My name is Claudiah Wanjiru and I am proud to be a model for Urban Change Lab. Urban Change Lab makes unique pieces of art customized for each individual. This is what makes me such a great fit for Urban Change Lab. Each item is unique in it’s own way and has a story to tell. From a little log somewhere comes a custom-made table. From some cow hide comes gorgeous sandals and from my difficult past comes a beautiful story.
I grew up very passionate about being a model. I always wanted to be able to dress up and walk and share that awesomeness with those around me. So, growing up my mind was already set that I was going to be a model. I moved and carried myself in such a way. My dream though almost came to an end when I was involved in a horrible fire accident. This accident left a large part of my face scalded and permanently scarred. While I did heal and got out of danger, I had permanent scars on my face. My scars made me the target of bullies and insensitive people. They transferred their frustrations upon me and left but their words constantly rang in my head. It was so much I eventually believed I was ugly and damaged. “How could I be a model looking like that ? ‘ I constantly asked myself this question and many more of that nature.
It was unfair for me to go through what I did….I knew it wasn’t my fault and it broke my heart. Not only had this accident taken away my physical beauty it was also threatening to take away my dream of being a model. As I grew up getting so much rejection and hostility from people, I didn’t even know a part of me realized that these comments would never stop. But I could stop caring, I could stop giving them the power to dictate my feelings and what I could or couldn’t do. I was determined to do what my heart truly wanted which was to be a model. So immediately after university I started going for auditions trying to join agencies, but I just did not fit into their definition of beauty or a model. Yet I knew I had to keep going. I had to keep modelling. Why? Because I could bet on my life that there was a twelve-year-old somewhere who needed to see a burn survivor model be happy and break the barriers imposed on us by society.
So I never cared about the rejection I just kept going. After a while I realized I could achieve more if I just worked on my own with what I had, Instagram and social media. I was so determined to reach just one person and for them to not feel alone. I accepted that I was different and that there is nothing wrong with that.
When Urban Change lab approached me, I couldn’t say no. They saw the uniqueness in me saw my dream and what I consistently try to achieve through my modelling. They did not see me as a victim or as somebody who needed saving. On the contrary they made me feel like a partner. They saw my vision and what I was constantly trying to achieve and they have made it possible for me to grow and further my dream. Urban Change Lab connected me to Tatiana Karanja, one of the most talented photographers in Kenya. And through Urban Change Lab’s website my work is visible across so many countries. Their uniqueness in managing to connect the talents of people from Rwanda, Kenya, Germany and other countries and make numerous projects from it is something that I really appreciated from Urban Change Lab. The fact that I can model, and my story can be heard from so many countries across continents makes Urban Change Lab the perfect fit for me. We found each other not out of pity but out of a common cause, the desire to make a change. The desire to make people feel appreciated and valued and to make somebody know that they can achieve their dreams no matter how far-fetched they seem or how hard it might be to achieve them. I believe that as long as you’re still alive you still stand a chance.
Claudiah Wanjiru – Model for the Urban Change Lab