LAST year, word going around media houses was that the new Miss Uganda had a helluva chip on her shoulder.
So what were we to make of Rehema Nakuya, Miss Uganda 2002? â€˜She is worse than Nabunya and will definitely not last. She must have something very big to hide, and we will find it,â€™ was the general consensus among the press corps.
Twelve months later, however, and Dr. Nakuya is quietly going about her duties as an intern at Nsambya Hospital. Despite veiled threats from the press, Nakuya has spent one of the quietest reigns in recent times, as Ugandaâ€™s most beautiful girl.
At the beginning, it seemed this would not be so, not with all the odds stacked up against her. First of all, at 23 she seemed to be past it. Who would be excited by a 23-year-old beauty queen, when there were all those lovely, nubile, 18 year-year-olds?
The finals took place just a few days after she sat for her last exam as a medical student. We all knew how notoriously fickle people in this profession can be, especially the examiners. A doctor taking part in a beauty contest? God forbid, take away the marks, she has to fail!
Then there was the fact that she was a Muslim, in the year when Muslims had threatened to disrupt the Miss World pageant that was scheduled to be held in Nigeria.
It is also on record that Muslims do not take kindly to their girls taking part in this kind of thing. Anyone remember Hadija Kiwanuka, who took part in the 1997 Face of Africa contest? Her family threatened to issue a fatwa against M-Net and its entire staff here, and they backed off so fast, they left tire marks!
So we all knew it was going to be a very tumultuous year for the good doctor. But it is 365 days later, and Nakuya has reigned over one of the most trouble-free years as Miss Uganda 2002.
It is difficult to really understand what drove Nakuya to join the Miss Uganda beauty pageant in the first place. She still does not talk very much to the press.
God knows she has not gained that much either, especially not because of the car. There is no question that within the first year of a steady job, she would have been able to afford a car of her own anyway. So, what were her reasons?
The press are still as perplexed by her as they were a year ago.
Maybe the good doctor does not think much of the Ugandan press, after all during all the regional finals she saw all these photographers with a camera in one hand and at least two bottles of beer in the other, staggering all over the place. And now they dare ask her questions and take her picture?
For a fact, Nakuya does not drink, go to discos or attend many social functions.
So what were the gossip columnists going to do with her? Even the tabloids gave up, after a few half-hearted attempts at looking for muck on her.
At the end of the day, however, chip on her shoulder or not, boy friend or none, Nakuya has left an indelible mark on beauty contests in this country.
Never again shall contestants be looked at as cheap failures with nothing better to do.
The myth that contestants are helpless young girls who are just being exploited because they do not know any better, was also quickly dispelled.
I wonder whether Miria Matembe is ready to debate this with our good doctor? It sure would be one helluva debate!
The medical profession is one of the most respected in the country, and for a doctor to take part in Miss Uganda...?
The Elusive Beauty