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    Model mama | Lifestyle | Jamaica Gleaner

    SAINT International model Kai Newman was leading a successful career, strutting the world’s top runways and shooting major fashion campaigns. Her striking features, smooth chocolate skin, and down-to-earth personality made her a favourite among designers, photographers, and fans. So when she became pregnant with her daughter Zehirah, it was a surprise to many, Newman included.

    In 2018, with a bout of food poisoning, the stunning Allman Town native went to the doctor and found out she was also pregnant. Five months pregnant to be exact. Newman admits she was in shock. “Honestly, I gave up,” she says. Modelling was all she knew and loved, and she was cognisant that this revelation would halt, and could potentially end, her career. Distraught, she worried how she would make it all work, but in the same breath knew she wanted to have her baby.

    “I was scared to be a mom,” says Newman, as her voice trembles at the recollection. She always saw herself as being a great aunt, and had a strong adoration for dogs, “those were my kids,” she says. But being a mother and having the sole responsibility for another human wasn’t something she foresaw at this juncture of her young life.

    She tells The Sunday Gleaner that despite her concern for her offspring and what carrying could do to her model body, her pregnancy was uncomplicated, and she describes her delivery as “a magical moment”. Hearing her newborn cry filled Newman with gratitude and relief that her baby was healthy and strong. “When I held her, I was like, ‘Wow! I’m officially a mother.’”

    While considering herself a tomboy, Newman says she always had dreams of becoming a model, but didn’t think she had the confidence to do it. Then at 15, while on her way home from the dentist with her mother, she met SAINT International boss Deiwght Peters and the rest, as they say, is history, with Newman working with a slew of notable fashion houses and brands.

    Could she make a comeback to modelling after the baby? Newman wasn’t sure, but Peters was confident that with dedication and focus she could. She took a few years off to concentrate on raising ‘Zy-Zy’ in her early years, and as soon as she felt ready to attempt dipping her toes back into the fashion pond, COVID-19 reared its awful head and locked the world down. Still, she started meeting with Peters again, doing her measurements, paying attention to her diet, and working out, with her main motivation being her daughter. “Kids are expensive!” she exclaims with a laugh. But moreover, as a single mother, she wants to give Zehirah the world. “She encourages me. She shows me love like no other, with random hugs and kisses. She makes me feel so complete. She is my world,” says Newman.

    “Everything happens at the right time,” she utters, regarding how she launched her comeback by walking the Prada Fall ’22 ready-to-wear collection in Milan and continued to book big jobs with Ferragamo, Loewe, and more. She was indeed back after the baby, and inspired others while doing so. Then she floored us all by gracing the cover of Harper’s Bazaar. Newman says she was as shocked about that cover as she was when she found out she was pregnant. “I was backstage at a show in Paris when my agent in New York called me with the news. I screamed.” And not only did she get to shoot in her hometown of Kingston, the icing on the cake was she got to work with Zehirah, who is now four years old.

    Her little girl, she tells us, knows what she wants and is already styling herself. “Her personality is off the hook,” Newman says with pride. Does Zy-Zy understand that mommy is a model? “I think she does,” but Newman isn’t quite sure. She has never had a conversation with Zehirah about what she does or showed her photos or videos of her modelling, yet she has noted that her mini-me puts on her heels and poses without prompting. “I travel so much for work, and tell her I’m going to work and she will be like, ‘Again?’ but then I remind her [that] she likes things, so I have to work to get them for her.” Letting her baby girl know how many “sleep nights I will be away for and when I will be back”, she tells us Zehirah makes sure to create a list of things she should bring back, not only for her, but, thoughtfully, for others too.

    It takes a village to raise a child and Newman is immensely appreciative of her mother, Kerri-Ann Brown Walters, who takes care of Zehirah when she is out of town. “My mom is always giving me support, no matter what. Even when I wasn’t working she was there. When I was getting back on my feet, she was there. And now when I’m travelling, she is there. I look at her often and say, ‘Wow! I thank God for you.’”

    For mothers who may not have planned to be a parent, and those who think it will dampen their professional pursuits, Newman confesses there can be challenges, but with hard work, you can continue to pursue your passions and chase your dreams. It may not always be easy, but every time Newman looks at Zehirah, she knows it’s definitely worth it.

    debra.edwards@gleanerjm.com

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