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Thursday 29th of September 2022

Nairobi, Kenya

Flo Ngala, Photographer Behind Some of Cardi B’s Most Iconic Moments

Photographing one of the world’s most sought after celebrities may seem a daunting task, but for Flo Ngala it’s all part of the day job. For two years, the photographer captured parts of the life of musician Cardi B, from video shoots to intimate moments with her family to sold out arenas. Here writer Alix-Rose Cowie speaks to Flo to find out what it takes to snap shots that are seen by millions, and document moments that will go down in music history.

Flo Ngala We’re both young women chasing our dreams and doing our work

When everyone on a Cardi B music video set is being told “strictly no phones, no photos,” Flo Ngala is quietly snapping away, swooping in between takes to get the shot. “There’s not really anyone telling me what to do,” she says. Since 2017 Flo has gained exclusive access shooting behind the scenes for the hip hop superstar on music video sets, at music festivals, awards shows, talk show appearances and two Met Galas. “It’s not like an outlined role,” she says. “It’s more like a kid who has a good eye and gets a chance to work with a big artist, and I’m just going to go in and do my thing.”

Flo was first given the opportunity to shoot Cardi B by Atlantic Records in October 2017. Her single Bodak Yellow had been a hit all summer and she was performing it at the BET Hip Hop awards in Miami. The audience saw a kaleidoscopic fur-laden Cardi B in hot pink high-waisted velvet trousers and a bra made of jewels stake her claim on the stage before going on to win multiple awards. Backstage, Flo captured a wholly more private moment as Cardi B celebrated her own firsts with her close-knit team and her now husband Offset in her dressing room. “I was just happy to be there, like a fly on the wall, just observing,” Flo says. “It’s a little intimidating when you’re around a big star. It was my first time being around someone who was as famous as her. I think she’s so used to having so many people around her that for a while she even recognized my face.”

Shooting the same subject over time naturally fosters a familiarity between a photographer and her subject and over the two years that Flo has been shooting Cardi B, she’s captured her in high spirits: cracking jokes with her team and turning up the volume to entertain an audience of thousands, but she’s also captured her tired, hungry, and pregnant. “I think she definitely knows how to bring it out and be this funny, outgoing person when she needs to be, but in general she also has a pretty low key side as well,” Flo says.

One thing she’s learnt over time is to gauge what images of herself Cardi B will like and which she won’t. Early on when Flo would show selects to Cardi’s hair stylist or make-up artist they’d immediately pick out the ones she wouldn’t like. “They were like: this doesn’t look like her, she’s not going to like the picture,” she says. Any picture she posts to social media has the potential to be picked up by numerous fan pages, re-posted and re-tweeted until it’s seen by millions of people. The intractable nature of an online image means that what she decides to post comes with a certain responsibility. Although there’s no formal approval process for the images Flo shares online, she’s sensitive to Cardi B’s insecurities.

“Being a woman informs the way I photograph a woman. Nobody wants an unflattering image of them out there,” Flo says. “There might be what I think are incredible photographs but if she wouldn’t like how she looks in them, I try to respect that and avoid putting it out there.” The way tabloid press treats celebrity pictures has led us to believe that celebrities waiver this right in exchange for fame. But this only makes their image more fiercely controlled. It’s through Flo’s respect for her subject as a person that she’s gained Cardi B’s trust and the trust of her label and, in turn, she’s invited behind closed doors to document what others don’t get to see.

Flo doesn’t take this access for granted. Her gift is capturing human moments from within the pop machine: the late hours on a music video shoot when Cardi B can’t keep her eyes open as her make-up artist re-applies her lip liner in bed; or satisfying a pregnancy craving for watermelon between takes while dressed in a voluminous wedding gown designed to cover her growing belly. These photos are the ones Flo has come to appreciate the most.

Showing the public persona and the private persona of someone is pretty cool.

“When things are set up — it’s not a bad thing — but you are seeing what the director, the photographer, the agency, whomever wants you to see whereas when you’re taking pictures as they’re happening you can catch in-between moments and the candid, the off guard,” she says. “Especially with celebrities, the images are so well-curated, taken care of before they’re put out into the public. I think a big reason why Cardi B rose to fame is because she’s really good at being real and just being honest, being transparent.”

There are two photographs that Flo shot at the Broccoli City Festival in Washington, D.C. in 2018 that were taken within an hour of each other. In the first, a blue-haired Cardi B ascends the stairs to the stage, mic in hand, for her last performance before taking a break to give birth to her daughter Kulture (whose first birthday party Flo was asked to shoot a year later). She’s surrounded by security, festival crew, cameras and a crowd of fans with phones raised to nab a pic. In the second image she’s laying feet up on a couch, scrolling through her phone, alone, surrounded by take-out boxes.

When viewed as a pair, the before and after shots provide a rare glimpse at the duality of celebrity. “Showing the public persona and the private persona of someone is pretty cool,” Flo says. “It’s a duality we all have.” It’s this humanness that Flo sets out to capture.

The most viewed image of Flo’s from Broccoli City Festival was a different one though: an image of Sasha Obama hanging out backstage with Cardi B and Offset. The image went viral instantly. “It was literally TMZ hitting me up and Page Six. It was on the Daily Mail, it was crazy,” Flo says. While she appreciates the artistic opportunities being on music video sets or backstage allows her, Flo can’t ignore the platform it’s given her too.

“I was taking pictures for a couple of years before I got the opportunity to work with Cardi,” she says. “I definitely credit working with people like Cardi and Gucci Mane for why my images really started to be seen. In America we glorify celebrities and put them on this pedestal so I understand as an artist, but also as a consumer, that this is something people want to see. I think being able to use my eye and what I love about the world and capture a Rihanna or a Beyonce or, you know shoot Leonardo Di Caprio for Vanity Fair — and I’m just kind of throwing stuff out here — but whatever it is I think that’s definitely going to be a running theme in my career for sure. I appreciate being able to meet these people that a lot of people know or respect for their craft or their money or whatever and be able to figure out how to approach them to create a powerful image.”

 I’m not trying to be her best friend, I’m trying to give her the best images.

And to get the shot Flo has had to learn to work with what she’s got: sometimes this is a few seconds squished into a narrow hallway backstage while Cardi B does a quick outfit change in a closet, and other times this is the luxury of having a professional lighting set up to take advantage of on a music video set. “It teaches me to work with different scenarios and just try to make the best of a situation,” she says. Moving between different lighting set-ups, Flo keeps a consistent look to her images by almost always shooting on the lowest aperture possible. It has the desired effect of making you feel like you’re in the room with her. “I think that’s part of why people look at my photos and feel this sort of intimacy or feel this proximity,” she says.

Flo usually relies on chatting to her subjects to make them feel comfortable in front of the camera but with Cardi B it’s different. “I know I’m there for a job, she knows she’s there for a job, so I don’t really have to cushion the situation to make it more comfortable,” she says. Instead she gives small, quick directions where she can.

“Cardi’s already on a video set and she just spent four hours in a chair getting her make-up and hair done and now she has to perform this one scene five times, so I try and minimize the talking where I can,” she says. “Once I get the shot, I keep it moving, it’s important to be alert when shooting BTS. I’m not trying to be her best friend, I’m trying to give her the best images. When there has been down time in her trailer it is fun to chat and joke with her team but I’ve actually never even asked her for a picture!”

By keeping her head down and her camera up, Flo has inadvertently created a vast and colorful archive of one of the world’s iconic entertainers. It’s a collection of images that she’s only recently realized will mean a lot to look back over both personally as a record of her early career but also for the world remembering a historic time for women in hip hop. “Hopefully one day these pictures will mean something more than me, more than throwing them up on my social media or my website or her Instagram, you know, so that’s exciting,” she says. But for now, she says, “We’re both just two young women who are chasing our dreams and doing our work.”

This article originally appeared on Wepresent 

Content courtesy of Wepresent & Nairobi fashion hub

Moet Hennessy Takes Top East African acts on an Exclusive VIP Experience to France

Vanessa Mdee , Lucia Musau , Daniel Lubwama Kigozi”Navio” , Shaffie Weru , Alexandre Helaine

Moët Hennessy which is part of The No.1 luxury company LVMH – Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy, invited top acts from East Africa to France in an experience dubbed #MoetHennessyVIPTrip.

The experience involved a visit to the hearts of Hennessy in Cognac and Moët & Chandon in Epernay, Champagne region of France. This VIP experience aimed at giving insights and an immersion to the Moët Hennessy world of luxury

The invites got to visit both the Hennessy’s Chateau Bagnolet and Moët & Chandon’s Chateau Trianon. Different Kings and Queens have dined in these Chateaux which are strictly by invite only

Those invited included: Award winning Fashion & Lifestyle Blogger Lucia Musau and Radio host Shaffie Weru from Kenya, Musician Vanessa Mdee from Tanzania and Navio from Uganda. Accompanied by Alexandre Helaine, Moët Hennessy Market Manager Eastern Africa

Mr. Alexandre Helaine mentioned that, “East Africa is a fast growing market and people are looking for quality goods. The trip is a great way to showcase the luxury histories and traditions of our houses Hennessy Cognac and Moet & Chandon Champagne to big stars from Africa. It’s all about blending history, traditions, know how, quality and art”

The No.1 luxury company LVMH – Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy, invited top acts from East Africa to France in an experience dubbed #MoetHennessyVIPTrip.

See more  Images from the Moët Hennessy Experince on the next page 

Top 10 Kenyan Fashion Bloggers

The aim of this list is to feature all the notable and upcoming Kenyan fashion bloggers. We feel this is a great way to recognize and appreciate their efforts while giving them a boost to their readership. Fashion blogging in Kenya is becoming a major gig and a hobby for many who use it to showcase and cover their personal styles and share ideas. Even though the ladies have dominated this sphere, the menfolk have also shown their capability and strength in running a fashion blog too. This is a random list (and not a marketing copy), but it is also worth to know the top female fashion bloggers in Kenya and top men fashion bloggers in Kenya.

Top 10 Female Bloggers in Kenya

1. Sharon Mundia

Sharon is one of the popular female fashion bloggers in Kenya. Her efforts have earned her the rights to rank among the top. She runs the “This is Ess” fashion blog and believes that fashion is all about expressing your personal character and imaginations in the best possible way.

She started blogging in 2012 and hopes to inspire women across Africa. Some of the categories she covers include travel, wedding, lifestyle, and beauty. She also writes for Lifestyle Magazine run by Capital FM.

2. Nancie Mwai

Her love for fashion started while she was still a young girl and she grew to pursue her dreams. She started out as a stylist for the Nation Newspaper, and she later launched “The Fashion Notebook,” an online fashion blog, in 2010. Nancie has enjoyed a glare of publicity due to her blog.

She is a two times winner of the BAKE Best Fashion Blogger competition. Currently, she runs a blog under her name, Nancie Mwai, and she covers Travel, Health & Fitness, Lifestyle, and Beauty.

3. Joy Kendi

Kendi is known for her acting roles in Changing Times and Prem, Joy Kendi started out as an actress with no prior experience. She launched her blog, Our Style Kenya (now Just Joy Kendi), during her acting course as a side gig. It took off later and has become one of Kenya’s most visited blogs.

Joy Kendi is one of the most popular Kenyan bloggers. Her style is chic and meant for the modern woman.

4. Lucia Musau

Lucia Musau is a creative thinker, an entrepreneur and fashion blogger that has caused ripples online based on her blog. The blog, luciamusau.com, offers practical and stylish tips for the modern stylista. She incorporates all parts of style, from hair to beauty, to bring out the full experience of a fashion statement.

5. Silvia Njoki

Silvia Njoki’s blog, silvianjoki.com has reinvented the whole fashion sphere. This is mainly because of the vast content and tips that she offers fashion enthusiasts. She studied fashion at London’s renowned University of The Arts.She brings together creative styles with a chic modern touch in all aspects of fashion and beauty.

6. Wabosha Maxine

Wabosha Maxine is a  Kenyan beauty influencer based in Nairobi, She is a professional make-up artist, and a vlogger. Wabosha Maxine is well  known for her talent and desire to grow in the make-up industry in Africa at a tender age as well as her skill in the art.

Maxine Wabosha’s devotion to her career has seen her working with top artists and gigs with huge brands. She landed her first big job courtesy of House of Elzuri.

This is a body wellness and beauty company which specializes in makeup and body art. Maxine Wabosha worked for them as a backstage designer for a model and still works there with the team in assisting young beauticians and beauty bloggers in developing their brand and expounding their client base.

7. Natalie Tewa

This beauty is a blogger and vlogger who shares gorgeous pictures, fashion inspiration and candid beauty reviews on her various platforms.

Natalie  Wanjiru is a Kenyan Youtuber, Influencer and Content Creator,  Tewa is a Nickname from her brother since she was young.Natalie grew up in a family with two elder stepsisters and a young brother.

8. Winny Odande

Winny drives forward one of Kenya’s most robust and encompassing fashion blogs. Her style primarily focuses on an ethnic touch on a modern appeal to style. She is a top Kenyan stylist, fashion blogger, and creative personality. Winny’s blog, fitndiscover.com, paints a broad stroke of fashion haven of ideas that encourages creativity.

9. Lisa Gaitho

Lisa Gaitho is the daughter of Macharia Gaitho. Macharia is a former editor at Nation Media Group. Most Kenyans love Macharia for his non-political stand and how he remains unbiased even in hot political situations.

Together with her sister, they founded Siri studio which is famous for their trendy female outfits. Lisa studied in Kenyan schools before going to South Africa for her university studies.

Lisa runs a blog, lisagaitho.com. Here she writes about her experiences traveling the world. She also doesn’t fail to praise her older but incredibly rich boyfriend who funds her trips, much to the chagrin of women. Her blogs usually attract a backlash from her readers, most accusing her of looking down upon her Kenyan fellows and relying on a man to make her dreams happen

10. Sheila Ndinda

Popularly known as the Kenyan Naturalists, Sheila is passionate about educating women on how to achieve healthy hair. She has garnered massive popularity there for her natural hair care tutorials and tips alongside her own lifestyle vlogging entries

Her online platforms are a place where she expresses her love for Natural hair and shares her joys and experiences with different products.

11. Fashionable Step mum

Mrs Catherine Kariuki became popular after her interview that focused on the challenges younger women who get married as second wives to older men go through.

She has been running a vlog and blog highlighting the challenges of blended family and in both she openly discusses how her family and friends shunned her for marrying a man twice her age, Mrs Catherine is a step mother to 6 adult children who stay with her and often visit their biological mother.

On her blog she also showcases her style evolution over the years, Mrs Catherine Kariuki share with you how her love for fashion has helped her get through her greatest adventure yet thriving in a blended family and finding a peaceful and glorious stepmother’s happily ever after, and in case you’re wondering, She is a step mum of 6 children, and a kick-ass wife of the man who makes it all worth it.

It would be important to note that this is her story, not the story of her step children or their mothers. That is theirs to tell if and when they choose to do so.

The two mothers often meet during milestone events such as graduation and birthdays.

12. Maureen Bandari

Maureen holds a beautiful aura of a fun and creative-themed blog designed for beauty bits and fashion pieces. Her blog, thefunshionmistress.com has a bold and auspicious online presence. This is naturally due to her incorporation of beauty and style and fashion tips in the clearest and boldest expressions. That pretty much sums up her awesome sense of style.

13. The Dapper Brother

Muriuki Kagiri was born and raised in Nairobi, Kenya. he is extremely passionate about all things fashion, men’s fashion specifically, and he created his blog in order to share his personal style, knowledge, and opinions with his mass audience.

He began blogging in mid-2015  as a hobby. At the time, the local fashion blogging scene was saturated with blogs directed to ladies, and he wanted to fill that gap and provide a resource where guys like him could come and get inspiration from. Six months down the line, Kagiri won the ” MIMI Fashion Blogger Contest ” , out of  a whooping 200+ submissions, 98% of which were female blogs. he believe this was God showing him that people actually acknowledge what he does.

https://www.instagram.com/p/B5iBzfUp7v0/?utm_source=ig_embed

Having seen the potential in his blog, Muriuki decided to grow his brand and actually make a difference in how people perceive Menswear in Kenya.

14. Winnie The Fashionista

Her stylish sense has made her become a creative and fashion-forward guru Kenya. She is also among the top Kenyan fashion bloggers. Winnie’s blog, winniethefashionista.com , gives timely and fashion-forward tips that create different dimensions of fashion entities. Her diary, termed as a diary of style, is a go-to place for all matters chic and stylish. This clearly shows why the lady rules.

https://www.instagram.com/p/B2vtZZXAkaK/?utm_source=ig_embed

15. Mumbi Shokey

Mumbi Shokey has one of the most active online presence in the Kenyan fashion blogger scene. With a Youtube channel to complement the awesome work of art that is her blog, she is one to watch, pun-intended. Her style is a beautiful, classy mixture of fusing different styles to bring out completeness.

Mumbi’s blog, mumbishokey.com, paints a vivid picture of class and style to accentuate a modern woman’s look.

16. Wairimu Nyandia

Wairimu has steadily risen to becoming one of Kenya’s most renowned Kenyan fashion bloggers and hair enthusiasts. She directs one of the most compelling blogs in the fashion scene. She gives different tips on handling hair matters for the ladies and the fashion equivalents to complete the look. Her blog, wairimunyandia.com, has varying styles and trends for the fashionista and modern woman to bring out their best.

Content courtesy of Nairobi fashion hub 

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