A mother of two, an entrepreneur, a former beauty queen/model, a philanthropist and current National director of Miss Universe Ghana, Ghanaian Canadian, Menaye Donkor Muntari has found it her life’s calling to break down several glass ceilings and create spaces for young women to thrive.
In her capacity as the National director for Miss Universe Ghana, she has redefined the ideas and notion of pageantry in the minds of avid fans and critics alike with bold initiatives that impact these young girls and society as a whole.
It is no wonder that all of Ghana’s representatives in the past 5 years have made such lasting impression on the international stage.
A graduate of the York University in Toronto, Canada, she holds a degree in Marketing which has served her well in marketing Miss Universe Ghana to corporate business and the public.
Having herself held the position in 2004, she begun a successful career in modeling that saw her travel the globe and landing on the covers of renowned magazine.
However, her real impact and purpose was unearthed when she founded the Menaye Charity Organization where she was able to successfully raise funds to support people living with HIV/AIDS and underprivileged children.
Through this organization, she is able to provide free quality basic education and scholarships to rural underprivileged children in Ghana under Menaye School of Hope in 2004.
Her goal is to build 10 more of these schools across Ghana.
In her latest interview with GQ, we sat down with this overachiever and find out what makes her relentless in her diverse pursuits.
GQ: You are remembered by majority of the world as the Canada-born Ghanaian businesswoman, entrepreneur, philanthropist, and former beauty queen who stole the heart of Ghanaian footballer, Sulley Muntari. What else should the world know about Menaye Donkor Muntari?
MD: Besides putting God first in everything I do, I am a top Michelin star chef (in my kitchen). Well, at least that’s how I see myself… lol. I know it seems exaggerated but I create amazing dishes for my family all the time.
My passion for good quality food stems from being exposed to the Italian cuisine for many years. I like to experiment and fuse diﬀerent ingredients from around the world to create sexy meals. My dream is to own a very unique restaurant in the near future. I’m a foodie 🙂
GQ: As a mother and leader, in your opinion what is the most important thing we should teach young girls today?
MD: One word—Solidarity! Solidarity is an opportunity for collective impact. It is a phenomenon that has pushed communities of women to greater heights today. Solidarity is a powerful force that drives women to encourage each other.
In its most magical manifestations, solidarity allows each woman in the sisterhood to thrive in ways she could never do on her own and provides a safe space for her truest potential to emerge. That is an essential value we need to teach young girls.
GQ: Mothers play a critical role and are a powerful force in every society. Can you tell us how the birth of your second daughter has redefined and shaped your perspective as a woman?
MD: Despite already having a first child, every child birth gives you a completely new experience. Being a mother makes you stronger, it gives you a true sense of worth and purpose, it shifts your priorities, and among many other things makes you selfless.
But, having a daughter awakened me because now I have a mini me looking up to me. It is my duty to set good examples for her to follow and learn from and that has definitely changed me for the better.
GQ: In your own words, how would you define Beauty and Glamour?
MD: Beauty for me is diversity. It is a quality that is not limited to one race, preference, or age. Every individual has beauty within them!!!
Now, I feel the definition of glamour is mostly misconstrued. For most people, glamour is exaggerated, loud, and excessive but I see Glamour as quite the opposite of that. It is a fine, delicate mix of sophistication and style.
GQ: In 2004, you represented Ghana at Miss Universe, 18 years later, you’re the national director of the pageant in Ghana. Can you tell us how you landed this role and why it matters to you?
MD: It was in 2017 that I made a decision to live a life of purpose, not one for my own benefit, but one for the love of womankind. I proceeded to secure ownership of the Miss Universe Ghana franchise in that same year as I was inspired to set the pace that mirrors my success in younger generations of Ghanaian women to come.
This move was not intended to bring me fame and glory, it was a step aimed at working fiercely to make a diﬀerence in the Ghanaian woman’s world, to promote my country, and to provide a forum to strengthen the voices of Ghanaian women, changing the status quo by ensuring women’s inclusivity in building the nation.
GQ: What change and impact have you brought to the national pageant since you took over in 2017?
MD: Beyond the opportunities that pageantry oﬀers every young girl, I am proud to say i have created a world where I have taught Ghanaian women that black is beautiful. I crafted a platform that does so much for the soul of the Ghanaian woman.
Whether exposing them to the upscale cosmopolitan ends of the city, or exploring the most unreachable parts of Ghana and beyond, my platform has given every Ghanaian woman an opportunity to celebrate her beauty, her uniqueness and work towards her dream.
We have created a community that allows every woman to share her darkest fears, express her deepest problems, and be supported by another sister in a world that teaches women to compete and to view each other as threats, not as up lifters of one another. It’s a sisterhood.
GQ: There is a certain school of thought that believes that beauty pageants are not only outdated but also a sexist idea that project’s women beauty over their capabilities. What is your response to that critique?
MD: It excites me whenever I get the chance to have this conversation. Yes, pageants do celebrate women’s beauty—a concept of beauty that is not limited to physical attributes. The pageant space creates a doorway to spot well versed, goal-oriented, talented young women who have the potential to make concrete and measurable change. Pageantry has been a Launchpad for many successful careers across the globe.
GQ: You’re constantly celebrated for your numerous initiatives and platforms to empower women and highlight diversity. Example is the SHEY by Menaye brand. How can other brands and businesses seek to emulate your strategy and success story?
MD: I am naturally committed to my purpose which is to impact many lives through my businesses. Purpose can guide life decisions, influence behavior, shape goals, oﬀer a sense of direction, and create true meaning in every business. With purpose comes the capacity to transform the world and create lasting solutions to many of life’s problems today.
GQ: What is one life/business advice you will give to a young person starting a business?
MD: Follow your heart, chase your dreams, live your vision. You can do anything you aspire to as long as you never stop believing. The greater the obstacles, the more glorious the triumph. Know that in you lies unimaginable possibilities so release your fears and let your dreams take flight. Only you have the power to rewrite your destiny!!!
GQ: Have you failed at a venture in your life? If yes, how did you take that experience and how did you manage it?
MD: In essence, I wouldn’t say I failed at a venture. Failure is an illusion fueled by the fear that you are not good enough and a negative perspective that stops you from creating the life you are born to live. I view my disappointments as part of my journey and a stepping stone to success. These disappointments give me an opportunity to learn and tests my will to win.
GQ: The theme for this year’s International Women’s Month is #BreakTheBias, what projects have you embarked or would you be working on that tackles issues of gender-based bias?
MD: I almost feel as though I started my journey to breaking the bias ahead of our time. One of my defined goals for taking over the Miss Universe Ghana Organization was to bridge the gender gap and to ensure women’s inclusivity in building our nation, Ghana. My most recent bid to change the status quo for gender-based bias is evident in the creation of my feminine reproductive health brand, Sincerëly Ghana. Our aim is to create a solid support system for all women through education and providing useful assistance to make women leading voices of change in our society.
GQ: What are 3 things you do to keep yourself looking so fresh?
MD: These might sound corny, however, it bears deep truth.
Firstly, what you eat is what you are. Stay away from processed foods! Nutrients from the foods we eat provide the foundation of the structure, function, and wholeness of every little cell in our body, from the skin and hair to the muscles, bones, digestive and immune systems. The idea is that we have entirely too much processed food in our diets and if we go back to eating the raw forms of food and eliminating processed things, we will be healthier.
Secondly, yes, be happy! I always try to be the happiest I could possibly be. Those who are happy tend to have fewer wrinkles and lines and other outward signs of aging. Your skin tends to be more resilient, which allows you to look much younger than you actually are. The skin will also repair itself more easily, helping to keep your biological age lower than others in their age groups.
Finally, I always stay hydrated. Studies show that water can bring back your youth. Water is all around and even inside us. While it’s essential for our survival, it is also vital for our health and youthful looks. Doctors recommend drinking 8 glasses per day; however, I say make it a habit to drink at least 12 glasses a day. Not only will this keep you healthy, but will leave a radiant glow on your skin, which will make you look younger.
Credit: Interview was done by Yaw Tollo for GQ South Africa