The year turned out unpredictable and difficult. Industries folded up all across the globe and flamboyant economies plunged. The devastating impact of COVID-19 is far-reaching. Like every other industry, the fashion world faced unfashionable hindrance. Clothing stores now reek of dust from months of closure and once busy runway models are looking for alternative sources of livelihood.
Despite these challenges, one African is making headlines for an outstanding career effort. The black model and CEO decided to chart her own path after a series of frustrating turnouts with employers at various modeling agencies. Here is the inspiring story of a beautiful and young Congolese lady, Harmony Anne-Marie Ilunga.
Meet Harmony Anne-Marie Ilunga
Harmony Anne-Marie Ilunga was born in 1998. She later moved to Hong Kong in 2011 as a child refugee. With an interest in fashion and modeling, Harmony Anne-Marie Ilunga went across Asia in search of opportunities. However, the choice for dark-skinned models was scarce. Obviously, being in the diaspora without losing the African self-worth is important. She believed in her abilities and that brought a whole new value to her skin tone. Ilunga explains the severity of racism in an interview with LifeStyle,
“I would walk into an agency and they told me that they prefer white models to black models. I started lightening my skin, using lightening products… Just so that I could fit into society’s norms.”
However, bleaching her skin did not make things any better. The Asian model industry claimed that models had to be light-complexioned and thin. After many unsuccessful attempts, she began her own modeling agency in 2018. Her passion to bring about change was the birth of Harmony Hk modeling agency.
Harmony Anne-Marie Ilunga’s Modeling Agency
Harmony Hk is the product of creativity and out-right boldness. It is the first of its kind. Although it began operation a few years ago, the enterprise rapidly expanded its team size and improved the quality of its services. It now efficiently handles a colorful range of services that includes a model agency, fashion shows, and unique products. This successful expansion is a defiance of the harsh racial environment.
For the most part, Harmony Hk is the talk of the town because it presents a radically new approach to modeling. It is famous for supporting and contributing to racial and ideological diversity and inclusion. In fact, that is the fabric from which it is cut out. The decision to welcome people otherwise thought unfit for modeling and its success has brought the enterprise to the center stage.
The entirety of the Harmony Hk agency is refugee-curated. This also makes it special. The enterprise has made a strong positive impact on refugees. It is also responsible for bringing several ethnic minority talents to the limelight in Hong Kong. Any fashion enthusiast will know that this is an unusual trend and an applaudable feat. Currently, the agency works with 32 male and female models. That is not all. This mix of talent comes from a long list of minority countries such as Rwanda, India, and the Philippines.
A different Kind of Fashion Show
Harmony Anne-Marie Ilunga has a strong passion for philanthropy. This is no surprise knowing that giving is an integral part of the African culture. It is also a necessary sacrifice by the black CEO who understands and had experienced the struggles associated with being a refugee.
Harmony HK consistently holds a bi-annual fashion show. Vol. 4, under the theme “ONE”, is to further portray the agency’s popular mantra of unity especially in the face of the COVID-19 crisis. In addition to this, 20% of the proceeds from the fashion show are used to support charities that handle refugees, gender inequalities, NGO environmental projects among others.
The Challenges and Success of Harmony HK
Every industry comes with its own challenges. A modeling agency is not an exception. It is constantly faced with the challenge of recruiting dedicated and passion-driven individuals. After this comes the task of instructing and training the new models. There is also the need to ensure that all models maintain the right physique. As if that is not enough, modeling agencies have to beat the competition in finding sponsorship and a good customer base. However, Harmony Anne-Marie Ilunga is doing it so well.
According to the Hong Kong Free Press, Asian expectations are still rigid. Chinese customers see pale and slender body types as standard according to Laurence Lim Dally of Cherry Blossoms Intercultural Branding. This is mentally challenging for black models in the region. However, Harmony Anne-Marie Ilunga is optimistic after receiving positive feedback from a parent.
An Inspiration To Africans In The Diaspora
Good deeds like those of Harmony Anne-Marie Ilunga are attractive. The Congolese is single-handedly responsible for bringing hope and acceptance to black models in Hong Kong. This will definitely serve as an inspiration to many others. Africans in the diaspora can emulate her act of courage and strength. Young black people can follow in her steps to fight racism through defiance to the norm. Whatever society says black people cannot do, strive to excel there.
Also, the story of this female CEO is a lesson to every other black woman. Perhaps, her success will encourage the participation of women in administrative roles. Ilunga also inspires a picture of togetherness. She has constantly shown readiness to support fellow Africans. Other successful Africans can learn to support and promote the welfare of their brothers and sisters in the diaspora and at home.
Harmony Anne-Marie Ilunga is as glamorous as the impact she is making. Africans in the diaspora will now wake up to the realization of their potential, despite racial difficulties. One lesson you should learn from her story is that your environment should never limit your potentials. Never give up the fight because the success of many others depends on yours.
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