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Flashback: Success Story Of Yityish Aynaw, The Orphaned Ethiopian Girl Who Became the First Black Miss Israel At 21

Nothing was handed to me on a plate. I had to work very hard and long to achieve things in my life.  I felt a responsibility to prove myself in everything I did and to improve myself as well. – Yityish Aynaw

The success story of Yityish Aynaw is one that would leave you feeling very emotional and inspired to believe in yourself and strive to make it anywhere in whatever path you choose to walk in and perhaps motivate you to work harder to see your dreams come true.

Yityish and her mother

Born in the very small Ethiopian village of Chahawit on June 23, 1991, Yityish was raised by her mother with her brother in a small mud-house where she shared a mattress and room with her brother. Even though life was very tough for the family of three after losing their father at a very young age, Yityish has in several interviews explained how life with her mother was very simple and full of love despite the obvious financial hardship.

Yityish Aynaw

Unfortunately, at the age of 10, Yityish’s mother fell terribly ill and had to be taken away leaving Yityish to look after herself and her younger brother. When her mother’s health got worse, Yityish was left with no other option but to pack bags and move to a well-to-do aunt who lived in Addis Ababa.

For several months, Yityish and her brother helplessly watched on as the health of their mother deteriorated until she passed away leaving her children as orphans.

After a few deliberations, it was decided that Yityish and her brother, 
Yellek, move to Israel where her grandparents were living and willing to take care of the children who were finding it hard to find a place to call home after becoming orphans.

Moving to Isreal came with mixed feelings for young Yityish who as a Jew had dreamt of visiting the country but not with so much pain and anxiety.

While in Isreal, Yityish and her brother had a hard time adapting to the new environment but the determined young children made it a point to learn the new language and study hard to make something better of themselves. Yityish went on to serve as student body president, participated in track and field, and entered a national student film competition, winning first place while in high school.

While growing up, Yityish became a tough teenager who fought through racism and bullying. She joined the Israeli army and rose in the ranks very fast becoming a lieutenant and officer of an all-male group.

Yityish Aynaw while serving in the military

After serving time with the military, she went on to work in the fashion industry and started her college education at the e Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya where she studied international relations

It was not until 2013 that Yityish’s moment of glory came when a friend convinced her to partake in the 2013 Miss Israel competition which she won and became the first woman of African descent to ever win the title.

Despite never modeling before, Yityish’s height, charisma and intelligence captured the ears of many including the judges who made her Miss Israel 2013. She inspired several black women in Israel and Ethiopia to be confident in their skin and aim for more.

U.S. President Barack Obama and Yityish Aynaw, a 21-year old Ethiopian-Israeli woman at president Peres’ house in Jerusalem on March 21, 2013. Photo by Avi Ohayon/GPO/FLASH90

For Yityish, the win was an honour to her mother and a reward for her resilience despite the hardship she faced. Her name soon became a global brand when Isreal named her one of the most influential people in 2013 and President Barack Obama requested her presence at the state dinner while he visited the country in 2013.


Yityish Aynaw went on to represent Israel at the 2013 Miss Universe competition making it all the way to the semi-finals.

Currently, the 27-year-old former beauty queen has gone on to become an international model and TV personality, living her best life and inspiring several others. She also runs a foundation that supports black kids 
from less privileged areas in Israel and Egypt.

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