Sylvie Isimbi recently represented Rwanda at the prestigious Miss Friendship International held in Chengdu, China, making her the first Rwandan to ever participate in the month-long competition. Her journey was marked by a couple of recorded achievements, including a 1st runner-up position at Miss Super Model and securing a spot in the top 10 and top 20 at the competitive pageant but her most significant victory was being crowned as Miss Friendship International Africa. ALSO READ: Isimbi represents Rwanda at Miss Friendship International in China The 20-year-old had an interview with The New Times, where she share her experience and plans.. Excerpts: Can you share your experience of representing Rwanda? What was it like for you? It was big exposure for me as a fashion model, since Rwanda was being represented in that pageant for the first time. It’s a pleasure to be the first delegate to represent the country in China. Were there any specific challenges you faced during the competition? How did you overcome them? In the competition, there weren’t major challenges except adapting to the culture, food, and weather in a different country. The hospitality in the pageant was ok. You won four categories during the pageant, what does it mean for you? The first one is ‘Miss Friendship International Rwanda’, if I wasn’t MFI Rwanda, I wouldn’t be representing my country in China. The second one is ‘Miss Super Model 1st runner-up’ where they had to vote based on the individual’s specific passion during the boot camp and it means a lot as a professional model to have won it. I was among the top 10 and 20 miss friendships internationally. ALSO READ: What is the future of Miss Rwanda competition? Who or what would you attribute your win to? I would attribute my success to my family and friends, especially my mother because she is always encouraging and telling me I can do it even when I feel I cannot. Also, Rwanda’s media has played a big role in my journey. If I wasn’t recognised in my country, nobody would recognise me over there in China. Some designers like Matheo also made me look gorgeous and amazing. In your opinion, how do you think this experience will contribute to your future career or personal development? This is a big opportunity because it has exposed me beyond borders. Now I am ‘Miss Friendship International Africa’, that means a number of doors are open in Africa and the rest of the world. It also means it will be very easy for another Rwandan delegate to attend the pageant. The local beauty pageantary has been on hold, what effect is this having on girls? It’s a big challenge for aspiring contestants to showcase their talents and we need support from the government to represent our country. What message or values do you hope to promote or represent on an international stage as Miss Friendship International Africa, starting in Rwanda? I would like to tell my fellow beautiful girls that they are capable of doing everything they feel they can. They can do it regardless of their skin color or whatever. Some will keep telling you that you will not make it but be brave and keep it rolling.