Chasing money will not benefit the spirit – Afua Boni

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New York City-based Ghanaian-German model Afua Boni was born Judith Afua Serwaa Owusu-Afriyie. She left Agogo at eight and was ‘discovered’ at 14 by photographer Martina Schilling in Saarbrucken. She re-launched her career in Los Angeles at 21, and settled in New York City to regroup. Standing at a graceful, lean and athletic 5-foot-10 inches with her 34-25-35 frame, the brown-eyed ‘African Warrior Queen’ has succeeded in redefining the meaning of sexy feminism with her dedicated focus on African renaissance, new world spirituality, and intellectual depth. Nana S. Achampong caught up with her in February to talk about her plans for the COVID year.


NSA: What was it like growing up in Agogo?
 Growing up in Ghana was somewhat surreal. I encountered lots of spiritual things early. I lived with my grandma until I reached the age of five. Then I moved to her sister in New Town, to attend school.

NSA: What kind of name is Afua Boni?
 Afua Boni is a stage name. However, it was carefully picked. ‘Boni’ is a place near Kumasi. Its original name is ‘Behenase’. For some reason the British changed it to ‘Boni’. My paternal grandmother was Behenase Podua Ohemaa. Afua is my kra-din. I am honoring my paternal grandmother by calling myself ‘Afua Boni’.

NSA: What kind of family do you come from?
 Wow! What a great question. Well, my Daddy and Mom are business owners and entrepreneurs. I was conceived in Nigeria while my parents were there doing business trading. We are humble farmers from the rural area, with a world view. We are limitless.

NSA: Where are your siblings?
: My siblings are in Ghana, those who are blood related. I have two step brothers by my German stepfather. My Daddy had four children. The oldest, his only son, Gideon, passed away. I am his first daughter. There are two more gals – Abigail lives in Kumasi, and Noura lives in Abidjan. My oldest brother Evans Antwi works in the Clinical Trial Industry at Agogo Malaria Research Center.

NSA: What did you want to be when you grow up?
 I wanted to be a Supermodel, a Singer or a famous Mogul and build orphanages and do charity events.

NSA: How did you end up in Europe?
 My parents embarked on a journey to Europe and landed in Germany in the early ’80s. I was taken there later when I was eight years old. We lived in the small town of Wustweiler, moved to Sitterswald by the French border, and later settled with my mother in the main city of Saarbrücken after my parents divorced.

NSA: What was it like being an African girl in Germany?
 The first four years were ok, I guess, but later on I experienced racism even amongst some of my so called German friends. It’s a harsh reality check when you find out that people can actually dislike you because of your skin tone. I always stood my ground though. I had to fight Nazis early. I was small in size but I am fearless. I was the only black girl everywhere. I went to a private Catholic school, Willi-Graf Gymnasium/Realschule. I was the first black and foreigner to go there. Knowing or realizing that early, I knew I had to be better than them. I jumped classes and was even better in the German language. I had respect. I even became school Speaker and Representative. I made everyone love me. I’m Facebook friends with most of my old school mates, still!

NSA: Did you still have your childhood ambitions?
 Gosh, I was an active child. I started singing in Ghana. My first song I ever composed was a church song “WE ARE GOING TO HEAVEN” at the age of four. It was in Ghana: I still know the words. I didn’t even know I made it until my aunt told me when I saw her in 2003. I knew singing was my first love! I was always the lead singer for every performance in school, and I even performed German folklore songs at family events.

I used to fool around with my guy friends in a little studio, like wanna-be rappers. I was in love with Lauryn Hill, Mariah Carey, Aretha Franklin, Toni Braxton and Celine Dion. I trained my voice for years with these icons. So we recorded a few songs on demo tapes and I was doing this vocal warm ups…it was all fun. BMG Germany was casting a new girl group like Spice Girls. So I sent in my tape. Well, they liked it and invited me to Hamburg to the BMG studios! I made the final cut and huge celebrations went on when I came back to tell the good news, but my stepfather crushed my dream. I was under-age; he wouldn’t give his written consent. My last performance as a singer was at my High School Graduation with Michael Maas, who is now a prolific scorer for feature movies like Spider Man’. We did Mariah Carey’s ‘Whenever You Call!’I also started playing the clarinet at age nine for nine years in a small group in Illinger High School. We had a big band and later played in an 80-member orchestra called Saar Wind Orchestra touring Europe at some point. I was 13/14 when we went on tour to Italy and France after we relocated to Sitterswald. We recorded CDs and even performed live on radio at the Saarländischem Rundfunk. I left it at 17 and stopped playing instruments altogether.I did track and field for a few years too, played ping pong for a few years and at age 14, I found my third love, volleyball. I played competitively and was even recruited to the second division at age 16, but my stepfather wouldn’t allow me to go for practice, even though they had pick-up service etc. I was crushed! The team I played with was ok, and I had potential…anyways.

Becoming a model

NSA: How did you become a model?
: By the way, Modeling is my second Love! One day my mom asked me to take a pix for the fam in Ghana. She was going home. So she sent me to get some professional pix taken. Well, I was 14 and to my surprise the photographer at Nouvelle Eclaire loved me as a subject…we became friends and I became her advertising model for nearly two years! She used to advertise in ‘L!ve’ Magazine, an events magazine that circulates in Saarland and near-by states.

At 15, I was contacted by Martina Schilling of Cover Face to come and shoot with her for the L!ve cover, wow! I was hyped!!! Martina Schilling is a brilliant make-up artist and photographer who shot the covers and spreads for the local magazines. She became my mentor and I love her for that. She taught me to walk and pose.

I had my first magazine cover in May 1996. Did my first major fashion show a few months later. I had my second Magazine cover in November 2000. I did a few pageants, I won second place twice. I even entered in the corrupted Germany/Ghana competition where I got cheated out of my prize: It was later rumored that the top five (5) candidates were relatives of the judges.

NSA: Did you always know you were beautiful?
 Oh no! I always looked up to Tyra [Banks], Naomi [Campbell], Cindy [Crawford] and even Grace [Jones]. But I always told myself that I will do all I can to look beautiful too. Of course, in a natural way. I was always conscious about my body.

NSA: What kind of modeling do you do?
 You know what? I have specialized in figure modeling for a while, especially while in California. Classic Black-and-white implied/nude art photography by Celebrity Photographers like Helmut Newton, Andreas Bitesnich, Anne Liebowitz for example. I used to collect their work and have huge posters hanging on my bedroom walls.

I fell in love with this genre because I was always athletic and knew my body very well. It was tasteful art and not many people did that well. I wanted to create art pieces to hang on walls. Some can be more provocative than others. In no way however would I work/shoot with a GWC aka Guy With Camera. My work with Sylvie Blum has been exhibited at the famous Farey Klein Gallery in Los Angeles, alongside Herb Ritts, who directed music videos for Michael Jackson, Madonna, Janet Jackson and other famous artist. He also shot for Vogue and all the other notable fashion and high-end magazines.

I want to make sure that people understand the difference between video vixen and my work as a figure model here. I would also advice people to research my work, before they pass judgment. Especially those who are not familiar with black models making aesthetic statements with their naked bodies. Some people don’t take their time to study the art. My work is in museums, coffee table books and high-end gloss Fashion Art websites and magazines.

I also do, of course, fashion, runway, commercial, editorial, sport, lifestyle, character and some glamour modeling. I want to venture into training and consulting models as well as hosting events/TV shows and acting.

NSA: Are there any shoots you won’t do?
: No fetish nudes or anything like that. There is a thin line.

NSA: For you, is this a profession or just a hobby?
 I love what I do. I have made a living with modeling. Right now, I only shoot a few times a year. I might not shoot for a while, but modeling will always be a part of me.

NSA: What are some of the biggest gigs/photographers/events etc. that have come your way?
 My work has been featured around the world. I was in GQ German, Velvet magazine, Volleyball, Stern and Vogue Magazine as well as on various social media websites and online fashion platforms. I was recently featured on an online platform with over 1 million followers, which generated over 80K hits and graced the cover of a Russian fashion magazine with a 4-page spread in Marika Magazine just before the turn of the year.

  • Face of Wilson Tennis Catalogue 2010
  • Face of Farai Simoyi Look Book shoot 2011, which is currently featured on Netflix “Next In Fashion”
  • Appeared on CNN Inside Africa, “The Langombos” music video “What you like”
  • 4 magazine covers since 2011( Jimon, Mami, Ellements, Tropics)
  • 11 features and spreads in Magazines or Website since 2011
  • Feature model for “Naked Beauty” by Sylvie Blum, 2011
  • Saint Wobil’s Doll of Darius Wobil the Ghanaian version of Alexander Mc Queen
  • NYFW 2011 – 2014 and countless fashion shows in California and other states.
  • Currently waiting for my work to be admitted to museums and maybe exhibited at Time Squares giant monitors. That would be the highlight of my career.
  • Photographers: Gregory Prescott, Bruce Talbot, Michael Letterlough, Barrington Chambers and Oliver Mendoza (RIP), as well as Barron Claiborne, Mandela Gregoire, Brian Dailey, Bran Ferren and many more…
  • Currently publisher of fashion and culture ezine ‘GoldDust‘.


NSA: What have you been doing in the States?
: Right now I am preparing to take over Ghana/Africa.

NSA: How do you like it in NY?
: NY is a place to be, but not a place I love, especially this time of the year. I moved away three years ago, to a more spacious and quiet location, in Maryland. I am a country girl, what can I say.

NSA: More opportunities for modeling?
 Most def! I am working also in that field with a group of people in Ghana I have identified as trustworthy and legit. I wanna make sure Ghana knows of AB very soon! And I am also working on providing opportunities for young girls in Ghana in rural areas.

Photo by Sylvie Blum


NSA: What drives you?
 Love for my heritage and for the betterment of my family. Passion is also a big factor; I love what I do.

NSA: What is your consuming ambition?
 I want to relocate to GH soon; I’ve been preparing myself. I finally made it home after eighteen years away, I am home to assess the industry and other business ventures.

NSA: When was the last time you shed tears?
 Last week while thinking of my departed grandparents and my brother. I barely knew them and missed them before they passed. And when I watched a vid of children somewhere in Africa screaming joyously while opening their donated presents. That was very touching…and when I finally came home and saw my family again. It is a great and happy feeling. Tears of Joy.

NSA: What makes you angry?
 I don’t get angry; I know how to manage my anger very well.

NSA: What makes you happy?
 Laughter! Outdoors! Family! Traveling!

NSA: What is your weakness?
 Working on being more organized, I am soft hearted and a bit of a procrastinator

NSA: What’s your star sign? Do you even believe in them?
 I am a Leo. I believe in astrology. I think if people believed more and cared more for zodiac/star signs, it would be easier to deal with each other. Each zodiac represents a type of person/character or behavior traits. We gotta study and embrace that.

NSA: What is your idea of a good time?
 I love to be alone, and mingle as well. It can be both. Just gotta pick the right company to share with. A good book, movie or walk in the forest, hiking, anytime at the park/on the beach is a good time for me. I’m very simple.

Romantic entanglements

NSA: Do you believe in love?
 Oh yes! We are made out of – or because of – love! OK, let’s say, most of us. Without love, there is no progress.

NSA: What kind of partner are you attracted to?
 I like fun, active, smart, rich in spirit individuals I can have conversations with forever. Should be successful and be supportive when needed.

Future plans

NSA: You were conceived in Nigeria, suckled in Ghana; you’ve lived in Europe, worked in the United States: what’s your favorite continent?
 Afrika aka Alkabulan aka Afuraitkait.

NSA: 18 years away: what is it like to be back in Ghana?                                                                                  AB: I am soo happy to be home. Even though I thought I was missing out, I am happy that I chose to come home NOW! I was overthinking a lot, but I am where I need to be, at this time and this place.

NSA: Any other comments?                                                                                                                                                 ABI am a nerd and love to study things and people. I give myself a year to adjust to this industry.

NSA: What do you propose to do (as work)?                                                                                                                    AB: (I am not sure if I understand your question correctly, but this is my mission or work.) “Mogul” should be the right word. While my celebrity sisters are making money with cosmetic products and hair pieces to enhance the external beauty, I am aiming for the things that were given to us: such as skin, natural hair, and health. I will help my sisters to enhance them without all that weave and make-up. We will bring out the inner beauty.

I want to help the youth to embrace their natural beauty without looking outside and wishing to be lighter or have “better” hair. I’ll help them take care of their own hair and set a standard. There is a lot to be done. I don’t want to reveal too much though: less announcements, more actions is my new motto.

For the record

NSA: What is the most memorable day in your life?
 When I landed in America, San Francisco Airport, November 15, 2003. I always wanted to be in California and in 8th grade, I knew I would make it there one day. Most of my dreams came true, I never thought about money though.

NSA: What is the most embarrassing incident in your life?
 I got fired from a job due to hate-ration/gossip and jealousy…I was even innocent…it was still embarrassing to be sent home and let go when I was one of the best.

NSA: What is your most prized possession?
 My experiences, and things that have sentimental value to me; things I can’t buy anywhere. I have lost so much and gained back. I don’t put value on things anymore.

NSA: What is sexy?
 Smarts, wisdom, kindness and humor.

NSA: What do you believe in?
 I believe in the reincarnation of Spirits and that we as Africans can’t get caught up with what the “children” are doing. Our ancestral connection has been turned off and we are no longer in alignment with them. We’ve fallen by the wayside. We are the Gatekeepers and need to act accordingly. The world is in the hands of the fallen and we need to get our consciousness together in order to fight this spiritual warfare. I wish more sisters and brothers at home would realize that chasing the money and emulating the children will not benefit their Spirit.

I believe that this place we live in is just an incubation place…we are here just for a moment. We live on for eternity after we leave this realm. Therefore we need to get in tune with each other and the universe. That is all.

Afua Boni Model. Actress. Singer. Founder/CEO of GDMA and SikaFutro. Email: IG & Twitter: @afuaboni @iamafuaboni FB Page: @afuaboni

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