Meet Aamito Lagum: ELLE's August Cover Girl

From winning Africa's Next Top Model to ruling the catwalk

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For Aamito Lagum, 24, modeling wasn't something that just happened, it was a considered plan to prove to herself and her single mother that she was good enough, that law wasn't her only career option, and that she could shatter the illusion of modeling in Africa being 'immoral'. Had it not been for the 16-hour bus trip Aamito took from her home town Kampala, Uganda to Nairobi to audition for Africa's Next Top Model aged 20, Aamito says she would probably now be 'working in an average office, married with a child and another one on the way'. As it happened she won Africa's Next Top Model.

Aamito Lagun for August ELLE
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What Aamito, who now lives in New York, has achieved since being crowned winner has far superseded the title: she was the first black model to open Balecianga under Alexander Wang's direction and has featured in an all-star Marc Jacobs campaign. But it's not just about fashion: 'It's about using your position of influence to make a difference, to stand up for the underdog, to fight for diversity and have a seat at the table,' she says.

Aamito Lagun for August ELLE

I auditioned for Africa's Next Top Model to give myself piece of mind that I have tried, I didn't want to look back with regrets. I told my mu, 'This is the last audition I do, I'm not going to talk about it anymore if you just let me go to this audition'.

By Ugandan standards modelling is a rebellious thing for women to do. Society doesn't understand the concept of being a fashion model, they see it as something wrong and immoral.

Modeling has given me a louder voice and I want that to be impactful in a positive way, whether it's empowering to women or young girls I want my voice to bring about something positive. This summer I'm going to Uganda to give out reusable sanitary towels to girls who can't afford them. It might be small project in a small community but it is a start.

Aamito Lagun for August ELLE

I spent most of my time in New York where I live with my flat mate Jess, a dancer from Uganda. We promise ourselves at least once a month that we go on a date just the two of us – we get dressed up, take a taxi to a beautiful restaurant, order the tasting menu, drink a lot of wine, tip the waiter. It's our treat.

My guilty pleasure is watching The Real Housewives of Atlanta. When someone comes in, I quickly switch the channels and pretend I'm not watching it.

Aamito Lagun for August ELLE

You have to remind yourself of who you are by the people you surround yourself with. Social media can get you down; you have people saying negative things about you when they don't even know who you are. For me, I have my mum and she reminds me of the journey I have been on and how far I have come, when you appreciate those amazing moments you forget the one moment that got you down.

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