Josephine Kabagema, also known as Josée, is a Rwandan model based in France.

In an industry that many have deemed 'unfruitful', Kabagema has beaten the odds and proved that modelling can be as rewarding as any other profession.

In 1950, together with her family, Kabagema fled to neighbouring Uganda where she began her early education. A few years later, the family travelled to France where she completed her studies.

"I started modelling in 1980 in France. I've always been passionate about fashion, but I didn't know I could make a career out of it. But many people, photographers and even designers told me that I could be a model," she recalls.

She adds, "Before I thought about doing it or not, my parents were against it because they didn't understand how someone could make fashion a career. They told me to first finish school, get a real job and then do it on the side."

Kabagema explains that when her parents advised her to first finish school, she did so. When she completed college at Université Catholique de Lille in France, she decided to venture into fashion and pursued modelling as a fulltime career.

"I used to model for different photographers before completing my studies, and when I was done with university, I decided to do modelling officially. My cousin, who was living in Paris, came to where we lived in Lille capital and told me that there was a fashion exhibition and that I needed to attend it. We went there and fortunately I was selected," she recalls.

Kabagema's international connections

According to Kabagema, no one knew that she was Rwandan. Most people assumed she was either American or from the Caribbean.

Shortly after the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, Kabagema initiated 'Alliance Pour Le Rwanda', designed to shine light on the atrocities that had happened in the country.

She encouraged fellow Africans to speak to the world about the horror in Rwanda, and also, used her connections to brands like Givenchy and Cardin to create awareness on the Genocide over radio and television.

Kabagema also used the initiative to build a water facility in the then Gahini District, now Kayonza, in the Eastern Province.

A relative, Christine Kabagema and France-based models Zoeka Gacha, Michelle Mabondzo, and Florence Souchel, are some of the people who were part of this movement.

Kabagema also recognises people like the late Papa Wemba, Senegalese Youssou N'Dour and Ismaël Lô, the group of Touré Kunda, and the late South African legend, Miriam Makeba, among others.

"When we initiated 'Alliance Pour Le Rwanda', these people played a great role in the different campaigns we made as an organisation. I thank them so much and I believe that for those who passed on, their legacy will always be upheld," she notes.

Kabagame's career

Kabagema is passionate about promoting fashion, humanitarianism and social change campaigns, especially those related to Rwanda.

She was part of the jury during the Miss Rwanda 2016 beauty pageant and has participated in various editions of local fashion podiums like the Rwanda Cultural Fashion Show, Kigali Fashion Week, Rwanda's Next Top Model, to name a few.

She has modelled for noticeable brands like Pierre Cardin and Givenchy, Thierry Mugler, Patrovitch and Robinson, among others.

She graced the New York Fashion Week in the US in 1990; she has appeared at shows in Italy, France, Mexico, Indonesia, Japan, Belgium, and China, among others.

Despite the fact that Rwanda's fashion industry has just started picking up; Kabagema's story is inspiring, going way beyond the border of Rwanda's fashion industry.Read more at:2016 formal dresses | unique formal dresses