The Fashionable Blanche-Neige Ingabire walks the halls of Mt. Ararat, not the runway, but her style is notable.
Translated from French, Blanche-Neige Ingabire’s first name is Snow White. At Mt. Ararat High School in Topsham, where she is a senior, some classmates call her Blanche and some call her Neige. Most apparently, would call her seriously stylish but in an unusual way. Like when she takes what looks like a bright summer yellow shirt and ties it like a sweater over a winter outfit.
“She likes taking really odd clothing that you would never put together and they look like the best outfit ever,” says Peggy Callahan, the English Language Development Coordinator and chair of the World Language Department at Mt. Ararat. “Everybody notices that.”
Blanche-Neige Ingabire, 19, is from Burundi. She arrived in Maine on Christmas day in 2016, speaking essentially no English. “I would only know how to say hi and good morning,” she remembers. “It was really hard. I was really scared. I wondered, what am I going to do and say and am I going to make friends?” She came with her brother Billy, who is one year younger, her cousins and her uncle, who had adopted his niece and nephew. They started out in Westbrook and then moved to Topsham about six months later. Her mother, who teaches elementary school, stayed behind in Burundi. Her father died when she was only three. He’s the one who picked her name for her, inspired by a song that featured Snow White. He loved the song so much that it was played at her parents’ wedding.
After graduation, Ingabire hopes to go onto college and then pursue a career in fashion. Her brother Billy is interested in modeling, but she’d prefer to use her stylish eye to make clothing.
Describe your style in one sentence.
“My style is everything—I can wear anything and I don’t have any brands I like or anything like that, I just like to put clothes together and what I wear just depends on the day and where I’m going to be.”
Is it “Maine” style? If not, how does it deviate?
“No I don’t think so. I guess I wear Maine style when it’s winter because, you know, everybody has to wear warm clothes.”
First outfit you remember picking out and feeling great in?
“I grew up with my auntie picking my clothes out for me. She’s really fashionable and that’s why I think I have a good vision for colors and seeing things that go together. I grew up wearing men’s clothes. I never wore skirts or dresses or anything like that. But I remember there was a little skirt I liked and that was the only outfit that would make me feel like I was wearing something nice.”
How old were you when you felt like you developed a style of your own?
“I was 11. It was the year I started middle school.”
Last memorable outfit?
“Usually I feel good when I like the color I’m wearing, even if the clothes aren’t perfect. I don’t care if my outfit is expensive or fancy, I just like when I feel comfortable in clothes. My last memorable outfit was just blue skinny jeans, a black shirt, black boots with medium heels, and a big, long, light pink coat.” (That, she says, was a gift from someone who also got it as a gift and felt too much like a “bunny” in it to wear it.)
Favorite bricks and mortar place to buy clothing in Maine?
“Garage in the Maine Mall.”
Do you thrift? If so, where?
“Yes. I used to work at Estilo in Brunswick and I like the clothes there.” (Ingabire didn’t buy much though; she’s very frugal.)
Best clothing shoes or accessory bargain of all time:
“I bought a red winter coat at the mall for a big discount. It’s really warm. I bought it right after Christmas so I think that’s why it was so cheap.”
Most you ever spent on something to wear?
“The most I ever spent was on Jordans. They were about $140.” (They’re black and red.)
Who is your style icon of all time?
“Can I say nobody? I’ve tried to wear what looks good on other people but then I never feel comfortable. I just like to wear whatever feels comfortable to me.”
Where you do get your style inspiration? Magazines, movies, social media?
“My auntie, Bonne Année Felicite.”
What would you refuse to wear?
“Big clothes, or clothes that don’t fit me right.”
Do you own Bean boots? If not, what do you wear in the snow?
“No I don’t. I don’t really like to go out in the snow!” (She did borrow a pair to play in the snow once, but she mostly wears her “regular” shoes in the snow.)
What is your current “go to” outfit or item of clothing?
“My red and black Jordans.”
What do you change into after a long day?
“Leggings and a sweatshirt.” (Her answer might downplay her unique look. During an interview, she was wearing red leggings, a fuzzy hoodie, a wrap skirt in a colorful African pattern, red and white socks and slides with an Asian-inspired pattern. And rocking it.)
Amanda Whitegiver is a lifestyle family photographer who adores dark chocolate and singing with her two daughters.