From Liberia to New York Fashion Week

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Just less than a year in the US and unknown as a model, Candace Sayonkon battled the odds to become an international model, which paid off when she walked the runway of this year’s New York Fashion Week.

With this early success, Candace became one of the few Liberians who has displayed or walked the aisle of the New York Fashion Week.

Coming from a humble background, Candace started modeling at the tender age of 16 when she won the ‘Miss Valentine Beauty’ Pageant in 1997.

“After that event, the host and chief judge advised me to pursue a career as a model. At first I did not regard their counsel until my late grandmother added her voice to it. She used to encourage me always to follow my dreams and make them a reality.

“I accepted their advice, but I had to wait until graduation from high school. I did it because I wanted to acquire an education before anything,” she explained.

After leaving the walls of high school, Candace auditioned for a few local pageants and walked their runways, but gave up three months later.

“I had to give up because on many occasion I was approached to do something negative, which I did not agree to. Since I refused to give into their demands, I only walked the aisle one or two times.

“The situation became frustrating and unbearable for me to handle. Worst of all, I had the least walk on the runway at every event. However, after three months I decided to make a comeback and in no time I was signed to Monique Modeling Agency owned by Munah Pelham Youngblood, now Representative,” Candace said recalling her journey as a model.

“Mrs. Youngblood was not only an agent but also a mother figure whose motivation drove me to do more,” she continued. “She was always there for me whenever I needed her.”

A month after signing for Monique Modeling Agency, Candace made her runway debut at Fashion Liberia.

The following year, Candace became the major face of the agency rocking every important fashion show including the national Excellence Awards, Couture of the Blue and the prestigious Monrovia Fashion Week.

Two years later, the biggest highlight of her career came when she became ‘Face of Cellcom GSM,’ one of the nation’s major telecommunication providers.

“My success came through hard work and self-practices. I did not only rely on the knowledge the company gave; I did my own extra practice to improve on daily basis.

“I was not only hard working, I was also willing to listen and take corrections from my agent,” Candace added.
Moving to the US to pursue her career

After moving to the US to pursue her career, Candace stated networking with people who she thinks could help her break into the industry; however, none of her friends were helpful.

She decided to set the friendships aside and signed up with a modeling agency hoping that they could help her book a gig, but things were still the same.

Still not deterred by these setbacks, she continued to push for a breakthrough and in few weeks’ time she met Junda Morris Kennedy, founder of Liberia Fashion Marketing, who changed things around for her.

“I said to myself, if I will ever succeed then I must be the one doing everything. So I cut of my relationship with the agency and started creating avenues for myself.

“In no time, I got connect to Junda Morris Kennedy who offered me my first runway debut in the US at the Runway Liberia International Showcase,” she said.

Within the space of few months, Candace walked the runway of East Coast Fashion Week in Virginia with impressive results, which took her to New York Fashion Week.

At New York Fashion Week, she walked the aisle at five events including ASC Fashion Week, WYP Creative Art and Industry, and Midwest Fashion Week.

“To become successful, you must have the passion for what you do. Success does not fall from the blue sky, it comes with having patience, integrity, self -reliance, will power and so on. You must always have the determination to work harder, make hard decisions and stand by them.

“I’m grateful to Junda Morris Kennedy for the opportunity she give me to achieve my dream. Without her, I do not think I will be where I am today.

“Since walking the runway of New York Fashion Week my life has changed and I have learned to express the beauty of fashion in different styles and cultures,” Candace noted.

All in all, Candace’s ability to succeed in everything she does lies in patience, integrity, self -reliance, will power to make the harder decisions and stand by them.

Like most of our previous guests, Candace was born in Liberia.

Candace is the fifth child of Retired General Emmanuel N. Sayon Sr. of the Armed Forces of Liberia and his wife Mrs. Cecelia Juah Sayon.

She has worked as a ticket agent for numerous travel airlines including Providence International Travel Agency and Air Nigeria airline.

Note: This article is part of LIB Life series to promote Liberian women in the creative sector.

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