Nalinya Phiona, Founder of Little Miss Universe Uganda and Kampala Kids Club, says she established the agency to give children a platform to achieve their dreams. Her initiative ‘Little Miss Universe’ is a girl child empowerment program, aimed at building confidence, leadership skills and character in little girls.
“While growing up, someone told me that I couldn’t model because I was short, and though I loved to sing and model my parents were very strict about education and wanted me to become an IT specialist.” She adds that being a bright child, her parents made her pursue Information Technology in India and got her job in the field on her return to Uganda.
After working in the sector for sometime, Nalinya decided to once more pursue her dream, to particularly establish a kids modeling academy. She narrates how the conversation was futile with her parents questioning her ability to make sound decisions. .
“Since my mother is a pastor, she couldn’t allow me to do modeling because there is a certain stereotype associated with models as being promiscuous. But I told her that this was the chance to change the narrative and groom future decent models, but it still didn't make sense to her.”
Nalinya said that though her academy progressed slowly, with determination and patience, she was able to prove that her dream was achievable and could use it to help the young ones to achieve what she didn’t as a child.
“I started the academy in 2016, but 2018 became the year of glory after we introduced ‘Little Miss Universe.’ The pageant gained a lot of support from parents that out of the 35 children we wanted, we had 70 to choose from.”
“On the grand finale, I invited my mum and thankfully she came with my aunt who always scolded me for choosing child modeling over what I had studied. At the reception they still hadn't believed that the event was organized by me until I was called out towards its end to make the final remarks. They were so shocked that my mum the next day thanked me for not giving up on my dream.”
Though Nalinya recognises that children are hard to work with, she said that they always have a dream and role models that they imitate and she believes is her purpose to create a platform for these children.
Nalinya further advised parents to support and help their children fulfil their dreams instead of reprimanding them. She pointed out successful musicians who have flourished in their careers such as Sheebah and Spice Diana who always received little support from their families but have been able to change the mindset of people towards the entertainment industry as one able to provide a sustainable income.
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