“There has been no greater choice than founding the Flaviana Matata Foundation. When I look at the lives we’ve changed and the continued impact we will make in the future, I’m filled with gratitude” Flaviana Matata
Flaviana Matata is one of those people who makes you want to do more, be more. Born and raised in Shinyanga Tanzania, Flaviana has gone on to become one of the world’s top models as well as an Instagram success story thanks to her 1.5 million followers – but it’s how she’s used these platforms to help raise the attention of different philanthropic ventures that really sets her apart.
Named as one of 2014’s Most Influential People in Africa by New African Magazine, one of the Most Influential Icons in Contemporary African Pop Culture by Africa.com, and one of the Top 100 Women in Africa by okay.com, Flaviana’s drive to help others has not gone unnoticed. And while she has worked with a great number of different African charities, Flaviana’s greatest achievement is the launch of the Flaviana Matata Foundation – a nonprofit organisation helping young women receive proper education and opportunities. It’s the building of this foundation that Flaviana considers “my best life decision”.
Inspired by Flaviana’s story and with Covid-19 forcing the world into lockdown, we decided to use the time to pull her aside to find out a bit more about what makes this model-turned-business mogul tick. Here, she sits down with us for a virtual chat about her true self.
Where did you grow up? How would you describe your childhood?
I grew up in Tanzania in a middle-class family. I was raised by a bold, proud African man who instilled invaluable principles in me and my four siblings. He not only ensured I was educated, but my siblings, our relatives, and the community we lived in as well. My mother passed away very early, but we never went without and always knew we were loved.
What made you decide to get into modelling/influencing?
I studied electrical engineering in college, modelling was never an industry I ever thought to enter. I honestly didn’t even know if I would like it initially, especially growing up as a tomboy. But, I made the decision at the start of my career that I’d use my platform and opportunities as a bridge to what was and is most important to me – educating young women. I was raised to see a need and where able, assist in providing its solution.
What does your life look like away from the cameras and phones?
I’m always working, so when I’m away from the camera, I’m attached to my phone/laptop. From running my 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization: the Flaviana Matata Foundation, to my non-toxic cruelty-free nail polish and personal care line Lavy, and other business ventures – I’m working across 3 continents, in multiple time zones keeping up with productions, operations, friends, and family. I can be away from the camera, but not away from my phone.
How do you spend your favourite evenings and weekends?
I love to cook, but any given evening you can catch me doing laundry, cleaning, or catching up with friends. However, now with so much going on in the world and the very real need to stay inside and physically distance ourselves to flatten the curve, I’ve been doing virtual work outs. I never thought I’d like them, but they have been such a gift.
What have been some of your career highlights?
It’s difficult to choose just one as I’ve been blessed to have so many highlights throughout my career. But, I will say the opportunities that bring me the most joy are the ones who hire me because of the work I do, not simply because I’m a pretty face. Brands like Bare Minerals, Naturalizer, Kenneth Cole and so many others. Before it was popular, I was using my platform to give and reach back while continuing to rise up. It is a blessing when brands you know and love support you in your efforts and achievements.
What have been some of your career lowlights?
I don’t have career lowlights as I’ve always understood things don’t make you happy. For me, understanding it’s never about the things, I never had a problem turning down projects that would require me to sell myself short.
What has been your best life decision?
Building my foundation in my birthplace is my best life decision. Sometimes I have moments where I’m overwhelmed, but there has been no greater choice than founding the Flaviana Matata Foundation. We are providing 25 girls with full scholarships and everything they need to be in school, we continue to support them through college. We have also impacted over 5,000 youth providing school supplies and proper educational facilities through the building of latrines and administration facilities. And even through the COVID-19 pandemic, we are still working to ensure they’re equipped with the tools and resources to overcome every challenge. When I look at the lives we’ve changed and the continued impact we will make in the future, I’m filled with gratitude. And to think we’re just getting started.
What’s been the hardest thing you’ve ever had to go through?
I’m experiencing it now actually. I’m a firm believer in healing in the places you were broken so you don’t cut and bleed on people that didn’t hurt you. So, I’m taking the time to heal and mend and I’m positive I’ll rise from this experience better than before. The thing about tough situations is they don’t last always. We’re presented with tough situations to disrupt, agitate, frustrate, and eventually force us to confront the things that will no longer serve us. So, although the decision is difficult to make, it brings about necessary change and many times growth.
What would be your number one piece of advice to your 15 year old self?
I’d tell my 15 year old self that you don’t have to figure it all out at once. Life is a journey. Make sure you’re open enough to explore it. Honour your feelings and feel how you need to feel. Then remember, no matter how much you know, it’s okay to ask for help.
What is your life mantra?
Do your best and let God do the rest. Work hard and share your blessings – we are blessed so that we can bless others.
All images: Flaviana Matata