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Call them the queens of Ugandan catwalk

Runway queens: Their faces are familiar to fashion designers and if you attend a big fashion show in Kampala, they will stand out. In our second part of the big names on fashion runways, Esther Oluka profiles the star female models in Uganda.


Vivian Mutesi

Mutesi started modelling in 2010 after high school. The move was entirely driven by passion as she often gathered information about the industry, watched a lot of programmes on Fashion TV and studied how models walked. She went on to practice until she got it right.
“After doing all that, I read about an upcoming fashion show in the media, I then approached the designer who advised I go for the casting. I was chosen and I have fought for my space since then.” Some of the renowned designers she has walked for include Brenda Maraka, Sylvia Owori, Santa Anzo, Anita Beryl, Martha Jabo, K Raphael, Gloria Wavamunno, Kwesh, Jidereason( South Africa), Mustafa Hassanali (Tanzania) in fashion shows like Swahili Fashion Week 2013/14/15, Kampala Fashion Week (2014), Mavuno Yetu, Purim Festival, among others. Her memorable fashion show to date is Swahili Fashion Week (2015) where she scooped the East African model of the year, 2015 award.

Moreen Atuhaire Mungu

The 21- year-old is a second year student of Tourism at Makerere University. Her passion for modelling started in high school after being crowned Miss Interact at Rubaga Girls School. “I will not stop here but rather keep going.” Mungu has walked for renowned designers, including Stella Atal, Martha Jabo, Brenda Maraka, Sylvia Owori, Juliana Nasasira, the proprietor of the brand, Kwesh, among others. “I love my job as I get paid for what I effortlessly love to do. It is the best feeling in the world.” Her most memorable show was the Bujumbura Fashion Week where she was invited by Cynthia Munwangari, a designer, to grace her show. Mungu looks up to Stacie Aamito Lagum, Africa’s Next Top Model winner because she is so ambitious.

Anna Kwagala

At a height of 5’10”, Kwagala started modelling in 2009. The inspiration to join the industry started right from childhood. “Modelling had always been something I wanted to do and I was blessed to have some of the qualities required to be one.” She has taken part in the Kigali Fashion Week where she has walked for designers such as Patrick Muhire (Rwanda), Mustafa Hassanali (Tanzania), among others. Another prominent show she has walked in is the Swahili Fashion Week in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Kwagala who is into runway, editorial and commercial modeling, says one of the biggest misconceptions about the industry is that most people think that all that one requires to become a model is a pretty face. “This is not true. In order to thrive in this industry, one requires determination, persistence, motivation, positive attitude, a support system and courage.”
“Always know your strong (outstanding) body features which could either be your look or walk and use that to fight for your space.” She urges upcoming models to always stay relevant by fighting for their space since models are easily replaceable.


Sharon Sanya Mirembe

“I started modelling professionally in 2013. I was inspired by incidents I went through as a child. I remember being bullied for being too tall, skinny and having a long forehead. It got to an extent where I hated going to school. I kept wishing and hoping for a platform to use my unusual looks as a way of showing people that it was okay to look like me. One time as I was watching TV, I saw a very tall skinny model and I thought she looked weird. But the audience seemed fascinated by her. That moment literally sparked a fire in me. I thought if she could look like that and make people happy, then I could also do it. I remember walking to Arapapa Stores and meeting the receptionist. I asked her for advice on how I could make it as a model for Santa Anzo. She advised that I take pictures and deliver them to her. Eventually, I was called back and told that I had been selected as one of Santa’s models. The start was a struggle because of the nature of the industry. There are people who are after exploiting models, promising them jobs and yet they are only after satisfying their personal interests. But today, when I look back at some of the challenges I faced, I realise that they shaped me to be the person I am today. I have been blessed to work with talented designers such as Brenda Maraka, Gloria Wavamunno, Stella Atal, Sylvia Owori, K Raphael, Xenson, Martha Jabo, Santa Anzo, Catherine and Sons, Linda Lwanga of ZANAA, Jose Hendo, Anita Beryl. Outside Uganda, I have had the opportunity to walk for designers Martin Kadinda, Mustafa Hassanali, Innocentia Lucky Sabas of Lucky Creations, among others in Tanzania. I advise upcoming models to be strong and persistent. Every time someone tells you no, they are pushing you further. Do not give up. Keep knocking people’s offices until you get what you want.”


Brenda Mutara

In 2009, Mutara started her modelling career with Zipper Models with her first gig being a photoshoot she did with African Woman Magazine. She then became freelance in 2012, majoring in mainly runway modelling, commercial (advertising) as well as photoshoots. Some of the notable designers she has walked for include Sylvia Owori, Stella Atal, K Rafael, among others.
On what the biggest misconception people have about female models, Mutara says, “There are tendencies where people disrespect us. They think we are prostitutes and less valuable in society and yet modelling is a career just like any other.” She adds, “Such people do not really understand what this industry is about, so, they just jump into conclusions.”
A finalist at Records Fashion School, Uganda studying fashion and design, Mutara looks up to Victoria Beckham and K Rafael because of their creativity and original work.


Esther Jones Nakamya

Ever since Nakamya booked her first gig in 2014 at the Lady Crane International Fashion Show, the sky has been the limit for her. She has walked from one fashion show to another; Kampala Fashion Week 2014 and 2015, Barclays Card Launch 2015, Abryanz Style and Fashion Awards 2014 and 2015, Diaspora Fashion Show (2014), African Walk Fashion Awards Launch 2014, Glamour on Fleek 2015, Fashion 360 (2015), Glosh Designs and Events 2016, among others. She has worked with Stella Atal, Anita Beryl, Jose Hendo, Ras Kasozi, Haute Baso (Rwanda), among others. Currently a freelance model, she books most of the gigs through castings.
“I do runway, commercial (advertising) and editorial (print/magazines) modelling. I ventured into it out of passion and Tyra Banks, an international supermodel inspired me,” she says.
Away from modelling, Nakamya is an actress and a second year student of Bachelors of Arts in drama and film at Makerere University.

Lydia Eyapu
Eyapu aka Vanquisha, started modelling in 2010 after being told by a friend about an audition for Woodin Le Createur-Uganda, a fashion house. The organisers wanted six girls of almost the 30 who turned up. She was selected as one of those to feature in the show. Between 2010 and 2011, she had a contract with Arapapa, a fashion label run by Santa Anzo. Her most memorable moment to date in the fashion industry was meeting and dining with Franca Sozzani, the editor-in chief of Vogue Italia. A finalist at Uganda Christian University, Mukono, Vanquisha is studying Economics and Management. She is passionate about modelling and the bonus is that it pays her bills.

Immaculate Aliba
Aliba started modelling in 2013 and the first gig she featured in was the launch of Kwesh by fashion designer Juliana Nasasira. From then, she went on to walk for other designers such as Gloria Wavamunno, Martha Jabo and Ras Kasozi, among others. Some of the renowned fashion shows she has featured include Kampala Fashion Week 2014 and 2015, Kigali Fashion Week 2014 in Rwanda, Diaspora Fashion Show 2013 and 2015, Mavuno Yetu 2015, among others.
The love for fashion motivated her to join the industry. On what her remarkable moment has been in the fashion industry, she says, “It was rubbing shoulders with staff from LDJ productions all the way from New York during the Kampala Fashion shows. That was a noteworthy experience for me.”
Aliba hopes to one day walk on big runways such as Paris Fashion Week, New York Fashion Week, Berlin Fashion Week, among others. Supermodel, Tyra Banks, inspires her because she has helped many young girls attain their dreams of becoming models. Aliba advises upcoming models to take modelling as a serious career.

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