Toronto’s mainstream fashion industry desperately needs an infusion of colour, says British-born supermodel, actor, TV host and hip-hop star, Sam Sarpong.
Sarpong was in Toronto for LG Fashion Week, Canada’s premiere event, and also to receive the Rising Star award at the sixth annual Planet Africa gala last Saturday night.
“I do a lot of fashion shows around the world and Toronto is certainly up there and could compare with New York and London,” Sarpong told Share. “The only difference is that T.O. needs to mix it up more as far as colour. All week, I was the only Black male model in all the shows and there were probably about four Black girls in the nearly 25 shows.”
Voted one of the 50 Most Beautiful People by the American teen magazine YM, Sarpong headlined the Bustle Show and made an appearance for self-taught designer Evan Biddell at LG Fashion Week.
“Toronto is by far one of my favourite cities,” he said. “I visit about three times a year because I have lots of friends and family here. The people here are very accommodating.”
Sarpong was among 15 recipients of Planet Africa awards that honour excellence.
“This award means a lot to me because it’s an African award,” said Sarpong, whose parents were born in Ghana. “To receive a Planet Africa award is priceless. I am so humbled and I mean that from the bottom of my heart.”
Sarpong’s sister, June, is a popular and well respected British TV personality who was appointed a Member of the British Empire (MBE) by the Queen two years ago for her significant broadcasting and charitable work.
“I am very close to my sister and extremely proud of her accomplishments,” he said. “The two Sarpongs have come together and we are making our presence felt in a big way in the world.”
Toronto Argonauts Football Club vice-chair Michael “Pinball” Clemons and his wife Diane, who visited Kenya last summer to do charitable work with young people, hosted this year’s Planet Africa awards show.
“The history of Africa and the Diaspora is laced with a rich heritage of accomplishments, from inventing the elevator to the traffic lights despite the legacy of slavery, colonialism and imperialism,” said Clemons who, with his wife, were in Uganda three years ago with World Vision.
This year’s winners ranged from Dr. Marion Hilliard Senior Public School Grade seven students Jelani Watson and his nephew Shomari Edwards, who were honoured with Academic awards, to Canadian senator Donald Oliver who met United States President Barack Obama in the Oval office last month.
“It was a moment of a lifetime,” said Oliver who was presented with a Leadership award. “His message of hope has truly resonated in the hearts of millions of citizens around the world and he has touched their imagination. His victory encourages us to pursue our quest for equality and justice as individuals and as a community.”
Oliver, who was appointed a senator in 1990, has worked tirelessly to promote equality and fairness.
“Since my appointment to the senate, I have had the opportunity to increase my advocacy and reach out to individuals, groups and organizations across the country and abroad to share with them the benefits of diversity and pluralism,” he said.
Twenty years later, I am motivated more than ever to continue to defend the rights of African-Canadians. There has been some progress in recent years. It’s hard to believe that an African-American holds the keys to the White House. We need more African-Canadians holding more senior executive jobs in this country.”
Toronto International Film Festival co-director Cameron Bailey was recognized with the Media & Entertainment award, Toronto African Dance Festival artistic director Joy Nneji received the Heritage award, Pope John Paul II High School Grade 11 student Kenneth Kerto was presented with the Sports & Athletics award and Dr. Titus Owolabi, the head of Obstetrics and Gynecology at North York General Hospital, was honoured with the Professional Excellence award.
Other award winners were entrepreneur Delores Lawrence (Enterprise), Dr. Abdullah Kirumira (Science & Technology), The Rotary Club of Newmarket (Nelson Mandela Humanitarian), Danielle Francis (Volunteer of the Year), Dr. Anthony Hutchinson (Community Development), Alvin Curling (Lifetime Achievement), Austin Clarke (African Renaissance) and American actor Isaiah Washington (Marcus Garvey Memorial).