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Former Miss Uganda speaks out on the dark side of fame

Former Miss Uganda Leah Kagasa. Courtesy Photo

Leah Kagasa was crowned Miss Uganda in October 2016. When the pageant failed to take place last year in 2017, Kagasa held onto the title for another year and finally handed over to a new beauty queen at a glamorous event held at Sheraton Hotel on August 10.
Kagasa opens up to Esther Oluka about her reign.

“Being a celebrity is not all that amazing,” says former Miss Uganda Leah Kagasa who feels the experiences has made her wiser, notes that one of the most profound lessons she has learned over her two-year reign is people get closer to you mostly because of the fame. They are not interested in the individual at all.
Not surprising, she says it can also get lonely at the top as one struggles to find those who are real and those who just want something from you.
“For example, sometimes, I find it difficult to tell if people like me as a Leah or simply because of the fame (she got from Miss Uganda),” she says.
For such reasons, the 23-year-old says she keeps her circle of friends small.
The beauty pageant, which used to be so popular, has in the past faced challenges making it lose the glamour and purpose it was once associated with. In fact things have become so bad that in 2017, the contest was unable to get enough sponsors and, therefore, did not happen giving Kagasa the opportunity to carry on her responsibilities as Miss Uganda.
And this year, the pageant came back on the social scene after a number of sponsors including Talent Africa, a renowned events management company, came on board.

What the title means
Each year, a number of girls always go for Miss Uganda auditions with the hope of winning because of the opportunities that come with being the title holder.
“You sort of have the world at your feet. There is the overwhelming attention from people, the VIP (Very Important Person) treatment accorded to you, the prestige, among other advantages,” Kagasa says.
In addition, beauty queens also become influential figures in society.
“In some way, people start taking your words as gospel truth,” she says.
This influence extends to social media where they get a number followers. Also, beauty queens get the opportunity to travel around the world. So far, Kagasa has travelled to Malaysia, United States of America (USA), among other countries.
Asked whether she was earning a salary as Miss Uganda, Kagasa says she was not receiving any pay from the Miss Uganda Foundation.
She was, however, able to support herself from the ambassadorship deals she got from Richy Maziwa biscuits and the now embattled SK Mbuga foundation that was involved in doing charity work.
In addition, Kagasa was also part of her family farming project of growing passion fruits where she was earning some little money as well.

The challenges
Despite the benefits that come with being Miss Uganda, Kagasa says sometimes the title attracts wrong attention which becomes excessively unbearable.
“For example, there were times I would find over 100 messages in my Facebook inbox from people I did not know. And whenever I refused to respond, they would get angry and start threatening me,” she says.
On the other side, Kagasa is grateful that she has never had an obsessive stalker.
In order to avoid some of the uncalled for attention from members of the public, Kagasa would limit her appearances at either places or events.
“I tried to keep a low profile,” she says.
And for the many admirers who were pestering her for a relationship, Kagasa often turned them down in a respectful manner.
“I would turn them down politely by reasoning that I was first concentrating on my career and not a relationship. The good thing was that many of them were understanding and let me be,” she says.
To this day, Kagasa says she is not in a relationship.

Her guardian angels
Through the ups and downs of her reign, Kagasa credits both her parents, Paul and Florence Mutwamu, for being there for her through thick and thin.
“They have been my outstanding supportive system. They would also always give me words of encouragement and hope during my lowest moments,” she says, adding, “My mother, for instance, was like my best friend. She knew everything that was going on in my life and would give me the right advice for a particular situation.”
Like many other parents, Kagasa says hers always have her best interests at heart.

Accomplishments
On what she managed to accomplish during the two terms, Kagasa says she was involved in a number of campaigns including one organised by the Ministry of Health to fight malaria in 2017
“We went around the country creating awareness on malaria as well as giving out mosquito treated nets,” she says.
Within the same year, she was also part of the clean water-sanitation campaign that embarked on a massive exercise of cleaning up of wells and repairing them.
In the previous year (2017), she went to a number of schools conducting talks that were aiming at creating awareness on teenage pregnancies.

Future Plans
With her Bachelors degree in Business Administration (BBA) acquired in 2017 from Makerere University Business School , Kagasa now hopes to put her qualifications in use by finding a job related to the field.
But also, Kagasa would not mind getting a job as an air hostess since she loves travelling.
Advice to the new beauty queen
“Miss Uganda is a huge platform. Fully utilise it. Do not let the celebrity status get to your head because fame easily diminishes. Stay grounded and humble,” Kagasa concludes.

Family life
Kagasa is a daughter to Paul and Florence Mutwamu. She has one brother and four sisters. She is the fourth child. In 2017, she graduated from Makerere University Business School (MUBS) with a Bachelors degree in Business Administration (BBA).

Style and Fashion
I noticed you have natural hair. Was it like this even during your two year reign?
Yes, I wear my hair natural, I cannot imagine myself with relaxed hair. But then, there are occasions I wear wigs, for instance during the 2016 Miss World finale that was held in the USA.

How was your style and fashion as Miss Uganda?
On some occasions, I would be my own stylist, dressing myself, and then for major events, Brenda Nanyonjo’s Miss Fix It fashion house would avail me with what clothes to wear. On other days, designers would come on board and avail me with attire to wear to functions.

What are you always comfortable wearing?
A fitting pair of jeans and a T-shirt.

How many pairs of shoes do you have?
Surprisingly, only 10 pairs.

Flat versus high heels
I will wear whatever is suitable for the occasion.

Do you follow trends?
Not really, unless it works for me.

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