Frustrated by the lack of lipstick that matched her skin tone, former Malawi beauty queen Mabel Khonje (nee Banda) was driven to create her own.
Her brand Dollmabel, set to be launched on Friday, December 22 at Bingu International Conference Centre (BICC) in Lilongwe is very unique according to her, because unlike other lipsticks, she had the Malawian woman in mind when she designed it.
“I have worked on it for a year. Unlike other lipsticks available on the market, Dollmabel is specifically made for black people. I handpicked all the colours and they are all suitable for black skin. I was involved in the whole process of making the formulae. Dollmabel is in different shades and is fitting for anyone whether light or dark in complexion,” she says.
The former beauty princess, who is now a professional model in Europe, becomes the second Malawian to design a lipstick line after United States based Omega Nankhuni, the designer of OC Cosmetics.
She says it has been her long time dream to start her own cosmetic line and claims her dream is finally coming to life.
“When I moved here [the Netherlands] about a year ago, I started doing some research and that is what has led to the birth of Dollmabel Matte Lipstick,” she says.
Mabel says she wants her cosmetics line to include perfumes, eye shadow pallets and face powders.
The model adds that she is not just targeting Malawi as a market for her products as she is eyeing international markets as well.
“I want to compete with big companies such as Mac, Mary Kay or Iman. I will launch Dollmabel lipstick in the Netherlands by January end and will launch it in the United Kingdom as well,” says the mother of two.
“Everything about the lipstick reflects me and my personality,” she says. “It is warm and does not stick on glasses or cups as other lipsticks do, but stays long.”
Dollmabel comes in 15 different shades although presently they have 10 shades available in stock.
Among others, Dollmabel Matte Lipstick comprises shades such as Prisca Liquid Matte, which was named after her late mother; Aaliyah Rose, Lotus Petal, Star, Wild Child, Dare, Fusion, Sahara Lippie, Amy Splash, Tira and Rose Gold.
“We have used samples on people and they love it. We have not started selling, yet, we will only start after the launch,” she says.
Mabel’s big dreams do not end at a cosmetic line, but they go beyond, taking into account young models in the country; to help them become better, not just for fashion shows, but as individuals as well.
“Right now, I am working on a programme where models can sign up and get the necessary training they need. It will be a models boot camp, slightly different from a modeling agency. They will sign up and camp in a given place undergoing training with activities, class sessions, and will get influential people to give them motivational talks,” she explains.
Apart from the lipstick line and the modeling job, the former beauty queen also holds a full time job in the Netherlands and juggles between work and modelling.
She currently works as a consultant for a non-governmental organisation (NGO) in the Netherlands, assisting various immigrants moving to that country in search of jobs.
Modelling has always been her passion, planted in her by her late mother.
“She made me participate in all the beauty pageants you can think of-from Miss Schools to Miss Environment. I was also once Miss Lilongwe. But I wanted more,” says the 2004 Miss Malawi second princess.
Apart from organising Miss Malawi beauty pageants for six years with Artistic Agency after her reign as second princess, the beauty queen also owned Vogue Modelling Agency in Lilongwe, but it never kicked off.
“My aim was to train young Malawian models not just about the runway, but etiquette and educational stuff,” she says.
To satisfy her hunger for modelling, Mabel applied to a few modelling agencies before making her move to Europe; such that when she finally went, it was not that hard to start.
“I started with small time jobs; non-paying jobs- modelling and doing photo shoots for boutiques until I got signed up by a local agency. It’s not that big. I did small time jobs for over six months before anything solid came up. So, with my work at the NGO, I usually model over the weekends. But if it’s a job outside Holland, for instance, if I have to go to Paris, Belgium or Milan, I take time off,” she adds.
Born Mabel Banda on 10 August 1983 in Zimbabwe, she comes from Mitawa Village, Traditional Authority (T/A) Tambala in Mayani, Dedza. She is married to Sanderson Khonje and is a mother to two sons.
She is the first born of three children and she is the eldest with two brothers. Following the divorce of her parents when she was 12, she and her brothers were raised by her late mother and she acknowledges that it was tough.
“I am one of those people that were not born with a silver spoon in my mouth. I have had to work hard for everything I have. But I am glad that I was brought up in a home full of love and my late mother did her best to provide for me and my brothers,” she discloses.
She did part of her primary school education at Alfred Beit International School in Harare, Zimbabwe before going to Lilongwe Girls Primary School. She later went to Dedza Girls Islamic Secondary School after which she attended Malawi College of Accountancy and Varsity College in Pretoria South Africa where she studied accountancy.
Mabel now holds an associate degree in public relations and communications from the University of Wales in Cardiff, attained in 2010.
Beyonce Knowles, Oprah Winfrey and Iman (Zara Mohamed Abdulmajid) are some of her role models.
“These are powerful black women who despite their backgrounds made it happen for themselves and they are still making it,” she says.
She advises girls never to stop believing in their dreams and to always put God first in everything.