Over the years, Dennis and his family survived on food stamps, each time walking miles to the only supermarket that accepted them. They’d live out of their packed bags, hopeful that their daily visits to the homeless shelter would one day result in a forever home. Although these struggles weren’t quite the same as those they’d experienced in Africa, living was still a challenge. Dennis says he tried to remain positive, “We can sleep, there are no bombs, our neighbours aren’t being abducted, it was bearable”, he would tell himself.
“Education was everything”
After years of moving between temporary accommodations, Dennis and his family finally found a stable home in Mile End. He was able to register with a school and begin studying.
Back in Lumule, education was a luxury and carried a hefty price tag. Only 33% of children complete primary school, as parents must choose between providing three meals a day or selling the food to pay for school fees. So when Dennis started to receive money in the form of a student loan, he chose to use some of it to help his father support their family back in Uganda. He generously paid for his three cousins’ school fees, ensuring they had a chance at a full education.
“I signed on a Thursday, and by Saturday, I was shooting for i-D magazine”
Fast forward to today, and Dennis is making a name for himself in the modelling industry. A stark contrast to his life in Africa, he’s worked with clients such as Christian Louboutin, Gant, Dazed Magazine and Vogue.
When discussing the start of his fashion career, Dennis explains that he was scouted multiple times before finally signing with an agency. “I felt like I wasn’t ready for it, worried my education would come second”. Dennis’s father firmly believes education comes before anything, so for Dennis it was never a question that his studies must come first, but when he was close to graduating in Biochemsitry at East London University, he was again offered a modelling job, a few hours work that was over half his monthly salary, he accepted.