“…It was a loud and splashy era, but I followed the fads like the budding fashionista I was.”
-Sehin Belew, Author of Fabulous for Less, on her passion for fashion
Sehin Belew, former Miss Ethiopia and author of Fabulous for Less, is no stranger to the world of fashion and beauty – and oh’ yeah, volunteerism too.
As a young girl, Sehin’s mother always told Sehin to never compromise on quality. “I am very passionate about the topic of quality. I come from a large family of six children. Still, my mother always managed to buy us the very best clothing and shoes she could afford.” Sehin says her mother did the same when it came to food or items for the home. “She never, ever compromised on quality. That obviously left an impression on me. I learned first-hand that in the long run, quality is more efficient in both time and economics.”
Sehin recalls having developed a “passion for fashion” at an early age. “When I was 12-years-old, the disco era was in full swing. Afro hairdos, bell-bottom pants, miniskirts and platform shoes were all the rage. It was a loud and splashy era, but I followed the fads like the budding fashionista I was.” Just like a fashionista, at a time when girls her age were spending their money on cookies and candies, Sehin had someone bring her soaring platforms from Italy. “Those shoes cost me a lot, but somehow I managed to pay for them.” While Sehin studied hard in school and received good grades, fashion did not take the back seat. “When I was not studying, I could be found standing in front of the mirror. I enjoyed trying on different clothes and thinking of ways to alter them to make them more fashionable.” Sehin’s interest in high fashion began in those early years. “I explored different looks and gradually decided what worked best for me.” Occasionally, Sehin’s older sister and her uncle’s wife would give her clothes they didn’t wear any longer. Sehin would take those clothes to the tailor and pay for them to be altered to fit her. “I learned that what sets me apart is to be who I genuinely am with my style, which is very classic.”
Having worked as a professional model for 10 years, Sehin was aware of keeping her image clean. This turned into a challenge. “I wanted to set an example for the younger generation so I did not want to do any work that was somehow affiliated with either the alcohol or the tobacco industry.” Although she lost a lot of jobs in the process at the end of the day, “I had peace of mind about my decision.” As models on TV screens, magazines, and newspapers become overly skinny, Sehin believes health and confidence in oneself come before esthetic. “Hollywood reverses that order and therefore people endanger their health just to look the part. It has come to the point where if you put the stars side by side they all look the same.” For Sehin, nothing beats the beauty of a confident woman who is not afraid to be herself. “Parents need to encourage their teenagers that they are unique individuals and to embrace their authenticity.”
Sehin’s classic style, and her beauty, both inside and out, led her to be crowned Miss Ethiopia in 1988 – the first to be crowned in 20 years. Miss Ethiopia of 1968 had to be located by pageant officials and then flown from Germany to Washington, DC to crown Sehin. Sehin describes being crowned Miss Ethiopia as an exhilarating and empowering feeling. “I had worked extremely hard to prepare for the event, and it was a great honor to be chosen to represent my home country.” As a teenager, Sehin volunteered to work at famine feeding camps in Ethiopia for two years. “Since then, I have been involved with fund-raising and creating awareness.” However, the Miss Ethiopia title opened many doors for Sehin. “In television, radio, and newspaper interviews, as well as numerous public appearances before hundreds of people, I was able to speak out about issues that are dear to me. I was able to help increase awareness about world hunger.”
After graduating from college, Sehin worked with the homeless in Illinois for 5 years. Having earned a degree, her initial plan was to work with the poor back in Ethiopia. “However, when I completed my education, the political situation at home was still as bad.” So Sehin decided that if she couldn’t return to Ethiopia and carry out her original intention, she would simply shift gears and concentrate on aiding the underprivileged in her adopted country.
Presently, Sehin runs her own company, Sehin Belew. She provides image and wardrobe consultations as well as seminars on how to look fabulous for less. In Fabulous for Less, Sehin offers tips for smart shopping, skin care, and maintaining a healthy diet.
To learn more about the author or to get a copy of the book, Fabulous for Less, Former Miss Ethiopia’s Smart Guide to Beauty, Health, and Fashion (Annotation Press, 2008), visit www.sehinbelew.com.