Kenyan-born Malaika Firth broke into the fashion industry in 2011 aged 17, after persuading her mum to call Premier Model Management, after watching fly on the wall documentary The Model Agency - and was signed on the spot. Shortly after, she was booked to walk for Burberry Prorsum and then hit the fashion headlines by becoming the first black model in 20 years to appear in a Prada ad since Naomi Campbell (it was shot by Steven Meisel and alongside Christy Turlington). The comparisons don’t bother her one bit.
VIDEO: Watch Malaika on her HFM cover shoot
"It's such a nice feeling to be put in a place that people say: 'Naomi did it before you'. That’s an uplift. I've met her and she is really lovely. She'll come backstage [at fashion shows] and scream the girls' names like 'Malaika', kind of pushing us all along."
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Continuing to go from strength-to-strength in 2013 she was chosen by Victoria's Secret – a highlight for any model, "When they picked me I was ecstatic, I remember praying to God and saying, 'Thank-you for this'. It was a fun show everyone laughs and giggles backstage - I loved seeing all the big girls like Adriana [Lima] and Candice [Swanepoel]."
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Then, the following season she walked in over 40 shows including Kenzo, Bottega Veneta, Marc Jacobs and Jean Paul Gautier. However, it was around this time that the heady height of success began to turn negative.
"I started going through some bad stuff," she says reflecting on a time in her life when everything was turned upside down and her mental health began to suffer. "All these good jobs would be coming to me and my agency would be really supportive in different ways, but I wasn't in the right mindset," she says of when she took some time out from modelling.
But now she's back stronger and busier than ever, with even some of her family members having a go at modelling. This year she shot Fashion Targets Breast Cancer campaign with her mum Jecinter, and last year she appeared in a magazine alongside her 16-year-old brother Christian. "He loved it as he wants to do everything I do, I’m like a role model," she smiles. "He really loved the modelling gig, he’s like: 'I want to be like you, I’m going be famous'."
To read the interview and see our exclusive shoot pick up the June edition of Hello! Fashion Monthly, out now.