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Hellen Lukoma: Putting a finger in every pie

Helen Lukoma

Helen Lukoma

TAKING ON EVERY OPPORTUNITY. She started out as a dancer with Obsessions and progressed into music, later forming the HB Toxic Duo. Then she graced the silver screen as an actress in The Hostel series and now she is into fashion, having opened her outlet at the beginning of this year, writes Edgar R. Batte

How have you been?
Good…very good.

What are you doing with yourself?
Right now I am working on House of Lukoma.

So are you now a fashion designer?
House of Lukoma is a clothing shop, but I am not a designer, I am a fashion collector.

What is the difference between a fashion designer and a fashion collector?
I just have an eye for fashion, I mix and match. I collect clothes from all over the world. I am actually giving an offer to all young and upcoming designers to bring their clothing lines to me and I will give them selling space within my shop, but it is me who chooses what I will take to my clients within their clothes. I believe many of them are talented but they don’t have where to sell their clothes. I am very sure they will earn out of it.

So far what do you deal in?
Women’s clothing and also men’s stuff. I deal in clothes, shoes, earrings, everything to do with fashion.

When did you open shop?
January 1st, but I have been collecting clothes for a very long time.

What inspired you to go into business?
I love fashion. Most of the time, my fans ask me where I get what I wear and ask where they can get such stuff, so I thought I could open up a shop.

How much time do you give this business?
I am always here at 8am and leave at 8pm in the night, full time.

When then do you record music?
I go to studio at night when it is quiet and peaceful.

When should we expect your next music release?
It is in the pipeline. Right now I believe I have a lot on my plate.
Are you saying the fashion house is taking much of your time?
It is right now, but I divide my time wisely for everything.

How much on your time table does doing your music feature?
Half of the time. I am planning to do a song for House of Lukoma.

Clearly, for now, your love lies with House of Lukoma than music…
First of all, House of Lukoma is the roof to everything I do. It has acting in it, it has music in it, it has a clothing line under it, it is hoping to open up a salon and hoping it can start a magazine. Basically everything is my baby and I am going to accomplish everything.

You seem to be the mother to all these babies, existent and those in the pipeline, don’t you employ anyone?
I do have an assistant, a manager and a publicist.

How would you describe yourself as a young woman?
First of all I am very ambitious and God-fearing, I believe I am kind and I am passionate about what I do.

We hear you are engaged, are these qualities your hubby liked about you?
I hope, but I believe there is more he liked about me. He is not my hubby yet by the way.

Who is he?
My superman.

Does this superman have any real names?
No, not for now.

Why not… aren’t you proud to have him and let the world know about it?
I am the happiest woman ever, but I will leave him out of my business. He likes it that way.

How did you meet?
Jesus! I will not explain that, come for my wedding and I will explain.

When is the wedding?
I refuse to tell you.

Anytime soon?
Only God knows, it is my biggest secret ever.

You’re a pretty woman too, don’t men hit on you?
I am? I didn’t know…(chuckles)

So do they hit on you?
Well, sometimes.

How do you deal with them?
I usually wear a ring. Isn’t that enough? I enjoy keeping men for friends, you never know.

So should the stalkers have hope?
They should pray to their gods.

We first got to know you when you were with the Obsessions, when did you join?
I don’t remember… all I remember I was in my Senior One and I was 14.

Which year?
I am terrible with years.

How old are you?
Who asks a woman how old they are? I am young. (laughs hard)

Why do women have an issue revealing their age?
Because you will start asking when we are going to have kids and when we are getting married…ha ha ha.

Are you in your early 20s or late 20s?
Eh? I am in my early 20s.

I refuse to tell you.

What was your parents’ reaction when you joined The Obsessions?
I was young but my parents were very excited but they were strict on me staying in school.

So did you continue with school?
Yes, I actually graduated last year.

From which university?
Makerere University Business School (MUBS) and I graduated with a Bachelor’s in International Business.

As a student how would you balance between music and studies?
All I can say is that it was hard but I was determined to complete my education, so I would work during the day, I would go for evening classes and perhaps go for a performance thereafter.

Were your parents still supporting you in school?
Yes of course, 100 per cent.

What would you use the money you earned as a performer?
I saved it, and used some of it to take care of myself and also reciprocate the love by supporting my family.

What does it mean for a woman to survive in the local music industry?
It is determination. I had to believe in myself because as women, we are emotionally weak. We are easily broken by criticism and competition. To survive we have to be strong and determined and focused.

What challenges do you face as a female performer to?
Being paid peanuts yet I put in a lot. I can for instance spend about 800k on recording a song and then shoot a music video for Shs5m but someone will want to pay you 400k for a performance and they expect you to understand. It doesn’t work right. I think every artiste faces that.

But you will be performing this song at different shows over time?
All the same, it is a terrible challenge to wait for days to get your money back.

When and why did you decide to form HB Toxic with Brenda Nambi?
When we left Obsessions and we needed something for ourselves and we formed HB Toxic, and that was four years back.

Are you singing solo now?

What happened to the HB Toxic duo?

Why aren’t you singing with Brenda anymore?
We are taking solo careers.

So you didn’t split?
No, we just decided to venture into different things.

On the acting front, you have made yourself a name as one of the best actors in The Hostel series, how is this going on?
It is an amazing experience. It is an adventure I am fully taking on.

What’s the adventurous there?
It has taught me a lot. I have developed my acting. I have learnt to work around many people.

How did you join The Hostel?
I was called for auditions by Kwezi Kaganda, the director.

Why do you think he called you?
I am sure he knew what he wanted.

What do you think you possess as an actress?

Tell us about what defines ‘everything’?
I have the energy, I have the love, the passion, I have the game.

Any challenges you have faced as an actress so far?
It is not easy living different lives, being Patra on the series and Hellen Lukoma in real life at the same time.

What’s hard about this?
Well, people think that what Patra does is what Hellen does. I walk on the streets and people go like, “You, you abused your friend,” and I tell them that that was Patra.

But being Patra must have brought some good things too …
Of course. I was inspired by Patra to some extent in my real life. She deals in and loves fashion. She wants to study fashion so as Hellen, being Patra helped me bring out my love for fashion.

Where should we see Hellen and Patra in the next five to 10 years?
As Hellen I want House of Lukoma fully grown with branches here and beyond borders and Patra is definitely going to cross borders.

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