When you look at Makeda ‘Keda’ Soper-Wirangi’s high cheekbones, parted lips and thick dark hair, it’s as though this young New Zealander was born to be an international model.
However, when she was a teenager, Keda loved working in hospitality and had hopes of owning her own bar as a career. But her dreams of mixing cocktails soon turned to modeling when the 20-year-old moved to Melbourne with her family and was scouted at a Priceline pharmacy by model agent, Phoenix Michael Darley earlier this year.
Keda’s fateful experience of being the “Kiwi ‘discovered’ while in footy shorts” generated national news headlines as Oceania's next promising future face of fashion.
She now hopes to one day join the infamous model clique of Victoria’s Secret, and given that her last 6 months was spent walking runways at New York Fashion Week and as she describes it, “being busy in front of a camera 24/7”, this is in the realm of possibility for the ambitious up-and-comer.
With few Māori faces in the international fashion scene, Keda, whose heritage is very important to her, plays an important role in positively challenging beauty standards and promoting cultural diversity in the industry.
“My experience is an example that there are so many possibilities for Māori people to show the rest of the world what they have to offer and also to see what the world has to give back,” she says.
When asked how she feels about being a role model for young Māori people, Keda, who is as gracious and good natured as she is strikingly beautiful responded, “I’d like to show other people like me that the world is a much better place once you have a fair idea of what you want to happen in life.
“My experience is an example that there are so many possibilities for Māori people to show the rest of the world what they have to offer and also to see what the world has to give back,” she says, adding that she hopes to break stereotypes around Māori culture.
“Unfortunately, I feel like my culture is known for doing bad things, when actually, Māori people have so much talent – each and every one of us.”
Keda describes her style as “Tomboy-ish” and off the runway she’s usually in baggy jeans or jackets. Although she liked to dress up a bit in early teenhood, Keda admits that she enjoys the overall work of modelling like posing for photos, the buzz of backstage and meeting other girls in castings, rather than getting to wear the latest designer trend.
“There were a lot of designers I hadn’t even heard of when I was first began castings in New York. But I still loved the experience of it all. It was just amazing and there are no words to explain it at all.”
As Australia celebrates National Youth Week, Keda reflects on her success at such a young age,
“I hope I can show young women that anything is possible. From my experience, nothing can stop you… Like, come on, I got scouted in a pharmacy while I was on my break from work – nothing is impossible.”
To find out more about how SBS celebrates National Youth Week go here.