Her eyes are the first thing you notice when you look at her pictures. The deep brown pools switch from an intense stare to a warm inviting gaze in the flash of a camera. It’s no surprise though – Chanelle has been posing for the camera for over 10 years. Her career began in Zimbabwe, bagging campaigns with Shamaika, Bella Hair and Deep Beauty Products, and strutting down the runway at Zimbabwe’s first ever Fashion Week. Everything screeched to a halt in 2008, when she had to pack her bags and move to England.
With most of her family already in England (her father is English), she didn’t feel completely alone. However, not even the safety net of family could protect her from unavoidable culture shock. “Having family made it easier to adjust as I had a heads-up on everything, which I’m thankful for. However, your family isn’t there with you in the schoolgrounds or in the classroom.” Like many young Zimbabweans, Chanelle had a tough time finding people she could really connect with – a problem she hadn’t faced in her home country. “The people were the biggest thing to deal with. I didn’t expect to be judged for being different, or excluded from social circles because I spoke differently. Not saying that every person here thinks like that, I just found that the social prejudice of certain classmates shocked me.”
Although adjustment was initially uneasy, Chanelle overcame the growing pains. She’s made friends, with her best friend being Zimbabwean. Living in London, affectionately known as “Harare North”, was an added bonus: Chanelle had a little home away from home, to get her through the times that homesickness hit hard. Part-English she may be, but the model didn’t ditch her Zimbabwean identity. For Chanelle, it’s clear that she can be just as comfortable walking the streets of Harare as Portsmouth.
If there’s one thing that hasn’t changed about Chanelle, it’s her determination. The six years she’s been living in England haven’t always been rosy, but true to Zimbabwean nature, she hasn’t let bad experiences derail her plans. Currently studying Fashion Marketing, Management Business and Entrepreneurship at university, Chanelle wants to make a bold splash on the fashion industry. She’s continued her modelling career in Portsmouth, where she’s now based, working with photographers and make-up artists, building her network with each photoshoot. She’s had to learn new skills to land jobs, both in and out of the fashion world. Given how fickle the industry is, a career in fashion isn’t one that the average Zimbabwean parent would support. Lucky for Chanelle, she’s always had her parents in her corner. “My parents support my decision. They believe in allowing a child to cultivate their gifts.”
For Chanelle, the road to success is still long, but as long as her passion for fashion keeps burning, she knows she’ll make it big. “I believe that everyone has gifts and it is one’s own responsibility to cultivate those God given gifts.” So she keeps working, keeps learning, and keeps praying, never doubting herself and never giving up.
Twitter: Chanelle Davies @CocoChanelle93