A few weeks ago I was delighted to finally meet Noella Coursaris, a model who I had heard so much about. Noella really impressed me with the combination of her background (she was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo to a Congolese mother and Cypriot father and went to business school in Switzerland), her young age, and her work in launching the Georges Malaika Foundation, a foundation through which she will assist African girls in attending primary and secondary school. I have interacted with many models – and model wannabes – in the past but talking to Noella was a breath of fresh air. One thing that struck me about Noella was her determination and focus. While many models say they want to do more with their career, very few are able to organize themselves and make things happen. Though she was recently signed to the popular ID Model Management in NY, from looking at her body of work (Agent Provocateur, Chris Rock’s “I love My Wife”, Vibe Vixen, Cosmopolitan, Essence, GQ, and most recently the cover of Jambo and Harlem World magazines), you can tell that Noella is not one to sit around and wait for opportunities to fall in her lap. Speaking to Noella and Frederic about life, fashion and Africa, I got the same feeling I get when I speak to former model turned business woman extraordinaire Audrey Smaltz, another trailblazer in the fashion industry. Like Audrey, Noella seems to possess the ability to evaluate a situation, come up with a plan, and use her business acumen to make things happen; and it doesn’t hurt that Noella has a warm personality also. The September 2006 Model Inc. issue of Black Enterprise magazine profiled models like Tyra Banks, Iman, and Audrey Smaltz, who have used their focus, determination, talent, and keen business sense to turn the opportunities of an otherwise short career in a superficial industry into a successful business. And speaking to Noella you get the sense that she is taking a page out of their playbook to success. What makes it hard to succeed in the modeling industry is that ultimately you are being hired for your looks and unfortunately with that comes the assumption that all a model has to offer is her/his beauty. But if we look at the trait many of the most memorable models have, it’s being able to understand what each designer’s theme is and use your personality to sell that ideal to the world. And that takes a self-confidence and ability to empathize, that many models lack. I can see that Noella has what it takes to continue to have a long successful career. And by distinguishing herself as an African, though she does not have fashion’s stereotypical ultra dark skin, and extreme features, she, like Liya Kebede, introduces another image of an Africa to the fashion world. About her background Noella says “I am proud to be African, and proud to know where I come from. Africans have so much culture and values !!!”. Iman needs to get this girl on her “I Am African” campaign.
(photo courtesy: Luis Fernandez)