I had the pleasure of meeting Prince Ngarambe for the first time in September 2021, at the inaugural Pride Day celebrations in Rwanda, organised by Amahoro Human Respect Organisation in partnership with Isange Rwanda LGBTI Coalition and All Out, among others. After Pride 2021, Ngarambe and I remained in contact, and recently, he reached out to me about sharing his truth. It is my honour to write this article, through his words:
My father named me, saying that he saw so much talent in me.
I am Rwandan, and one of my aspirations is to contribute to Rwanda’s sustainable socioeconomic development. Another goal is to become the first Rwandan transgender model to participate in major fashion weeks. I am thinking of Cape Town, Dakar, Ghana and Johannesburg. From there, I would like to appear on the covers of fashion magazines such as Chimurenga, Bubblegum, Afripop and Noir. Essence and Ebony are welcome too. I have many dreams inside me.
My dreams are far away, I know. The dignity and determination of other Rwandans encourage and motivate me. I practise my modelling walks consistently, consulting with professional models about how to be the most fierce. In February 2022, I was in a local fashion show and it was exhilarating. With each step, I envision global stages.
My red high heels, functional and fashionable, are my super power; note that the red colour can match with many outfits. When I was a kid, I liked walking in high heels rather than “boy shoes”. Walking in them was fun and elegant to me; I still feel proud.
There are some people who might not comprehend me, the way I am and the perceived extravagance of it all. In any case, what keeps me going is Rwanda, as well as my family and friends. With my friends I can be vulnerable; they listen and encourage me a lot. I think that this is why I love community and modelling so much. Both make me feel connected — even grounded. My community reminds me that I am not alone.
Modelling is my way of expressing myself. In every photo where I am the subject, I am asserting (to name a few) optimism, reflection, pain, compassion, thankfulness or forgiveness. My modelling is a mirror of what I am feeling.
I have been told that modelling is a difficult career, and I am well aware that it is far from being just glitz and glamour. Its flaw is that it is an industry that seeks perfection from imperfection. Working in the modelling industry cannot be worse than pushing through the Covid-19 pandemic. It has been an incredibly difficult 24 months, and then some! There is also the intense pressure I place on myself to be my very best, and to be famous. This push stems from a yearning to be happy and be a good citizen. How may I contribute to Rwanda, for it to prosper even more?
Another aspiration of mine is to become an ambassador for the Rwandan LGBTQIA+ communities. I would like to work collaboratively; for instance, to help young people to become entrepreneurs, pursue their talents, contribute to their country and help them address sensitive topics concerning acceptance. I feel that there are so many opportunities.
Participating in the first Pride Day celebrations in Rwanda was one such opportunity. We had a football match with local journalists, and a public health campaign about prevention and awareness; there was a networking session too. It was wonderful to hear that local leaders were speaking directly about inclusion, respect and peace. At these celebrations, I thought deeply about how to contribute more to my career, community and country.
Since Pride, I have started with being mindful about what contributions I can share in everyday settings. Talking with local community members feels promising. I remember, for instance, when I was conversing with a gentleman who inquired about my wearing “women’s clothes”. In his opinion, he did not think I should be modelling them.
As we continued to converse, I became further convinced about modelling as an avenue to raise awareness for equality as well as the pursuit of dreams. In this land of a thousand hills, where my earliest memories of wanting to be a fashion model began, they were not only about the clothes and makeup: these memories are linked to our very essence of being human.