Jackson Tukei Malinga is Seizing Every Opportunity! One on One Interview
23-year-old Jackson Tukei Malinga caught our attention when in an interview upon signing with an international agency, talked about how he had to walk on foot from Kitebi Mutundwe to Namuwongo then to Kisementi, and then back home.
All this had to be done before 7pm (curfew time). The challenge was for him to produce images to add to his profile before submitting with the Italian agency. Indeed, after going through it, he was signed to Independent Models Italy, a big talent agency based in Milan.
This, to us, is exactly what it means to live through the new normal. Going out of your way to do what it takes, despite all challenges in the way. It’s a tough time for everyone, but what’s life when you can’t live it. Let’s soldier through.
For this fashion story, Abbas Kaijuka of Kai’s Divo Collection had to pick looks from some of his previous collections. As a designer, he too felt the shockwaves of the pandemic in every inch of his business. His plans of producing a new collection were halted. He got stuck in his workshop with countless orders to meet, and nowhere to find fabric. Some of his tailors couldn’t make it to work due to restrictions on all forms of transportation. It hasn’t been easy for everyone.
In the accompanying interview, Malinga talks about his lessons, his fears and how he’s staying hopeful during this challenging time.
Shooting this story had a fair share of challenges, which part of the experience stood out for you?
Yes, it was really challenging. The day started with a heavy scorch then later it rained heavily in the middle of the shoot. Then it rained again. And yet in all this, I enjoyed the fact that I was shooting with a photographer I had not worked with before, and also in a place that was far away from the city. We did numerous looks, I think this was the first time I was doing more than seven looks in just one shoot. I did not know when we were going to stop, I kept on sinking in the experience rather.
You told us about how you had to walk for miles on foot from home for a photo shoot and then back due to restricted movements because of lockdown. What was going through your mind that day?
I always want to step out of my comfort zone and do things that have never been done before. So, when an opportunity came my way during such a difficult time, I had to seize it still. We don’t get to shoot a lot here, so when an opportunity tags itself, you have to act fast. I also have always known that enough effort always pays off well, so I was positive something good would come out of it.
Around 15th April, that’s when the idea of shooting some looks of Kaijuka Abbas was brought up. The country was in total lockdown. Abbas has always believed in me so he was okay with idea of having me in it.
And then my modeling boss Joram Muzira, (being a man who has no limits when it comes to pursuing anything) just gave me the energy when he embraced the idea. I remember, after kilometers of trudging from my home in Kitebi to Abbas’ workshop in Namuwongo, then Mawanda road for the photo shoot. After, I walked back home, and made sure to be there before curfew time (7pm). I remember Joram sending me a WhatsApp congratulatory audio afterwards. That was it!
Is this the most challenging thing you’ve done in pursuit of your dream?
The most challenging experience I’ve had so far came during my pageantry days. You know I was Mr. MADs. What happened was; I underwent serious depression over a competition for which, I think I was judged unfairly. Having invested in it most of my time and all my savings, things did not turn out as was expected. I had to act like everything was fine, yet deep inside I was breaking down. This is the first time I am opening about it. As a matter of fact, it is the reason I left pageantry and settled for fashion modeling.
Walking for over 20 kilometers is really hard for someone who does not workout. I am physically fit because I always hit the road for workouts. It wasn’t so much of a challenge. Only the thought that I’d be caught up by time. That scared the hell out of me.
Things that challenge us physically are never as hard to deal with as those that do it emotionally or spiritually. It is then that I realised that I guess I’m not as strong as I assume I am after all.
So, how then do you get into modeling?
In 2018, I participate and won the Mr. MADS COMPANY title. Even while in pageantry I would walk some runway shows like the Ugandan Diaspora Business Expo and Social Networking Gala 2018 edition plus the Stevz Fashion show 2019. After going through and beating my depression, I signed with Joram Model Management (JMM). The drive at JMM did not leave me the same. JMM itself is a big brand, so I did not just want to be identified with it. I wanted to be acknowledged for my efforts too. I recently signed with Independent Models Milan, which to me is an indication that, ‘so far so good.’
The modeling business is facing big challenges right now. Brands have limited budget to spend on marketing, crowds are being avoided and digital fashion shows are the new normal. Does that worry you?
I would have been worried if it was not God who has brought me this far. This new normal is temporary, at least for a few things. So many things are going to change, but one thing I’m certain about; models are not going to be substituted with robots. Hahha.. So, I am not worried. This is an industry that has thrived on physical presence. People want to see the clothes with their eyes. They want to feel and touch them with their hands. It’s such unique experiences that make fashion what it is. I don’t see that getting fazed out.
What’s most challenging and fun about modeling?
Challenging and fun, wow. I think I will start with the fun…You get to interact and meet with a lot of amazing people ranging from successful models, designers, and more. And then you are exposed to a lot of experiences (both good and bad) and opportunities, which is a great learning curve.
The Challenges; this is a risky career path to take. You are not guaranteed that once you become a model, then all your dreams will come true. And also, you can only go as far as your looks and appearances can take you. God forbid, you meet with an accident that alters your appearance, your career is over.
And if you survive through it all, when you grow older, you also outgrow the industry. Agencies tend to sign young models. So if you want to earn a fortune out of it, you are not looking at it locally but internationally and even then, you have to save a lot and forget the fun while at it. Yes, the hard truth is: the local industry doesn’t have that much money to help pay all your monthly bills.
The experience of getting signed to an international agency during lockdown. How did you take that in?
When the good news was about to come, Joram told me to pray so much and I believe this is what he does with other models. I was very anxious, this was a dream that was about to happen. I had struggled a lot to achieve the requirements for the international market.
I remember him confirming that I had gotten to the size they wanted. I also remember how he constantly warned me against starving myself in attempt to become slim. All I had to do was routine exercising. After meeting the required size, I was picked up by an agency in a top fashion capital. It took me many days to sink it in. It was such a joyous moment.
We are all adapting differently to this new way of life. How is it happening for you?
I am actually finding it hard to differentiate between how life was then and now, I have easily adjusted to it. Otherwise, what’s clear now is that I have twelve hours every day to do what I was doing in a space of almost twenty four hours. It’s about prioritising.
As a model, I know during the day, I will step out in the morning and workout, I will go for a photoshoot, go to a designer and see what we can put up in the near future, et cetera and then settle for things that can be done on my smart phone in the evenings like video chats, posting, interacting with different people. So, for me, this new normal is about knowing what to do and when in the shortest time before curfew time strikes.
As a student of Environmental Engineering. Do you think the fashion industry is doing enough to conserve the environment?
I believe the industry is doing something, but perhaps not enough. There’s been a huge debate going on about sustainability. The pandemic came as a reality check that talking about it is not enough, it’s high time the industry started acting. This is one of the most creative industries; from countless cosmetic products being churned out daily to the numerous clothes produced every other fashion season, it’s time to think about the impact of these products on the environment. And, if we really need all of them.
As models, we are trained to be mindful of this. It is rare to a find a professional model poorly disposing of waste. To me, the fashion industry is not doing so bad, but definitely this is the time to do better.
Back to modeling. Is there a model or models you look up to?
Yes, I have always respected and admired Tyson Beckford. One of the best fashion photographers we have here has joked that my look is reminiscent of Tyson Beckford. Beckford is undoubtably one of the best black models to ever live, and because of that, I look up to him on a lot.
Anything else about you you would like us to know
I have 5 or 6 years of experience as a model. Tricky to crack? I am twenty three years old. I turned twenty three in April this year. Although with all the pandemic horror, I’m considering not counting this year. I am kidding!!!
Content courtesy of Satifashion Uganda