Alexia Mupende

Please tell us about Alexia.
Alexia is a Rwandan girl with big dreams…dreams that Rwandan models will make it to the biggest fashion cities of Paris, Milan, New York, Tokyo & London to grace the most glamorous runways and put Rwanda on the global scene for something really awesome! More about me on alexiamupende.com

How long have you been modeling?
It’s a couple of years now…on and off over the years though more actively since December of 2012 when I took part and won the Rwanda Premier Model Competition organized by Premier Modeling Agency (PMA). Though, I have to admit lately I haven’t done much…

Are you an editorial or runway model? Which one do you associate yourself with more?
Can’t really say…I have tried to do a bit of both and mostly just go with whatever opportunity may open up as there are not that many so it would also be up to the people am working with to decide maybe which one they feel am more of or what job is available.

Tell us more about your modeling. How many countries have you shot/walked shows in?
Modeling for me was always about the passion since I was a little girl…was great to learn that we can create opportunities for ourselves and not necessarily wait to be discovered. I worked hard to build my portfolio, working with different photographers, designers & event organizers to achieve this. I will admit it hasn’t been smooth sailing, but it has been an interesting journey and a learning curve for me.

In my pursuit of my dream and passion I have been fortunate to have done quite a bit of modeling in Rwanda; The Rwanda Premier Modeling Competition, I’ve graced the runways of Kigali Fashion Week with 3 years in a row 2012, 2013 and 2014, the Rwandan Fashion Upgrade by Rwanda Clothing, Vlisco150, Illusions by Inema Arts as well as Collective RW17; aside from Rwanda, I have shot and modeled at Runway Dubai Season II in Dubai, UAE, Africa Fashion Show Geneva #AFSG 3rd Edition in Geneva, Switzerland and Kampala Fashion Week 2015 in Kampala, Uganda, shot in Colombo, Sri Lanka & Nairobi, Kenya.

Which was the event that kicked off your career?
Not sure I can say…it was always a passion for me growing up and always looked for opportunities to model, starting way back in High School where I took part in Beauty Pageants and earning three titles as Miss Junior and Miss Intermediate twice in a row as well as Miss Peace & Justice. Did some modeling on and off while on holidays as well. Unfortunately, in this pursuit most times event organizers took advantage of us and we

never got paid, but winning the Rwanda Premier Modeling completion kind of revived the dream and a hope that anything is possible if one puts their heart and mind to it. Hard work too & determination helped not to mention the support of family & friends

Do you consider this your full-time job? Does it cover the bills?
Hell no…I have recently accepted that it will just be a passion and will do it just for the love of it. I did try to make it a full-time job in 2014 when I quit my job to dedicate more time to pursue this dream & passion but it slowly proved to be harder than I had anticipated. A passionate Alexia believed in the Mantra #BeThankful #DreamBig & #NeverGiveUp and it pushed me for a while but at the end of the day a girl has to eat and pay the bills so I considered alternate work but with more flexibility to still be able to pursue my dream!

Modeling doesn’t cover the bills, truth be told, I have spent a whole lot more than I ever made, investing in myself, preparing for shoots, shows, travel etc guess cause I was really passionate about it and believed that one has to invest in themselves or anything if they want returns. Unfortunately, sometimes I have worked with people who haven’t paid many claim to be starting up or don’t have a budget so you get a minimal wage, images for your portfolio, clothes & or jewelry in exchange for your service

How do you see the fashion and modeling industry in Rwanda? (or/and east Africa)
It has definitely evolved from when I started, more professional shows, shoots and more local designers; creativity is certainly on the rise. In the past we modeled garments from clothing stores imported from other countries, but with the Made in Rwanda campaign that is changing a lot. I still feel there is a lot that can improve especially as far as the professionalism of models themselves but also people we work with both events organizers and designers. It would be nice to see an ecosystem where everyone benefits all year round through more quality events, shoots, and partnerships alike. This would definitely boost the economy, as models, designers & event organizers make more money so will be their tax revenues that help build the economy of Rwanda.

What would you like to see more or less of in your industry?
Less exploitation and more support from peers and other stakeholders in the industry. To be honest am sick and tired of the word EXPOSURE as a scapegoat to take advantage of young and eager models, I might be skinny but a girl needs to eat and pay the bills. People need to value what one brings to the table, as modeling is an art and a profession just like any other, otherwise everyone would be a model, which is not the case. I believe if value was given the industry would be more competitive, definitely create jobs for many & thrive.

Everything in life has its challenges. What have been yours and how do you conquer
what comes your way?                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     I guess every day one wakes up in the morning they are faced with a challenge; you just got to see beyond it. I guess my faith has kept me going, I won’t lie many times I have given up and thrown in the towel, but a little glimmer of hope still burns within me and somehow gets me all excited when an opportunity presents itself. I pray and most of all try to cultivate an attitude of gratitude. When you try to do so much and are not able to achieve it you can burn out and hate everything and everyone especially people who have taken advantage of and let you down, but then I am reminded of how far God has brought me and am thankful and hope that He that brought me this far will take me on to greater glory’s. I hold on to Jeremiah 29: 11; For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

What is the future for your career?
To be honest I really don’t know…a few years back I believed it was New York, Paris, Milan, London & Tokyo…now am not as driven as I was but hopefully I can in some way give back to other young models looking to pursue this dream cause I have walked this journey and I know is not an easy one, hopefully my experience can help make it a lot easier for them; just fighting the stereotypes & cultural barriers of modeling being for whores, to people not taking you seriously or just plain taking advantage of you especially if you are young and or naïve.

New meanings to “model” appear every day, like plus size models, cross gender or
gender-neutral modeling. What are your views on that?
For the longest time modeling has been in a box. Growing up I always saw only Caucasian blonde models on the runway & in glamorous magazines or adverts, I felt like I never could be or belong, am glad that today the industry has evolved and is more accepting of people regardless of their race, origin, heritage, age, size etc

Modeling seems to be based on body image a lot. What do you do to stay body positive?
It’s hard, everyone around me says and thinks am too skinny, honestly I am beginning to think am even underweight for my height, but for modeling in some cases I have been told my hips are too wide or my butt is too big then again on another occasion am told am too skinny & they want someone wider . There is no formula for this and well every opportunity that presents itself has different requirements so one can never fit them all. Ultimately, one needs to be healthy above all, eat right, stay hydrated and workout to maintain a healthy & balanced lifestyle. Life is too short to please everyone and fit in a box!

I have learnt to accept myself and be proud of who I am… I am beautiful, I am talented, I am bootyful and am awesome! If people don’t see that then I honestly don’t know what they want. I choose to take good care of myself cause I can’t fit a different mold each time people want me to. Sometimes you just have to stand out, I have on many occasions been asked to cut my dreadlocks and the people asking are not even willing to pay the equivalent of $100 for my work and time, so choose to be different and embrace your flaws…like Tyra says be #Flawsome and beside “Perfect is Boring” am reading her bestselling book and her journey has been and encouraging one for me.

Do you think it’s ever too late or too soon to follow a model career path?
I always thought it was too late for me…but then I learned otherwise, its never too late and in pursuing your dream and career you can help lift others along with you, last cycle of America’s Next Top Model (ANTM) had a 42year old mother and she looked beautiful and she was awesome and kicked ass, never let anyone put limits on you, there is a Japanese gentleman called Wang Deshun who started modeling at 80years old and he certainly broke the internet…so why not…if you’re reading this now, whether its modeling or something else…as long as your passionate about it…go give it your all and best…its never too late 😉

As for too early, I guess we all start to have dreams as little children, its my hope and prayer that parents can be more open to cultivating these dreams even from a younger age, we are all not destined to be politicians, doctors, administrators, lawyers etc…we all have a role to play on this earth and if we can discover it at a young age and pursue it, there is no better gift in life than that.

 If the world could know one thing about you, what would you like that to be?
That’s a hard one…………guess there is a lot I would like them to know and a lot more maybe that I don’t want them to know too  I love cats  perhaps they inspired me to do the Catwalk!

TIPPY-TOP TIPS
As a model, you need to stand out but also merge into the visions and creations of your clients and brands. We are sure that gave you some tricks. Can you share your tips (3) on each of the following?

  1. Tips for a healthy body; its mind, body & soul. You need to have a balanced life so best to take care of all these…do things you love, cause if you don’t it shows in your work product like pictures or on the runway and that will affect others jobs you could possibly book as your work product, in turn, becomes your portfolio which is a resume for models.
  2. Tips for runway walking; invest in good quality heels, practice in your heels and as much as possible avoid shoes that don’t fit. Helps to also focus on getting a nice shot at the end of the rump as after 30seconds on the runway that the final shot is the memory that will stick for years to come Also if you are shy avoid eye contact with the audience, focus on the prize which is to start & finish well, showcase whatever garment you have on, represent the designer and yourself best you can, that one strut on the runway could open doors and lead to an awesome career…Like Miss Jay likes to say strut like the rent is due!
  3. Tips for getting flawless pictures; practice in the mirror often, be willing to do things outside the box that are super weird to the normal eye but that can produce beautiful art. Take care of your skin, we all have different skin types, find what works for you, some people its eating well, plenty rest, drinking water, working out, some people have found natural beauty products as well that are really good
  4. Tips on staying energetic; hydrate, eat healthily and work out, photo shoots much as they seem easy are a lot of work and need you to be strong and healthy…also always carry your own snacks to shows, shoots etc you never know if they will provide and its always good to have something healthy to chunk on like fruit…I like mango, sausages, plenty of water, and some KitKat!
  5. Tips on traveling pretty; I guess one would say dress to impress but am always all about comfort, if you’re not comfy then it will definitely show on your face, its okay to wear sweats or leggings and something free…
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