The Star (Nairobi)

Uganda: Up Close With Africa's Next Top Model Winner Aamito Lagum

interview

She was that girl judges including Nigerian supermodel Oluchi Orlandi were looking for to be Africa's Next Top Model. Out of 12 contestants, Uganda's Aamito Stacie Lagum was crowned the first winner of ANTM and walked away with the most sought after title which saw her receive a one year modelling contract with New York-based DNA models, $50,000 (Sh4.35 million) cash prize, product endorsement deals from P&G, Snapp and Etisalat amongst others. Star correspondent ELIJAH CHEMOBO caught up with the African beauty at the recently concluded Kampala Fashion Week 2014. Here are excerpts from the interview.

Who is Aamito?

I am an only child, raised by a single mother. I still live with my mum. However my dad and I have a strong bond; it's kind of telepathic -- I don't have to tell him that I need his help, he just knows. It's that strong. I started modelling in 2008 with an agency called Arapapa. But of course my breakthrough was winning ANTM.

What inspired you to compete for Africa's Next Top Model?

Some of my friends sent me text messages to go for the auditions in Nairobi but I didn't make up my mind until two days to the audition. I was inspired by the fact that my friends had faith in me and they told me I could go far in the competition.

Aamito before Africa's Next Top Model...

I was just a freelance model in Uganda and I used to work at my mother's shop.

What did the long journey to Nairobi mean to you?

I think I can say it was my turning point -- 16 hours on a bus, going to a foreign land without knowing what to expect.

You're only 21, an African beauty and the world is your Oyster. How does that feel?

Obviously, I am thrilled with the achievement so far but the best is yet to come.

Winning a coveted prize such as ANTM is a big deal. How do you intend to make the best of this once in a life time platform?

I am using this platform for a greater good such as setting up a professional modelling agency and managing high-end fashion shows in Uganda to spur the country's local fashion industry a notch higher. Like I always like to say, it's not about me anymore; it's about the people I represent. I will always try to be the best I can.

How was the experience like while at ANTM?

It was an experience I can't put a price tag to in my life. The life lessons, the people I worked and lived with. Everything about ANTM was just splendid.

Was there a point in the competition where you felt, 'I've got this' type of thing?

No, I never felt that at any one time.

Besides being beautiful, you've also got a warm personality to match. Do you think this worked in your favour?

Thank you. I think so. You know sometimes you would never know what the judges were looking for. But I think it worked in my favour.

What does being a model mean to you?

Being a model was not something I chose. It chose me. I was and I am more than happy to be modelling because the satisfaction that comes with doing what you are meant to be doing is priceless.

Having tested a bit of Cape Town and NYC, what challenges do models in Uganda face?

There is no professionalism in the modelling industry in Uganda; however I can't blame this on the models only. The fashion industry in Uganda is so small so there are fewer jobs. Models take modelling as a hobby; not a profession. This is what motivated me to set up a professional agency.

What are your thoughts on racial profiling in the modelling and fashion industry?

I believe that it is the models back in the 1980s and 1990s that faced this problem the most. Thanks to all those that paved the way and made it better for this generation's modelling career, I believe it's getting better and better.

What is your everyday beauty routine?

Cleanse, tone, moisturise.

How do you stay in shape?

I walk out and eat right.

Describe your style in four words

Conservative, hip, retro and chic.

For some people it's listening to loud music, for others it's going for a run. What do you do to get hyped for a shoot or an appearance?

For me it's a quiet environment that determines my performance. Probably with a soft tune playing in the background. It's good for meditation.

Who is your modelling icon (apart from Oluchi)?

I am so much in love with Tyra Banks currently.

Name that one designer you strut for while in NYC.

I showcased Michael Kors which happens to be my all-time favourite fashion label. I also love other brands like Gucci, Prada and Louis Vuitton.

Did you have any awkward moments on the runway?

Yes, my outfit from Prada that had been clipped on me fell off.

What designers are you looking forward to working with?

Karl Lagerfield is one of those on my bucket list. However working with each designer is a unique experience that offers creative variation. I look forward to working with them all. It would be such a great honour working with each and every one of them.

Tell us something we don't know about the modelling industry.

It is a jungle where only the strong survive.

If you weren't a model, what other career path would you have taken?

I would have been a lawyer.

Your five sources of inspiration?

My family, faith, hope, God and successful people.

Your pet peeve?

It would be getting a hug from a sweaty, smelly and person.

Which social media personality category would you fall under? The Foodie, The Selfie Queen, The Philosopher, The InstaQuoteQueen or the Aspiring Stylista?

I'm a bit of everything. But mostly the philosopher (Maybe).

Apart from living your dreams in NYC, what more can we expect from you?

I will be doing a lot of charities in Africa.

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