At only 20, Stephanie Pownall wears many hats. She is an upcoming musician, a composer, a commercial model and an athlete.
One of her singles saw her perform at the African Youth Conference 2015 in Zimbabwe. She spoke to Buzz about her love for music and athletics.
Who is Stephanie Pownall?
I am an upcoming artiste, an athlete, a model. I am also a student at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa in Nairobi. I try to do a lot. I have recorded three singles – that is Magic, House Party and This is our World. I am also an environment enthusiast. Go to YouTube, search and check out my songs. Don’t forget to subscribe to my channel.
When did you start singing and why did you choose this career path?
As far as I remember I always sang in the shower, at school, to my friends and parents. I finished my O levels at the Coast Academy and decide to take a gap year to concentrate on my music. I resolved to get into singing because I had written a lot of songs already. In 2014 I decided to hit the studio and produce my first song.
Do you write your own songs? Yes, I am a lyricist. I love writing. I have written more than 500 songs. I have written very many songs. Songwriting to me is the ultimate form of being able to make anything that happens in my life and others productive.
You had a performance at a conference in Zimbabwe. What was it like?
It was the First African Youth Conference based on climate change in Africa. I was honoured to be the first youth to represent Kenya in the conference. At only 17 years I was like an ambassador of the country in that forum.
That’s where I did This is our World. The scripting of the song was really involving. I was actually given a deadline to beat. I wrote it passionately as I care a lot about the environment. I am in an environmentalists group called African Artists Peace Initiative through which I got involved with the conference.
What other performances have you had? I performed in Diani at the Kaskazi beach hotel. There was a huge children’s festival that was taking place there. I look forward to more performances in Kenya and abroad.
What would you say sets you apart from other artistes? Most of my songs are written to pass a particular message. They advise. It is the stuff that deals with motivating people. I seek to speak about things that happen to people on a daily basis.
You are a student, what course are you taking and in which school? Yes. I am a student at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa pursuing Economics.
Apart from school and music what else do you do?
I am an athlete. I have been to various competitions including the 2016 Standard Chartered Marathon where I emerged 24 out of over 500 runners. I also ran at the 6km cross country 2016 where I was position 35 out of almost 1,000 athletes. Currently I am training at the Rongai Athletics club together with some accomplished runners such as Elijah Manangoi. They motivate me.
My routine is so demanding. I have to wake up at 4:30 to keep up with my training at 6 am. Besides that I am a model. I featured at the Two Rivers Mall billboard on Thika Road. I also got a chance to be part of the models in the Airtel 1GB commercial.
Have you signed to any label or agency? I work as a model under the City Models Africa directed by Ajuma Nasanyana.
What do you think about the modelling industry in Kenya?
I can’t really be very specific on that, but here is some advice. You are paid according to the standard you withhold as a person. Look decent. Be a beauty with brains. They will respect you. I signed up for communication skills classes to be able to pass messages effectively. Education also really matters a lot, your thinking is wider and different.
It is also important to have a talent manager. They can be your relatives, parents or a professional. They will help you strategise and work towards a particular goal. This will prevent you from exploitation.
How do you balance everything? It must be crazy
I have come to a common ground with my school work, music and sports. It is either the sports or the music. Balancing the two at the same time is a bit tricky. I have had to take a break from music but I have not completely detached myself. I will get back to the studio soon.
Probably next year there will be some good stuff. That’s for you to wait and see. For modelling, it is easy as I’m not a runway one. One thing that really helps me is I am really hard working. I don’t mind putting up some extra effort.
What inspires you?
I have always wanted to run. I admire the hard work and discipline the athletes put in. It inspires me to work really hard. Actually, my greatest inspiration is the fact that the Kenyan athletes still achieve a lot despite the limited resources. Also many come from different places and they sacrifice their time to focus on one sport. I also want to break a misconception that you have to be poor to become an athlete. For me, it is a passion.
Are your parents supportive?
My dad was an athlete. He represented Kenya in Ireland in 1980 in the long distance races. My mum loved singing and dancing, but she did not pursue it as her parents did not support her. She has really played a major role in marketing my music and advising me. Modelling also runs in the family.
My mother was a runaway model. She contested and emerged 2nd runners-up in the Miss Kenya 1991 pageant. She has had a lot of influence in me becoming an advertising model. I must have taken after them.
Between music, modeling and running, what would be your first choice? No, don’t ask me to do that. Everything I do has its own beauty.
What’s your goal or direction as a musician or in life generally?
Let’s start with now. I am looking for an international sports and an academic scholarship. Besides everything that I do, I am so passionate about my academics. In the next 10 years, I want to have made a decision on which career to pursue most. I also hope I will be working with the UNEP on environmental conservation.