Miss Uganda, Sylvia Namutebi, hands over her crown this evening. She chatted with Sharon M. Omurungi about her life as Miss Uganda, her passion for charity work and how black girls were segregated against during the Miss World pageant.
How does it feel to know that you are handing over the crown in a few hours?
It’s like an end of a tide. I feel like I am handing over a mantle to another person. Everything has an end.
Did you ever dream of becoming Miss Uganda?
Yes, I wanted to be Miss Uganda. I used to watch the shows of Sylvia (Owori) and I thought, “wow, I can do that.”
How has the one year been?
It wasn’t a year, it was seven months … (Starts counting her fingers) eight months. It’s been a chance of a lifetime. It was like a dream that I lived. I mean, the encouragement and support I have received from different people is such an experience.
Any remarkable things you have done during the reign?
First, representing Uganda at the Miss World pageant in London. It had been a while since anyone represented us well at the pageant. I also helped a family in Lugazi that were being eaten up by jiggers; they were attacked from head to toe. We helped remove the jiggers and also educated them on how to look after themselves. That was an experience for me, it was the most touching. Most people asked me if I didn’t comeback with jiggers but as you can see, I don’t have any. Another experience was visiting an old lady, Jajja Nakijobwa, who was living under a tiny roof yet looking after a huge number of children that are thrown at her doorstep. I saw her on TV and we went to see her, of course, with some necessities that could help her. I have also worked with Dental Aid International during my reign.
Do you always keep in touch with people or families after your first charity visit?
Yes, we continued. I am supposed to support one of the children from the family attacked by jiggers. Since I couldn’t ride back and forth to the east, I decided to send money through mobile money. However, the adults haven’t settled their differences on who should receive money. No one trusts the other to have it. I will start sending money as soon as they do. I also visited St Francis Hospital, Jinja and I am still in touch with the women’s group there, to start up something that could earn them income. I will continue to visit the Katalemwa Cheshire Children’s Home, because even before I was crowned miss Uganda, I visited them.
And where did you get the money to fund all those projects?
Kezzi Entertainment, the company in charge of the Miss Uganda pageant, funds the projects. I also have a charity group called; Arms of Grace where we bring clothes and distribute them to different people. Other companies like Rwenzori Bottling Company, Shoprite Uganda and Redds have come in to help.
Back to Miss World. You said no one has represented Uganda at the Miss World pageant well for a while. What do you think you did that others didn’t?
In the Miss World pageant, there are five categories namely; Sports, Beach Beauty, Top Model, Beauty With a Purpose and Top Designer Dress. The first three are up to the participants to win. I was among the top three in sports out of the 120 girls. I was among the top 16 in the Beach Beauty category. And I thought that put me up there. The Beauty With a Purpose category wasn’t up to me, it was the company supposed to do that but then we had a short period to accomplish it.
What happened to the video shot at Katalemwa Cheshire Home during your charity visit? Isn’t it what you were to present for the Beauty With a Purpose category?
It’s what we used but that video was badly shot and edited. It was also short; it didn’t meet the standards of Miss World.
Do you feel you were cheated at Miss World? I mean, did you feel you deserved the crown?
Cheated! Not at all! I thought it was fair. You know the other countries put in a lot of effort. First of all, your home country has to support you but I hardly had any supporters. You would see about or over 2000 comments for the eventual winner Miss Venezuela on the Facebook page but I would hardly have any comments. I did my part and represented where I could.
Any challenges you went through while at Miss World?
First, I didn’t reach on time, I was two days late. Settling in was also hard. The media coverage was hard; there was no press from Africa apart from South Africa who were also concentrating on their beauty queen. I was chosen to represent Africa to visit the Scottish Castle in Edinburgh, the biggest museum in Scotland, but the media said it to our faces that they didn’t want the black girls. They had to tell me you can’t sit. At the pageants, the Africans were always given back seats despite the fact that we were in groups and we were supposed to seat in groups. I was in Miss Venezuela’s group but we wouldn’t be seated together. I had to fight to be noticed while there.
What do you think the next Miss Uganda has to do or be at the Miss World?
She has to be active (sporty). I was at the top in the sports category, which put Uganda on top. All the contestants and chaperones got to know me. I was again chosen to represent Africa in one of the activities of flying the African eagle when we visited a zoo with endangered bird species. The girls there have the attitude of “I have it all,” you have to be really active to break through.
How have you handled the attention that comes with the crown?
I am a bit shy when it comes to attention. I have kept it on the low and I am not one to look out for cameras. I wasn’t a party animal and won’t be. Many newspapers have said that I don’t have a lot to be written about and that I am boring. However, I think that is good.
You had already contested back in 2010 and not gone through, why did you come back?
Determination! I saw a platform to do what I did (charity). And being the young and beautiful woman I am, I thought I could use that to change the face of Miss Uganda.
Apart from charity, have you done anything else?
(Roles eyes). Isn’t that enough? What do you mean anything else?
I mean venturing in other sectors like promoting tourism.
First of all, this country has problems. Anyway, given that the current Miss Uganda organisers had just got the franchise, we had a lot on our plate. We couldn’t do a lot. We also need government support. And my term had been cut short. I have tried to do what I can with the resources that I have been given. But I am sure all those things will be incorporated in as the brand grows.
A few days after you had been crowned, in one of you interviews with a media house you said you loved eating soil and reading books at the top of trees. Is this true?
(Smiles) No. You know how people interprete things in their own way. I said I loved nature. They asked, what is the weirdest thing about me? And I said I love the way the ground smells when it rains. People are weird, now like someone wrote on one of the social networks, that next time they should choose someone who can express themselves in English. (Clenches fists).
Is there a possibility that someone may have a chance with you (for a relationship)? What is your relationship status?
I am dating, that is all I can say.
What you are going to do after the reign?
I did a lot of charity before and will still do it. I will also still work with Kezzi Entertainment, especially on the Beauty with a Purpose projects. I will train and mentor the new Miss Uganda. As a young girl, I have a lot of dreams, the future is bright.
What are some of those dreams?
I want to build a recreation centre. I will be concentrating on the youth to create employment, concentrating on talents. Many people are not employed yet they have talents that they don’t know, or they don’t know what to do with them. We need to train them on how to use the ideas. It’s a long term project but I will one day acquire it.
Do you think you have changed as a person ever since you were crowned?
No, I think I have remained the same. May be I am more known now.
And how has being Miss Uganda benefited you?
My life has become better. I have more opportunities than I did before. I have a voice now and a platform to air it out. I am like the face of Uganda. I speak for women, the young, the old and the vulnerable people. I can stand in that capacity (of Miss Uganda) to speak.