I Aspire to Leave a Mark in the Industry


By Mukurima X Muriuki

My name is Nakadama Daphine Biruma.  My friends simply call me Naka! I was born and raised in Lusaka, Zambia and currently residing in California.

naka1Growing up in Zambia was fun because, after all, it’s home. There was so much to do and there was never a dull moment. I could take trips with my best friend to places like Victoria Falls in Livingstone, which was quite the experience. In addition, living on a farm was very exciting. I loved sitting under the mango trees, and watch the monkeys scavenge for food. It was fun!

It may sound weird, but when people ask me where I am from, I always say Kenya because it is the easiest explanation I can give-my mother is Kenyan and my father is Ugandan, but I was born in Zambia! I consider myself Kenyan, Ugandan, and Zambian.

I grew up more of a tomboy! I spent time playing with the neighbor’s kids, riding bicycles, climbing trees, and I loved it! However, life was also challenging because we didn’t always have the finances to spend as we would have liked. We therefore had to be careful with the way we spent money. Going to school was another challenge. I had to take more than one bus since  we lived in the farm and school was in town. The roads were really bad and I had to wake up early to make sure I got to school on time.

Later on my family migrated to the United States. At first, there were many challenges I had to navigate. Everything was so strange-the food tasted yucky, my heavy accent back then made it difficult for kids at school to understand me and the environment was different! It was a major culture shock! It was also strange seeing snow for the first time; I thought it was really cool! The people were not as warm as I was used to back home, not to mention it just didn’t feel like home. I would cry a lot; I was a little girl and my identity was so much rooted to the African way of life. I saw every challenge as a frustration and this made me want to go back home and live with my dad. However, as Dr. King say, time never rolls on the wheels of inevitability and eventually I got used to the demands of America. Besides, I had my sister and my mom with me and this gave me the home feeling and warmth I craved for.

I have adapted to the rigors of American life. In the long run I see myself being an Interior Designer and an entrepreneur. Currently, I do modeling and it is really fun. It creates opportunities to network and meet people from diverse cultures. I love being in front of the camera and just collaborating with different people. I am all about creativity and I love anything involving art. I see modeling as an art and it helps bring other perspectives to life.


Being a model in a state like California is not a walk in the park. For example, I am not the typical size 0-lengthy-model, but who is a ‘size 0’ these days? I am slim but curvy, and even with such a body, finding representation is not all that easy. In most cases, the feedback I get is “You are not look we want right now.” I appreciate such feedback because while it makes one work harder, it also toughens a person because in this industry, models  face a lot of rejection and this can easily affect one’s confidence. I haven’t given up because I have not come this far to lose. I know that my time is coming, so I always tell myself to be patient and remain positive!

My vision is to finish school because education is very important to me. I want to get my college degree, become a successful interior designer, entrepreneur, model, wife, mother-well, the whole 9 yards!  I also want to do something for the kids back home in my motherland. I want to build a youth center for them, where they can learn, play and just enjoy being young!

Love life in America has been very interesting. I am a private person when it comes to my personal relationships. However, I have noticed that the men I have dated have come from the same background as me. I think it is just easier to connect with someone who knows what it’s like leaving home and coming to America- the struggles of being in a not so well developed country, but also just sharing the same culture and sharing memories of childhood. I am not opposed to other cultures nonetheless. I think it’s fascinating dating someone who has a totally different background than you. So who knows what God will bring? I am open to it.


To be featured here as an African living in Diaspora, write to me, mukurima@gmail.com