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(Photo: Instagram/Philomena Kwao)

If you are a plus-size woman who has ever done any online shopping at all, there’s a very good chance that you are well acquainted with Philomena Kwao’s stunning face. The London-born, New York-based model is the face of Torrid, and she’s done work for UK retailer Evans and US staple Old Navy, to name but a few. Philomena has also appeared on the pages of Cosmopolitan UK, Essence, and Pride magazines. In addition to her successful modeling career, Philomena holds a master’s degree in International Health Management, and she regularly advocates for global healthcare access. (Click here to read a blog post Philomena wrote for the Huffington Post about her recent work with Women for Women International, an organization that aims to socially and economically empower women in war-torn countries.)

We asked Philomena five questions about her career, her work as an activist, and her beauty and skin care routine. Here’s what she had to say:

The Gloss: What has been the most surreal moment of your career so far?
Philomena Kwao: It’s so hard to pick one moment as I have been incredibly blessed with this job. I meet so many people and I have traveled to so many places that it is hard to pick one. One moment that stood out in particular was a swimwear shoot in Sayulita, Mexico. We were at an absolutely incredible villa carved into the side of a mountain. In the morning, we woke up to the sun rising over the ocean and in the evening, we fell asleep to the sunset over the horizon. It was breathtaking. I was also lucky to meet with the local indigenous Mexicans who shared their culture and history with me. It was a trip I will never forget.

Philomena Kwao i-D magazine - Credit to Michelle George

(Photo: Michelle George)

How have you used your platform as a model to raise awareness about your humanitarian work?
I’ve always been passionate about global health. I believe that access to good quality healthcare is a fundamental building block of any society. I am especially passionate about women’s health, particularly maternal health. We don’t often appreciate the beauty and risk of childbirth in today’s society. Although we’ve made massive strides to reduce maternal mortality, there is still much more to do; both in developing countries and closer to home. The rights of women and children as a whole are also dear to my heart.

What is your beauty and skin care routine like? 
My beauty and skin care routine is very simple. I drink lots of water and try to stay away from added sugar, as it can tire out your skin. I love Ghanaian black soap and Ghanaian shea butter from SheaButter Cottage, especially because their products are all ethically produced. When my skin is particularly dry from traveling, I use Crème de la Mer original moisturizer.


Philomena poses with fellow plus-size model Georgina Burke and actress Rebel Wilson at the launch of Rebel’s line for Torrid in October, 2015
(Photo: John Sciulli/Getty Images for Torrid)

Who would you invite to your dream dinner party? 
First and foremost, I would invite my grandmother. She passed away when I was ten years old and I would want her to see what I’m doing. I hope that she would be proud of my accomplishments. I would also invite Beyonce, Oprah, Nelson Mandela, and David Bowie. With such a group of amazing individuals, I think we would have a fantastic conversation.

If you had £40 to spend on a night out in London, where would you go? 
I would invite all my friends to go to an open night session and listen to the latest music in London. Or I would invite my friends over for a night in with drinks, food, and our onesies, and we would party the night away. We love our house parties in London!

To learn more about Philomena, visit her website or follow her on Instagram.

Do you know someone who should be featured in an upcoming 5 Questions For column? Tweet me or email me: kristynfilip [at] gmail [dot] com.