Get To Know The First Zambian Featured In Vogue.

At age 21, one young woman made history. She became the first Zambian to be featured in the world-renowned lifestyle and fashion magazine, Vogue  Italian edition: Vogue Italia. 

Who is she? 

Theresa Klein. A name to remember. A figure to watch.

Born within the city of Lusaka, in Zambia. Theresa resided in the well-known township of Kalingalinga, reputable for being a low-income high-density area. She was however adopted and now calls the state of Missouri in the United States of America, home. Where she attends the state university, as a Media Studies major.

Theresa Klein. Photo Credit - Perfective Photography.

Where did it all begin? 

In an unconventional place. With the sprouting of a dream to become an Afro-dancer. Theresa recalls her childhood in Zambia, to bout with the utmost longing to be a backup dancer for Koffi Olomide. A prominent African artist, within the genre of Rhumba, having millions of fans who marvel at his craft and dance away to the rhythm of his distinct compositions. But young Theresa, was brought aback when she gradually realized that most of his dancers were light skinned. The complete opposite of her skin tone  chocolate dark, enriched with a generous amount of melanin. She then fell prey to the woes of colourism, at the age of five. 

How abominable. 

Theresa found herself wanting to bleach her skin. She felt, her confidence slowly wither away as her dream did. Coincidingly leading her to believe the only way to replenish her self-confidence, was through lightening her skin. A desire she is glad she did not fulfil.

Being a young girl of about five years and thinking, and wanting to do such a thing, is pretty sad if you think about it. I never bleached my skin and thank God I didn’t because I would not be the woman I am today, if I did.” 

Whilst watching TV one time, Theresa was amazed by a South Sudanese model, who walked the British runway fearlessly, dripping chocolate darkrich, and irrefutably alluring melanin, on the prestigious ramp. Just like hers. Alek Wek, is her name, who is today, a world-renowned model and fashion designer. In that moment of immense admiration, Theresa decided to follow the path of the Sudanese star. One to becoming a dark-skinned model, unapologetic about the colour of her skin and embracing her exceptional full features. 

“But there was a problem at that time," Theresa says. "The Zambian modeling industry had not developed as much as it has now." 

For Zambia, the creative industry, particularly that of modeling, is one that has not always been up to par. Even though it continues growing by the yearit has not yet equalled to international operating standards, aired Theresa. So back then, whilst living in Zambia, her dream of becoming a model and gracing various magazine spreads, was simply that: a mere dream. So far fetched, it felt unrealistic. Barely did Theresa know, that one day, she would be that girl on the pages of a magazine, she closely admired. And not just any, but world-renowned publications, such as; Vogue as we know and even Delux magazine. An African American Magazine, for influential professionals. 

But before all this, Theresa Klein would be orphaned. She would lose her father, before losing her mother. Left to live with her stepfather, within the statehouse compound where he happened to be a cook. Then sent away, to finally reside with her grandmother. Here, she would start attending a small school for orphaned and vulnerable children, one called Vision of Hope. 

Theresa Klein. Photo Crefit - Kyle Alexandar.

"I loved learning, and I have always had massive ambition,” she says. It is at this particular school that Theresa recalls confidently telling her peers, that she would one day live in America. And as expected, they would laugh in sheer amusement. Ridiculing her American dream. A dream so many have had and too few have realized. But as if she possessed some sort of supernatural ability, Theresa certainly foresaw it. 

The year 2008 came, and so too did American missionaries to visit the community school. Theresa stood out to a pleasant woman, who then promised she would go back to adopt her and one other girl. Much to her surprise, the woman did return the following year to fulfil her promise. The two girls were well on there way to a completely different life in a whole new world, one with a keen new mother and a selfless father, who Theresa intently looks up to.

“My father is always helping people, and he is very honest. I want to be like him but the female version.

Theresa considers her father to be an honourable man, second to none. He urges her to be a person of substance and inspires selflessness in herfostering a habit of helping the less fortunate. But above all, he is the most commendable supporter of her career as a model. 

Upon her arrival, Theresa shared her dream with him. Wasting no time, her father promptly picked up the phone and made a few phone calls to a number of agencies. Most of which ended in disappointment, saying Theresa had the required look, but was lacking in height — she was apparently too short. He tried over and over again... relentlessly, until she decided to take a new approach — working with photographersTheresa set out to work with as many as possible, with the aim to gain real-world experience in front of the lens, lest she finally lands an agency contract. And so she did.

It wasn't long before Theresa's father succeededfinally getting her signed to an agency. One called Talent Plus, operating within the sphere of modeling and acting, owned by a power woman called Sharon Tucci. Theresa was however, placed under its acting division where she immensely longed to switch to modeling, often envying the line of work the models had. So, she kept booking photoshoots until the year 2018, when she came across the page of a photographer called Jai Mayhew. Theresa was in awe of her work, completely blown away by it. So much that she conjured up the courage to commend her, through a message that also shared her interest to work with her. 

"I mentioned to her and let her know if she needed any modelsshe should consider me.”

And so, she did. Theresa was then invited to the photographer's house, where she would have the photoshoot. Upon her arrivalshe met another woman who Theresa herself, describes as simply amazing. Heather Biernbaum, a makeup artist. The two exchanged pleasantries and went on to chat about random subjects such as skin care, while Ms Heather applied makeup to Theresa's face. Before finally initiating the shoot.

 "Both ladies were very encouraging and every shot we captured was filled with beauty and strength."

Theresa told the two women her life storygetting into the nitty-gritty of where she originated, her dreams and her very essence. Both women commended her for her unwithering strength, ultimately encouraging her to keep dreaming and never to give up. Never to throw in the towelassuring her she is more than capable. 

It wasn't too long before the makeup artist; Heather would send the two a link. What first grabbed Theresa's attention was the photograph attached to it... her photograph. What completely blew her mind, was opening it only to discover she had been featured in Vogue. It was merely a dream once, now it was all unfolding right before her eyes  sheer bliss. 

And it was in that moment, that Theresa Klein realized she had made history. Once a simple girl from a humble background, now the first Zambian to grace the world-renowned publication, Vogue. She knew nothing was impossible. Not for her. And certainly not for any young Zambian girl, who dares to dream as she did.

Do you believe this too? 

That nothing is impossible? 

What is your greatest dream? 

We are dying to hear from you, let us know in the comments below. 

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