Highlights – Miami 2017

The Miss Uganda North America Leadership Program was conceived in March 2017 by UNAA (Ugandan North American Association) and Inzozi Fashion House. It empowers young women in North America to enhance their leadership skills through education.

Miami 2017 was the first edition of the Miss Uganda North America Beauty Pageant, where the leader of the annual class is chosen. The theme was ‘My Destiny, Unveiled.’

Sponsors included Equity Bank Uganda Ltd, Kibira Safaris Tours and Travel, Waves Affordable Housing, Crystal Lodges and Safaris, and Mahogany Springs Luxury Resort.

The event was held on September 1st 2017 in the majestic Bayfront Ballroom at the InterContinental Miami, with over 600 guests in attendance. Red Carpet by My African Roots Magazine – present!

After having to work around canceled flights (thanks to Hurricane Harvey), the team, judges, mentors and contestants started arriving in Miami on the evening of Wednesday, August 30th. Tibba Murungi Kabugu (CEO of Inzozi Fashion House and President of Miss Uganda North America) welcomed the contestants.

In 2 days, our mentors had to get these 12 contestants ready to hit the runway with confidence.

First Up: All – White Photoshoot! Quentin Malveaux joined Julius Kabugu (BugzPhoto) for our Wednesday evening all-white Photoshoot at the InterContinental Bayside. Captivating views of Biscayne Bay and our beautiful contestants in their own selection of white outfits. Oceanviews and African Beauties – a match made in heaven!

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Thursday morning started off with Yoga at the poolside. Our own Dorothy Leticia Nakibirige, contestant from Mankato, MN, led the yoga session.

After some warm hotel breakfast, it was time for some mentor sessions and rehearsals. Gladys Kyotungire, former Miss Uganda UK and contestants manager for Miss Uganda UK, teamed up with her high school friend Tibba to run the rehearsal sessions. All that experience came in handy. Thank you Gladys!

Adoch Acemah and Gloria Nakalema ran the first mentoring session, touching on identity and feminism. Adoch is face of Ankara Miami and CEO of Latam Wic, an African head wraps company. Gloria Nakalema is a Ugandan nursing professional who is passionate about feminism.

Friday Morning, D-Day. Nerves, Nerves, Nerves! We had a morning rehearsal with Winnie Nwagi, musical performer of the evening, to go through the intro dance. We were joined by Benon Mugumbya, CEO Swangz Avenue.

At mid-morning the ladies sat down with Tausi Suedi, CEO Childbirth Survival International, and Maria Stella Zalwango, to talk about teamwork and career as it relates to women in African societies.

Hit the brakes, eat some food, go through our presentations one last time, final fittings, …

Let the Make Up begin! Makeup artist on the day was celebrity makeup artist Phionah Batina, who runs Boston-based Batina Makeup, renowned for making brides and models money looks! Shout out to contestants Priscilla Nankya and Porshia Nakalanda from California for helping out with the hair!

The Miss Uganda North America Beauty Pageant kicked off at 9 PM with a welcome message from Equity Bank Uganda Executive Director, Anthony Kituuka, who invited the audience to join Equity Bank. He shared Equity’s forward-thinking approach to diaspora banking across East Africa, including free checking accounts, 24/7 online access and easy transfers.

Our hosts for the night were Ugandan Comedian and Producer Alex Muhangi and Adoch Acemah. Muhangi went for his signature fitted suit, while Adoch showed off her head wraps prowess in a magnificent white dress. They set the fashion tone for the rest of the evening.

Winnie Nwagi came out on stage to her big hit Okilaba Otya, and then the audience met all the 12 contestants as they joined Nwagi on the stage to perform the intro dance routine.

Outfits were a creation of Inzozi Fashion House CEO Tibba Murungi Kabugu, who is the president of the Miss Uganda North America Leadership Program and was head of operations for the Pageant. Choreography by Gladys Kyotungire.

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The judges on the night: Sammy Tshimanga, CEO Sparkle Media Africa. Solome Nanvule, CEO Pelletier Teenage Mothers Foundation. Kim Swagga, Celebrity Stylist. Capt. (Dr.) Racheal Nambusi, Air Force Reserves Physician.

Queue the first competitive round: swimsuits. The swimsuit round is a test of confidence and a celebration of the modern woman embracing and loving her body.
Each contestant developed and executed their own swimsuit idea. Some chose colorful outfits, others complemented their swimsuits with creative wraps, while for others, less was more. They all looked amazing!

There were two recipients of our ‘Rise Up Award for Extraordinary Ugandan Women in North America’.
Tausi Suedi, MPH, CEO Childbirth Survival a non profit based in the US, Uganda and Tanzania, whose mission is to improve livelihoods for at-risk pregnant women, children and families in impoverished areas.
Major Lukiah Mulumba, US Air Force, whose Sickle Cell foundation has been helping sickle cell sufferers in Uganda to access better treatment options and creating awareness and understanding of the disease.

The Talent session followed as contestants produced their most personal case for the crown by showcasing their natural gifts.

The contestants poured their hearts out on the stage in a galant display of pride in their heritage.

We had singing, poetry, dancing and even hairstyling on the stage! How about that Kisoga Dance by Ratibah El-Gazzar. Jennifer Lutalo dancing to Jose Chameleone’s Wale Wale. Tekla Nakazibwe’s choreo for Despacito. Doreen Kazinduka’s poetic recital … the list goes on.

Next up, African Prints. To prepare for this session, the contestants worked with fashion designers Olivia Nalongo Musisi and Beatrice Musisi from Boston-based Afrisent Collections to sketch outfits that reflected their love for African culture and tradition. Afrisent then created each contestant’s outfit.

All 12 creations left an impression on the audience, from Juliet Twalla’s extravagant display of the Ugandan flag to Priscilla Nankya’s jacket and matching print skirt.

Visit Afrisent Collections at 542 Mass Ave Cambridge MA to check out their unique selection of African outfits – one of the most popular African fashion outlets on the East Coast. They ship worldwide too.

Next up, Evening Garments. Olivia Nanfuka’s REGINA Collection took over as pairs of yellow, pink, blue, green and rose gold rained down the stage in this beautiful dedication by Olivia to her mother.

This was the contestants’ last lap as a group of 12. The judges’ and mentors’ scores up to this stage were tallied to determine the top 6 contestants.

At this point we also awarded Miss Personality 2017 and Miss Talent 2017. New York’s Doreen Kazinduka, early favorite among voters and winner of the popular vote, took home the Miss Personality trophy. The award was presented by Miss Uganda North America 2011, Yvette Kibwika, alongside former Miss Uganda Barbara Kimbugwe.

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Miss Talent was scooped by Vancouver, Canada’s Yvonne Kushemererwa, who had performed her beautiful original composition titled “Take You to Africa.” The award was presented by Equity Bank Uganda Executive Director Anthony Kituka.

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These were the top 6:
  • Aida Doris Kinkufi
  • Juliet Twalla
  • Phionah Nyangoma Klahn
  • Priscilla Nankya
  • Ratibah Ismail El-Gazar
  • Yvonne Kushemererwa

Next, each of the top 6 contestants was asked a randomly selected question. All questions tested the contestants’ awareness of headlining global issues at the moment, including the role of women in society, equity and equality and leadership.

All the ladies impressed, making the judges’ decision a tough one. Perhaps the star of this round as far as the crowd was concerned was Ratibah Ismail El-Gazzar as she added a sprinkling of sass at the end of her answer about the roles of women in society.

These were our top 3 finalists from the first round of questioning.
  • Aida Doris Kinkufi
  • Ratibah Ismail El-Gazzar
  • Yvonne Kushemererwa

The question for the final round to pick the 2017 beauty queen was simple, and yet it couldn’t have been harder. “What does the theme ‘My Destiny, Unveiled’ mean to you?”
No one gets to the top 3 by luck. Yvonne, Aida and Ratibah all received standing ovations from different sections of the crowd as this set up to be a nail-biting finale.

A shy girl that grew up in France had dared to come out of her shell. A Canadian singer/songwriter had dared to spread her wings wider. And a talented daughter of Denver, Colorado had dared to dream.
And the winner is …

Having traveled over half a day from Vancouver, experienced travel delays and competed as the single representative of Canada, Yvonne Kushemererwa maintained her nerve and delivered the strongest talent performance of the night, as well as near-perfect poise on the runway and confident answers to her questions. The competition was fierce, but this girl had what it takes to come out on top.

Aida Doris Kinkufi took 1st Runner Up, and Ratibah Ismail El-Gazzar was our 2nd Runner Up.

Congratulations Yvonne Kushemererwa. May your reign be strong and impactful!

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