Loved by many haters. Socialite Judith Heard is convinced that all the bad press she gets has more to do with her fabulous life and that is okay because she gets it.
Judith Heard arrives for our interview at a hotel in Kampala flanked by two people she insists have to be present; a friend from the media, and a woman, Judy, who she says is a close friend.
“Gosh, I want a cold beer” is the first thing she says when she returns from a makeup session that lasted over 30 minutes after her arrival at the meeting venue. Instantly, she withdraws her order. “Now they will say I’m a drunkard. They are not sure, but a picture of me with a beer in the newspaper would be the confirmation they need,” she explains, a disgusted sneer on her face. By “they” she means the media, and/or the public, who lap up any dirt they can get on the socialite.
She right away lets me know she is only letting Full Woman do the interview because we are from Daily Monitor. “It is the only paper that does clean reporting,” she says. Her distrust (or is it fear?) of the media is apparent, and justifiably so.
Judith Heard’s only claim to popularity may be her coverage in the media, which has unfortunately not been flattering for the better part. When she is not in a cat fight, she is marrying a muzungu too old for her or has her nude photos plastered for all to see.
The 28-year-old former model’s flashy lifestyle, pretty looks and good sense of style (which should surely come easy with the wealth at her disposal) seems to have only worsened, or instigated the attention.
You don’t know me
“The truth is that I’m misunderstood. Ugandans just want to believe that they know me. I’m sorry that I would never stand up in a stadium to tell everyone who I really am and I don’t think I have to. As long as my husband understands who he married and my family knows me, I’m sorry to say but I don’t really care about public opinion.
I respect the public, but I can’t care because nobody puts food on the table at the end of the day. Only my husband knows how I live when I go back home,” she says, with finality and a self-reassurance I’m to later discover she has in plenty.
Hot and cold
As I’m also to discover, this interview is going to be littered with contradictions in her stance on things and a whirlwind of emotions for Judith Heard as she oscillates between fury, indifference and amusement.
So, “who is Judith Heard,” I ask. She answers, “Judith Heard is a beautiful Rwandan woman, married to Dr Alex Heard, with three children.
I have three sisters, and I’m the third born. My dad passed away during the genocide but mom, a Mutooro, lives in Muyenga. She is a farmer. I was born here in Lacor Hospital, Gulu ,on March 13, 1986.”
Sounds pretty straight forward to me when she introduces herself this way, save for the fact that her husband is a much older wealthy white man who she married when she was about 20. And, she can afford a life more luxurious at 28 than most people ever dream of, apparently, on account of her wealthy husband.
Her life literally presents a combo that is definitely bound to get people’s ears perked up in suspicion among the Ugandan community. It is after all a fact that no one seemed to recognise her or care when she still went by Judith Kanyengwa, her maiden name that her tormentors don’t seem to even know.
“There’s no misunderstanding,” she interjects, with yet another contradiction, stated a bit more emotionally than when she initially stated that she was misunderstood. “It is just people trying to sell stories. I’m pretty, I’m blessed, and cannot deny that I’m living a good life, which most average people don’t live.
Everybody would love to be me. But it’s not me, it’s God. They should ask God why it is me, why does it have to be only me? But you know we can’t all be equal. My fingers are not.” She, otherwise, insists she only got married because she wanted to and that money had nothing to do with her choice of husband. “When you meet someone, you don’t know what’s on their account. He respected me as a woman, and treated me very well, so, it was love. I’m not bothered about our age difference.
I prefer older, mature men anyway. I’m happy and that is all my family cared about too.”
She adds, “There is that one person you meet and you understand each other. You both want to have fun and be happy. So, Dr Alex Heard is my husband. No one got him for me and we’ll die together!”
11 years with Dr. Heard and counting
“We ’ll be making nine years in marriage this year, but I have been with Dr Heard for 11 years despite all the bad press,” she says.
Heard’s speak is grossly punctuated with “my husband” and “Dr Alex Heard”, her voice ringing with pride and admiration every time she mentions him. “My husband is an intellectual, a businessman and a professor who stands before 1000s of people and lectures.
He’s not a celebrity. I’m the model in the public eye. We respect each other’s worlds and that’s how we have managed to live together, ” she explains when I ask to talk to him for the story.
She nonetheless goes ahead and calls him so I can talk to him. I do, and he humbly gives me the same explanation as to why he cannot feature in the interview or have his photos splashed about in the papers. Dr Heard is, on account of his job, out of the country often, but Heard says this does not bother her. She knows that he has to work to provide for his family.
“I earn money from my clothes business but he gives me an allowance too. I will not tell you how much it is, but it is enough. He takes good care of me,” she lets on.
The real Judith Heard
We are by then coming to the close of our interview and I have made deductions of my own on who this young woman is behind all the bad press, hair extensions and heavy makeup. First things first, this woman is actually quite beautiful. Nice big eyes, a glorious smile, a smooth chocolate skin, all crowned with a figure you don’t see on many mothers of three.
“I have an adopted seven-year-old son and four-year-old twin daughters with Dr Heard,” she happily reveals.
For one that cruises around in a Bentley, she also comes off more down to earth than I expected. She is in all ways the queen bee I expected to find, placing orders through her friend Judy and taking charge at the hotel where we met like she belongs here and knows what is due to her as a customer.
All the same, nothing over the top. Well, if she was not born into the good life, she makes an effort to blend in, something else that could explain her sticking out. “Oh, I’m used to this life. Besides, I would still be living a relatively good life if I wasn’t married to Dr Heard. I come from a good family and I was a happy child,” she reveals, matter of factly.
The choice to fight back silently
Judith Heard is not oblivious to the extent of the damage bad press can have on one’s life. Ignoring the antagonists is simply her way of dealing with the situation. “I’m a simple person, I do not like to stress.
Stressing about it will not help anyway so I do not bother,” she says, but she confesses that getting her name off the “celebrity list” is the one thing she would change about her life if she could.
What is most admirable and unexpected for me is how serious this socialite seems to be about her marriage. “I got married young but I wanted to and knew what I was getting into,” she says, with the intensity of someone who knows what she is talking about. And God knows she should.
If 11 years with her husband in an era of skyrocketing divorce rates will also not impress, then maybe she is one the wiser to ignore the “haters”, as she calls those responsible for spreading malicious propaganda about her.
Are there some things you would like to clarify?
• People always say I have two children but I have three. An adopted son and twin girls, who I conceived and birthed naturally. My husband has twin brothers and I have twin cousins so it’s something that runs in both our families.
• Also, it was after the name “Heard” added onto my names that I became this person that everybody talks about everyday (she says this indifferently, with little wonder). It all started after I got married!
Worst lie/publication about me
My nude photos, of course. I wish I hadn’t taken those and I had to explain to my husband what they were doing there but thankfully he understood, and as usual, he was my rock through it all.
The worst allegation, however, was when a tabloid wrote that I was in hospital because my husband was divorcing me. They actually said we were divorced in California where we, apparently, got married. Before that, they said I was HIV positive and I was bedridden in Muyenga! Well, I’m not divorced or HIV positive. We were married in Vegas on November 17, 2006. We shall make nine years in marriage this year but we have been together for 11 years.
How have you been the most affected?
Of course, it hurts and I feel bad for my family when they have to go somewhere and they connect them to me in a negative way. But I’m a very strong woman, I don’t like stress or drama and that is how I survive. I deal with it by ignoring the tabloids, just living my life and ensuring my family is contented. Others will sort themselves out.
So who in your life is the most affected?
My husband, of course. I don’t defend myself but I have to explain to him who we Ugandans are, the papers, these people... We come from different cultures. He has never experienced the things he is experiencing with the tabloids here. Never! But he is getting the hang of it. We also do not buy papers to protect our children, except Sqoop on Fridays, which are sure will have clean fun.
It helps that many times I have been reported about falsely when we were together and he was not mentioned. He, therefore, knows it is all not true. But I wish people would learn to be more respectful of other’s lives and families when they publish such rubbish (a statement made with intense fury).
What did you aspire to be as a child?
I wanted to become a lawyer or a politician, but God always has different plans. But I’m happy and who knows, I could still go back to school and become just that. I’m not too old to become what I wanted to be. I think I would make a good politician. Right now, I’m looking forward to clocking 30! I’m excited and looking forward to it.