Umurerwa is one of the few models from Rwanda who believed in their passion, worked hard and dived in the world of fashion industry. Her journey is inspiring to everyone who loves modeling.
Her beauty and model-size opened gates for her; gates to the biggest runways in the world. Her face was printed in all the biggest magazines in Canada, the US and in the Southern part of Africa. But it is with the love, passion and a workaholic attitude that led the lady from Southern Province of Rwanda to be the modeling face and ambassador of Amarula, a cream liqueur from South Africa.
Having appeared on magazines such as GQ, ELLE, FLITER, ZEN MAGAZINE, MALA MAGAZINE and worked with designers like Lanvin, Marie Saint Pierre, Balenciaga, Etro, Arkis to name a few, her name is definitely in the same books as Ajak Deng, Ajuma Nasenyana and Grace Bol who are labeled the finest East Africa’s models to make it on the big scenes.
In her summer vacation and family visit, Umurerwa Happy Jacqueline accepted to be interviewed by IGIHE and she shared her inspiring journey to professional modeling.
The start wasn’t easy!
I was always passionate about modeling and loved fashion a lot but it was really hard because my family couldn’t really get it and people weren’t really able to understand that it could be a carrier.
My mother understood it and I knew people like Rose Kabuye and Blanche Majoro who were in the fashion industry but many people discouraged me and I even started focusing on interior designing.
How did you get into modeling?
I was in a visit to Canada and I was invited at a film festival party and I started receiving compliments from different people and a director from the Ford Modeling Agency (Ford Models) approached me and asked if I wanted to be a model. Astonished by the question I immediately said yes, he gave me his card and told me to get to his office the following day.
The following day, I was really eager and encouraged by my friends I went at their office. After setting feet in their chambers they proposed me a contract whereupon I told them that I was just in Canada for visiting and I couldn’t work. They said that if I want to be their model then they would arrange everything and so they did.
Why do you think they scouted you?
They said that they loved my face but I knew I had to work hard to get the body size that they wanted which was of 34 inches. I went through Six (6) months of intense training with a professional trainer and at the end I was with 33 inches.
They processed for me a work permit and I started working as a model.
From Canada to Cape Town, how did it happen?
I did modeling in Canada for five years with Ford Models In 2015 I was invited in South Africa where I had to meet different Agencies like DNA Models, Fusion Models and Boss Models. Upon my arrival in South Africa I went to Fusion Models premises and met them. I really fell in love with their warm welcome. They signed me on. So that is how I started working in South Africa.
Do you think you reached the peak of your carrier in South Africa?
I really loved my debuts in South Africa. In my first week there I worked for all magazines in South Africa, participated in many campaigns and even got to be the face of Amarula.
What are your goals, in 5 years?
My goal is to work really hard and keep progressing. I hope to reach my childhood dream which is of being the face of Louis Vuitton. I believe everything is possible if I really focus and work hard.
In the second part of our interview with her, she shares her thoughts and observation of the fashion industry in Rwanda.
Umurerwa modeling styles in pictures