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Thursday, January 10, 2008

Miss Uganda is back

Praise Juliet Asiimwe Akankwasa, has reigned as Uganda's beauty queen for two consecutive years, after the event organisers, MKM Promotions, failed to organise the annual event last year. But the event is back and the search for Uganda's beauty queen is on after the launch, at Kampala Serena Hotel. The winner will be crowned on July 20, and will in October represent the country at the 57th Miss World pageant in Warsaw, Poland. Jessica Kyeyune [pictured], also Miss Uganda 1990, is the coordinator of the event. She told DENNIS D. MUHUMUZA how MKM Promotions, who are again organising the event are set to restore the institution's glory - and their own:

After MKM Promotions organised their first Miss Uganda pageant at low key event in 2005 and didn't manage to organise one last year, what should we expect from them this time?
This time Miss Uganda is real. Expect the glamour of previous events because I'm one of the people who were working with Sylvia Owori when she organised the big Miss Uganda events. I'll be working with several other people we worked with during our time with Sylvia. The filming crew and the chaperons are all the same. We are taking what was working then and moving forward with it and looking at the challenges Miss Uganda has had and working on them.

How different will this year's event be from the previous ones?
We've moved away from Miss Uganda being associated with an individual because I think that's one of the biggest challenges the institution has had. As long as it is associated with an individual when that individual pulls out then the whole thing goes down. Now we shall spend much more time in the scouting, looking for the contestants and that's why on every pre-selection we have two weeks and also for the residential training we are taking in the contestants for five weeks as opposed to the three weeks.

How many girls are you targeting for the final do?
We are looking at having about 24 contestants from different regions of Uganda. Next year we hope to take Miss Uganda at the district level; we want to get agents from every district. We train them on the quality of what a Miss Uganda should be and select three top representatives from the district and we send them to the regional event and then the finals so that Miss Uganda becomes a completely Ugandan affair.

What are you looking for in potential contestants?
We are looking for girls between 18-24, height above 5ft, weight is not really something we measure. They have to be able to express themselves in English, have to be morally upright because we don't want to have a Miss Uganda who is questionable. They have to be single and not have had a child before. And by the way, this year we are taking two contestants to two international events: one is going to Miss World and another to Miss Earth 2007.

The theme of the previous events was 'Beauty with a Purpose.' What have you come up with this round?
We want Miss Uganda to be the epitome of our beauty. She has to be above reproach. Somebody you would say has similar qualities to that of the Nabagereka. So, we have come with 'The Epitome of our Pride.' We want her to be the representation of the contemporary Ugandan woman and also a reflection of the beauty of Uganda. We want someone who will champion good values and create a difference.

Do you see a Miss Uganda ever becoming Miss World?
Absolutely. If Miss Nigeria could become a Miss World why not a Miss Uganda? The challenge is that every girl goes to the pageant to be a winner. But it's only one person that has to be selected as a winner.

And what's with this obsession with tall and skinny girls?
Actually that's the modelling world and not the beauty pageant world. In the beauty pageants you don't have to be model-thin; you have to be a healthy woman -a contemporary woman and beautiful by international standards. As for the height, I think it's a challenge everywhere in the world. I mean you look at countries like Nepal; a person who's 5.4ft is really tall; most people are 4.8ft. There was a Miss India who was 5.4ft and she became Miss World. When you are too short people will look at you like you are a child, so there has to be a balance.

It is the general impression that national beauty contests are about indecency and nudity. What is your take on that?
Actually people who still have that perception are people who don't watch the Miss Uganda contests. We are going to create a 13-Series Episode to show people what exactly happens at the contest on TV. There won't be any swimsuits or nudity. We shall look at the girls in their best way possible. On top of that, we are trying to create an awareness campaign -when we go to northern Uganda we are not just going to look at the pageant, we shall also look at the positive things happening in Gulu because now every time you talk about Gulu, people think of war yet Gulu is the second fastest growing town in Uganda. Beauty pageants have moved on and gone far above what they used to be.

Exactly what role does the Miss Uganda play?
She is an ambassador of Uganda, like when she goes for the Miss World she represents the country there. And now we are going to focus on causes that help women to live a better life. When you are a beauty queen you're just a girl but you also have a title and you are a role model for other young women and the whole community at large.

Published in Daily Monitor, March 2, 2007