New me now. Judith Heard says a lot has changed in her life and does not miss her old life. After seeing the light, the queen of popping bottles has been sober for at least six months. She talked to Edgar R. Batte.
She feels new. Model and socialite Judith Heard says she is now a God-fearing, down to earth and kind woman. She says that her past was only a phase.
We all know you as Judith Heard. What is your surname?
Oh! My surname! So, this is the thing; I was born to a Rwandese father and a Mutooro mother. Growing up, I was given Judith Kanebwa. Kanebwa is a Kinyarwanda name and growing up, our father went to war, and he never made it back home.
In 1994 we moved to Rwanda with my father’s family. At that time, he was divorced from my mother. So, growing up, I kept wondering why my mother wasn’t there, but I promised myself that one day, I would go to Uganda and find her. In 2004, I moved to Uganda, and became part of a reverend’s family who named me Allen Nantongo. So, I have five names; Judith Kanebwa given to me by my father and mother, Allen Nantongo by the family that I always call family.
And then things happened, I got married and I became Judith Heard. Later, things un-happened. I stayed Judith Heard because the father of my children was kind enough to let me keep my name since it had already been a trademark.
And there is a new Judith Heard that seems to have found God. Where did this begin and where you are going with it?
This is a development that has shocked everyone. It is a transition everyone still does not believe has happened, but it is the life I have chosen. I made this decision during the last two years of the pandemic when I was going through divorce. I looked at everything that was happening in the world and realised, I needed to change my life.
I realised that I needed God’s help to raise my children better and make my dreams come true.
I now know that no matter the mistakes I made in life, God has forgiven me and I feel blessed. He loved me with my imperfections and has always been there in my life.
I decided this was the best time to turn to Him and have a closer relationship with Him. This is also a perfect time because I am no longer that Judith Heard who enters a church and attracts, I have been redeemed. I would (actually) love to see everybody in our industry turn their lives to God. I want them to know that giving their lives to God does not mean the end of their careers.
Is your new spiritually going to change who you are?
I am still a model. I am Miss Environment Africa 2022. I am going to travel, and you are going to see me all over the world although will be dressed differently. In the past have criticised and doubted my faith saying “oh ayambala bwati, mulokole waawa, yataddeko make-up mungi, mulokole waawa?”. (See how she dresses and the heavy make-up she is wearing, what kind of Born-again is that?)
What one wears has nothing to do with spirituality. God cares more about the state of your heart than the length of your dress. Also, I am no longer the girl that wants anyone’s validation because I only know one friend, one father, one mother and that is God.
The life that I lived in the past is not the life I would miss. It was a phase and a moment. I thank God that I am finally out and on the right path.
If you could turn back the hands of time, what is that one thing that you would wish you would change?
One thing that haunts me every day are all the bad stories about me on the internet. I am a woman that believes in herself and believes in everyone, loves, cares, supports and wants the best for everyone, but I was not brought up to be the woman that pays anyone to write good about me.
I was raised to do what is good without making a gret deal about it. I suffered terribly with media because I was not ready to put anybody on my payroll and that is one thing that I hate no matter where I go and no matter how different life is for me today.
This is something that is online and will always be there but I am really working hard to have some of that erased. I am not that person and have never been; the people that are close to me know exactly who I am. If you love me, get to know me by following my social media pages. You will get to know exactly who I am because I post what is happening in my life and never hide anything because I love my journey and I love it every day so I am sure somebody out there that follows me for a good reason learns one or two things.
What is that thing or things that ever happened to you that caused irreparable damage?
I am rape survivor. I do not call myself a victim but a rape survivor. I was raped not once but twice. I still think about all the bad things that could have happened to me. What if I had gotten HIV? Yes, it is something that kills me deeply inside but still I pray and I am strong enough to (actually) be able to talk about it because I am sure there are so many young girls out there that are not able to talk about it because of their background.
Some celebrities have reached out to me to share that they, too, were raped but they are ashamed to talk about it. Rape is still a shame for the victim in our society. It is high time this changed.
The perpetrator should feel the shame, not the victim. Whenever, I meet people that have gone through a similar experience, I urge them to speak out. Rape happens to all genders and it is partly the reason I started the Judith Heard Foundation and Day One Campaign in 2019. We need to talk about these things.
We have boys and girls that go through this that I want to offer the help I never had. I would never say to anybody that after rape, sexual violence or sexual harassment that life is going to be the same. We have counsellors and different activities that we engage into and try to see how someone can get back to their normal life.
From where do you get the strength to forgive and move on?
You must build strength. We have the laws which help us fight to get justice, but even when the person is sent to jail, the damage they caused stays. You recover by accepting that it was not your fault, and it was not meant to happen to you. There is a need to forgive the person and pray to God to give you peace.
What did it feel like on the day someone leaked your nude pictures to the public?
That was one of the worst days of my life. At that time, I thought I would never get over it, but I did and I survived. I have since realised that it takes a mentally unstable person to do something like that. That I survived that is one of the reasons I praise my Lord.
How would Judith Heard from your past benefit from the current one given what you’ve managed to overcome?
It is good to grow and to learn to understand your calling on this earth, understand what you want for yourself and how you want your life to be.
That is how I would speak to her; life is what you make it.
You can either choose to be good or choose to be bad. Everything is in your hands. The bad makes you the bad girl that everybody is talking about.
The good makes you the stupid girl, the dumb girl that is praising the Lord and saying hallelujah every time she achieves something. I am speaking from the mind of a person that has lived both the bad and good life.
I would tell young Judith Heard to become a good girl because she would enjoy this life more than the life of flashing lights, and cameras.
With the new spiritual phase, what else is on your wish list?
I feel like my calling on this earth is to help young girls and women.
We go through a lot especially when we do not have financial independence. Imagine a young mother raising three to four children without a stable income, the challenges would be too many to handle. She would also be vulnerable to all sorts of abuse and temptations.
These are the people I would want to help. I would love to help change the lives of young mothers. I have lived a good life, but I was also raised on the streets.
I thank God who raised me from the streets and the ghetto and enabled me to live a good life.
Tell us about that phase of living in the ghetto
I was a young girl when my uncle raped me. I decided to run away from home. I did not know where to go so I ended up joining a group in the ghetto. Before joining that group I spent nights in random parked vehicles. When I was accepted into the community I became a dancer and started singing karaoke. At that time I loved that life and I am glad I went through it because it equipped me with important life skills. I am today. I am stronger and wiser for it.
Which ghetto was this?
It was in Nyamirambo, Rwanda.
What is the worst that has ever happened to you during that phase in life?
By far the worst that has ever happened to me was being raped. I got raped during that time by two others and honestly, I thank God that I am HIV negative. I have tested myself. This is the first thing I will talk about.
Do we expect Judith Heard to stop popping bottles?
On July 20, I celebrated six months of sobriety.
Are you dating?
Honestly, if I said that I even wanted it I would be lying because I do not even have time for anything like that. I only have time for what my projects.
We are creating environment clubs in different schools in Uganda.
This environment is for our children. So, the best way to know that your children are covered is if the environment is protected and safe. As Miss Environment Africa, I am educating myself about many things especially how to mentor young people effectively.