Simone Awor, Model and Cancer Survivor

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Substance of character is much more important and harder to find. True beauty is the result of one’s character. The most inspiring people are the ones that have been through hardship but remain kind, positive, and humble.

Meet: Simone Awor

Simone Awor is a cancer survivor. Through her treatment and recovery,  she maintains her work as a model and photographer living in New York City. Her experiences as a child refugee coming from Kenya to the United States have built her into the inspiring woman we classify as one of our mavens.

What does style mean to you?

One's personal style is like a snapshot of their personality. Style can be a way to communicate to the world.

How important are style and substance in your life?

I'm a visually-oriented person so style is important to me. When I find something that is unique and speaks to me I feel like I have found a small treasure.  Substance of character is much more important and harder to find. True beauty is the result of one’s character. The most inspiring people are the ones that have been through hardship but remain kind, positive, and humble.

What gives you daily strength and inspiration?

When I feel vulnerable I turn to family and friends that know me best. I find inspiration all around me. I’m lucky to live in New York where there are people from all over the world. I’m inspired by nature, travel, and the arts. I love to read. I’m probably inspired most when I find a good book. Storytelling is a pastime in my family and a good story always cheers me up.

Please describe a tough time you faced and how you found your strength?

My family came to America as political refugees. My father was a journalist and became a target, so we fled to Kenya. Although we still weren’t safe. Eventually, he was granted political asylum here in America. I was four so I don’t have distinct memories of Kenya or the first year we were here. However, I do have memories beginning in  kindergarten. One classmate in particular teased me relentlessly. By the time I learned about the history of colorism and racism in America it was too late for him to change the way I viewed my skin color. I  learned from the adults in my life that money does not determine one's character, future, or one's worth as a human being.

Being part of an immigrant community where kindness, strength, and work ethic were valued improved as well as the athletic and creative activities I got involved in outside of my success in academics.

What woman do you admire most and why? 

I admire my late grandmother. She endured a great deal of adversity and violence in the pursuit of her education. In her days it was rare and frowned upon for a woman to have an education. She eventually became a teacher. She also had eleven children so any woman who can do that automatically has my respect. When she came to America she was inspired by how liberated women were. She wanted women in Uganda to have as many rights as the women in America. She eventually founded a non-profit that supports survivors of domestic violence. It’s her legacy.

What are your words of wisdom that you use to share with others?

Gratitude and generosity are underrated. Being conscious of all the ways life is good can be so hard. But reflecting on simple things can change the way you interact with your world.  Humor is also a great way to deal with stress. I try to surround myself with positive people who love to laugh.

As a model in our photo shoot for the University and Diversity Collection, you have received numerous compliments on your physique. Can you share with us a bit about how you have earned the "right to bear arms?"

I know people hate it when models say it's genetics. But, I would say that 90% of my body type comes from my dad who has always been very thin. The other 10% are healthy habits.

These days if I’m not swimming I like to use my own body weight. Simple things like squats, gliders and resistance bands. As far as diet, I stay away from processed foods. I’ve never been much of a drinker which is great for my skin. I’m severely lactose intolerant so that limits my dessert selection. Otherwise, I don’t count calories religiously and I would never starve myself. If I don’t fit into the clients’ collection its disappointing but I move on.

My advice is to find a routine that works for you. If you have to break it up because you have long hours; do 15 minutes in the morning and 15 when you get home. If you hate running, get a bike or jump rope. Dancing is a great way to keep your body healthy. I think if one focuses on becoming more healthy rather than losing weight it’s a less stressful goal.

photo credit: Fabio Paparelli

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