Born in Nigeria and currently residing in New York, Phoebe’s journey has been shaped by her diverse background, personal struggles, and unwavering determination. In this interview with Harpers Bazaar Vietnam, Phoebe opens up about her experiences, motivations, and her vision for the future.
HARPER’S BAZAAR (HBZVN): Hello, Phoebe Kemi, please tell us what is the most interesting and difficult part of being in the fashion industry?
PHOEBE KEMI: Thank you for having me! The most interesting thing is all of the different and incredible beings I get to meet. Also, the traveling. Uncertainty and flexibility has to be the most difficult part.
HBZVN: Tell us about your studies at design school?
PHOEBE KEMI: I studied at Parsons School of Design in New York City. Majoring in Strategy Design and Management. Equate it to the most business like degree a fashion school can produce. Parsons was an experience in itself to say the least. I learned so much about myself and the world during my time there.
HBZVN: What was the catalyst for your career?
PHOEBE KEMI: Growing up with polar opposite parents and cultures left me with a lack of identity for many years. I was bullied in grade school and felt out of place. I always desired to be accepted for me. My father and stepmom gave me the much needed push and support to attend Parsons School of Design which I would say was the catalyst for my career today.
HBZVN: What motivates you to continue pursuing your passion/career?
Motivation is what gets you started. Determination is what helps you finish what you started… My mother was an actor & always loved the arts. So my motivation was initially curiosity of that. The fashion, beauty, and art industry. My innate determination to live my dream life, provide the life my family deserves, and spread love, creativity, and awareness is what keeps me going today. Nothing comes easy, but quitting will never be an option.
HBZVN: Do you prefer living in the United States or your home country Nigeria?
Nigeria will always be home for me. As of now, I prefer living in the United States – New York to be specific. I haven’t been back in years, but I will move back to my country once I am established here. I have plans for Nigeria. Sending love to Kogi State.
HBZVN: How long ago did you move to New York? Tell us about the period of formation of you as a person?
I have been back and forth living in New York and South Florida since 2018. I officially moved myself to New York in 2020. Moving to NYC was transformational for me. It allowed me to open up and feel comfortable in my own skin. At first there were many obstacles I faced moving myself up here. During the pandemic I was living alone in New York. That was a test in itself. I adapted quickly and adopted a tunnel vision towards my goals. Everything I did in New York had to make sense and add to the bigger picture. There was and still are many hardships I face living in such a cut-throat city alone as a young woman. I wouldn’t trade the pains I endured as it has shaped me to be who I am today.
HBZVN: You follow a strict holistic diet and it shows. Share your beauty and health secrets?
Nutrition is a hobby of mine. I followed the fruitarian diet for a year. I have been pescatarian, vegetarian, and vegan. I saw shocking benefits from all. I currently follow a personalized holistic diet. The best and most simple beauty secrets to share with you are bee pollen, greek yogurt, and bone broth. I take greek yogurt baths. Try it! You will glow.
HBZVN: How do you prepare for Fashion Week and important photoshoots? Is there a ritual you follow beforehand?
Preparation for things as such is physical, but just as much mental. Rest and exercise is essential. Pilates classes are my go to! And I do have a specific ritual I follow before big bookings; breath work, affirmations, and writing in my gratitude journal beforehand play apart.
HBZVN: What moral values are the most important to you in life?
Authenticity, generosity, and love are my most crucial moral values. It’s important that we stay true to ourselves and live in alignment with our own values and beliefs. While of course treating others with the same love, care, and respect that we would want ourselves. Being authentically you is the foundation of personal style and fashion. That is true power. Also being willing to give of ourselves and our resources to support those in need… These values help me to radiate a healthy and confident energy that can uplift and inspire those I encounter. So I aim to maintain them in my work and personal life.
HBZVN: What does culture mean to you?
To me, culture is the unique beliefs, traditions, and customs that shape our personal and community identity. It’s a way of understanding who we are and where we come from, as well as how we connect with and relate to others around us. I believe culture also evolves over time based on our current environment and who we surround ourself with. Culture is what makes us human in my eyes.
HBZVN: Are you involved in other ventures outside of modeling?
Yes, I’m invested in several ventures. I am a life insurance broker. I hold a healthy position in the crypto market as well. I also am in the early stages of my holistic beauty and wellness company. Which I take much joy and pride in. I cannot wait to reveal that soon.
HBZVN: What are your guilty pleasures and addictions?
Dry red wine, collecting designer handbags, spa days, and traveling! How could you not get addicted to Italian wine and shopping days while touring Europe?
HBZVN: What does it mean to you to live a meaningful life?
In my eyes a meaningful life is being true to yourself and finding a way to make a positive impact on the world. It’s about pursuing your passions and goals, spending time with loved ones, and also using your talents and resources to make a difference. It requires a sense of purpose and connection with something larger than just yourself. Whether that’s through relationships, spirituality, or service. All in all, I believe living a meaningful life means embracing the present moment, while striving to leave a lasting legacy for generations to come.
Model: Phoebe Kemi @phoebekemi.
Photographer: Nara Gaisina @gaisina_photo.
Wardrobe Stylist: Dasha Lo @dashabydaria.
MUA: Sang Le @sang_theglaminator using MAC Cosmetics.
Hair: Ashley Solomon @sleekedbyg.
Studio: Mik Space @mikspaceny.
PR: Mariia Borovenska @mariborovenskaya
Harper’s Bazaar Vietnam