She’s fierce, fun, and breaks norms and barriers. From making a name for Sri Lanka on many of South Asia’s popular runways to working for our national carrier, Stephanie Kinson is a model, engineering instructor and now a mother.
Stephanie is a lovely young lady with baby doll features – she’s full of energy and sports a challenging gleam in her eye. And her laugh reminds us of tinkling bells. When Stephanie discusses her life’s choices and how she got to be where she is today, that gleam brightens with each riveting story.
“I’ve always been someone who likes a good challenge,” Stephanie says as she sips her evening coffee, adding: “And when I considered aircraft maintenance, I knew from the very beginning that since it’s a male dominated field, I had to work in it.”
With a shrug and smile, she declares: “I mean, why the hell not!”
Stephanie is one of the many women in the modern world who is taking charge and pulling herself out of the countless stereotypes that young women find themselves falling into.
She’s broken through the glass ceiling, which makes her the perfect face for Living’s International Women’s Day 2021 issue.
Ashwini Vethakan chats with this month’s superwoman as she lets us in on her life’s journey, passions and plans for the future.
Q: How would you describe Stephanie Kinson to our readers?
A: I’d say she’s someone who loves to dance and do things differently, and always engages in out-of-the-box thinking. She also enjoys travelling and experiencing new things in life.
Q: How about your childhood – what kind of child and teenager were you?
A: I was a very playful child. That’s why my parents pulled me out of school after I sat for my O-Levels. I loved athletics and netball, and would rather cut class and play some ball.
Q: Your most memorable moment in life so far...
A: When I saw my baby on the ultrasound scan for the first time – and hearing her heartbeat was simply amazing.
Q: What’s your greatest fear?
A: To lose someone I love.
Q: And your happy place...
A: My family.
Q: If you could chose a moment in time to go back to, what would it be?
A: I have many moments that I treasure but would pick the Miss Working Girl finals because that’s where it all began.
" I was introduced to modelling through a charity show. I modelled for one of my parents’ charity club events and realised that I loved being on the ramp "
Sunrise or sunset
Beach or mountain
Ride or drive
Fight or flight
Truth or dare
Dogs or cats
Chocolate or vanilla
Mocktails or cocktails
Dress up or dress down
Lipstick or mascara
Diamonds or pearls
Bath or shower
Men or shoes
One man – I have plenty of shoes!
Work or play
Radio or TV
Online or offline
Facebook or Instagram
24 September 1992
Aircraft Maintenance Licence holder from the Civil Aviation Authority of Sri Lanka
The fact that she is not afraid to speak out
“I’m very sensitive to sound; so if I hear water drip, I won’t stop until I find out where it’s coming from.”
Her husband’s laundry
When she can’t finish a job on time
To empower others
ALWAYS WANTED TO BE
Someone she can be proud of
Be that catalyst of change
Her mother – “She is the woman who taught me how to balance things. And my strength to adapt to change comes from her. She is also the person who taught me to challenge myself.”
Q: What drew you to the world of engineering and why did you choose working as an aircraft technician?
A: I’m in awe every time I see those big birds fly. Though I had always wanted to be in the aviation industry, what really got me into it was the challenge I set for myself in this particular field. I’m driven by challenges; and when I realised that it was a male dominated field, I thought to myself, why not go for it?
Q: So how does one go from working under an aeroplane to modelling on a runway?
A: I was introduced to modelling through a charity show. I modelled for one of my parents’ charity club events and realised that I loved being on the ramp. Since it was a charity event, it occurred to me that I could also help someone in need.
Actually, that’s what drew me to taking part and in a way, helping these events. It was the same thinking I had when entering the pageants since I knew I could help people through these events.
We eventually set up a fund called ‘The Miracle,’ which supports various social projects and charities. This has become a way of giving back to society.
Q: How was your experience in Malaysia during the Miss Tourism World pageant? Do you think we (Sri Lanka) prepare our young contestants well enough to participate?
A: My experience with Miss Tourism World was simply amazing. I don’t regret any decisions I’ve made, and I really believe that it’s taught me a lot and made me that much more confident.
We were trained by Venezuelan choreographers and I had the opportunity to meet with women from around the world from different cultures. The underwater photoshoots were absolutely fascinating! Events such as these give participants the experience of a lifetime.
But it’s regrettable that even though Sri Lanka has so much potential, our local organisers don’t provide our contestants with sufficient training so they can confidently participate in such events.
If Sri Lankan organisers take the time and make an effort to help our lovely young women, we can achieve a lot more at these pageants.
Q: How did you handle the obvious shock you may have caused in your workplace?
A: Some people didn’t take it too well. However, though my workplace was very supportive and flexible with my hours, I think it was a little difficult for many to understand how someone in the engineering field who wears overalls and safety shoes to work can also wear six inch heels and take part in a beauty pageant.
Q: With many women now gaining recognition in the workplace – even in aviation – what do you think Sri Lanka needs to do to encourage women to enter the workforce?
A: The main thing is flexibility. If you look at the working from home scenarios that have popped up as a result of the pandemic, it has definitely helped mothers and women to do a job while also being with the family.
But the catch is that you’re not working your normal work hours any more. It’s more like extended hours. Nevertheless, I believe that flexibility is definitely the key to bringing in more women and mothers to the workforce.
Q: How would you describe a day off?
A: A day off would be one where I don’t have to do anything at all – wake up and stay in my pj’s all day, order food and watch movies online.
" I think it was a little difficult for many to understand how someone in the engineering field who wears overalls and safety shoes to work can also wear six inch heels and take part in a beauty pageant "
Q: You recently embarked on a new journey – motherhood. How has it been for you?
A: It’s probably been one of my biggest challenges so far. It has been overwhelming – no one said babies were easy!
It’s tough, especially when you’re juggling a career and child. But when I see her smile and hold her, I know it’s all worthwhile. Motherhood by far beats all the titles in the world!
Q: So do you think you’ve found the right balance between work and motherhood?
A: I haven’t found the right balance as yet. I think I’m still adjusting; but I will get there because that’s one of my strengths – the ability to adjust.
Q: What is your definition of success?
A: If you’re happy, fulfilled and proud of who you are, you’re successful.
Q: How would your family and friends describe you?
A: As the youngest in my family, I’m the playful one but the peacemaker as well – getting in the middle and trying to fix things! As for my friends, I actually have a very small closely knit group of friends whom I’d do pretty much anything for – and I know it works both ways.
Q: Do you consider yourself a romantic?
A: My husband is more of a romantic than I am; but yes, I could be. When my husband proposed to me, it was the most romantic thing anyone has ever done for me.
Q: Care to share that story with us…?
A: We’d finished dinner at Cinnamon Red and he had been weird all through the evening – on edge, as if he didn’t want to be there. And then, once the meal was over, he asked me to come up to the rooftop saying that we could hang out there.
Usually, I would have agreed since I love the ambience and skyline from the rooftop; but for some reason, I didn’t feel like going there. But since he persisted, I agreed.
When we got to the rooftop, four of our friends were walking towards us. I saw them hold up boards, which read: ‘Will you marry me?’ But the question didn’t sink in because I was more curious about what they were doing up here.
And when I turned around, Dilshan was on one knee with the ring. Only then did it click! It was definitely the most romantic thing anyone has done for me.
Q: What would you like to tell our readers on International Women’s Day?
A: Through the years, women have been undermined; we have been confined to household chores or jobs that people deem are ‘good for a woman.’
But the past few years has seen a shift in this dynamic. We have a lot of women coming out on top and leading their teams and companies. Today, there are more women CEOs and females taking on job roles that aren’t what the older generation would call ‘conventional’ – and it is inspiring to see that.
So my message to women is this: don’t stop where you are – be a catalyst of change instead, and push yourself because we can make the impossible possible.
Q: So what’s next for Stephanie?
A: I go with the flow. And since I love to takes risks, I don’t really know what’s next… but I’m ready to go wherever my journey takes me.
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" My message to women is this: don’t stop where you are – be a catalyst of change instead, and push yourself because we can make the impossible possible. "