Alexia Uwera Mupende traversed East Africa before she was a teenager more than most people her age. Born 30 years ago, Mupende lived in Kenya (where she was born), Uganda and Rwanda. She did her primary and secondary school education in Kenya and Uganda respectively before coming to Rwanda where she studied Business Information and Technology at Mount Kenya University.
Upon completion of her degree, Mupende worked for different companies before deciding to fully venture into modeling, which she says has always been her first love.
“Modeling has always been part of my life though I hadn’t taken it on full time. As a kid, I used to watch fashion and modeling shows on television and then I would try to do exactly what I had seen,” she says
Mupende first tried her hand at modeling when she was still in high school when she took part in a couple of beauty contests and did some modeling but her parents were not too keen on seeing her continue.
Seeing the likes of Naomi Campbell and Alek Wek succeed she decided to try her luck at professional modeling.
But things were not going according to plan and just as she thought about throwing in the towel, one event changed things. In 2012, designer Cynthia Munwagari was launching her CyMun Collection at the Serena Hotel. Mupende approached Munwagari and asked if she could be allowed to be part of the modeling team. She was cast and for the first time, she walked the runway. Though she did not get paid, she says that she will forever attribute the little she has achieved to that show.
“I did not get paid but I had fun and that is the day I learnt that opportunities do not always come to you, you have to go out searching for them. Some models get discovered, but others just find ways to make it happen,” she says.
So, she set off and tried her best at putting her name out there. She started watching America’s Next Top Model to learn more about the industry, and took pictures to build her portfolio.
Mupende scooped the Rwanda Premier Model Competition award in 2012 where she walked away with Rfw1m. She has also walked the Dubai Runway Season II and has modeled at the 3rd Edition of the Africa Fashion Show held in Geneva this year.
She has also worked with a couple of designers on photo shoots and campaigns, and modeled at various fashion shows in Rwanda and abroad including Kigali Fashion Week.
So far, she says that her experience in Geneva has been one of her best because the whole event was hinged on telling a positive story about Africa.
“I was not sure what to expect but it was wonderful to put Africa on the map. There is so much to celebrate, and the event did just that; celebrate African culture, history, clothing and its people,” she says.
Today, she aspires to travel the world and represent her beloved Rwanda at various fashion shows.
“I would love to model at the New York, Tokyo and London Fashion Weeks, experience different cultures and work with different designers,” she says.
Alexia is very humble and does not see modeling as something that is just about her. Being an ambassador for Rwanda is a strong driving force.
“Unfortunately, media is often negative. It is all about Rwanda, Genocide. There is much more to Rwanda such as tourism, innovation in terms of technology and business, that Rwanda is a safe place and how easy is it to invest,” she adds.
Being a model has its challenges. She says that there is not much income to make and the opportunities are very few. She also says that their type of work requires a lot of hard work since sometimes you have to wake up at 5am to shoot all day long just for one picture. You also have to exercise a lot, eat healthy and network.
Mupende also thinks that there are many girls in Rwanda who have modeling potential, and could contribute to the local fashion scene.
She advises young girls to follow their passion.
“If it is what you love, make the most of it. Be thankful for whatever you get and dream big,” she says.