|Feb 20 2022
Live, survive, thrive—she covered the entire spectrum.
Above is a lovely image of a person we guarantee you'll find very interesting. Her name is often given as Elizabeth Bagaaya, or Elizabeth Bagaya, but she's also known as Princess Elizabeth of Toro, and she's a Ugandan lawyer, diplomat, politician, and model—not in that order. Let's see if we can get her incredibly wild life story straight. First of all, Bagaaya was a princess because her mother was married to the King of Toro, an ancient kingdom that spanned not only Uganda, but parts of present-day Burundi, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Zaire. Next she was a brilliant student, the first black woman to win admission to the English Bar Association, and, in 1965, Uganda's first female lawyer. In 1967 the Ugandan government under Milton Obote abolished the monarchy and Bagaaya lost her title and became merely a person from a powerful family.
In 1971 Idi Amin overthrew Obote and installed himself as dictator. Taking notice of Bagaaya, who in addition to her legal background had been modeling for a few years, he appointed her Minister of Foreign Affairs. He had an ulterior motive. He wanted her to become one of his wives. Her answer—a hard no.
Amin was displeased by her reticence, and placed her under house arrest. He allegedly had her hair forcibly shaved, and generally made her existence hell, all of which prompted her to escape to Nigeria.
Just as an aside—Amin killed up to 300,000 people, maybe even more, but to get a sense of how dangerous he was in his personal life, consider the fact that his second wife, Kay, died under unknown circumstances and her body turned up dismembered, and his fifth wife, Sarah, had a previous boyfriend who vanished and is thought to have been beheaded. Amin wanted Bagaaya, but she was in no way safe because of that.
Anyway, moving on, some of Bagaaya's doings overlap, but the bulk of her modeling came after fleeing from Amin, and when she undertook that profession she gave it her all, becoming the first black woman to have a spread in Vogue, and the first to appear on the cover of Harper's Bazaar. As it was a chic thing for models to do at the time, she posed nude, with the results you see. She also acted, appearing in the films Things Fall Apart and Sheena—yeah, the one with Tanya Roberts.
In 1979 she returned to Uganda because Amin was gone, and the country was having elections. She helped former president Obote win, later served as Uganda's ambassador to Germany and the Vatican, and was Uganda's High Commissioner to Nigeria. There's more, but why go on? What we've described, ladies and gentlemen, is called a life, one that is ongoing, as Princess Elizabeth remains an important figure, aunt of the current King of Toro, and an outsize and complex personality.
UgandaBurundiRwandaTanzaniaZaireNigeriaVogueHarper's BazaarThings Fall ApartSheenaElizabeth BagaayaPrincess Elizabeth of ToroElizabeth Bagaaya NyabongoIdi AminMilton Obotenudity