Women With GRITT: Suzan Mutesi On Making Sacrifices, The Importance Of A Solid Support System And Why Preparation Is Key

“You want to surround yourself with people who aren't afraid to say your name when an opportunity comes up. You want people who believe in you and who aren't threatened by your success."

Welcome to Women with GRITT: a series where we interview the resilient, hardworking women who have kicked in the glass ceiling and inspire us to do the same.

Suzan Mutesi is no stranger to the spotlight. With a resumé that would no doubt be pages and pages long, the actor/model/influencer/author/fashion designer has creativity in spades. With a distinct and unique eye that has earned her recognition as the African Fashion Designer of the year–an award she won in 2012–the Ugandan-Australian has been on the rise ever since.

Using her stories of personal hardship and challenge to fuel her determination to be successful, Mutesi is also just downright inspirational. Working tirelessly to make a life for herself and ensure other women like her can have a role model to look up to, her industry experience is multi-layered. 

In this interview, Mutesi speaks to Gritty Pretty about making sacrifices, the importance of being prepared at all times and why she would be nothing without her solid support system.

Thank you for speaking to us today Suzan! Before we jump into your incredible career, we would love to know a little more about your early life.

I was born in Uganda, Africa and I moved to Australia when I was eleven. It was definitely a culture shock. Of course, there were caucasian people in Africa but in a different capacity. We were the only black family on my block in Australia. Those first few years were certainly challenging and different. But when you’re a child you’re filled with wonder and excitement for new things so I think I managed to adapt quite quickly.

It seems that resilience would have lent itself to your success now-a-days. Where do you think your drive and tenacity stems from?

My mum is my hero. She moved to Australia when I was two by herself to make a better life for us all. I think that kind of tenacity, fire and drive from her to make a sacrifice has stuck with me. I think her ability to always be striving for better and striving for success even when we had nothing was remarkable. And I saw that when you got to the other side of all that hard work, that’s where dreams come true. 

She sounds like an incredible woman! When you think back to starting your career, what was the turning point that made you realise you belonged in the creative industry?

I think when I realised that it was okay for me to accept that I was never going to be a lawyer or an engineer. Growing up in an African family there are expectations to be a doctor and to be in a job that gives you enough money so you can take care of the family. So, being a creative was not considered to be a job and my family didn’t understand, a lot of the time, what I was doing. Even some of my biggest achievements I wouldn’t tell them because I knew they wouldn’t get it. But then, on the flip side of that, if I was ever on TV they would always remind me how proud they are of me. I guess, because that was something they understood. I understand where they were coming from, too. They didn’t want me to go through the uncertainty they’d gone through and the creative industry was a risk. But, ultimately, you have to live out your own dreams and not live according to other people’s expectations.

That is great advice! What were the practical steps you took to make your dream a reality?

Just being prepared. Whether it was an acting audition or an influencer opportunity, being prepared was my greatest asset because I knew that if I didn’t get it, I’d done everything I possibly could have to put myself in the best position. You need to just get in there and show up and be available. And I knew that if I’d done everything I could, that was all I could control. The outcome was out of my hands and that always made it easier to deal with rejection as well–which there is a lot of in this industry.

 

How did you go about networking in such a saturated industry? 

Surround yourself with people who aren’t afraid to say your name. People who will always put you forward when they hear an opportunity come up. You don’t want people who are threatened by your success, you want people who will lift you up no matter what.

 

Now, we had to ask you about your beauty routine because you are known for rocking some seriously impressive looks. So, what role does beauty play in your life?

Beauty, for me, is about taking time for myself. It’s almost meditative for me. And it’s as much about what I put on the outside as what I put on the inside. I love to eat fresh foods and drink plenty of water and I love exfoliation. The combination of the three is what I find keeps my skin looking its best.

That is fantastic beauty advice! Thank you for speaking with us today Suzan.

Thank you for speaking to us today Suzan! Before we jump into your incredible career, we would love to know a little more about your early life.

I was born in Uganda, Africa and I moved to Australia when I was eleven. It was definitely a culture shock. Of course, there were caucasian people in Africa but in a different capacity. We were the only black family on my block in Australia. Those first few years were certainly challenging and different. But when you’re a child you’re filled with wonder and excitement for new things so I think I managed to adapt quite quickly.

It seems that resilience would have lent itself to your success now-a-days. Where do you think your drive and tenacity stems from?

My mum is my hero. She moved to Australia when I was two by herself to make a better life for us all. I think that kind of tenacity, fire and drive from her to make a sacrifice has stuck with me. I think her ability to always be striving for better and striving for success even when we had nothing was remarkable. And I saw that when you got to the other side of all that hard work, that’s where dreams come true. 

She sounds like an incredible woman! When you think back to starting your career, what was the turning point that made you realise you belonged in the creative industry?

I think when I realised that it was okay for me to accept that I was never going to be a lawyer or an engineer. Growing up in an African family there are expectations to be a doctor and to be in a job that gives you enough money so you can take care of the family. So, being a creative was not considered to be a job and my family didn’t understand, a lot of the time, what I was doing. Even some of my biggest achievements I wouldn’t tell them because I knew they wouldn’t get it. But then, on the flip side of that, if I was ever on TV they would always remind me how proud they are of me. I guess, because that was something they understood. I understand where they were coming from, too. They didn’t want me to go through the uncertainty they’d gone through and the creative industry was a risk. But, ultimately, you have to live out your own dreams and not live according to other people’s expectations.

That is great advice! What were the practical steps you took to make your dream a reality?

Just being prepared. Whether it was an acting audition or an influencer opportunity, being prepared was my greatest asset because I knew that if I didn’t get it, I’d done everything I possibly could have to put myself in the best position. You need to just get in there and show up and be available. And I knew that if I’d done everything I could, that was all I could control. The outcome was out of my hands and that always made it easier to deal with rejection as well–which there is a lot of in this industry.

 

How did you go about networking in such a saturated industry? 

Surround yourself with people who aren’t afraid to say your name. People who will always put you forward when they hear an opportunity come up. You don’t want people who are threatened by your success, you want people who will lift you up no matter what.

 

Now, we had to ask you about your beauty routine because you are known for rocking some seriously impressive looks. So, what role does beauty play in your life?

Beauty, for me, is about taking time for myself. It’s almost meditative for me. And it’s as much about what I put on the outside as what I put on the inside. I love to eat fresh foods and drink plenty of water and I love exfoliation. The combination of the three is what I find keeps my skin looking its best.

That is fantastic beauty advice! Thank you for speaking with us today Suzan.

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