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The Good, The Bad And The Ugly About The Modeling Business In Uganda

Written by on May 14, 2021

Modelling as an industry is one that is thought of as glamorous and all the fancy things. Yes, that’s true. However, living such a kind of life demands a lot, to hit the triumphant spot too. This means that an individual has to endure a number of things to sustain a celebrity life more so, to make it to the top.

Most of the modelling-related activities were put to a halt most especially walking runways which came up after the wake of COVID-19 in a bid to prevent further spread of the Coronavirus. This also saw the hosting of the prestigious Miss Uganda beauty pageant take a cease for the time being.

DERRICK ASABA, talked to some of the models and model managers like Joram Muzira of Joram Model Management and Ronnie Nsubuga of Crystal Models Africa to zero this down.

How one joins the modelling industry

Joram Muzira Different agencies have varying considerations

Joram Muzira Different agencies have varying considerations

Like there are interviews at any entry point into a company’s service or institution, there are attributes that lead a model into the modelling industry. Save it for commercial modelling which generally doesn’t have outlined traits, if one is to indulge in fashion modelling these are considered; beauty, height, size, color, among others. Walking a runway has limitations in age as the youths are highly cherished here at.

According to Joram Muzira, recruitment of models depends on an agency and what kind of modelling it specializes in. Different agencies have varying considerations for instance Xtreme castings would take any model for they do commercials which can never be the same with fashion modelling.

The norm; beauty, height and size basically apply in Fashion modelling which includes showcases of different designs and walking runways. This is not the case as to commercial modelling. Nathan Watongola, a freelance and commercial model revealed that every age works in commercials depending on the project being worked on.

On top of it all, passion overrides. It is the inception of the entire process that sees one into modelling.

Job line

Juxtaposing fashion and commercial models, Joram says the latter gets more gigs than the former. “Fashion models in Kampala aren’t so busy when it comes to jobs. Yes, jobs come but once in a while. But this is changing since designers are doing solo shows, a lot of editorials, magazines, print work and a number of fashion shows. In a month, one can get 2-3 gigs. Commercial models get gigs quite often because clients are always advertising,” Muzira said. He added that, when fashion models cut across to work internationally, that’s when things brighten.


Marie-Elen Odimba, says if a model is doing only runway, it can take months minus having a gig because shows can’t run throughout the year.

According to Marie-Elen Odimba, different shows call for different requirements therefore one goes for them if they meet the criteria organisers ask for. “If a model is doing only runway, it can take months minus having a gig because shows can’t run throughout the year. And, even if you had shows running constantly you would still be left out at some point because clients keep changing the type of models they want to work with,” Odimba added.


How much they earn

Considering the kind of work they do, models say they earn less. They have to look good always, which demands a lot of care which is by money. Many of them think it’s because the industry is still growing.

But how much do they earn? Marie-Elen Odimba, a model with Cavalli Modelling Agency noted that Runway models earn between UGX 50,000 – UGX 150,000 depending on the show and the designer.

Joram Muzira of Joram Model Management agreed with Odimba saying that with the agency and quality of models aside which clients in Uganda foster, they usually earn in the range of UGX 50,000 to 150,000. He added that it also depends on the number of shows one walks.

“A show can have six designers showcasing. This means that if a model walks for all, the money varies,” he added.

This is not the case with commercial models. They earn much compared to fashion models. Nathan Watongola, stressed that payments for commercials are dynamic for these are different contracts one is working on.

Okorji Richards Chimezu says, if one solely depends on modelling as a source of income, things can’t work out.

Okorji Richards Chimezu, a freelance fashion and commercial model noted that a model can even get a million per se for a billboard advert. Other jobs like video features, TV commercials all go in a range of UGX 200,000 to UGX 500,000. However, Chimezu notes that if one solely depends on modelling as a source of income, things can’t work out.

“The market is still poor and opportunities do not come often,” he says. Chimezu also featured in Rema’s ‘Clear’ video as a male vixen.

Management Vs Freelancing

There are two kinds of models; freelance and those who are managed. Some models I talked to prefer being freelancers to managed models. Watongola argued that however much gigs come on a silver platter when one is managed, they come with many restrictions. One cannot decide on who to work with.

Chimezu also stressed that there is too much pressure in agencies.

“More so, some managers take 10-20% of every income. Sometimes it is even the models who smoke out for these deals with managers just seated. Most of the work and the expenses are incurred by the model. But when money comes, they demand a percentage off. This is why many go for freelancing,” he argued.

Differently, Odimba argued that working under an agency is nurturing. She added that, when it comes to gigs, clients find it easier to work with them since they are assured of the quality of work from a model than to a freelancer who is self-trained.

According to Joram Muzira, agencies are a model’s life’s saviour.

“Agencies can either build or break you. If one gets a good one, it helps in developing one’s portfolio and pitch them to gigs,” Joram argued.

Sexual exploitation

There is a lot of trafficking and exploitation. – Ronnie Nsubuga

Ronnie Nsubuga of Crystal Models Africa, said that 70% of Ugandan models that are neither under agencies nor established, perhaps those with no websites, even those that are under agencies and are not fully established, are so exploited. There is a lot of trafficking and exploitation. One would wonder where some ladies (models) get money from ― They sell themselves in big hotels. He added that even their managers can never speak simply because that’s where they earn from.

“More so, girls are exploited as they are promised heaven on earth, international gigs and you’ll find them in hotels late at night having meetings, parties. Imagine what happens there!” Nsubuga exclaimed.

Their male counterparts too, face the same. Nsubuga noted that the ‘so-called’ fashion designers exploit them sexually. Models are tasked to do photoshoots half naked and these photos are sold.

He added that there are so many platforms where models are exploited sexually. “Leave alone selling their images, there are a lot of clients who call models directly for that,” Nsubuga said.

He added that, some models are used but the money they get in return is never suitable.

“I know of a stylist here in Uganda who gets UGX 600,000 per image and pays a model only UGX 50,000 for a photo shoot. Unless one steps in these offices, that’s when one gets to know how they work,” Nsubuga noted.

Muzira believes that such vices happen in cheap agencies. He said that this all goes back to the managers and how they groom their models. “For instance, everyone knows I am very cutthroat and ruthless when it comes to my boys and girls. If the show is done, go home. If you’re done working, go home,” Muzira said.

Ibrahim Ssekajja says
there are times he is told the show flopped and is given 30K.

Ibrahim Ssekajja who was once a model with Crystal Models Agency stressed that the less money models are paid with, leaves them with no options but to be used.

“There are instances when one has walked a runway and in the end he is told the show flopped and is given 30K notes and promised tokens which can’t even foot their transport back home. Such a model will sit there wandering at a show only to see a ‘spender’ who is willing to spend on them and they will simply give in,” Ssekajja noted.

According to Chimezu, sexual exploitation happens in many entertainment sectors, not in modelling only.

Nsubuga concluded that many managers can never take it in when such matters are to be addressed. He says, some can even hate you when you poke your nose into it. He however, noted that the earlier this is addressed the better the entire modelling industry will thrive.

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