'I grew up in Kenya until I was 7 before moving to London. I didn't live in the posh end. I lived in the streets—East London. It wasn't chic. I feel like I'm a street girl, which is why I like living in New York, so making that transition wasn't that hard for me. When my mom and I moved, we didn't have any money, so I was really focused on getting my modeling going—I would call my agents, and they would send me $200 just to get by. Usually for one one model it’s fine, but it was for both of us. We used to sing uplifting songs, and even though we were struggling, we laughed a lot—and then things started happening for me. My first modeling job was for charity. I was super nervous and scared, and shortly afterward I walked in a Prada men's show. I was proper nervous because it's friggin' Prada. I didn’t know I would then end up doing the campaign for them and be the second black girl after Naomi Campbell to be in a Prada campaign ever. I was just in shock! I am super grateful for Prada and what they did for me.
In this business you have to keep your head up. Things can't change in a day, but I mean—hey, I feel like it's doing good because I’m in it. Cindy Bruna is in it! Just in Victoria Secret's last show, there were a lot of black girls walking. Every model has struggled at some point, you have to just pick yourself up, be strong, and kick yourself in the ass if you feel like you’re not doing good—because you are.
I recently went back to Kenya with my boyfriend to visit, and so many of these young girls were coming up to me and asking to take pictures. I remember I was drinking a whisky and Coke or something, and this little girl comes from behind and is like, 'Malaika, can I just speak to you?' She was a 13-year-old, but she was acting like she was 20—so proper and mature. I felt like I was in an interview! [Laughs] But I stayed and talked to her. If I had run into Naomi Campbell when I was her age, I would have been speechless. If I met Jennifer Lopez and was a guy, I'd totally hit on her. [Laughs]
In the morning I wake up, and I obviously exfoliate. I use the Olay Pro-X Advanced Cleansing System. Then I’ll use my face cream—I usually use Avène, and I mix it with a bit of concealer if I’m going to a casting and blot it on my face. It’s like a homemade BB cream! It’s simple and gives me that glow. Then I just put Vaseline on my lips.
I really like natural skincare. I make my own masks out of sour cream and maybe some honey. Apparently the sour cream is good for something...I don't know, I read it on the internet. [Laughs] That's where I get a lot of my tips. I also put honey on my legs. In this weather, my legs feel really rough. I put loads of honey on my legs, wrap it up in cling film, leave it on for 10 minutes, then wash it off—and they’re so smooth.
I learned most of my makeup on YouTube, believe it or not. I used to freakin' watch YouTube every single night before bed and look up 'how to do makeup.' I’ve been watching this girl called ItsMyRayeRaye. She is so beautiful! I love contouring. I’m not professional—I think I am, but I can only do it with these videos. I also learn a lot from makeup artists like Wendy Rowe. She works with Burberry—I just watch what she does. She really got me into Burberry makeup. The Burberry Sheer Eye Shadows are so pretty, and they come in little pockets, which I love. I like gold, shimmery, and bronze-earth colors. I’m scared of colors on the eyes. I feel like it should just be nice, simple, and subtle, unless you’re going to a festival, and you can rock it out or something—maybe to like a Nicki Minaj concert or something...or Lady Gaga! Just go crazy for Lady Gaga’s concerts. I don't take makeup inspiration from them, though. I like Kate Moss—she’s very fresh and raw. You just should embrace your beauty. You don’t have to wear tons and tons of makeup to look pretty.
I’m always around makeup in shows, but when I’m at home I don’t really touch it. If I’m going on a night out, I’ll put on my red lipstick—I love my red lipstick, especially the dark reds that go into purple. I usually use Rimmel lipstick, but today I'm wearing Lipstick Queen's Bête Noir Lipstick in Mesmerizing Metallic Blackberry. I used to love lip gloss but now I feel like that’s a bit childish—though this Burberry Lip Glow in Gold 25 that I'm wearing overtop is kind of changing my mind.
I sometimes put egg and mayonnaise on my hair. You can buy a version of this hair mask it at stores, but you can also make it naturally, and it works just as well. I like my curly hair and know how to style it, but it takes ages because I want those curls to have that glow and that shine. If it’s breaking from all the heat, it’s not going to happen, so now I rather have it straight. It's actually less work for me. I try to put some sort of cream or leave-in conditioner on the ends as well because it’s so fragile. I like Windle & Moodie in London. The brand has good products for my type of hair as well. My hair is really broken, so I put a lot of their Invisible Day & Night Cream on the ends—it's a nice, thick cream.”
—as told to ITG
Malaika Firth (New York Model Management) photographed by Tom Newton. Malaika is wearing the Burberry Complete Eye Palette in Plum Pink No. 06, Burberry Light Glow in Tangering Blush No. 06 , Lipstick Queen's Bête Noir Lipstick in Mesmerizing Metallic Blackberry , and Burberry Lip Glow in Gold 25.