Judith Heard: Why I dropped out of school at 15
Judith Heard dropped out of school as early as 15 years of age.
“I dropped out of school because I was raped by my uncle when I was going to do my final exams and it made me hate everything," said Heard, real name Judith Kanebwa.
Before making the revelation, she said: "Umm... I think everything changed; I started looking at my life differently.”
She said after the incident, she wrote a letter and left it at the door of her other uncle and that was the last time they ever saw her at home.
She was born with four sisters and their parents had separated when their young. When her dad passed, her uncle, the last born from her father’s side, took custody of them in Rwanda.
According to Judith Heard, he was a bachelor. Her mother was in Uganda.
"It did change me a lot,” she said of the incident.
Born at Lacor Hospital, Gulu on March 13, 1986, Judith Heard’s father was Rwandan and he passed away during the genocide while the mother is a Mutoro.
She went to Kampala Parents’ School, then to Rwanda in 1994 and joined Kigali Parents’ School, before moving Fawe Girls Secondary School and Ndera Secondary School, both in Rwanda.
At 15, she dropped out of school tried different things, including modeling, working at an internet cafe, and also joined a dance group.
At 16, she got a job at a club in Rwanda and started renting her own house.
She then met a Russian boyfriend who was living in Uganda, working with the Russian embassy as a pilot and interpreter.
The boyfriend promised to help her find her mother, and sister who was studying at Nkumba University. When he found them, he invited Judith Heard to come to Kampala.
In Rwanda, she had already started modeling and appearing on billboards. Her first gig was with a beer company.
She returned to Uganda when she was 16 and her boyfriend was 25.
One day, she went with her boyfriend for Goat Races, once a prestigious event in Kampala, and Andre Ringen, the Norwegian photographer who worked for Sylvia Owori’s Zipa Models took her pictures, and people who saw them encouraged her to start modeling.
Ringen, who was once married to singer Grace Nakimera, organised another photoshoot with her and and he was impressed by her professionalism.
Her photos were featured in a magazine and Sylvia Owori took her on.
She worked with them for about five years before quitting over poor pay.
As a model, Heard has participated in a number of top projects, including Sylvia Owori's modeling company, African Woman Magazine, New York Fashion Week, Paris Fashion Week, Rwanda Collective Fashion Week, and Abryanz Fashion Style and Fashion Awards.
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