Camilla, take it away:
Girl, your legs go on FOREVER. How tall are you?
"Ha ha! I know, I know! I’m almost 6ft tall, but it’s the whole tribe thing. Hundreds of years ago, we were nomads so we had to walk great distances to find good pastures for our cows. We all have long legs, so we actually appear taller than we really are."
Tell us a bit about growing up in Uganda. Do you get back often?
"Golly! I could go on and on…But Uganda is pretty amazing. I mean, when I was growing up, we had a civil war and it went on for years. It’s weird because as a child, you kinda get used to it; hearing bullets, people disappearing, hearing about torture. I remember that they would pile human skulls by the roadside, I mean piles of hundreds and hundreds of skulls. When I asked why? They told me , because the West was ignoring our troubles, they wanted the media to document it, a cry for help! It’s really weird! I think it made me appreciate life a whole lot more and stress the small stuff a whole lot less. Anyways, I will stop here because this is a whole other story…I try to go back as often as I can. It’s quite stable but the T.I.A (This is Africa) phenomenon is still in effect. You know, the whole politics and things not changing. Whenever you ask questions about why things are the way the are, people say T.I.A! This Is Africa."
How did you get started modeling? How were you discovered?
"It’s not all that romantic really. I met this lady who told me that I should model and she had a friend that was an agent. I had this part- time job that I hated, and when they paid me for my first show what I was making in 2 weeks, I was outta there!"
How was your experience working with Laura Bennett and which dress of hers as your favorite? We'll tell you right now, that dress you wore for the Bryant Park show was jaw-droppingly gorgeous and you worked it perfectly.
"Thank you!! I appreciate the love. It’s so much fun working with Laura. She’s pretty amazing. She creates these unbelievable works of art and is so honestly modest about it. She’s funny because she’s so nonchalant about it all. When she asked me to come over and view her collection and I was so ‘modely’, showing up hours later (it was raining or snowing). Anyways, I went to her pad and she had friends over, margaritas in hand and she was in a fabulous black dress, heels, diamonds, pearls, all this while pregnant with her collection all done, all on mannequins. I was blown away! She on the other hand was so chill and she told me, she made a couple of extra dresses. I love it! Seriously though, Laura is darn amazing! I was in love with what she made, modernizing Katharine Hepburn (my favorite Hollywood icon). The cardigan and sweater felt like cashmere. The pants were cut so fabulously and my girl ironed that crease, I could slice someone just by walking by. That outfit looked like a million bucks and all on a $100 budget, yet it got no love. Of course, I love her PR finale dress she made for me. Someone could see their own reflection in that beading. I pretty much love everything about Laura, that’s why when Heidi asked us to pick our designer, I kept praying no one would pick her before my turn."
Favorite moment from the show?
"Walking for Laura Bennett in Bryant Park."
Has your career changed after Project Runway?
"My life has totally changed after Project Runway. I think my biggest fans are middle and high school girls. The moment I realized I had any impact at all on society (besides walking down a runway), my outlook on everything changed. I mean, I had this Sista from Harlem telling me that her 9 year old daughter just loves me, For REAL! and wants to cut her hair short. Man! That’s Heavy!! I realized the importance of role modeling and not just modeling. My modeling career is going pretty well. I mean I could always do more…let’s see what happens."
Are you still in touch with any of the models and designers of PR? Come on, give us a little model dish.
"Yes. Laura and I communicate a lot and she tells me to stop by anytime I’m in her hood. The way she invites me is so familiarly Ugandan. I don’t need to call, just drop in and when I go to her house, if I want something to drink, I just head over to the fridge and help myself. There will be like 10 little boys all over the place (hers and their buddies). It’s funny too, because I’ll be over and she’s on the phone or blackberrying away and talking to her all the same. I love it, it’s less formal. Oopss!! Ok back to the question; yes I talk to Nazri, Danielle, Marilinda, Alexandra, Malan and almost everyone else, even production. Oh! I walked for Keith Michaels this past season. Him and I are friends and I love his work. He’s really talented and is so fabulous. I run into Heidi from season 2 when I was in Birmingham, pretty cool.
OK, the model dish; Man there was some serious competition going on. When I went on the show, I thought it was all about the designers but some models would almost kill to win. There was one model that was so conniving, always trying to make others look bad but she didn’t make it far. I saw another model slip a note to the designer before model selection to pick her. Let’s just say that folks were schmoozing, conspiring, flirting, whatever it took to last on the show. Totally Gangster!"
Do you like to do photo shoots for editorial and campaigns or do you enjoy doing the runways more?
"You know, I really love it all. It really depends on the job, the whole package. If the team is creative, meticulous, courteous and fun of course, it gives you a completely different energy. I do love runway though, probably since, in my opinion, every model is somewhat of an exhibitionist, it is instantly gratifying."
Do you feel pressured as a model to be thin? Do you have to work at it?
"I think with all the crap in our food, we should all feel the pressure. Yes, I work out. I’m lean but not sickeningly thin. I’ve always played sports. I love running. I don’t get people who don’t exercise, that’s just plain crazy to me, you gotta get those juices flowing. BTW, that’s another thing I loved about Laura, she loves to run. I remember when she was very pregnant telling me she couldn’t wait to go running . I said “maybe have the baby first.” Haha."
So far, what has been your dream modeling assignment?
"Not to sound corny but my Project Runway experience has been pretty cool. I was so chill about it during taping but the fact that I can be here and my family in Uganda can watch me on TV and watch me doing my thing is, pretty amazing. (They don’t get too many channels out there)."
Favorite designers and photographers?
"Favorite anything is the toughest question to ask any Gemini. It changes like everyday. Laura Bennett is my favorite designer person (not to sound cheesy) but she has impeccable taste, a God gifted hand and such integrity. She always treats me with such respect and for me, this is more important than working with someone who is so gifted, yet so mean. When you buy clothes you see one dimension of the whole biz but when we model, we work with the designers, their team etc.. and it’s all relative. That aside (forgive the model activism), I love Azzedine Alaïa, Tracy Reese, Proenza Schouler, McQueen although I live in Grey Ant jeans. It’s hard not to love it all when it takes millions of dollars and hours to create."
Naomi Campbell accused Vogue of sidelining black models in favor of white faces. Do you think there are more opportunities now for black models? Do you think there is a more balanced cultural look to fashion's runways these days?
"Ouch! This one’s hard because I know if I question this, I will become another Bill Cosby. Aside from pleading the fifth, I really try to focus on positive aspects like the fact that I’m fortunate to be able to make a living just by being me. To me, it’s hard just being black, period. I don’t wish it that way, but it is what it is. It just means that we work a little harder and that doesn’t really bother me. It just means that every time you see a successful black person, they are truly awesome. My question to Naomi is she’s been around so long, why’s she bringing this up now? I hope she doesn’t read this, I’m scarrrrred! Haha! Seriously though, we all know the deal. This industry is already abstract as it is. I mean I feel for us (black models) but them Asian sistas got it rough and some other ethnicities cannot even model period. I know a Lebanese girl that had to change her name and pretend that she’s Latina."
Is there anything that you would change about the business if you could?
"Just that people mind their manners. There’s nothing as sickening as seeing someone being mistreated."
Who are the people that influence you the most?
"People that live an abundant life, doing what they love and doing it with finesse. My mother is an amazing woman. One thing that was important in my family was humor, even when times were tough, we made a joke about everything. I just went to see “Lagerfeld Confidential” and right now, I’m in love with Karl Lagerfeld and his approach to working hard but making it all seem effortlessly fabulous."
Do you have any advice for young women who want to be models?
"It’s definitely fun being a model but don’t forget that it’s a business. So, go get it!!"
[Photos: New York Model Management]
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