The Kenyan born model sat down with us to talk about her life as a model, the models who inspire her, her beauty secrets and so much more.

Alexia+Uwera+Mupende+Rwanda+Model+Zen+Magazine+Africa (2)Alexia Uwera Mupende is a freelance model
from Kigali, Rwanda

Zen Magazine: At what age did you start modelling?
Alexia: It’s a little hard to tell because this passion started while I was still a child watching Style by Elsa Klensch on KTN (Kenya Television Network). Throughout high school, I took part in beauty pageants and I did try modelling on and off but it was to no end. Then finally I would say the dream and passion was fully revived in 2012 when I modeled at the CyMun Collection Launch here in Kigali, Rwanda!

Zen Magazine: What made you want to become a model?
Alexia: I can’t say it’s one specific thing, but as a little girl I was always drawn to the beauty of the models as they strut down the runway in their beautiful designer outfits or pictures in glamorous magazines. I never thought I had what it took to be a model, but over time I have learnt that I am blessed with most features that international models possess, and with that realization, I was like why not give this my all and see what happens. And yea make some money while doing what I love (Laughs).

Zen Magazine: What do you think best sets you apart from other models?
Alexia: I guess what sets me apart from other models are my unique features and personality. I am one of the very few models who rocks her “natural” dreadlocks, I have distinct cheek bones and a long yet lovely neck which has sometimes been compared with that of a giraffe (Laughs). I also have long legs as some would refer to them as legs for days! I am a little introverted but my personality sets me apart, I am a bubbly person, fun to work with yet when it comes to business I do take my work very seriously. I respect the people I work with whether or not they have more experience and/or exposure than I do and in whatever capacity from the designer to the volunteer backstage helping me change outfits…respect is key in this industry.

Alexia+Uwera+Mupende+Rwanda+Model+Zen+Magazine+Africa (4)

Zen Magazine: Who are a few models you look up to for inspiration?
Alexia: There are a couple of models though the list keeps growing daily. My number one is and will always be Tyra Banks. I will get down as to why she is a big inspiration in a bit but there are a number of models some have been around for a while like Iman Mohamed Abdulmajid, Liya Kebede, Adriana Lima, Oluchi Onweagba Orlandi, Alek Wek, Naomi Campbell, Karolina Kurkova, Grace Bol, Ajak Deng but there are a few new and upcoming models like Malaika Firth, Leila Ndabirabe, Amito Stacey Lagum, Maria Borges, Shaun Ross, Winnie Harlow etc and my latest Nyle Dimarco! He is the winner of the America’s Next Top Model Cycle 22 and is also deaf. I love him so much because even though he is deaf that has not held him back and his performance has been exceptional. He has defied the odds and shown that the industry is capable of embracing anyone without prejudice! I guess I am inspired by how most of these models have made it against all odds, broken the stereotypes and have changed what people would assume defines fashion and the industry as a whole. Tyra is extra special for me as she has revolutionized the modelling industry through her reality TV show America’s Next Top Model (ANTM) with 22 consecutive seasons and that has developed into multiple franchises globally including Africa’s Next Top Model hosted by our own Oluchi! She has provided a platform for girls and recently boys of all shapes, sizes, heights and races/origins to pursue and be a part of the modelling industry. She has encouraged and helped many people like me embrace our flaws “perfect is boring”.

Zen Magazine: What has been your favorite memory as a model?
Alexia: I think to date nothing beats the hustle to start to build my model portfolio. I tried consulting with a couple of photographers to take my pictures, some did commit but never got round to doing it. One day I received a call from a friend, Isaac, telling me he had a friend who was a photographer and was looking for a model to shoot at no cost. I was blown away and excited about it!! At the time not many people knew me let alone would be willing to work with me. So I started preparing for it, I set multiple colored post-it notes on magazine pages to give me ideas of how to pose or what to wear…I downloaded loads of pictures from America’s Next Top Model and of Tyra as that was my biggest inspiration, started practicing posing in the mirror for my big day. I can’t say thank you enough to Christopher Hansen for believing in me and choosing to work with me, to Isaac Zirimwabagabo for thinking of me and making the introductions, my #DreamTeam my friends Grace Umulisa and Sandra Nyakato who were my makeup artist and stylist. I packed like 5 bags of clothes, almost my whole wardrobe and all my high heels yet only shot in 3 outfits and it was a portrait shoot (Laughs). I am eternally thankful for the humble beginnings and to my family…from giving me rides to, showing up and having my back all the way through…God bless them!

Zen Magazine: In your opinion, what makes a great fashion model?
Alexia: To me I feel she should be stylish, comfortable in her skin yet able to adopt to all sorts of environments, trends, multiple cultures, brands, campaigns or scenarios, all in a split second without much difficulty adjusting! She or he should be able to work on a minute’s notice, to be able to think outside the box. You would be someone with an all round package; versatile with the ability to work in all markets, under different direction, practically sell anything from clothes on a runway to a mango or airtime commercial. This model should be able to be the face of a campaign, product, story and or cause, should not be limited by age, race, physical features etc. They should be able to be an Ambassador for a product and/or cause and do all this while having loads of fun and with a good personality yet be able to deliver! And they best be able to strut the runway like the rent is due!

Zen Magazine: What’s it like on the runway? Do you look at the camera, lights, people or do you just look straight on?
Alexia: It’s usually nerve wrecking especially the first time you walk during the show, but once am out there and it’s lights, camera and action, I just focus on delivering my best performance. I tend to focus on the center stage directly towards the camera to get a good shot and also to remain centered. I avoid people as this could distract me from what the main focus is and if you don’t focus properly you could maybe even stumble and fall and no one wants to fall when all eyes and cameras are on you (Laughs).

alexia+mupende+interview+zen+magazine+africaPhoto of Alexia modeling at the Africa Fashion
Show Geneva 2015

Zen Magazine: What do you love the most about being a model?
Alexia: I guess what I love most is how it makes me feel. I get this warm fuzzy feeling in my insides each time I get an opportunity to model. It just warms my heart and leaves me yearning for more. Whether it’s a photo shoot, runway, or an interview, any opportunity for me, no matter how small it may be is a blessing and I am thankful to God for it! Been able to do what I love and what I am passionate about makes me feel alive in a way that is hard to explain in words. There are some things you just have to experience to understand and this is one of them!

Zen Magazine: Let’s talk about fashion. Do you wear African prints?
Alexia: Is that a question or what? Of course I do! My wardrobe definitely has African prints from simple wrap skirts to well designed pants, tops, dresses and even couture. African prints are the way to go and what better way to promote Africa, Rwanda and more so the Rwandan designers who have helped put me out there..that said their designs are stunning!

Zen Magazine: What do you love most about fashion from African designers?
Alexia: I love that it’s authentic African design yet it has an edgy and modern twist to it with a mix of alternative and non-conventional designs, wearable yet flashy but just enough…not overwhelmingly! That aside African fashion has evolved, you could have a wedding gown made of bark cloth and boy does it rock more than even the conventional gowns we are used to. It’s an opportunity to play around with fabric, lots of color and there is no limit as to what to expect. It’s adventurous!

Zen Magazine: Who are your favorite designers?
Alexia: Wow it’s hard to pick but my all time favorite would have to be JUM Exclusive, she has turned what normal people would call scrap into lovely garments and she has been around since I was a little girl. I would say I love Zac Posen, the late Oscar de la Renta, his gowns and garments have a way they make a woman feel special and the center of attention. I also love Chanel, Michael Kors, Diane von Furstenberg (DVF), Balmain by Olivier Rousteing, David Tlale, PISTIS, Inzuki Designs, Buqisi Ruux, Sonia Mugabo (SM), Rwanda Clothing, Haute|Baso, and Jose Hendo…if I keep at this I may just name all the designers I have worked with and or hope to work with so am going to stop (Laughs)!

Alexia+Uwera+Mupende+Rwanda+Model+Zen+Magazine+Africa“Embrace your flaws…they are what make you
unique.” says Alexia

Zen Magazine: Describe your ideal travel destination.
Alexia: My ideal travel destination would be one with a story…a place with a very profound culture, one that has an interesting history yet in some ways has adopted to development and all the vazaz that comes with it. Preferably have lovely warm weather, maybe a beach, worst case scenario a swimming pool but definitely a human friendly water body, provision for partying and music, making merry yet still be able to offer some peace and quiet as well as reflection. Lovely fresh food and fruit in particular mangoes!! I have always wanted to go to Malaysia or Hawaii…seems like they are both awesome holiday destinations!

Zen Magazine: Any beauty secrets you would love to share with us?
Alexia: Embrace your flaws…they are what make you unique. Next you need to hydrate by drinking loads of water because it’s good for your health, skin and even more importantly it’s good for your kidneys! Eat healthy and workout regularly…not just when you feel sick or feel your clothes don’t fit. It should be a lifestyle not a fail safe you use when trouble hits the fan. Also you must have fun, be happy and smile a lot, you’d be surprised how it will help you stay young in spirit and it’s a good remedy for wrinkles. And I guess this would be my favorite, get plenty rest and by that I mean beauty sleep…makes a big difference how you look and operate when you are rested!

Zen Magazine: What’s next for Alexia?
Alexia: The world…I want to take the world by storm. From my humble beginnings in Kigali, Rwanda, I want to take the world from London to New York to Milan, Tokyo, Paris…. the whole circuit and then back to KIGALI. Yes, Kigali is going to be the next big thing in fashion in Africa and nothing is going to stop me…so help me God!

Zen Magazine: What advice would you give to any young girl reading this looking to become a model just like you?
Alexia: Be thankful, dream big, never give up and don’t take everything too serious. Do the things that make you happy and that you are passionate about. That said all this must be done with some caution. Modelling is a career like any other and even though there are not that many modelling schools like mainstream education, there is a lot you can teach yourself. Do your research about the industry, the dos and don’ts and figure out what is your niche. There are multiple types of modelling from commercial, runway, editorial, couture, hand, face etc. You need to find out what you can do and work on perfecting it, build your portfolio, brand and sell yourself out there. A piece of advice I too recently received is to be patient in your career, confident in yourself and be open to any blessings that come your way however small! Modelling is a cutthroat industry unlike others, you have to put in a lot of hard work and commitment, so don’t just admire the glitz and glam but be ready to give it your all to make the most of what you set out to do.

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