Queening: Last Friday, Phiona Bridget Kyeru was crowned Miss Tourism 2019/20 at Kampala Serena Hotel, beating 25 other contestants to the crown. Esther Oluka caught up with the 22-year-old to talk about her journey to the crown and plans to promote the country’s tourism.
Congratulations on being crowned Miss Tourism 2019/20
Thank you. It was a surprise for me too. I did not expect to win that night.
Well, the rest of the other girls also had both beauty and brains, so it was difficult to know who would win that night.
How are you adjusting to your newly-found fame?
I am still processing the idea. The win has not yet properly sank in. But, what I can say is that the numerous phone calls from many people congratulating me has been overwhelming and humbling. It is such love from the people that is going to push me to work extra hard to make my country proud.
You won a car. Can you drive?
No, but I plan to go for driving lessons.
After you eventually learn, will that mark the end of boda bodas?
(Bursts into laughter) I will still use boda bodas. Being a beauty queen does not mean that I have to change every aspect of my life.
Was this the first time you were contesting in a beauty pageant?
No. The first time I contested in a beauty pageant was in 2017 when I had just enrolled for a Diploma in Cooperative and Business Administration at Uganda Cooperative College, Tororo. I was crowned Miss Fresher and in the same year, I contested for Miss Tororo and won. I also contested for Miss Pearl Eastern (2017). Then this year, I opted to contest in a much bigger pageant, so I picked up forms and contested in Miss Tourism 2019/20. The Miss Tourism pageant is a great platform to market the country’s tourism potential, something I was interested in.
Did any of these previous pageants have a positive impact on your life?
Absolutely. After winning Miss Tororo (2017), I got a journalism scholarship at UMCAT School of Journalism and Mass Communication. I have not taken up the offer yet though.
Many times when a girl wins, they tend to get lost in the shadows and end up with silent reigns. How are you going to make sure we do not forget about you?
I plan on working closely with the media. If there is a project I am doing, I will reach out to different journalists and hope they come and cover the event. I know for a fact that without media publicity, no one will get to know the work being done on ground. Journalists play a key role in our society. But also, I am banking on the support of the Tourism fraternity and members of the public. I cannot do this alone.
What if journalists become busy covering other events and end up giving less attention to your projects?
Projects that make a great impact in society cannot be ignored.
How do you plan on using social media during your time in office?
We already have official Miss Tourism pages on different social media platforms. I plan on utilising these to promote my projects and any tourism-affiliated work.
You already have a project in place?
Yes. It is dubbed ‘Tourism in Motion’ and it will involve promoting tourism-affiliated ventures in schools. For example, I will be visiting schools from time to time to urge school administrations to organise trips for their students to visit different tourism destinations within the country. In a way, I will be sensitising people on domestic tourism.
Tell us a little bit about your family…
I am the first born and my younger siblings are aged 18 and 16. My father passed on and my mother, Florence Nabirye, makes ends meet for the family by doing farm work.
Where did you go to school?
I completed Primary Seven in 2009 at Buckley High School in Iganga District, went to Makerere College School for secondary and in 2016 I enrolled at Kyambogo University for a Diploma in Community Development but dropped out due to financial reasons. In 2017, I was admitted at Uganda Cooperative College on a government scholarship and I will be graduating in December.
What’s your advice to any girl hoping to participate in a beauty pageant?
Chase your dreams. The sky is the limit.
Any last words?
I call upon every Ugandan to support me in the upcoming Miss Tourism International finale that will be taking place on November 8 in Malaysia. You can support me even before the finale by constantly following updates on the Miss Tourism International social media pages and vote accordingly. Your support will mean a lot.
The runners up
Prossy Premah Agwang, 18,
First runner up
Agwang is a student at YMCA Comprehensive Institute in Kampala pursuing a Certificate in Business Administration. She never expected to be among the top three.
“The other girls were also good, so it was difficult to know who would be crowned,” she says.
Regardless, Agwang is grateful for her position. On why she decided to contest, the basketball player says she is fascinated by animals and nature.
On how she hopes to use her title, Agwang says: “I plan to use every opportunity to promote tourism as a whole but focus on the tourism of Teso region where I hail from.”
Agwang is the daughter to Charles Okiria, a politician, and Christine Agwang, a housewife. She has five siblings.
Jean Coprise Akullo, 19,
Second runner up
Akullo is a student at Kyambogo University pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Interior Design and Landscape Architecture. She is in her Second Year.
On why she contested in the pageant, Akullo says: “It is the best platform to showcase cultural tourism, and the pageant is for a good cause.”
Akullo, who hails from Karamoja region, says the beauty pageant is a great platform to show off the country’s tourism potential.
The 19-year-old is the daughter to Darlington Lorika and Roselucy Alany. She has three siblings. To those interested in participating in beauty pageants, she advises them to always follow their dreams and never to give up despite the challenges they meet in the pursuit of their dreams.