I first met Brenda about two years ago. We had connected on Facebook while I was in Kampala. Charles and I had just designed and ordered a new line of jewelry and were looking to do a jewelry photo shoot. We really like the lifestyle photos and those are the ones that people really want to see on the various social media platforms. Of course our marketing budget was limited so we were hoping to find some volunteers.
I had taken interest in Brenda as I had seen some of her gorgeous photos on social media and I thought she would be perfect for showcasing our Tugende Design jewelry. When I explained to her about our social enterprise business initiative, she was so sweet and immediately supported our mission to uplift the women in poverty. And, as a Ugandan she was very familiar with paper beads. She agreed to model for us. I was so excited.
Because we both travel frequently, it wasn’t until last summer that we connected and did the photo shoot. Brenda joined us, as did several other talented and stunning ladies. We had 3 photographers, including me, to make sure we captured as many pictures and poses of the ladies as possible in a short afternoon.
We picked a really beautiful spot for the photo shoot, an old, magnificent mansion that has been converted to a boutique hotel, the Ivory Castle. It is near our home in Muyenga and is just stunning. It also has an amazing garden setting and lovely food too. We needed some snacks in between all that work. But, I love it for a fashion photo shoot because there are so many different backgrounds and settings for different poses and lifestyle type photos. The leadership team is also very helpful and responsive. They’ve come to know us, as this is one of my favorite breakfast spots (highly recommend). I so miss sitting in their luscious garden and sipping African spiced tea while working.
We had so much fun at the photo shoot. The ladies worked so well together. They helped each other, supported each other and shared outfit ideas. We were so lucky with the weather, well it is Kampala, and the weather is almost always great. But, we had a serious snafu. The chef started the pizza oven and filled the entire garden with smoke. We laughed and quickly moved to the other side of the hotel in a hurry, hoping no one would get red eyes. Would not have been a great look!
It was a true pleasure working with Brenda at the photo shoot. She naturally just poses for the camera and shifts into different positions making it very easy to capture various angles. Her confidence just radiates. The camera sees her.
We really bonded at the photo shoot and spent more time together. I got to see Brenda’s creative side too. One day she wore a pair of beautiful earrings she had designed and made herself with cow horn. She also designs clothes and bags. And, she loves telling me about the things she makes. She is always so sweet and fun so I thought you may want to know a bit more about her.
Here are her thoughts and some of her story as I did a short interview with her last week (BM: Brenda Mutara; MS: Monica Swahn).
MS: “How long have you been a model?”
BM: “I have been modeling for 11 years”
MS: “When did you know you wanted to be a model?”
BM: “I honestly never thought about it. But, one day I was picked up from school to do a photo shoot for a teen magazine and that changed everything. I knew after that I wanted to do more modeling. It was really fun.”
MS: “Tell us something about growing up in Uganda.”
BM: “Growing up in Uganda was good. But it also had lots of difficulties. In Uganda, life is not a straight line and nothing is perfect. But, I have been happy and am very grateful for family and friends.”
MS: “What do you miss most about Uganda when traveling?”
BM: “I miss Ugandan food, the beautiful weather, and of course friends and family.”
MS: “How do people react when you say you are a model?”
BM: “Some people get excited and want to know more. But some people judge me for the clothes we wear during fashion shows and photo shoots. We don’t get to pick the clothes we showcase and sometimes poses can be sexy. Some people don’t understand.”
MS: “What do you like best about modeling?”
BM: “It has given me more confidence and self-esteem. Modeling has also given me the opportunity to travel. I probably would never had the chance to travel if I had not been a model. I have also made so many friends. Modeling have changed my life for the better.”
MS: “What is the hardest part of modeling?
BM: “The hardest part of modeling is staying fit, eating right all the time. But, also availability can be difficult, especially for those of us where modeling may not be the only source of income.”
MS: “We know you have a creative side, designing and making jewelry and clothes, tell us some more about your inspiration and the things you make.”
BM: “Yes, you are so right, I love crafts, hand bag weaving and sewing, jewelry making, all on a small scale. My inspiration has been my mother because when I was young I saw her making clothes with a hand needle from her remaining fabric pieces (swatches). While modeling, I also admire the designer's creativity and get even more inspired.”
MS: “At Tugende Design, we’re very grateful for your contribution, modeling our jewelry. What made you support our organization?
BM: “I supported your organization because it is for a good cause. I love to give back in any way I possibly can. You guys do a great job. Your jewelry is so beautiful. I hope that more people will discover your business and support you.”
MS: “What advice do you have for girls and young women who want to model?
BM: “First they need to try and find a good agency to represent them to gain professional trust and to book assignments. They need to make themselves available, have good character, such as showing respect for other models and photographer, make-up artists and others. Maybe most important is patience and confidence. Even when you don’t feel your best, you have to be able to follow directions and listen to the photographer to get the best pictures. It takes time, often the days are long and you have to keep the energy high no matter what. So patience is so important. Also, you have to remain confident in yourself and to project that confidence and also trust the photographer. It is so much fun, but much harder than most people think.”
MS: “If people want to book you for photo shoots, since you are often in the U.S., how can they reach you?
BM: “They can use my email firstname.lastname@example.org Some of my work and photos are on Instagram and Facebook @Brenda Mutara.”
If you love any of the necklaces that Brenda wore during the photo shoot, you can find them on Amazon Handmade or in our own online shop, Tugende Design. We also sell our earrings on etsy (necklaces coming soon) and have a great selection of jewelry, bags and accessories at the Beehive collective here in Atlanta. We are always grateful for the support.