Noëlla Coursaris Musunka is an international fashion model and philanthropist.
She was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to a Cypriot father and a Congolese mother. Following the passing of her father at the age of 5, and with her mother lacking the resources to look after her, Noëlla was sent to live with relatives in Switzerland and Belgium. After a 13-year absence, she returned to her homeland to meet her mother. Upon witnessing first hand the poverty and lack of opportunity for women in the DRC, Noëlla promised herself that she would one day make a difference.
After receiving a degree in business management, Noëlla was chosen to appear in a campaign for Agent Provocateur. Modelling took her to the global stage via the pages of fashion magazines such as Vogue and Vanity Fair. As she travelled the world, she was able to use her work as a platform from which to share her passion for human rights.
In 2007, Noëlla founded Malaika, a nonprofit grassroots organisation that empowers Congolese girls and their communities through education and health programmes.
Today, Malaika’s education and health programmes are impacting thousands of people’s lives in the DRC and are all offered free of charge. Malaika’s work has three components: an accredited school that provides a quality education to 314 girls; a community centre that offers a range of programmes to 7,000 youth and adults; and a clean water programme that has built and refurbished 17 wells to supply fresh water to over 30,000 people each year.
In 2017, Noëlla was named an Ambassador of The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Alongside other Ambassadors such as Bono, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Charlize Theron, she uses the platform to raise awareness of the need for investment in health and education.
She also continues her work as a model, representing MAX FACTOR and American makeup brand BLACK OPAL. In January of 2019, she collaborated with fashion designer ROKSANDA and THE OUTNET to launch an exclusive clothing collection with proceeds supporting Malaika.
Noëlla’s work with Malaika and The Global Fund has made her one of the most sought-after speakers on the subjects of education and health in Sub-Saharan Africa. An advocate for peace, she has spoken at countless venues as far-ranging as the World Economic Forum in Davos to the halls of Cambridge University and the offices of UNICEF.
Noëlla was named one of the BBC’s 100 most Influential and Inspirational women of 2017 and most recently, received an award from the House of Mandela at the Nelson Mandela centenary celebration for her work educating and advocating for girls in the DRC.
Noëlla’s example shows that finding your passion can drive you to achieve things you didn’t think were possible.
Her story is one of facing and overcoming challenges – growing up away from home, succeeding in the fashion industry and building Malaika – all driven by the desire to make a positive difference.
Her story has inspired audiences around the world, from global personalities and policy-makers to top executives of leading multinational firms.
“I was just five when my mum gave me away” – The Times (2018)
100 Women – BBC (2017)
10 Years Of Malaika – Elle (2017)
9 to 5 – Vogue (2017)