Four years ago, Herieth Paul, 16, was living in Tanzania and had never travelled outside of Africa.
Today, the Ottawa-based supermodel has been to the fashion capitals and has captured the attention of the international fashion world.
In the two years since Paul signed with Angie’s Models and Talent International, an Ottawa modelling agency, her career has taken off. The 5’11” Tanzanian beauty has walked the runways for top designers, booked exclusive campaigns and has graced the cover of a top fashion magazine. Industry insiders have compared her to Naomi Campbell, and described her as the “black Kate Moss” for both her beauty and her trademark poised runway walk.
She’s been in editorials for American Vogue, Vogue Italia and will be in Teen Vogue’s December issue. Her biggest campaign booked thus far was for CK One, where she was flown to Columbia for a week of shooting. “Shooting for CK One was the best week of my life,” says Paul. “I had to wake up at 11, shoot for two hours, go shopping, come home, get a massage. I thought that was what paradise was.”
She says the entire experience has been crazy, and a lot has happened in two years that she would have never imagined previously. Prior to signing with Angie’s at an open call, she had always seen herself as an actress. “I originally came for acting. [Owner of the agency, Angie] said to me, ‘Okay, you can be a model,’” says Paul. “Since I was really shy, I didn’t say anything about the acting and signed on as a model.”
Paul quickly booked her first runway show in February 2010 for Montreal Fashion Week. Her mother thought she was too young at 15 to take the two-hour train to Montreal alone, and sent her older sister to go with her to the fittings and the show.
Despite her mother’s initial hesitation with modelling, however, she now allows Paul to travel the world so long as she adheres to an agreed upon list of things not to do, including drinking. Paul’s mother even carries all of the magazines featuring her daughter in her purse. “Anytime someone recognizes me, she says yes, and pulls out my Elle Canada cover,” says Paul.
The Elle Canada cover was Paul’s first magazine cover. She says her dream is to be on the cover of every major fashion magazine by the time she is 18. With the momentum of her current career advancement, this dream may soon become a reality.
However, not all has been easy for Paul. The grade 11 student says she struggles balancing career with schoolwork. “I’m not just trying to finish school and get it over with. I actually want to get the grades, so it’s even harder,” she says. To keep up her grades, she often does her work on planes and airports, while everyone else is sleeping.
She also has a big fear of forgetting someone’s name as she has already met a lot of different people all over the world. She came face to face with that fear during LG Fashion Week in October, when a writer came up and started talking to her. “I thought I knew him from somewhere, so I said, ‘It’s so good to see you! How are you? And then he said, ‘You’ve never met me before.’ It was really awkward. I felt terrible.”
Although some names will be forgotten or faces confused, two that will always be remembered are Vera Wang and Zac Posen. Paul says these are two of the sweetest designers she’s ever walked for. Vera Wang personally brought water to the models and gave them a bottle of perfume to bring home to their mothers. Zac Posen showed his soft side during his runway show when the models could no longer walk in heels on the last day of the New York Fashion Week. “After one of the models couldn’t walk, Zac said we could walk without our shoes if we were wearing long dresses!” says Paul.
After spending months on her feet during fashion weeks, what does Paul look forward to the most? “Sleep! I love sleep. I never get a lot but when I do, it’s great.”