Meet Happy Umurerwa, the face of Kigali Fashion Week

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Happy Umurerwa on the runway.

Happy Umurerwa is a Rwandan model signed under Fusion Model Agency in Cape Town, South Africa and Next Model Agency (under Ford Models Agency) in Canada. In her own words, modelling and fashion have become her life.

During her childhood, she was enthusiastic about matching her school uniform with a jacket that wasn’t part of the school uniform so she could look unique.

Young as she was, she knew she had a ‘thing’ for clothes. And not just any clothes, but those that made her standout. She had a chat with Donata Kiiza about her career.

What was your breakthrough like?

When I was in primary six, I tried to convince my mother to let me sign up with a modelling agency which existed in Rwanda by then but she didn’t like it. When I didn’t get my parent’s support, I decided to put it on hold.

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In 2010, I happened to visit my relatives in Canada. One day as we attended a party in Toronto, a lady approached me asking whether I was a model. As we talked, she introduced herself as the manager of Ford Models Agency, a major modelling agency in the US.

Two months after this encounter, I was signed to the agency. I have since worked with major designers in the fashion industry, appeared in major runway shows with the likes of Alek Wek and Yasmin Warsame and also starred in the pages of fashion magazines.

So how did you become the face of Kigali Fashion Week?

Even when living my dreams, I have always had my country at heart. I was often asked to come and train models here in Rwanda but my schedule always got in the way. So when I was asked to be the face of Kigali Fashion Week, I looked at this as an opportunity to support the modelling and fashion industry in my country.

About the concluded Kigali Fashion Week, what were your observations as compared to international runway shows?

To start with, I realised a lot of ‘chilling’ by the models on the runway. Models need to know it’s the brand they are marketing and not them. Yes they must own that moment but it is more of owning the outfit and selling it to the crowd.

Time limit for the runway show should have also been thought about. It is better for the runway show to be divided into more than one day depending on how many designers will be showcasing. This will eliminate a prolonged show which could lead to boredom and people will be excited to come back the next day and see different collections.

What do you think about Kigali Fashion Week going to Europe?

They should go and not take this chance for granted because the competition out there is great. Models must be well trained and designers should be having catchy clothes to impress people with.

What are you proud of the most so far in your career?

I am proud of most of my work since I see myself growing from one level to the other but the most important milestone now is having been chosen as the second face of Amarula, after Alek Wek.

There is no work without sweat, what has kept you moving?

I love my work and I never stop learning. The people I meet every day through my work also push me to work harder. I also love a challenge. If someone tells me “you can’t do that” I want to prove to them that I can.

Having moved from Canada to Cape Town, are there any hopes that you will come settle in Rwanda some day?

I am not sure about that yet. But what I can guarantee is that in the future I plan to open a modelling agency here where I can teach what I have learnt in the industry and develop our local talents in modelling.

What advice do you have for girls who look up to you?

They should not limit themselves to the Rwandan market only. And as they prepare themselves for this career, let them not wait for their first jobs, let it be a lifestyle so that the job finds them ready.

editorial@newtimes.co.rw