Randy Gowon on Gender Fluidity in the Kenyan Creative Economy
BY HARUN MOMANYI FOR KUNG'ARA STORE
The emergence of "gender-fluidity" as a subversive way of expressing identity amongst millennials has sparked global debate. The wave of gender ambiguity has also been championed by One Direction’s alumni Zayn Malik and American sweetheart Gigi Hadid in a recent Vogue cover. Nairobi’s most vocal gender-fluid model Randy Gowon is making huge strides in liberating the Kenyan fashion industry. His modelling portfolio includes Narok NYC and Adele Dejak, and journalists hail him as one of Nairobi’s leading Instagram muses. Randy has stated that:
“I’m one of those openly gender-fluid models. I don’t want to restrict myself to one gender. I am just in between, androgynous. I find it really interesting playing around with both sexes, and it is really fascinating that I could get away with wearing female stuff and still pull it off. In Kenya, I’m most probably the only male model advocating for that right now.”
(In an interview for Nasaba by Davis Ndolo)
Randy has attracted the attention of Zain Verjee’s Akoma, a Pan-African publication that focuses on raising the bar of African culture coverage and appreciation in the global media industry. Kung'ara got an exclusive view of Randy Gowon's world through his very own eyes and here’s what transpired in our interview:
Kung'ara: You credit Sunny Dolat of Chico Leco for discovering you as a model. He pushed you to your limit and managed your talent exploits, launching your modeling career. Having had your own success so far, what role do you feel you have in the Kenyan fashion/modeling industry?
Randy Gowon: I don't really think I've earned a role in the scene yet but I'd say that I'm an upcoming creative director as I enjoy directing shoots i.e the whole thought process of coming up with content is just something I enjoy doing.
Kung'ara: OkayAfrica, The Star Newspaper and other leading news outlets have praised you for having made such a bold decision to be an unconventional model; an androgynous public figure. Does your family support this? What are some of the challenges you've faced in your social life when you made this step?
Randy Gowon: My family dose support me, I guess they understand that as a model I have to play different roles, my mom especially has been very supportive. My friends have also been very supportive, most of them are in the creative scene and as we got to work together we've become really close, more like a family, which is good because I like to keep my circle small.
Kung'ara: In interviews, you have previously said that you wanted to pursue International Relations but your mom advised you to try out modeling. Are you considering going back to study anytime soon? Do you feel that Kenyan youth can succeed by purely depending on the arts?
Randy Gowon: Yes I plan on going back to university next year and I'm definitely going to study something related to the arts or in fashion. One can succeed purely depending on arts but one has to put so much commitment into it.
Kung'ara: The global fashion scene is laced with a new crop of models defining the future of the industry. Androgynous models, the likes of Ruby Rose, Agathe Mougin, and Pat Dudek are getting million dollar campaign deals and even appearing on the big screen. As someone who is carving a niche for himself, do you envision this happening in Kenya? How long do you think it will take?
Randy Gowon: Yes I see that happening in Kenya, people are slowly embracing change in the scene it might not be in the next 5 years but it's certainly in the horizon.
Kung'ara: What are some of the things that people confuse you for?
Randy Gowon: Haha, people are often afraid of talking to me because they say I have a "resting bitch face " or that I look like the kinda guy who'dignore you, but no, that's not me!
Kung'ara: What elements of nature do you draw inspiration from?
Randy Gowon: I get my inspiration from a variety of Flora especially the leaves from the Birds of Paradise flower and Palm Leaves.
Kung'ara: If you were to be on the cover of an African magazine, which one would it be?
Randy Gowon: GQ South Africa
Kung'ara: Navigating the Kenyan modeling industry is complex; some say it is not easy for talent to thrive without connections. You have mentors yourself. Do you think it is necessary for every upcoming model to have a mentor?
Randy Gowon: Yeah, I think it's really important as there will always be someone to push you and someone for you to always look up to.
Kung'ara: What do you do during your free time? Where wouldn’t you be found hanging out? Which is your favorite joint in Nairobi?
Randy Gowon: In addition to fashion, I would also call myself a foodie and I love exploring Nairobi's ever-growing, exciting restaurant scene with my best friend. On a Friday night, you'll probably find me at Alchemist same to Sunday afternoon.
Kung'ara: Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
Randy Gowon: I see my friends and I forming a collective that celebrates the arts.