Profile: After a childhood with bouts of homelessness and running away out of necessity, Kenisha Salvary can truly smile at the way her life has changed for the better. The adversity that she has faced has inspired her to motivate and be there for the youth and community.
She has given her all to use what she has overcome to help others and her inspirational presence led her to be crowned as Ms. Trinidad and Tobago UN 2015. Over the past year, she has promoted her platform, Kenisha Smiles, an organization “built on passion, hope, desire and the unlimited potential of the human spirit.”
Our Executive Editor, Isoke Karamoko, had the opportunity to connect with Kenisha, continue reading to learn more about her involvement in the pageant and how she plans to have a positive impact on our youth.
Empire Life: Congratulations on becoming Ms. Trinidad and Tobago UN 2015! What inspired you to go after the crown?
Kenisha Salvary: It all started with the words ‘you can’t’. I was having a conversation with someone about pageantry and the image around it. We spoke about how superficial it seemed and how hard it was to relate to the women we saw on TV. Somewhere in that conversation I heard, “You can’t do pageants, you’re too dark, you have a child and you have way too many bruises.” This may very well have been true, but for me, when I hear the word “can’t,” a switch goes off and I have to find a way. I understood the risk of failure, but helping society become something more relatable for little girls of color is so inspiring and worth the risk, that absolutely nothing could stop me!
EL: You participated in Ms. World UN 2015 last week! What goals did you set in preparation for the competition?
KS: I was so very excited for the opportunity and grateful that God is working so much out for me. I believe that my life is a gift from God, so my ultimate goal is to make everything I do with this life my gift to him. To prepare for the competition otherwise, I’ve been waking up every morning listening to the “fight song” by Rachel Patten, It say, “This is my fight song, take back my life song, prove I’m alright song, and I don’t really care if nobody else believes cause I’ve still got a lot of fight left in me.” That’s it, that’s the foundation of how I prepared, I put the image of God and the words to that song in my head and everything else has fallen into place. I walked away from the competition fulfilled; I’m privileged to say I’m the Caribbean Ambassador 2015.”
EL: “Congratulations, please tell us more about the title and how it will assist you in helping the community?”
KS: The Caribbean Ambassador position is much more than just a title, to me it is the responsibility of an entire nation. I feel responsible to bring Caribbean countries closer together and to strengthen the lives of those within my reach. I have already hit the ground running with a conversation between my rising non-profit Kenisha Smiles and the organization The Shoe that Grows so we can partner in fundraising efforts to assist children in Caribbean Orphanages to have shoes that fit for up to 5 years of school age. Each pair will cost $15 and my hope is to fill as many duffle bags as possile. The idea to reach out came about after my visit to a Jamaican Christian Boys Home where I saw children with their toes literally popping out the front of their shoes. I want to do everything I can to provide children with the necessary tools to combat their fight against poverty and enable them to rise above their adversities.
Next up I plan to contact Habitat for Humanities with in the Caribbean countries and partner to raise money for home repairs and building new homes for families living in extreme chronic poverty and homelessness. I recently saw a segment on the news in Trinidad that featured a family completely consumed by poverty. I have been in conversations with the TNT Habitat for Humanities discussing how we can work together to help them. The process is ongoing and I will stay abreast, ultimately I am praying for a new home and to be there through the building process. This is all the beginning with less than one week into my title, I am continuing to think of great ideas to empower our communities and the responsibility of my new title truly provides me with the platform to do so.
EL: Tell us more about the platform Kenisha Smiles, what is it’s mission and what do you envision
for the organization?
KS: Our communities are in danger. From youth to young adults and beyond, people of all walks of life are becoming victims to cycles of poverty. Each day, without realizing it, our society is affected by unhealthy families and communities. We are faced with chronic homelessness and broken spirits, our team sees this and believes it must stop now. The mission of Kenisha Smiles is to develop an organization built on the passion, hope, desire and the unlimited potential of the human spirit; to see growth that leads to a strong mentoring relationship, strong enough to reach all those considered to be “at-risk”. We envision a persons who have the necessary tools to become rewarding assets to their communities. You can learn more at www.kenishasmiles.com
EL: How did you balance pageantry, entrepreneurship, being a mom and full-time student?
KS: Let me be honest, it was extremely hard. I rarely slept and when I did it was often very near the time when I should be waking up. Being in a pageant is a lot of work especially if you want to give your best. This is also true for being a mom to a boy of color, ensuring that he truly learns who he is at a young age and instilling early habits that can benefit him for his life ahead. I try to make everything I do tie into each other. My son and I do homework together; mine and his. If I had speaking engagements for Kenisha Smiles or for the pageant, worked at homeless shelters or even walking hot chocolate and blankets around to homeless persons in the winter, my son was there for it all. I’ve even had to take him to a few classes and exams, too. He is learning that working hard and sacrificing is an absolutely necessary habit to have.
EL: What advice would you give fellow mompreneurs, trying to balance it all while building their empire?
KS: Find a way to make everything in your life intersect with each other, to balance out the time.
EL: Why should entrepreneurial women support one another, why is that sisterhood so important to have?
KS: Women in general. I’m so excited about this, about women empowering other women. We have to empower each other because it’ll be the reason we have empires at all. There was a time when women raised their children together, we borrowed eggs and shared laughter together. I remember that feeling of laughter growing up in Trinidad and Tobago and being surrounded by older women. I think as society progressed, we drifted away and lost sight of what helped us grow in the first place. Supporting each other is vital because two heads are always better than one.
EL: Lastly, what’s next for Kenisha Smiles?
KS: Oh very excited to be finishing up my first pilot and have really had some major impact in the lives of women chronically homeless. I have been recruiting volunteers for different positions and planning for our Christmas Gift Share and For Those Who Thrive 5k.
I really want to use this opportunity to shed light on some other hard working entrepreneurs and small business owners. So I’m sharing info on the designer, photographer and stylist who put together the shoot for this article.
About the Photographer:
Stamp DMV’s “mission is to make an outlet in which everyone in the DMV has an opportunity to have some light shined on their talents. Our goal is to promote everyone from musicians to upcoming events and everything that comes in between such as models, recording artist, photographers, producers, filmmakers and more.” Dior Davis is a Published Photographer, Cinematographer, Model, Actor, Model Manager and Brand Ambassador.
About the Designers:
By Studio D Maxi – Purple ruffle dress
Visit their website for more information on the company and it’s founder, Afua Sam.
Amyang Fashun – Designers of the Ankara blue skirt and white blouse and the Brown Ankara co-ord.
One of the services we offer our clients is custom attire, and I am always excited to work with ladies. I find more often than not, our lady clients do not realize their beauty, both outside and within. When we listen to their concerns, create for them, and present them with their custom attire, the beam of delight from their face is so gratifying. Every time I leave a fitting session, my goal is to return with a product that will extract and radiate my client’s inner beauty. Women, especially of Color, are not celebrated enough on a regular basis in media. Amyang wants to change that. We appreciate that our brand celebrates women of all shapes and sizes, skin tones, by helping them to look great and feel great in the items we create for them. We also want to be a haven for all women, especially Women of Color.
About the Stylist:
Mannie Toraz is a Virginia based fashion wardrobe stylist and founder of Luxury Lane Styling. Luxury Lane Styling is a styling company that provides styling services to individual clients and media. Mannie has always had a unique eye for fashion and style. Growing up in local boutiques and fabric shops, his passion for fits and fashion trends grew rapid. Mannie has styled many clients including Miss Virginia 2014, Courtney Garret and Miss Virginia 2013, Desiree Williams. Mannie’s goal is to enhance every individual’s personal style for all clients to be the best version of themselves.
About the Hair Make-up Artist:
Tracey Jenkins of Stellar Visage Make-up Artistry handles everything from a “From Girls’ Nights Out, to bridal beauty, to glamour photoshoots and fantasy/costume applications. Stellar Visage … help you put your very best face forward, and see yourself in the divine image in which you were created. The only limits are your imagination….”