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Ronald Waiswa: Taking over the runway

Waiswa during the Kampala Fashion Week last year. Left: During the Abryanz Style and Fashion Awards. PHOTOS BY Abubaker Lubowa

Big Break: He is only one year old in this industry, but Ronald Waiswa is enjoying quite a breakthrough. The 21-year-old who faced a rejection at his first modelling cast, did not give up and when his time came, it did not take long before he was named East Africa’s best male model. He also scooped the best male model award at the recent Abryanz fashion awards. He spoke to Esther Oluka about life on and off the runway.

You seem very humble and polite in person and yet your runway persona is a very serious one.
When it comes to work, I have to project a particular kind of attitude. One will hardly get a model smiling on the runway except for particular shows such as bridals. Away from the runway, I am a social and friendly guy.

How many fashion shows have you walked for so far?
In 2016, I walked for about 11 shows, something you cannot easily attain in this industry, especially when starting out.

How old are you in this industry?
I am about one year old. I went for my first modelling casting for Kampala Fashion Week in 2014 but I was not considered. Then I tried again in 2015 for the Abryanz Style and Fashion Awards (Asfas) and luckily, I was cast and walked for the show in December.

So this Asfas was the first show you walked for?

What was your first experience like?
It was terrifying. I was nervous because I did not know anything about runway. I almost fell on the runway during that particular show after stepping on one of my loose shoe laces. Despite that, the show opened up different opportunities for me.

How exactly was the show a breakthrough for you?
After that show, someone introduced me to Joram Job Muzira, a model manager and scout who later signed me up in March 2016. Since I was now under him, he managed to book for me show after show.

David Tlale, a renowned international fashion designer showcased at the 2016 Asfas. Did you walk for him?
(Excitedly) Yes, I did.

What is he like in person?
Surprisingly, he is a very cool guy.
Since you are all over the place, how are you dealing with the attention?
Well, it is growing from both the women and men. Some people are interested in finding tips on how to make it in this industry. Then others obviously do it because they are attracted to me and probably want to start a relationship. For this particular group of people, I usually turn them down politely.

What if a person insists on being with you?
Then I have an open conversation with them. Doing this helps me understand exactly the kind of affiliation a person wants with me. Surprisingly, there are those you find genuinely interested in only friendship. I still turn down those interested in intimate relationships. I do not have to act on every feeling someone has for me.

Does that mean you are in a relationship?
Yes, I am seeing someone but I would prefer not to divulge details. I prefer to keep this aspect of my life private.

Fashion magazines project this industry as exciting and glamorous. Is it?
Contrary to what many people think, there is a lot of hard work behind the scenes, done by a team comprising of designers, photographers, casting directors and the models themselves. What the people see either on the runway or magazine is simply the end product.

Then why do you think many people find modeling a prestigious career?
Probably because of the exposure and the opportunity to rub shoulders with different personalities. Also, models not only get to wear designer clothes, but learn various styling tips.

There are people who also think they have distinct looks
Well, that is also true. But people should not forget that this industry accommodates all sizes. I know of short and plus size models who are doing very well. It all zeroes down to how badly one wants to be in this industry.

Speaking of appearance, how do you maintain yours?
I work out. My exercise routine includes pushups and sit-ups. This is what keeps me in shape. I also mind what I eat.

How tall are you?
I am 6’4” tall. I also play basketball by the way.

What is that thing that has shocked you in this industry?
Models are exploited a lot. A case in point is when you walk for a particular fashion show and end up not getting paid. I am lucky that this has never happened to me because I have a professional manager. It is mainly models without reputable managers and agencies who are exploited.

Do the models ever take the clothes they wear on the runway?
No. After walking, the clothes are immediately returned to the designer. There are circumstances though where the designer gives you the attire as a token of appreciation. In my case, there was one who gave me a pair of shoes and another let me have the clothes. It was a great feeling because these are very expensive items.

Any other work you do besides modeling?
I am a graphics designer. It is very difficult to survive on modelling alone as it does not pay much.

What is the best advice someone has ever given you?
My manager once told me to stay humble even when you are at the peak of your career.

Your last words
To my management, family, friends and fans, thank you very much for the overwhelming love and support. You have challenged me to work much harder this year.
•East African Model Of The Year (2016) at Swahili Fashion Week
•Ugandan model of the year (male), Abryanz Style and Fashion Awards, 2016.
I was raised by a guardian after losing both my parents at a very tender age. I have eight siblings but I lost my twin sister at the tender age of four. But that is life.
I attended Kabyaza Primary School, Kakira and Lugazi Homeland College where I completed my secondary school. I then enrolled at International University of East Africa (IUEA) for a Bachelor’s degree in Architecture but left after one year because of no tuition. I hope to resume after getting the money.

Tips for upcoming models
•Ensure that you are signed to a professional modelling agency. It is easy to book jobs when you belong to one.
•Be professional by abiding to the rules of the industry.
•Respect other people in the industry, including designers, photographers and fellow models.
•Have passion for your work.
•Be humble and patient. Everything happens at its own suitable time.
•Do not give up. If you are not cast for a particular job, always try other castings.

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