News & Runway

21 Questions With… Model and Activist Flaviana Matata

Image: Courtesy of The Lions NY

Flaviana Matata might want people to stop asking about her Instagram following, but at 1.3 million and counting, it’s hard to ignore. The barrier-breaking model competed in the Miss Universe pageant in 2007, making her the first woman from Tanzania ever to do so. Discovered by Russell Simmons, she’s appeared in campaigns for Diesel, Topshop, Clarins, Aerie and more and has walked a long list of runways including shows for Tory Burch, Vivienne Westwood, Tommy Hilfiger, Jason Wu and Rachel Roy.

But Flaviana Matata is far from just a pretty face. She studied electrical engineering before pursuing her modeling career, and while she does spend many days posing for cameras, she also launched a non-toxic line of nail polishes, available in more than 60 stores in six countries, and started a not-for-profit, The Flaviana Matata Foundation, which aims to empower Tanzanian girls through education. We spoke with Matata and asked her our quickfire questions. 

  1. The first thing I do in the morning is… say a prayer, drink at least one glass of water and check my phone.
  2. The last thing I googled was… “effects of bad posture.” I’m really trying to work on my posture; it’s something I’ve been ignoring for a while now, and I’m ready to start working on it.
  3. If my days had one extra hour… there will never be enough time in the day, so I’m OK with how it is now! We always want what we don’t have, no?
  4. The best beauty advice I ever received was… drink a lot of water, get enough sleep (still working on this one) and always wash your face before going to bed.
  5. My desert island beauty product is… my summer hat from Monrow, a hat line created by my dear friend Dani Evans.
  6. What people don’t realize about the modeling industry is… how tough it is. There is a lot of rejection, and we are always expected to be at our best, which is not realistic as we are only human.
  7. When I’m stressed… I call my sister Jema and vent. Bless her, as she is always there for me. I thank God for her.
  8. When my self-confidence has taken a hit… I just let it flow as I know it’s only temporary and it’s just one of those days.
  9. My guilty pleasure is… visiting our school in Tanzania and spending time with the kids. It satisfies my heart and makes me so happy.
  10. My most memorable career highlight was… it’s hard to pick just one as there are so many memories and I appreciate all the clients I have worked with. One of the highlights was working with Kenneth Cole — they booked me for a job based on the work that I am doing with my charity in Tanzania through my organization, Flaviana Matata Foundation, which empowers girls through education. They saw the passion I have for the charity and on top of that, helped us to build a classroom. I will forever be grateful for this.
  11. When it comes to working out… no one believes this, but I hardly work out. I haven’t been to the gym since last May. My body feels off though, so I’m planning on going back next week. I only workout when I feel like I need to. I know this isn’t good but heeey …
  12. One of my most challenging moments was… working on three different time zones, but I finally figured it out.
  13. If you looked at my desktop, you’d see… a bottle of my nail polish line, Lavy, hand cream and my laptop of course.
  14. My most memorable travel experience was… this past Christmas when I took my family to a safari. We had so much fun, and it reminded me how important it is to spend quality time with the people I love the most.
  15. I’m dying to splurge on… a trip to Bali.
  16.  If I could change one thing about the fashion industry… inclusion, diversity and to stop asking models about their Instagram followings.
  17. My favorite places to shop are… Saks and Target
  18. The best advice for looking great in a photo is… great lighting and to know your angles.
  19. My most treasured possession is… my phone, as it keeps me connected with my dear ones since I’m miles away from home.
  20. My biggest fashion regret is… the time I left the house without a tampon and my period came unexpectedly. I always carry one with me!
  21. One thing I wish people knew about me is… nothing, really, as what you see is what you get with me.