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From being called flamingo to top runways

FLYING HIGH: Winnie Joy Aketch, is a Ugandan model who relocated to South Africa to embark on a new journey. The 23-year-old opens up to Esther Oluka about her breakthrough, humble beginnings and why she is a proud born again Christian.

Tell us about your recent breakthrough.
I left Uganda for South Africa to start another chapter of my modelling career. I am signed to Fusion Model Management based in Cape Town on a three-year renewable contract.

When did you travel to South Africa?
Last month on March 14. I have already walked in some fashion shows for renowned designers, including Nobukhosi Nkosi, Matte Nolim and Leigh Schubert all from South Africa, Salima Abdel-Wahab (Morocco), Sarah Diouf (Senegal), among others.

And when were you exactly signed to Fusion Model Management?
Last year in November 2017. It is also interesting to know that around this time, I was signed to M4 Model Management based in Germany. Once I have strongly established myself in South Africa, I will be flying back and forth between the two countries.

If you were signed last year, how come you delayed to travel?
It took me a little bit of time to process the paperwork required for my travel, stay and work in South Africa. I am grateful to my Ugandan manager, Joram Job Muzira, who tirelessly worked alongside Fusion Model Management to ensure that I got the documents.

Who is Winnie Joy Aketch? Tell us a little bit about yourself…
I was born to Moses Kasango, a marketer and Juliet Nyadoi, a teacher 23 years ago. I completed Primary Seven at Bukasa Primary School in 2005, went to Tororo Girls School up to Senior Six. Later, I proceeded to Makerere University where I pursued a Bachelors degree in Arts with Education majoring in English and Literature. I graduated in 2016, and I am also a proud born-again Christian.

Where do you live in South Africa?
I stay in Cape Town, in a self-contained fully furnished apartment belonging to Fusion Model Management. I reside here with other models from different countries. The majority are from America and Europe. There is also a good percentage of models from other African countries. Girls have their own wing, so do the boys. We cook for ourselves. The house cleaning on the other hand is done by professionals.

How are you finding life so far over there?
Cape Town is beautiful, spacious with awesome scenery and the people are friendly. It is, however, cold at the moment.

Do you ever feel home sick?
I do miss home, sometimes. But I have no choice rather than get used to life here. I am in South Africa for a reason.

Seeing you have already participated in a few fashion shows, how do you find the industry there so far?
It is professional. The key players; modelling agencies, designers and photographers work as a team. They agree on aspects such as bookings and payment of models. I was happy to learn that here a model casting takes less than five minutes, which is amazing. (A model casting is where models present themselves before clients or designers in order to get booked for a particular fashion show). These people do not keep you waiting. They respect time.

And the industry back home?
The Ugandan modelling industry is still at baby steps. There is a lot that needs to be done to better the industry. Here, few clients are willing to hire professional models, more so high fashion. They prefer working with particular models, “technical know who”, Castings found me at school, so I would wait for either a lunch break or during my free hours to catch them. Sometimes, I was not picked by clients as they reasoned that I was skinny. There are even those who pretended not to see me during castings. I always found this heartbreaking.

How did you cope with these harsh realities?
I was lucky that at the time I was under Joram Model Management, Joram Job Muzira, the proprietor always guided me through all the difficult times. He signed me to his agency in March 2017. Before his management, I was under Dieu Brilles which is translated as God Shines. This was my first agency while at campus. It was under the management of a man called Nerish who taught me and other girls professional catwalk skills and often gave us helpful advice on how to grow in the industry.

Were you passionate about modelling since childhood?
Yes, modelling was part of my dream. I often took part in school beauty pageants, including Miss Tororo Girls’ School. Sadly, I never ever won and I remember some girls would laugh and make fun of me back in the dormitory. They would call me weird names such as Flamingo. I would find it a little upsetting at the time but looking back now, it is amusing.

You mentioned being a Born Again Christian. How has your spirituality impacted on your modelling career?
Whenever I lose my way, I run to church. God is my biggest inspiration. I have shared with Him my aspirations, desires, dreams, and movements. My new modelling journey is a sign of answered prayers from God. All things work together for the good of those who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose.

How was your life growing up?
My life has not been a bed of roses. I am the first born and I remember a time when my mother would stay upcountry with my three siblings while my father and I stayed in Kampala where he worked as a store keeper, a job that hardly met our needs. There were times we both lacked shelter and food. During such times, I was forced to call my mother to share my frustrations and fears. She would always tell me, “Joy, I pray for you every day. Life will get better someday.” Her prayers have been holding me throughout my life’s journey. I am grateful to God that life has improved over the years. We are not where we were yesterday.

What advice do you have for upcoming models?
To any model out there who is trying so hard to make ends meet and yet seems not to get a major breakthrough, keep going, work hard, pick yourself up when you fall, and most importantly, keep praying.

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