She started out professionally as a model with fashion icon Sylvia Owori’s then Ziper Models.
“It was not only the first professional modeling agency that I was attached to but it took me through a fabulous experience,” she says of Ziper.
Back then she was a dark, tall and slender model only weighing 55kg. But she also had a diploma from Dolphins Fashion School in Kampala and dreamt of owning a fashion house because, she says, fashion has been her passion all her life. It is a dream she shared and worked on with some of her lecturers at Dolphin.
As child, she could even dare defy her disciplinarian mother by breaking family dress codes. As her siblings dressed mostly in homemade decent dresses, Santa says she always tweaked hers with a unique touch. Decency is the only rule she never broke.
“My dressing would be unique as long as I thought it was decent enough,” she says.
She stayed with Ziper for 16 months and moved on to start her own fashion label called Arapapa; meaning butterfly in her Madi language. She describes Arapapa as a vision from God that she got after praying and intercessions.
“I wanted a name in Madi that could tell my story and it was a butterfly,” she says, adding that, “I had walked its journey but also wanted my company to reflect the beauty in diversity of Uganda’s various people in colour, size, and physical beauty”. She also wanted a name to honour her father; which is where the ‘papa’ comes in.
In 2001 Santa launched Arapapa as a modeling agency and fashion house. Although she started it in the drive way of a beauty parlor business picked fast. Two years later, she launched the Uganda International Fashion Week which also picked easily as she already had corporate clients in the breweries and telecoms who were sponsors.
When she opened shop in Oasis Mall in Kampala and the brand awareness brought more business, she soon concentrated more on tailoring than modeling.
“I gave up on dancing and exercising more to develop the brand and the result was a bigger body that has since failed to shrink,” says Santa.
Such hard work, determination, and perseverance have marked most of Santa’s life. Although she was born into a comfortable home to a civil servant father and mother who was a teacher, everything changed in 1979 when then-president Idi Amin Dada was kicked from power. Amin was from her Madi tribe and his tribe mates, including Santa’s father suffered revenge reprisals. Her father was accused of committing crimes and taken away. Santa was only four years old at the time, but she had to separate from her mother and live with her grandmother in Moyo district of West Nile. One day, as the fighting that ousted Amin reached their area, she had to flee for dear life into Sudan.
“I saw people fall around and die and I run following people,” she recalls.
“I was plucked out of the comfort zone and taken into refuge at only four years old in Southern Sudan while dad was falsely accused and shipped to back Kampala,” she adds.
She reconnected with her mother at the collection centre of the refugee camp. Her grandmother joined them later. But it would be four years later, when they returned to their home Moyo in 1983 that she would see her father again in Kampala and their family stabilised again.
She resumed school at Old Kampala Primary school and Bat Valley primary School for primary education before joining Madhvani College Wairaka Jinja for O-levels Progressive Secondary school Bweyogerere for A-levels.
Santa Anzo’s Liteside
Any three things we don’t know about you?
I am a very loving, loyal and happy person. My level of commitment is amazing; I don’t understand why sometimes I remain committed to certain people or situations but it only makes sense when it benefits others more than me.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Living for the heart rather than the mind; I like it when things are triggered through the heart.
What is your greatest fear?
Betrayal; I am very trusting which is why I have been betrayed many times and even then, I continue falling back.
What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
I can be very forgiving to those who may not be befitting but I love it that way because with forgiveness, I am elevated to a higher ground with God.
What is the trait you most deplore in others?
That has to be dishonesty; people who sell me a vision and yet work against it. It is hard to progress with such people around us.
Which living person do you most admire?
That has to be my dad, Peter Iku Dolo; he is very well-rounded and has lived in situations where he is amongst those at his level but gave up the luxuries and moved back to the village to serve his community.
What is your greatest extravagance?
I love reading books so I spend a lot of my money on buying them. It doesn’t matter when I will read them but I just love books.
What is the greatest thing you have ever done?
Uganda International Fashion Week remains great; it is an avenue that I set up to promote local talent and restore hope for the hopeless. It sunk Arapapa for two years but we kept going. It is also one thing that changed my life because I was bitten a lot for it.
What is your current state of mind?
I am at peace with myself.
What does being powerful mean to you?
You can only be powerful when you know who you are and when you are living your inner self.
On what occasion do you lie?
I am too open; so I have nothing to hide. It is so hard for me to live with a lie.
What do you most dislike about your appearance?
I had never lived in a bigger body because I was used to the skinny 55kg Santa. I have however learnt to accept the change in me.
Which living person do you most despise?
I don’t hate anyone even when some people disappoint me. Someone may have committed a thousand murders but there is still something good about them.
What is the quality you most like in a man?
Living by the heart because it connects to goodness.
What is the quality you most like in a woman?
Being who she has been called to be but also living through the heart because it is one organ that doesn’t lie.
What or who is the greatest love of your life?
I love my niece whom I have stayed with for the last five years; she is amazing and charms me whenever I am down.
When and where were you happiest?
The moments I have had with my niece since 2013; she just completes me.
Which talent would you most like to have?
I am a naturally talented motivational speaker so I would love to inspire more people.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
There is a reason why God has allowed certain things into my life so I just love His works.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
I haven’t achieved it because I am only operating at 6 percent of my capacity.
Where would you most like to live?
I love Uganda so much but my character traits and belief systems is so much celebrated spiritually each time I am in USA. I am elevated and relate so much with the people that I meet. But for some reason I am stuck in Uganda and can’t leave the country of my birth.
What is your most treasured possession?
I love my dog; 12 years together is more than great.
What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
Peace is everything and so is life. We take them for granted but I have been in positions where I wasn’t sure of life the next day; such moments are traumatizing.
What is your favorite occupation?
Being a fashion designer though not the usual one but using it as a vehicle to transform my community which is why if there is any cause in the world that needs to be addressed, I am well armed. I have represented Ugandan fashion on so many platforms because I am very Pan-African.
What do you most value in your friends?
I am an open book and if you know me, you are the best.
Who are your favorite writers?
For every season, I have an author but some of the best books I have read are written by Donald Trump. He doesn’t allow you to make any excuses for a better life. There is so much growth in his writing and if I don’t make it with him as world leader then I am done.
I also like reading books by Rhonda Byrne because her writings teach me to be a better Christian every day.
Which historical figure do you most identify with?
Maya Angelou; she was a creative like myself who wrote poems with an intention to transform America and she did it.
Who are your heroes in real life?
My father Peter Iku Dolo is my hero. President Museveni called me to service and I swore allegiance to help him take Uganda to another level in 2001. Dr James Magara of Jubilee Dental Clinic has been my mentor for so many years because even when we left the drive way to go into our first office space, he would get on his knees and pray with me.
How would you like to die?
It would be best in my sleep.
What is your motto?
Thank you and gratitude elevate me to the next level.