Noëlla Coursaris Musunka : the model philanthropist
Noëlla Coursaris Musunka is an international model and founder of the Georges Malaika Foundation. Born in Congo to a Congolese mother, and a Cypriot father, she started her modelling career for Agent Provocateur. Since then, Noëlla has appeared in a numerous number of fashion magazine, including Vanity Fair, Arena Magazine and Arise Magazine. She has been the Face of Organic Root Stimulator Relaxer and Black Opal. In parallel to her modelling career, Noëlla founded Georges Malaika Foundation, a charity which empowers Congolese girls and their communities through education. I interviewed her back in 2015, she told us her story, her view on the fashion industry and gave us beauty tips:
Why did you decide to become a model?
People would stop me in the street in Switzerland to do modelling. But it was important for me to study. So, I came to London to learn English. Friends registered me to a competition to become one of the Face of Agent Provocateur, the lingerie brand. I was selected for their campaign, and this has launched my career.
For the next few years, I would like to be the Face of one or two brands who believe in Africa, in natural beauty and who wants to invest in Fairtrade in Africa.
What do you think of racism in the Fashion industry and discrimination against black models?
I think it’s not easy for African models as well as for Indian and Asian models. But we see more and more ethnic faces on the catwalk and in the magazines, as well as African actresses. The world is opening. But it’s through your personality, you work and your determination that you can succeed. It’s important to break the cap of racism. There has been a big evolution in Fashion, in art, in the movie industry. If we compare ten years before with nowadays, there have been some improvements. I think we need to push it so that changes continue.
The Fashion industry is getting more diversified. We could see albinos models, a model with vitiligo on the catwalk. What do you think about those changes?
Fashion needs to be open to all the races and all the looks. It needs to inspire. I think that what designers have understood. But I am against this phenomenon of being really skinny.
I wish to see more and more African designers with a world Platform. That is to mean that they can show their collection to New York, Milan, or Paris Fashion Week. Most of all, that they can sell. There is no online Platform. It’s hard to find an outfit in Selfridges, Harvey Nichols, Sacks 5th Avenue or Bloomingdale. What is important is to invest in African fashion, that we have factories in Africa. I want African Fashion to be worldwide.
I believe in Africa; I believe in African talent, and we need to work together
Why did you create the Georges Malaika Foundation?
It’s because of my history. My father died when I was 5. My mother had no financial resources to take care of me. She sent me to Europe, where I lived with my aunt in Belgium and then with another aunt in Switzerland. At the age of 18, I went back to Congo to see my mother. She was very poor and in a situation that was not easy. I made a pledge to myself that I would help my mother and do something for my country. I think it’s really important to invest in women, to invest in education, to give her more important role in Africa, to inspire girls. I wanted to create a foundation where girls would learn and inspire the next generations. I think by educating a woman, you educate an entire nation.
The international team of my foundation is working on a voluntary basic. We have two main projects. A school for girls, in which they start at the age of 5. We offer them two meals a day, education, IT, music, theatre and English courses. We also have a community centre with FIFA in which we educate the community, we give courses of alphabetisation and health.
Our foundation in in Kalebuka, in Southeast Congo. We chose this village because it was the one that wanted it more.
How do you take care of your skin?
I use lots of natural products. Twice a week, I add orange and lemon on a cotton that I apply to my face. The orange gives a glow and rejuvenate your skin. Lemon cleans well, it’s like a toner.
It’s really important to remove your makeup at night and to apply a good night cream, an eye cream.
In the morning, I wash my face and I rinse it with cold water. I use good makeup products, I love Black Opal, I love Bobby Brown. Each makeup brand as a star product whatever it is lipstick, mascara, or pencil. I love lipsticks from Yves Saint Laurent, Chanel. If you look at my makeup bag, you can find all the brands inside.
What are the essential makeup products you would put in your makeup bag to go out?
My powder, my lipstick, my mascara, a pencil, and a blush.
Models are wearing lots of makeup for photoshoots and fashion shows. What advice can you give to have a good skin?
To get 8 hours sleep and most importantly to remove your makeup.
During photoshoots and interviews, we put so much makeup, we use different brands with different textures that our face needs to breath. I am trying to use products that are natural. I do a mask once a week and I go to a spa once a month to have a good face peeling.
Is your hair relaxed or natural?
I have stopped relaxed my hair for a year and half. So, I let them grow naturally.
I use Kerastase oil twice a week, it nourishes my hair. It’s really important to use a conditioner and I do a mask twice a month. From time to time, before washing my hair, I apply some olive oil on my hair that I leave for an hour. After that I wash my hair and I add the conditioner for 20 minutes.
Why did you stop relaxing your hair?
Because it felt like you’re a slave of relaxer, which means when you start relaxing your hair, each 2 or 3 months you have to relax it. I needed my hair to breath, to be stronger. And since I have stopped relaxing my hair, they are stronger.
I advise girls and women to use less chemicals on their hair and to use less extensions. When I was young, I used lots of extensions. Unfortunately, extensions and weaves break the hair.
I encourage natural beauty. Don’t use bleaching products; use good products, natural products.
What do you think of skin bleaching?
Bleaching products are a huge issue in Africa. It’s very important not to try with those products as when you start, your skin ask for more and it becomes dryer and dryer. And it gives dark spots.
On the long run, it extremely dangerous, you can get a cancer. When I see teenage girls who start applying those products on their face and their hand, it’s horrible. I also have skin issues, I have spots. That’s a problem we have as African women, we touch our spots. When you have a spot, just add lemon juice on a cotton and apply it 2 or 3 minutes on your spot, it will dry it and won’t leave a stain.
What are your favourite hairstyles?
I love leaving my hair natural after watching it. I only use a hot iron to straighten it for interviews of for photoshoots.
What do you think of the natural hair movement?
That’s great. I think that in everything we do and are, we set an example to the next generation. It’s really important that we show to the next generation that we need to accept ourselves as we are with our beauty, our quality and imperfections. If you have coarse hair, you have coarse hair and you try to work with it. There is tone of looks you can get, you can do braids, you can straighten them with a hot iron, you can braid them at night to get some volume.
Do you have a beauty advice for African women?
Our dark skin is really sensitive so as soon as we get under the sun, we need to apply a protective cream with a minimum SFP15. For makeup, you need to apply a foundation and a powder. Powder is really important because of sunlight in Africa.
To learn more the Georges Malaika Foundation, visit their website: https://malaika.org/