they would be teaching me how to style if I ever got the opportunity to style them (Laughs).

Zen Magazine: Who are your most stylish African celebrities right now in the world?
Yaa: Mmm let’s see, I would say Lupita Nyong’o for starters. When she gets it right, she masters minimalism to perfection. I also love Idris Alba’s style, Dbanj’s red carpet looks and David Tlale’s signature style, with his sleek hair and dark shades, he’s kinda like the African Karl Lagerfield.

Zen Magazine: When you aren’t working, how do you unwind?
Yaa: Nothing quite like a glass of wine and a dose of Fashion TV. But to be honest I’m usually just snacking on something and watching my favorite series like any other normal person. I also enjoy spending time alone listening to music, and I love to travel. I love a quiet night out time to time.


Zen Magazine: Any beauty secrets you swear by?
Yaa: Mm let’s see….. I exfoliate my face with lemon juice and sugar. And sometimes I use charcoal powder to whiten my teeth.

Zen Magazine: Describe African fashion in 5 words……
Yaa: Bold, Rich, Promising, Rising, Unique.

Zen Magazine: What’s next for Yaa?
Yaa: Well, I am currently back home in Nairobi trying to revive a clothing brand I started off with my brother when I was 21 known as Polka Boka. I have managed to create a few simple ready to wear pieces that should be soon up for grabs under the brand. As an aspiring designer I am greatly inspired by futuristic cuts, edgy minimalism and luxury. I’m also working on other projects such as music and a scouting agency but I don’t want to reveal much now. Soon I will (Laughs).

Zen Magazine: Any inspirational words for the younger aspiring models out there?
Yaa: Well, first things first never compare yourself to any one else. The modelling industry is very diverse and every model has their own different look and their own different success story. For some it could take as little as 3 months and for some it could take a few years. You need to stay focused, believe in yourself and be prepared for rejection. You have to stay grounded with yourself don’t be naive and desperate. Some people can smell desperation and it could land your career into bad situations. Make sure you know what direction you want your career to take you and do some research befor signing any contracts and doing certain jobs. It’s always a great idea to get a legitimate agency that will guide your career in the right direction. Most of all, Stay humble and keep working hard no matter how far you are up the ladder.

To follow more of the beautiful work Yaa Bonsu is doing, follow her on social media at on Twitter @therealyaabonsu and on Instagram at https://instagram.com/therealyaabonsu/