Christelle Yambayisa: There aren’t many African super models in the most famous runways across the world these days. Actually, black women have long struggled to make it big in the big European markets as a result of an industry culture that has struggled with racism among other issues. The latest African model to break those barriers is none other than Christelle Yambayisa – Born in Rwanda but raised in Paris, Christelle is sending waves throughout the whole industry and has already walked for some of Europe’s major brands during such elegant events such as the Paris, London and Milan fashion shows.
During her recent trip to the continent, The African Perspective linked up with Christelle in Nairobi at “The Tribe hotel” for a chat and a sip of tea.
Christelle Yambayisa meets Tap Magazine
TAP: Hello, please introduce yourself to TAP family…
Christelle: My name is Christelle Yambayisa, I was born in Rwanda but raised in Paris, France since I was a baby. I am a French citizen but I still have my African culture and roots with me because I spend a lot of time with my grandparents who still have their roots despite living in France with us
TAP: You are absolutely gorgeous, how old are you and when did you begin your modelling career?
Christelle: (Laughs shyly): I am 21 years old and I began modelling around 8 months ago. I recall getting many offers back in France ever since I was 15 years though. It is now my full time career.
TAP: In the modelling industry, 21 seems to be a rather late age to begin your career. What were you up to before?
Christelle: Well, my family and I are strong believers of education. Before I began my career, I studied International Economics and I took keen interest in African economics and in particular the energy sector/industry. Before I joined University, I was in college studying Strategy and Governance and I did my internship in Madagascar
TAP: How has the modelling journey been for you as a black woman in Europe?
Christelle: I have always been comfortable in my skin so I never let anyone look down on me because am a coloured woman. Would like to credit my easy journey to the level of education and literacy of the environment I am in. Modelling right now is not as harsh on coloured women as it was back in the day. Besides, being coloured is now the latest trend in Fashion. Black is cool! Although I remember the first time I begun shopping for cosmetic products I had such a hard time finding a product that is suitable for my skin tone. Right now there is a lot of variety in Europe
TAP: What has been your biggest milestone you have accomplished in your modelling career?
Christelle: I definitely would say having done some fashion runways for Paris fashion week, London fashion week and Milan fashion week. My favourite was Milan because it was a relaxing atmosphere and there as not as much pressure as London and Paris.
TAP: Who is your favourite designer and why?
Christelle: Jean Paul Gaultier is my favourite because he came from a poor background and worked tirelessly with little resources he had including tissues from the trash to create beautiful pieces! Aside from this, he is one of the pioneer designers to use African women and African fashion inspired pieces on the runway (at the time it was a big deal)
TAP: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Christelle: I definitely want to continue with the modelling career path that I’ve chosen. I want to be successful enough to make enough money to start my own business. Currently, I run a lifestyle blog (www.conceptstorehealthyway.com) that focuses on healthy living. I am a big believer in healthy living and taking care of our bodies. I already have several France based brands that want to be part of my blog
TAP: What advice would you give young African men and women who wish to pursue a modelling career in Europe?
Christelle: I would say just be yourself, have fun and be confident in your own skin. There is a lot of pressure and criticism especially in terms of appearance and weight issues. I see younger girls and boys (15-19 years) become too harsh on themselves because everyone is always judging and on the lookout for any single flaw forgetting that no one is perfect. You have to develop a thick skin and always be in touch with your true friends and family circle as they will always be supportive of you 100%
Images by Nick Klaus
MakeUp Artist: Njanja Kimani