Anai Ekalino is not only a surprise KA Magazine cover girl, but one of the few times that writing questions and getting answers in an interview would not do justice, or make better the understanding of the person being interviewed. It is for this reason that we beg that you read her story, not from questions asked, but from the pure distillation of an equally pure soul on its Life Quest.

We will not “correct”, edit, or alter her writing, for in its simplicity, we see the depth that cannot be transferred by proper spelling and sentence structure – in its clarity, we get her. KA is moved by the sheer magnitude embodied in the presence of the humble Anai, and we know that without a doubt, we are in the presence of a QUEEN.

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Photos of Anai in “Aquarius” by Natasha Kertes

KA – Anai, are you constantly motivating yourself, or do you be- lieve there is a higher force guiding you – Even if that same force, has seen you through some other very difficult times?

AE – I definitely do believe in a higher power and I do believe that higher powers have bigger dreams than ourselves. If we can just work on believing.

KA – In Bloom – this editorial was both so strong, yet vulnerable at the same time. We felt you, and were completely moved. What would be your message to other young women, who are also striving to follow their hearts – and bloom as who they are?

AE – My message would be to learn to accept yourself, despite our differences; and that it is meant to be this way. And to avoid measuring our greatness, by things we own. I also believe, it’s important, to appreciate our loved ones and those who made it possible. There is a quote that Oprah Winfrey mentioned once, when she accepted an award; and it made a lot sense. ”Be- cause they were the seed of free, I, (We) get to be the fruit.” My main message is that we are to continue to be open to oppor- tunities and be open to learning, and there is nothing that would make a person better than others; as well as, remain in faith.

KA – What was it like working with the enchanting Natasha Kertes?

AE – I met Miss Natasha, through the social network Facebook; it surely made me learn, to take good advantage of social net- working. We always joke that we met before, somewhere on other planet. She has really challenged me for the better, and reminded me to accept my flaws, as a lesson.

KA – When speaking with Natasha, she’d mentioned briefly about your first encounter with the Miami water…what was this like..swimming?

AE – It was my first time visiting Miami, she welcomed me as if I have known her for years. Miss Natasha had two editorials for me, and it was long hours. I actually don’t know how to swim, and it rained right after we were done shooting, on my last night. It was too late and dark to be at the beach, so I wore my new bathing suit, and I went to her pool. I am usually quiet, especially when I don’t know someone for long; but at that moment, it felt like a little girl Anai, started to sing and run around. I love rain, and it is a blessing in my culture, Dinka.

KA – Alek Wek is definitely an inspiration to a lot of African women – what about seeing her for the first time in that fashion show, made you decide to be a model?

AE – It is a great feeling to see a person that comes from the

same country, where we have been struggling for long to find freedom. I decided that Art is great, to express love of life, and to set yourself free.

KA – How does a deep spirit like yours survive in the often times shallow fashion industry – Do you seem to attract like-minded artists to work with?

AE – Fashion might seem more challenging than other industries, but I believe it more complex, because of its spotlight. I tend to not think to attract, but to think of my purpose in every role I was born to do. I also try to appreciate the moments; as to know what others would comment is their karma, and how I deal with it defines me. Also, humour is great way I handle things, that might bother me in fashion.

KA – What would be your dream photo assignment?

AE – My dream assignment would be visiting my home-town that I have never visited. My dream would be to shoot with my other fellow South Sudanese models, including Alek Wek.

KA – Your mother is a songwriter; and you plan to open a music school in your future – are you musically inclined as well?

AE – I am nothing without my family, so I actually want to do so many things in their honor. I love music, and it always amazes me, when I would read how many records my favorite artists were selling – up to millions etc. I love how music and sound, can be even great to meditate to. I thought other activities, such as a music school, would be great to have in South Sudan.

KA – Fast-forward 5 years from now; where are you and what do you see?

AE – I am working on a book at this time, so I am looking forward to that. I have learned, to try to live in the moment, and surrender to what the higher power leads me to.

KA – What do you miss about Sudan and what part of your culture will you carry with you always?

AE – I miss my family and having to feel at a place where I can call it my original country. The Dinka culture, tends to be respect- ful, especially to elders. I would definitely always value elders and also try, if someone visits my home, to welcome them and provide water and tea without asking.

KA – Who is Anai?

AE – Anai believes that beauty is given for Universe. Anai values every life experience as a lesson. Anai cries easy and often. She happens to be a tall girl, who wishes to stand as tall, to rep- resent South Sudanese and use my potential to inspire and be inspired. There are words from Maya Angelou that I love, “I come as one but I stand as one thousand.”

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Photographer Natasha Kertes and Anai Ekalino – shooting “In Bloom” – KA MAGAZINE Cover story