Nine weeks of excitement, anticipation and nerves finally boiled down to Sunday 12th of January 2014; the finale of cycle one of Africa’s Next Top Model. Let us flash back a little, shall we?
One day I was in no mood to be productive, so there I was channel surfing when I tuned in to Africa Magic Entertainment (because Africa is bursting with little known potential!) and was just in time for the Africa’s Next Top Model ad. Nigerian supermodel Oluchi Orlandi (nee Onweagba) was appealing to supermodel hopefuls from allover Africa to brace themselves for their country’s auditions for the opportunity. She herself (Oluchi) got her big break when she was announced 1998 M-Net’s Face of Africa winner at just 17 years old, this was legit.
Africa’s Next Top Model is Africa’s rendition of American model, Tyra Bank’s America’s Next Top Model which has had viewers glued to their screens since 2003 for twenty cycles and counting. The show is responsible for some of the modelling world’s most sought after faces. In short, whoever got this chance would be in things!
I imagined what it would be like for the winner to come from Uganda but only toyed with the idea, mostly because there would be no auditions in Uganda and few girls would literally go the distance and make the trip to audition in another country. Apparently, all Uganda needed was one girl; Aamito Stacie Lagum.
That very moment, the 5’11 iconic Acholi beauty was somewhere purchasing a bus ticket to Kenya to meet the judges who had moved across Africa searching for her, they just did not know it yet. After tonnes of scouting, Aamito together with eleven other girls from across the continent were on their way to South Africa where they would be mentored by some of the world’s top modelling experts if they were to stand a chance in the not always glamorous cut-throat world that is modelling. Their progress would be evaluated each week and whoever did not make the cut would be sent home one week at a time.
I was excited when the show debuted and a Ugandan girl was one of the twelve. It was like my sister had been admitted to a very exclusive school, you’ve got to love patriotism. And so the weeks went by and each week I tuned in on pins and needles. It had become the Sunday night progi, no 8pm plans. The girls went from balancing elaborate (read heavy) head pieces, to walking (stubborn) goats, to posing under water, all the while trying to look effortless in front of some of the industry’s and continent’s most successful designers, models, photographers… you name it. And all of Uganda was looking at Aamito, no pressure huh? But each week, Aamito survived elimination and even got awarded Best Photo a couple of times, which anyone who is familiar with the show knows is a big deal!
Next thing you know, Aamito is through to finale and off to the big apple alongside Angola’s Michaela Pinto and Nigeria’s Opeyemi Awoyemi. Again, it felt like my sister might just graduate top of her class at this very exclusive school. But first, the three girls had to impress some of the world’s most influential agents at one of the world’s top modelling agencies: DNA Model Management. So there I was hoping that Michaela’s constant home sickness (which for some reason did not amuse the judges) and Opeyemi’s… there had to be something, would work against them (evil grin), so Aamito can emerge winner. However, with the progression of trends in African model scouting, there was little reason to worry about this girl whose childhood is sprinkled with memories of running from Joseph Kony’s LRA rebels while living with her grandmother in Kitgum. The fact that she had been awarded best photo in the final photoshoot challenge didn’t hurt either.
Someone somewhere must have appreciated the evil grin because the much anticipated finale episode aired and after all the usual tension and suspense… Africa’s Next Top Model was… Aamito Stacie Lagum!!! She had won!
It is (yes, is) a proud moment not just for Uganda’s modelling industry, but for Uganda as a whole. The fact that her Facebook page has gone up over 2000 likes in just a few days might help affirm this.
Aamito is not new to the modelling world. Prior to this journey, she worked with the likes of Adele Dejak, Sylvia Owori, Mustafa Hassanali of Swahili Fashion week, Gloria Wavamunno and Santa Anzo, having hit the runway at the age of 16. There is a lot to be said for Joram Muzira Job of Joram model management, the agency to which Aamito was signed when she embarked on this journey. Some agents would not have the fore-sight to be as supportive as he has been.
True to her humble beginnings, on her Facebook page, she shared how, “…it couldnt have been possible without you all. thank you.” And as the graceful winner few people can be, she went on to say, “My fellow contestants, you were all great and together we have formed a sisterhood of ANTM Africa cycle1 cast. All 11 of you taught me a lot and I definitely carry a part of each of you in me, I wish you all endless success.” Perhaps it is more understandable why she is known to close friends as Queen.
As Africa’s Next Top Model, Aamito has won herself a modelling contract at the prestigious DNA Model management and a $50,000 cash prize a.k.a 125 million Ugandan shillings! Talk about a million percent profit on the simple investment of a bus ticket. Tusaba gavumenti etuyambe so that URA does not get ideas.