Thursday, 30 September 2010

Fashion model gives back to Congo

Noella Coursaris Musunka/Maerzinger Photography

Born to a Congolese mother and a Cypriot father in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Noella Coursaris Musunka is a super model whose image graces billboards and magazine pages (Vanity Fair, Cosmopolitan, GQ, Arena etc) all over the world and represents brands such as Agent Provocateur, Apple ipod, Virgin Mobile and Barclays.

But Noella is a model in other ways too. The 27-year-old, who started her modelling career through a competition for Agent Provocateur in London and lived there for several years (she now lives in New York), has founded a non-governmental organization to advance girls’ education in Lubumbashi,  where she was born.  She is also a human rights activist, advising the UN, politicians, celebrities and corporations on the situation in her country.

Noella is coming to London on October 2nd to host “Creatives Unite For Congo”, a fashion show in profit of a school her NGO is building in Lubumbashi.  The show will showcase work by Congolese fashion designers IJO and Modahnik, the London brand MF Couture, as well as clothes made by girls from an orphanage supported by her NGO.

Noella’s father died when she was five and her mother, who didn’t have the resources to raise her on her own, sent her to live with relatives in Belgium, then Switzerland where she studied business. The silver lining to this traumatic event was a good education and a modelling career, which allows her to travel all over the world.

When she returned to the Congo to visit her mother 13 yeas later, she felt in love with the country. “The moment I stepped off the plane, I felt at home.”  The visit changed her forever. “From that moment I said to myself that one day I will do something back for my country. Even if I didn’t have my parents, I had been fortunate to have an education. I thought the best thing to do is pass on to others the same opportunity.”

So in 2007, she set up the Georges Malaika Foundation in New York in memory of her father. “His name was George and  “Malaika” in Swahili means angel.”

Noella and her team of non-profit and private industry professionals are building a sustainable school for 300 girls outside Lubumbashi and have already sponsored 16 girls with tuition, uniforms, meals and school supplies. The design for the school was donated by Studio MDA, the architects for Madonna’s Raising Malawi school, and the first stone was laid down in February by Khaliah Ali, the daughter of Mohammed Ali.

Over the last few years, she has addressed the DRC Parliament on violence faced by women of Eastern Congo and spoken at the UN and universities across the US about the war, which as been waged there for the last 10 years and killed more than 5.5 million people, and about rape being used as a weapon of war. But she also wants to focus on the beauty of the DRC, its culture and its people.

Creatives Unite For Congo: October 2nd at 8pm at The Penthouse, 39-43 Underwood St.  N1 7LG London, for tickets or more information:  rsvp@gmfafrica.og


  1. That's my sister right there!

  2. What a fantastic mission. Great work Noella!

  3. Beautiful girl inside and outside.