Sunday, January 19, 2014

"A" for Aamito

I must admit I had no idea who she was until news of her making it to the finals went viral. I remember bumping into some random radio station in Malawi. This presenter was discussing the three finalists for Africa’s next top model, a competition organized by Nigerian Stella Oluchi, a former model herself.

He sang praises for this "super beautiful model" from Uganda. He tipped her to carry her the day. The finalists were to be flown to New York. Not one to miss out, I hit the internet. I trust Google to get me data on almost anything I feel insufficient about. There was not much about her.

But I got an idea of who Aamito Stacie Lagum is. A 21 year old with a passion for modeling, having started her career at the age of 16, in 1997. She had to endure a 12-14 hour journey to Nairobi for the auditions since there were no auditions in Uganda. She could not raise the ticket fare.

What’s In it for Aamito?
Today, she basks in glory, having won a competition that comes with, among other perks; a 1-year modeling contract with DNA Model Management – a New York based modeling agency,  a product endorsement deal with P&G, a 1-year contact as an ambassador for South African Tourism, SNAPP, Etisalat, Verve, and a cash prize of $50,000 (About UGX 125 Million).

Aside from the benefits above, she is likely to get a host of other endorsements, depending on several factors and her environment. Endorsement deals will always be on the table as long as she signs up with the right agency. Many models have signed up with wrong or struggling agencies, only to end up stalling their fledgling careers. Aamito is likely to get a good number of deals if she sticks with DNA. Or if she signs up another reputable agency after her contract with DNA expires.

She could borrow a leaf from former models that have had successful careers to forge her own path. South Africa-based Patricia Namayirira was a finalist in the M-net face of Africa contest in 2000. She has had a successful career with Boss Models, featuring in a number of commercials and other appearances on the catwalk.

Modeling: The Poisoned Chalice?
Despite its relative successes  over the years, the ordinary Ugandan still looks down on modeling as a career. Some perceive it as disguised prostitution, while others do not consider it as a worthwhile profession. Critics will point to the low points Miss Uganda has had over the past couple of years to prop their argument. But just like any other profession, not everyone who joins modeling will scale the heady heights their peers might have achieved.

Many Ugandan models have had to brave criticism from close family members and relatives to hang onto the profession. Many still regard it as a profession for girls that have failed to excel in other spheres of life –which is quite far from the truth.

The misconceptions are quite many. Elizabeth Bagaya, one of Uganda’s most famous models of all time was actually a qualified lawyer. She was the first female east African to be admitted to the English bar –Yes, she is that schooled. Rehema Nakuya, Miss Uganda 2002/3 is a qualified medical doctor.

Priscilla Ray has a masters’ degree in international business and management, while Aamito is a proud holder of an honors’ degree in in Mass Communication from Uganda Christian University (UCU). And there are many others with respectable academic achievements out there. 

Some are perceived to be scheming for white or rich marriage suitors, which may not entirely be true. It’s like expecting a village-born, city-raised girl working in the city to settle for an arranged marriage with some village bloke back home, probably humbled by a rich collection of untold disappointments, Just because her parents consider someone they have known since his childhood to be the best possible suitor.

During their careers, models meet and interact with people from all walks of life. They, therefore, tend to get more exposed than your average corporate lady out there. They become go-getters. They know many a man is out there to probably have their moment with them and bolt once the fun is over.

They learn to make their choices more wisely. I guess it’s on the backdrop of this new-found guile that many of them end up earning themselves the odious label of femme fatale. Aamito could look up to the careers of other successful models like Kiara Kabukuru, Linda Bazalaki(You can watch her much publicized marriage proposal here), Barbra Kimbugwe (All based in US), as well as Eva Mbabazi (UK).

Another hurdle that many models face is exploitation at the hands of their agencies. A clever model may still be able twist the odds in her favor. An agency will want their client to behave, eat or look in a certain way. A classic example is Marilyn Monroe, one of US’ most famous models in history. Marilyn underwent a series of changes suggested her employers, just because they wanted to make her look more commercially viable.

She was born Norma Jeanne Baker. But she underwent several name changes –all five of them until her bosses finally felt she had gotten a name that would sell –Marilyn Monroe. In between, she had gone by Norma Jeanne Dougherty, Norma Jeanne Di Maggio and Marilyn Monroe Miller. 

Her body, too, did not survive the wrath of her bosses. They thought she would look better with her hair bleached to golden blonde, while her nose was considered too bulbous. Ultimately, she had a slight bump of cartilage removed from her nose to give her a what they deemed smoother look.

Miranda Sawyer, then writing for the mirror(UK), would later summarize Marilyn’s career thus: “Marilyn Monroe wasn’t her real name. Her hair wasn’t blonde. Her life wasn’t happy. But she was clever enough to understand that people didn’t want to know that. They wanted sex, love, joy, fun and beauty. And she moulded herself according to their desires. And that, in the end, is why she’s still remembered. Marilyn wasn’t real. She was a perfect fantasy.”

Alternative Career?
Movie acting seems to be the most obvious alternative career for many a model. Aamito will certainly not be short on inspiration, here. Just next door, our neighbors Kenya have had one of their own, Lupita Nyongo’o win a prestigious award at the 20th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards for her role in the blockbuster movie: “12 Years as a slave”. She has also been nominated for an Oscar. She could be the best supporting actress Oscar award winner, come 02 March, 2014.

Aamito could decide to go rather unconventional. Like Priscilla Ray, who is now into farming and a host of other business, and doing quite well. She could elect to follow the conventional modelling path --party hard, Marry a Mzungu,enjoy his retirement benefits and live happily ever after; Or she could decide to take a different path altogether. There are many options out there. The sky is the limit for her. As fellow Ugandans, we can only wish her well.
-          Dan B. Atuhaire

Thursday, January 2, 2014

NTV Uganda at 7: Belated Felicitation

In December 2013, NTV made 7 seven years since they announced their arrival onto the Ugandan television scene. It’s been 7 years of quality work. 7 years of a revolution that has seen an overall increase in dynamism and creativity in the industry. Rival stations have since had to up their game, as presenter after another abandoned ship for a new suitor.

The Programming:
I loved the new anchoring style. Maurice blended well with Rosemary, as he did with Josephine. There was Farai, too. Another Eloquent anchor. And now Gabriel Epenu (Still hospitalized at the time of writing this. Get well soon, Gabriel). They make you imagine maintaining on-screen chemistry is part of the rehearsals in the run-up to the 9 o’clock bulletin.

I liked Tricksters. The good thing was that it always run on a Sunday. So, I somehow found time for it. It was fun seeing grown-up adults playing dumb and daft in the name of exposing the trickery and society’s ills that some of our brethren once fell to. Kudos to Brian Mulondo (Wherever you are, these days) and Co.

Hot-Steps was another interesting piece of programming. It kept many a viewer on their toes, irrespective of the presenter. Charlie aka “Sunshine” as he called himself then, was really good at whatever he did. He has since changed names.

From Sunshine, through Stifler, Hyena, and Denzel, to whatever he calls himself these days. He's always evolving, Charlie. Like the deadly AIDS virus. He set a nice precedent for Hot-Steps. Until its sudden demise, it was a nice show.

It did not matter whether the contestants knew a word of the queen’s language or not. They were all given a chance. Like that dude who said he wanted to “break his body” when prompted for what he had in store by the day’s judges.

The period: 20:00 – 21:00 Hrs Still remains reserved for Telenovelas for most of the week. The women --and to some extent, some men, have this time kind of reserved for NTV. 

There was this Telenovela that featured William Levy GutiĆ©rrez, a Cuban-American male model that played Juan Migel in Cuidado con el Ange. He was a hit with the ladies. When he made an appearance in Jennifer Lopez’s video: "I am into you", many a woman couldn’t have enough of the video.

My Favorite Show

They brought Mali to our screens. A personal favorite, this. I am a sucker for anything produced by Alison Ngibuini. I had seen her works on the Zain African challenge, and on Shuga, an HIV/Awareness drama series that aired on MTV. I fell in love with her works. Mali was master class, for me. I was sold.

The Presenters
Josephine Karungi should officially accept she’s got an alter ego. Or probably she has mastered the art of owning the screen in such a way we are not supposed to see her in another way. She does things to my Telly, Jose.

I recall the day a technical glitch smuggled a Luganda version of a certain news item in the 9 O’clock bulletin. The Cameras caught her --in flagrante de licto, signaling for "Cut" (I am assuming that’s what they call these things. I am not into broadcasting).

But she only let out a wry smile and calmly composed herself again. She bore the bravado of a smart-alec preteen, fresh from dipping her hands in sugar, and denying the act even when sugar crystals still grace her chin. Like nothing had happened.

Like it was part of intended humor to spice up the day’s bulletin. We somehow forgot that was a gaffe. We love the seriousness, too. That poise you change into when talking about a fire that has gutted a certain market or building. Or the accident that claimed scores of lives the previous day.

I like Sudhir Byaruhanga’s reporting style. If he is talking about students' plight, he will grab himself a morsel of the day’s meal and set his face to the camera. To make you paint a mental picture of the situation. To drive his point home. Please don’t go to those war ravaged areas again, Sudhir.

That date with M23 almost left you looking rather disheveled in just a couple of days. You looked sad. Someone seeing you for the first time would have imagined you got the fashion sense of a home wrestler.

Aaaagnes Nandutu: Like Golola Moses, you just won’t call her Nandutu. I have not yet figured out a way of pronouncing her name without the extra “aaaa”, and not sounding like I am referring to a different person.

She has since made point blank her own. Not many can remember the original brains behind it. Now, that’s I call making your mark. Thank you, Aaagnes Nandutu. We need some more sound-bites from Otafiire in your subsequent “doses of laughter”, as you call them.

Maurice Mugisha is my OB from primary school. I have to like him (Jokes). He is good at what he does. My gut feeling suggests he sounds more refined than he was before he first went to Nairobi. An articulate, eloquent anchor and other things (rumors say he does more than just the anchoring). Kudos OB. Thank you for the good work.

Frank Walusimbi: Another suave soul. Anchor, talk show host and many other things. Always bringing out that rich Luganda vocabulary that sometimes makes me feel insufficient in the language. He makes the news worth watching. Tuwaye is a nice program, too. Keep up the spirit.

I find rave reviews in order for the following nice people: Ingrid Nantege, Gertrude Tumusiime, Solomon Serwanja, Maurice Ochol and Faridah Nakazibwe among others. The list is endless. You are an awesome team.

We Want More
I like the fact that I can stream the news live. But my stream usually stalls after the news bulletin, often rolling back to the Luganda bulletin at 7pm. 

The Oliver Twist in me still wants to watch a few more programs that come after. I have not watched Sports Bar in God knows how many centuries.

I no longer know what Usha Mali is up to these days. And neither do I know if 4Th Estate still airs on Sundays. Tusaba Gavumenti Etuyambe. Otherwise, I got to say Happy belated Anniversary, and Kudos for the great work.

-          Dan B. Atuhaire