Pauline Long: Screw it! Let's do it
Screw it! Let's do it... Nothing better describes this woman... and believe me... I know her better than most!
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First published: August 5, 2008
With her third beauty pageant tucked away, we can safely say that Pauline Long is a force that is here to stay. Pauline Long is more than just the founder of Miss East Africa UK, an annual beauty pageant for talented East Africans living in the UK. The just concluded Mr and Miss East Africa UK 2008 is so much more than a beauty pageant. While the actual event is only a few hours long the work being done by the organization is year long. The annual event is simply a recruitment of voices. Every year she recruits East Africa's talent in the UK to become voices for social change in Africa. The movement has become so much bigger than her.
With last year's winner Maureen Nyakaira meeting the Queen of England and helping initiate an annual concert for orphans, the new winner Vicky Wilson now has some tough shoes to fill. But with Pauline's guidance this is simply another challenge that she will enjoy helping Vicky to meet.
How do you do it? A mom, a business woman, on TV... on the net. I am sure many women would like to know how you maintain a sane balance.
I get asked this all the time! In fact these days it's a question that I expect to answer every day but my secret is staying focused, putting my priorities in order and above all just believing in my powers and the almighty God. To be honest Richard Branson has played a big part in what I do. In my bag is a 40 page book written by him. It sums up his whole life and how he started. The book is titled SCREW IT, LETS DO IT! But for me I have turned the second phrase round and titled my own life SCREW IT, JUST DO IT!
SCREW IT, LETS DO IT! by Richard Branson
I wake every morning knowing my dreams and visions and I simply follow them. As a mum and a full time mother of two beautiful children this comes naturally as I believe a mother is the most important person in a child's life and I feel blessed to be here for my children 101% as their nanny, mentor and at the same time I can still work in the entertainment and fashion industry. I had to quit my full time 9-5 well-paying job in the city working in the hospitality industry to take full charge of my two children. As a woman there's a lot of pressure around me to stay with my career AND be a mother at the same time.
Writing takes up vast of my time especially now that we have Miss East Africa UK magazine. However I still manage to get the balance right. My children come first and then the writing, journalism, business, fashion, red carpets, TV and Radio appearances and all the other things follow. Everything falls into place at the end of a long working day... My only complaint is 24 hours in a day is simply not enough for what I entail to achieve in one full day. Some friends and family have labeled me the busiest woman on earth as I'm constantly engaged in projects. As a matter of fact, I'm now in the middle of introducing my fashion design label. I designed the uniform wear at the recent Mr and Miss East Africa UK event that took place in London on 26th July. I'm very excited about introducing my design and I thank my beloved mother for this as she has been the pioneer of fashion in the family, having been in the business for just over four decades. I will be designing for both male and female, children too so no one will be left out.
Talking about your mother... tell us about young Pauline and your childhood in Kenya... if that is where you grew up. I know that many people around the world actually think that you are Ugandan.
Hehehehe... not you as well. Many people do think I'm Ugandan... Talk about mistaken identity. I honestly don't know why I get mistaken for being a Ugandan. I have had a few episodes where Ugandans have spoken to me in Luganda and I have turned round and said to them, "I beg your pardon." One particular person got offended because he thought I was trying to give the language a cold shoulder and I had to speak to him in my native Luo to convince him I was actually not Ugandan!
Having said that, I'm surrounded by many Ugandans, I attract them for some reason... I'm yet to discover why... Well I hope it's a positive reason. Most of the people I work with in Mr and Miss East Africa UK are Ugandans... my PA, the show co-ordinator and above all, Ugandans have always come out in large numbers to support the good cause and I'm very grateful for them. My next move now is to try and learn one or two of the Ugandan languages.
However it is now time to reveal officially that I am a Kenyan, born in the beautiful coast region of Mombasa, I lived in the western part of Kenya for most of my childhood. However my childhood was disrupted a little bit by the fact my father worked with Local Government and at the time he headed different major cities in Kenya. So we had to move with him and as a result I have lived in most regions of Kenya and I was lucky to have experienced this and have full knowledge of the regions, geographically and socially.
I come from a very humble background of a family with 10 siblings and a large but close extended family. My loving parents provided for us but at the same time my mother took underprivileged children under her wings. I'm a Luo from the beautiful region of Mirogi in Nyanza province. Although I didn't grow up in Mirogi as I spent most of my time in between boarding schools and the city, I visited very often during school holidays. My late grandfather who is ultimately my role model in life was the main reason I frequented the village. He was my mentor and I learnt a lot from him as a child. I learnt from him about philanthropy and the art of giving back to the community and to the underprivileged. He wasn't exactly a millionaire, he was an ordinary man doing the extra ordinary with the little he had. He didn't have much to give but he had an open door policy where he would let people in his home for a cup of tea, a bowl sugar, a sack of maize and more. I watched him bring a smile to people's faces and change their lives too. The one thing that he always said, and this stuck with me during my childhood, is, 'It is not always about giving expensive gifts but it's about the little that is given with love.' This has stuck with me for life and this for me is a beautiful childhood memory.
Growing up in Kenya and going to one of the best schools(Ulanda Girls High School) that taught good life and family values was a great privilege too; a privilege that every child should have and is entitled to. It was instilled in me at school from the beginning that aspiring to excellence was the only way to go and education was and is very important.
Very interesting... Lets go back to your mother a little bit... How was she a pioneer of fashion in the family? How far did she get in the industry?
My mother came from a poor but humble background. She never had the chance to get higher education so the next best thing for her was to become a seamstress in her late teens. After a couple of years she decided to set up a boutique. She didn't study fashion and design until later on in life when she was in her late 30's when she came to study fashion and design in the UK. She studied in the UK in the mid 80's and went back to Kenya to carry on with her business. She designed a variety from wedding gowns, to school uniforms, men's wear and children's wear. Currently, she's still designing but now based in the UK and designs for major high street shops like Topshop and Marks and Spencers,
What lead to your migration to the UK?
Moved to the UK to study Hotel management and go back to Kenya soon after but things changed when I met my partner and we set up a family. I wouldn't really call this a permanent move as my heart is in Africa. Africa is home, so moving back is almost inevitable, it is just a matter of setting a date.
Miss East Africa UK 2008 winner Vicky Wilson from Kenya
You are mainly known here on UGPulse for Miss East Africa UK. This seems to be a growing baby of yours.... And I understand you have now recruited more or less, permanent help this year. Tell us about how you began Miss East Africa UK...
Miss East Africa UK is my baby indeed. Through it I have discovered a lot about me. I discovered I have three hands, one for me, one for my children and the third one for children in need. I have also met very important people that have helped me through this journey so far. I established the pageant as a result of my passion for fashion and love for children. Fashion runs in my family with my mother having been in the industry for more than four decades. She introduced the entire family to the world of fashion; however I decided to take it a step further.
After quitting my regular job as a guest relation manager in a top London hotel to become a full-time mother, I realised how tasking it was to look after children and discovered how vital it is to provide a child with basic needs of life for healthy growth. I meditated about the children who lacked these needs and decided to go on a one woman's mission and vision to set up Miss East Africa UK in 2006. The biggest challenge is finding people who share my vision and getting them to commit themselves to it. I would like to meet individuals or companies who are willing to put their money where their mouth is. I would like more people to give in terms of their time, skills, finances, education and a safe haven to children. There are many people that come forward with promises to donate to the charities I campaign for but don't deliver. This is why I am now introducing a campaign called THE SHOUT CAMPAIGN. This is a campaign that is going to penetrate the whole of Africa and is aimed at getting African leaders and Africans to stand up for our African children.
Mr East Africa UK 2008 winner Alan Semugabi.
Mr. East Africa UK... How is that going? Have people responded well to this addition? Does this not only create new challenges when "Miss" is only maturing?
The only regret I have about Mr East Africa is the fact that I waited two years to introduce it; I should have launched it straight away at the same time as Miss East Africa UK in 2006. The response has been brilliant, young male East Africans seemed to have wanted to get involved with the good cause just as much as their female counterparts. The male contestants proved very popular with the female audience at the double crowning event in London on 26th July. The contestants were intelligent, creative, humble, and very handsome in deed.
The men of Mr East Africa UK 2008 winner.
I understand that Mr. East Africa UK applicants had extra steps to take in their application... tell us about these extra steps... and why did you feel the need to have them?
It was just a matter of getting to know them well before putting them through the contest as this was the inaugural event for the male contestants.
... and how many men responded to Mr. East Africa UK?
I have to point out that East African men are shy... They really have to come out of their shells a bit more.(laughs) Even thought this was an East African contest, I had several applicants from West Africa but of course I had to turn them down. Uganda had the highest representation in Mr East Africa UK then Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia. Popular countries like Kenya and Tanzania stayed away from the contest. In total we had 8 competitors.
The 32 finalists for Miss East Africa UK 2008 winner.
... and women?
The women came out in large numbers... By the time we were introducing this year's contest we already had 30 contestants and a couple of months later we had just over 100. Unfortunately we had to work with a reasonable number and in the end we put through 32 successful applicants through to the final contest.
Miss East Africa UK 2008 Contestant Miss East Africa UK 2008 Melat Bayeh Abate
You are soon moving the pageant or creating another instance in Nairobi... tell us what that is all about and give us some dates?
Yes, I'm looking forward to the contests in Nairobi. It only makes perfect sense that I actually involve East Africans in the East African countries if the good cause is to become successful. It is going to be slightly different and diverse, dates and more details will be revealed shortly, keep watching this space!
Now Miss East Africa UK 2007, Ugandan born Maureen Nyakaira, has set a high bar for Miss 2008. Tell us what Miss 2008 is up against if she were to out do Maureen
I'm very proud of Maureen and her achievements. Not only has she carried herself with so much dignity with the fact she made her name in high places like the popular reality TV Celebrity Scissorhand and receiving an invite from her majesty the Queen of England at a special dinner at Buckingham Palace, but she was a great voice for underprivileged children. It is through her work with the East African children's charities that the pageant is getting a lot of recognition. She toured charities in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania during her reign and left a mark in each orphanage and children's hospital she visited. Maureen may be the past queen but in my books she is still ranked quite high. After handing over her crown she confirmed that she was still part of Miss East Africa UK family and vowed to continue being a voice for the children.
Miss East Africa UK 2007- Maureen Nyakaira at the Nyaka Eire! Concert.
Maureen co-hosted the first Nyaka Eire! Concert in Kampala early this year in January. I named this concert with Maureen's name "Nyakaira" in mind in addition to the name of the foundation we targeted to support. Tell us about how else Miss East Africa UK is involved with the Nyaka AIDS Foundation and other groups.
Currently we have listed Nyaka Aids Foundation as one of the charities to benefit from any advertising revenue that comes to our online magazine (www.misseastafrica.co.uk/magazine) We use our popular magazine to promote East Africa and the charities. Basically we ask companies or individuals to place adverts in the magazine and in return they donate directly to the charities that we campaign for. The team at Miss East Africa UK magazine do not see the colour of the advertising money, we make sure the companies honour their agreement by donating directly to the charity of their choice before we feature them.
Quite a beautiful thing... we need to talk more about promoting this magazine on UGPulse to benefit Nyaka... we'll talk.
Vicky and Alan: Mr and Miss East Africa UK 2008
What do you hope to accomplish with these pageants?
I will not stop until I help relieve African children off injustice. It is totally unacceptable to let children go without basic needs just because they are in "Africa". It is illegal and these children are getting a raw deal. For this reason I have initiated The Shout Campaign which not only focuses on East Africa but the entire continent. In a few years time I would like to see the end of Mr and Miss East Africa UK beauty pageant doing fundraising for underprivileged children of Africa. My dream is for every African government to turn their countries in to children's welfare states where each and every child is accounted for.
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First published: August 5, 2008