“Today I woke up in Los Angeles, USA. It’s a long shot from starving in a refugee camp in Kenya to becoming a model. It feels like I am day dreaming, like I used to when I was a child whenever I watched American films. When my family and I moved to America in 2004, I was 11 years old but the oldest of 6 kids and the head of the household because we only had our mother. I was a lot more mature than most kids my age, and that caused me problems in school. I was often bullied because of my dark skin, so I became very insecure and struggled to accept myself.”

~ Simon Okullu


“Throughout middle school and high school, I would often avoid events that involved pictures just because most of the time, people laughed at how dark I looked in them. I didn’t attend my high school prom because I was afraid of taking pictures and I just hated the idea of dressing up. In my mind, I believed I wasn’t going to be anything because I felt less than most of my peers. Even though I had an inferiority complex, it drove me to want to prove people wrong. I was determined to show everyone that I was better at sports, school, and that I could work harder than everyone. I began to slowly surround myself with mentors and people who were doing things I wanted to do, and slowly I started to change the perception I had about myself.”

~ Simon Okullu


“Today, at 29 years old, I am extremely proud of my dark skin and the man that I have become. I am strong, I am loved, I am an African king. That is what makes me special, and I shine because of it. When I look at these images, I feel a soaring feeling in my heart, knowing that I am exactly where I am supposed to be. I feel like I don’t have to try to be “hard” and bottle all my grief and sadness. I can let it all go and just cry if I need to and scream. I don’t need to hide because of the ignorance of others. I will stand proud and be my authentic self. I am so grateful to my mother for her hard work and self-belief. I watched her struggle with 6 kids, and she took all of us from nothing to something. I have nothing to lose because I’ve already experienced adversity and fought through it. I dream of one day returning back home to the village and putting on a film that I am starring in for everyone to watch. I dream of giving hope to young black kids to believe and chase their dreams. I will make my family and village proud.”

~ Simon Okullu


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