super model vibes: Stacie Aamito Lagum is headlining Kampala Fashion Week for the second time. The event runs from October 20 to 22. She opened up to Esther Oluka & Joseph Lagen about her sky rocketing modeling career, family and why some people deserve her diva treatment.
It is now three years since you won Africa’s Next Top Model. Is your contract with DNA model management in New York still on?
Yes it is. The contract was renewed. I also have modeling contracts with Why Not Models based in London, UK and Viva Models based in Barcelona, Spain and London.
What is your accommodation like in New York? Do you live with other models?
I live alone in an apartment. That is all I can say that precaution allows.
How do you keep in touch with your loved ones while away?
There are many ways, including phone calls and social media. But just so you know, I had my mum flown over to London about three weeks ago because I missed her. Some of my family and friends are privileged enough to take the trouble of coming over or even hosting me when I am in their area code.
There has been a lot of debate about your real age. What do you have to say about that?
My determination and achievements are older than I am, hence the rumours.
Some people say you changed after gaining global status; that you are now a diva who grew wings.
“Some”: That is the beautiful keyword. Some people want to treat you better only after you have made it and expect you not to see through their lies. Some people supported you through your struggles and even after you made it, care to treat you like a human being that matters to them more than fame does. So yes, some people need the diva kind of love and some need the Aamito kind of love. It is just a question of which some.
We have heard some of your family members say you can sing. Do you see yourself coming out as a musician some day?
I love music; singing particularly. Would I ever come out as a music artiste? Why not? The thing is I am focused on making my mark as Aamito in the fashion industry. Singing therefore is not a matter of ‘if’, but rather a matter of when.
Which people in your life have kept you grounded?
My mother Sidonia, my other family members and my church both here in Uganda and in New York; they are my pegs so to speak. I can say the same people that took the journey with me up there are still the same keeping me down to earth.
We saw photos of you at singer Kanye West’s Yeezy Season III earlier this year. How were you scouted for the show?
I walked for him under the contract by DNA fashion management. He had seen me the previous year at the New York Fashion Week and I presume he got to my management at DNA.
How did you feel walking for him?
I respect Kanye as a creative and honestly I was thrilled to work with him. But the best way to pull it off was to treat it as professionally as I could. It would be a shame to mess up an entire show just because I was star-struck.
Tell us about the time you received racist comments after a photo of your lips was uploaded on a MAC cosmetics Instagram account. Any lessons you picked from that experience?
I learned that the world has a long way to go mentally and as such I cannot be an opinion’s fool. I learned that such situations (like the Mac project) were meant for me to help other ladies with insecurities about their bodies to appreciate and value themselves for what they are; beautiful. I learned that what you know of yourself should never be subject to what others think of you.
What is your take on the perception that models should look a certain way; tall and slim.
The tall and slim look is just the beginning of the grand misconception. To me, that is all a load of rubbish. Vanity is the sin that fashion thrives on but also it is the disease that kills fashion. Not everyone in the world looks the same way; so to expect models to look dreamily alike is foolish from the start. Everyone has to accept that it is our differences that make us unique and that it is only those who embrace these differences that get to enjoy and love life. You may not know this, but in the 16th to 18th century, the ideal model was quite the opposite of what is today; they were large bodied and average in height. Tomorrow the world will need a different model; all we have to do is not fall for the lie.
Have you ever felt the pressure to look this way?
Blessedly no. I am naturally tall and concerning weight, I have learned to treat myself as a professional. I am lean currently but if the contract requires a certain look, I can meet their terms only if they properly meet mine.
Have there been occasions where you have failed to get a job because of your looks?
Those moments have been there but I am not allowed to say who and when. Like I said earlier, fashion’s weakness is vanity and so different clients will want different bodily and facial attributes in a model or set of models and if any model does not meet their demands; be it renowned supermodel Heidi Klum, myself or any other upcoming model, they will not get the part. It is our duty as models to remind ourselves that we are perfect the way we are. For example, I will not change my nose or ears just to get one modeling contract.
The modeling world is known to be a cut throat competitive industry. How do you manage to stay afloat?
I have learned to love myself no matter what. I remind myself that it was my uniqueness that brought me to the world stage and it is that same quality; not fitting in, that will keep me here.
What new experience are you bringing to Kampala Fashion week this time round?
New experiences in fashion are redundant. To say it here, however, would ruin the surprise. I cannot tell whether I disappointed the first time (she headlined the event in 2014), but if it was anything to go by, this fashion week, now a three-day showcase, is actually going to be off the charts.
Do you have any expectations this time round?
I expect more creative professionals to showcase their work, to be a learning experience for our growing fashion industry, but most of all, I expect it to be fun.
If you had a daughter, would you advise her to take the same career path?
Nice question. No I would not. I would let her follow her heart; and if she wants to be a model like me, then I would encourage and mentor her. It is up to her to decide what she wants to become. It is up to me to make sure she is successful at what so ever she chooses.
Misconceptions Ugandans need to drop
Modeling and fashion is a hobby. It is a job I dare say is as serious as other professions out there. It is this lie that makes fashion designers and models go unpaid or unappreciated for their hard-earned work. I even add that the entire creative industry; music and fine art is still on its baby feet because the innovative individuals there have to get external acclaim before being taken seriously by their own. Take a look at acts such as Maurice Kirya, Myko Ouma, Eddy Kenzo and myself.
Ugandan fashion professionals are not good enough. One of my most embarrassing moments this year was the budget-reading excuses for blazers I saw online apparently made from Germany. Nothing could speak shame louder than that; our government made more than a fashion statement and it is the same misconception that runs in the minds of Ugandans who would rather buy a foreign label for so much and not a Ugandan product.
WHO IS AAMITO?
Aamito was born in Rubaga, a division in Kampala. She is an only child raised by a single mother, Sodonia Ayaa. She attended St. Jude Primary School, Naguru, Katikamu Seventh Day Adventist Senior Secondary School and St. Lawrence High School. In 2011, she graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in mass communication from Uganda Christian University (UCU)