Name: Flaviana Matata
Agency: The Lions
During NYFW, Flaviana Matata stood in the center of Soho’s Jimmy at the James at ease in a gilded suit and stilettos. Anyone else might have shown signs of worry about how the raging sleet and hail would have affected their party but the former beauty queen appeared unfazed. As she greeted attendees and graciously consented to photo requests it was clear that not even mother nature could stop her mission.
Hello Beautiful spoke with the woman once named one of the top 10 Black models in the world as she prepared to take her eponymous foundation to the next level with a New York Fashion Week style fundraiser.
“We’re not just here to drink free champagne,” asserted Matata. Born in Tanzania, Matata founded a 501(c)(3) to provide educational opportunities to young girls in her home country. Before she was walking for Vivienne Westwood, Tory Burch, Jason Wu, Rachel Roy, and Charlotte Ronson and gracing the pages of Marie Claire, Essence, and Nylon she was a child in Shinyanga who claims her life was changed by education.
Her family was adamant that her sex wouldn’t hinder her educational prospects and now she is championing the prospects of the young girls behind her. “I believe these children matter,” she said. “We will continue to support their desire to achieve education.”
She expressed her hope to “have a lasting impact on the lives of girls in Tanzania.” She also made a point of saying that her efforts were to facilitate the girls uplifted by the foundation in “finding a great job or starting their own business.”
“It is important to know how to run a business for yourself,” she stated. In additional to working as a sought-after model Matata is an entrepreneur. She owns a line of nail polish called Lavvy that is currently available in six separate countries.
Later as she introduced a video chronicling the experiences of the 15 inaugural girls the program was able to affect (currently preparing for their second year of college which will be paid for in part by the $30,000 Matata was able to raise that evening no thanks to the ice storm) she spoke more about her program’s commitment to removing every obstacle for the girls it serves.
“Since 2012 we have been able to build wells, classrooms, toilets, and we have provided to over 4500 kids school supplies,” she said to roaring applause.
She was undeterred by the enormity of the task of evolving the program from scholarships alone to a variety of full service resources. “We had to go back to the drawing board to resolve these issues first,” she said later, as if it was the most automatic choice in the world.
The turnout was a reflection of the industry’s respect for Matata. DJ Olivia Dope provided the tunes for the event before she was due to spin for the afterparty at the Blondes. And partners in the event present pledged additional funds to jumpstart the donation process. Sherry-Lehmann Wine & Spirits donated the drinks that Matata said she was using to “Bring a purpose to fashion week.”
“Every woman can be what she wants to be and Flaviana is the perfect example of that,” said Burnett New York co-founder Sterling McDavid.
By the end of the evening as attendees swiped their cards on the Square readers of the volunteers to purchase notebooks, and dorm necessities on their way to face the still raging storm it was clear that as New York Fashion Week wound to a close Matata’s mission to change the world one school girl at a time was just getting started.