She has been making headlines for almost two decades, thanks to her enviable beauty and super chic personal style, but we barely know her. Natasha Sinayobye opens up about her very private life in the limelight, why her beauty is such a pain and how farming saved her life.
We tend to act differently when we are unaware that we are being watched, and so, I stalk Natasha Sinayobye.
She is doing a fitting for a shoot to accompany this story at Iconic UG, located at Senana Shopping Centre. For those who haven’t been to this flashy fashion store, it is a well-lit space with an open floor plan that is interrupted by a pillar in the middle that serves as the dressing room. The rows and racks of clothes serve as good enough hiding spots for someone who is doing what I was doing. There are poufs scattered about, perhaps to relieve tired shoppers? More likely to help those trying on shoes. Of course lots of mirrors and the most smiley staff I have seen in a clothes shop in ages, especially here in Kampala.
I sit on one of those poufs and from there I can see her checking out a striped piece of clothing. From that angle, I can’t quite make out whether it is a dress or skirt, but she holds it against her frame as she twirls this way and that in front of the mirror. Standing barefoot, dressed in a fitting light blue denim jumpsuit, she looks shorter than I had assumed. I sneakily watch her interaction with the stylists and assistants to see if her demeanor will be the same once the interview begins. Will she be nicer because she knows she is being recorded? She is after all a skilled subject, appearing to let her interviewers in while maintaining her privacy. Letting the public in but only so.
The stalking reveals that she is at ease with herself and comfortably owns the space she is in. As a result, she puts the people around her at ease as well. This extends to the waiter in the restaurant where we sit to have our chat. For this, she changes into a red midi lace dress with a wide sleeved print coat over it and a pair of heeled clear Perspex slides. That, her trademark short hair and not a speck of makeup, complete the look.
Sinayobye has been interviewed so many times that she can hardly count. Her career as a dancer, choreographer, model, actress and stint as a musician has been chronicled since 2001 when she made her public debut. Despite that, she doesn’t get tired of being asked the same questions. She says, “Each time I’m asked about the same thing, my perspective has changed. I see things differently now that I’m older.” That might well be the case; but I suspect part of it is a tactic she uses to guard her privacy. Something she does sweetly and yet so fiercely. Along the conversation she will tell me; “and you can be assertive without being defensive.”
One of the things she has been asked about repeatedly being her looks. How has she maintained her youthful look? How did it feel to win the Miss MTN Uganda crown in 2001? How does it feel to be on several lists of ‘Most Beautiful Ugandan women’?
Unironically, because of this beauty, many people underestimate her, taking her for just a pretty face. “Ya, ya that has happened, not once, not twice. It comes so naturally for certain people. When they look at some women, they just conclude, oh you’re blonde. I have had apologies before- someone has had to say I didn’t expect you to be this person”.
Her beauty might cause people to pause but she is unphased by it. Case in point; I receive a text from a friend saying I have been spotted in a restaurant seated with the most beautiful woman in Uganda, a goddess. When I show her the message she brushes it off as one would a casual comment about the weather. She credits her parents for this outlook.
“I thank my parents so so much for this. My parents have always been very…you see when your dad tells you you’re beautiful every day, you get used to it. It doesn’t become a handicap to you. When you dress up and your mum says; you’re so smart, you’re so beautiful…”
She trails off. “So when someone else says it, there’s no reason that it should affect me in anyway, or any reason it should go to my head. I believe everyone should encourage their kids and tell them all the time; ‘you look beautiful’, ‘you are beautiful’ all the time. You are the one person they trust at that age. So you should tell them.” Now she starts to reveal a side of her most interviews I watched and read in prep for this did not show; a depth of character that sits well with her upbeat persona.
Before her beauty made her known to us, Sinayobye had a different plan for her life. She wanted to be a doctor; a journey that took a detour when she had her son. When she talks about him, she gets a bit serious. “My parents were very supportive. I could still have chased that dream but I did not want to burden them, it was my responsibility and I had to take it on.” And she has worked hard at shouldering that responsibility.
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