It’s not something that happens every day; meeting a doctor who dubs as a fashion model. But such is the case for 25-year-old Sarafina Wasley aka Nellysa. The tall, slender African beauty fits all the descriptions of a model, if we are to judge by the standards set in today’s fashion industry.
When you first meet her, you’d be forgiven for not immediately associating her with the medical field. At a young age, she exudes all the confidence inherent in a model – an uptake she’s loved from childhood.
Growing up Sarafina always had an eye for fashion. She liked looking good and wearing chic designer outfits. This passion, however deeply embedded it was, played second fiddle to her penchant for the medical field. She knew that as an adult she’d like to take-on medicine as a career.
Blending two diverse interests isn’t easy, but Sarafina didn’t want to choose one over the other.
For this reason she had to find a way to make her two interests co-exist. It was during her 2nd year enrolment at Hubert Kairuki Medical University that Sarafina made an official debut in the modelling world. She walked the runway at one of Mustafa Hassanali’s fashion shows. “That was my first time going on auditions, it was my first modelling gig,” she says.
With an academic journey that required her to dedicate five years in total to get a medical degree, Sarafina knew she had to play the numbers right in order to balance between her academic endeavours whilst also bolstering her modelling interest. “There were a few doubters who always told me that I can’t do modelling and pursue a career as a doctor, but considering how much I loved doing both, I knew I had to try and see how it works,” she says.
She’s come a long way since then, her plunge into the deep end of the modelling world seems to have paid off quite handsomely.
Her resume includes working with Coca Cola as a commercial model for one of their billboard ads, she has also walked on some of the most prestigious runways in Tanzania – the likes of Swahili Fashion Week and a slew of Ally Rehmtullah fashion shows – a local designer whom she has worked with on numerous occasions, one of her recent Rehmtullah gigs being at the 2019 Vitenge Vyetu, Ufahari Wetu fashion show in Dar.
Balancing between medicine and modelling hasn’t been a walk in the park for Sarafina. As she reveals to The Beat, along the way she’s had to fend off the doubters, but she’s also at a constant battle to maintain a positive, respectful image of herself, one that won’t go against the ideals or ethical expectations of a medical doctor. “I don’t compromise my ethics by doing modelling,” she affirms, adding that her first priority is medicine, being a doctor.
But the ethical dilemma has crossed her mind once or twice. There was a time she planned to stop doing modelling once her academic journey in medicine commenced, but she later abandoned that notion. “We are evolving everyday, so I figured I can try to find a way of doing both modelling and being a doctor without making one the lesser or let it affect the other,” she says. But she still insists that if it ever came down to choosing between the two paths, then modelling would get the boot.
The usual disappointments that are part and parcel of the fashion world haven’t spared Sarafina. Missing out on a modelling gig or not making the cut at an audition are realities she has had to accept. “That’s life, when things like these happen, you just move on to the next opportunity,” she boldly says.
With over three years in the modelling industry, Sarafina has done what can be termed as 360 degree modelling. She’s not limited to runways or commercial modelling, but also does ushering gigs from time to time, the sort of work that keeps the cheques coming in.
Now that she’s on the brink of becoming a medical practitioner, Sarafina plans to be more selective of the modelling gigs she partakes in. “Most modelling gigs happen at night, so I think I will be doing more of such shows in order to have ample time to rest and attend to medical duties,” she says.
Some of the drawbacks of jumping on two horses headed on different directions, is that one will be curtailed eventually.
For Sarafina, the shorthand in this equation is that she’s refrained from signing to any big modelling agency that would require her to do modelling abroad – seeing as this is a line of work associated with a lot of travelling.
At the moment Sarafina is in the running for Miss Universe Tanzania. She’s also taking part in an online modelling competition called Miss Virtual World, where the eventual winner will win a Porsche.
Back to her other life in medicine, the young doctor plans to become a plastic surgeon, with preferance for cosmetics surgery.