‘I was too poor for Barbies but now have lavish life – trolls say it’s fake’

A woman has shared her impressive rags-to-riches story – but not without people questioning her authenticity along the way.

Suzan Mutesi is a 36-year-old Sydney-based socialite who was born in Uganda after the dictatorship of Edi Amin when rebels terrorised civilians.

She claims rebels violently attacked her house when she was a child, with the family often hiding in a hole under their home for safety.

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Now, the actress, author and influencer has been a fixture of Sydney's social scene for the last three years.

Suzan was raised in a five-bedroom house inhabited by 20 people and ruled over by her polygamous father, she recalls how; “in Ugandan culture, women were raised to have no voice, valued only as domestic servants”.

“My upbringing made me the creative and innovative individual I am that's able to tap into all my creative gifts,” she exclusively told Daily Star.

“In the midst of the oppressive cultural norms and daily chaos, we found youthful bliss even as we continued in our pain.

“I was afraid to live and dream vividly in my household, but I could see life's possibilities when we got to the playground. There was no limitation on how much I could dream.

“As a child, I never owned Barbie dolls, as my parents could not afford them. So, I would craft dolls out of banana plantation fibre and use scraps of fabric to fashion outfits for them.”

Eventually, Suzan moved to Australia to join her mother. In the school holidays, she worked the graveyard shift at a printing factory.

She would scan through the pages of magazines and would envision herself as a fixture of the fashion scene.

Now some of her dreams have become a reality, as after Suzan’s fashion label Achea-Mpong was birthed in 2009, she dressed and styled Australian models and celebrities, as well as Kelly Rowland for The Voice Australia.

As an influencer and model, she has appeared in impressive campaigns for brands like Fenty and Nike.

Her acting career is also thriving, which has seen her gain minor roles in movies such as 2022's Shang-Chi, the Legend of the Ten Rings and the soon-to-be-released rom-com starring Sydney Sweeney and Glen Powell, Anyone But You.

Her life is now miles away from where it once was, even though Suzan said some of her parent’s decisions were detrimental to her and her siblings.

“My father was rarely around, as he would often go on safari. As I grew up, I came to realise that the term meant your father was really just elsewhere, living a double life or cheating with another woman,” she said.

“Our parents' only acts of service were providing education, food, and a roof over our heads. We weren't ungrateful, but these alone didn't make us feel parental love. My big sister was like a second mother to me.

“My most vivid memory from when both my parents were still together in the same house was when my father would throw me into the bushes for crying too loud.”

Suzan desperately wanted a father who would walk her to school, give her dating advice and who told her he loved her at least once.

The 36-year-old added: “It's impossible to show these love languages to 20 kids or multiple women.

“This lifestyle was popular back then in the African culture. I had no clue [the situation was unique] until when we migrated to Australia and I realised how selfish my dad was.”

The Ugandan beauty boasts a whopping 1.2million followers on Instagram, making her one of Australia's most followed social media stars.

While her career seems to be thriving, it hasn’t been without controversy.

Last year prominent Sydney stylist Jamie Azzopardi accused Suzan of inflating her popularity with “fake” Instagram followers to gain access to red-carpet events, sponsorships and media gigs.

Some people have gone as far as to call her a “fake socialite” and a “fake influencer”, which she denies.

“Unfortunately, we live in a world where some may feel threatened by others' success and achievements, I've learnt that criticism often stems from a lack of understanding,” she told us.

“Although some people may try to bring you down with negative words and opinions or even jealousy, I feel that it's important to not let that affect your confidence or spirit.

“Instead, grow a thick skin and focus on your journey towards your goals. Remember to expect the most from yourself and rely less on the opinions of others.

“Always maintain your self-confidence and let the light of your aspirations guide you through any challenges that come your way.”

After months of whispers about her credibility, Jamie opened the floodgates by giving a tell-all interview to theSo Dramaticpodcast.

“It fascinates me how she went from 200,000 followers pre-lockdown to 1.2 million and is on a reality TV show where she is representative of influencers,” he said.

Jamie asserts that publicly available statistics on Social Blade, a website that tracks analytical information for social media platforms, show she "bought 75,000 followers" before to Sydney Fashion Week and "challenged" Suzan to prove him wrong.

According to Social Blade statistics, she suddenly gained thousands of followers at once, which is exceedingly unusual and frequently a sign of bot activity.

“Just release your insights, and I'll stop talking. I'll admit I'm wrong, I don't do it very often, but I will publicly say I was wrong,” Jamie said on the podcast.

All of this being said, Suzan doesn’t want people to discount the hard work she has done to get to where she is now – fake followers or not.

“I have always been self-driven and I realised I wanted to be where I am in the entertainment industry,” she explained.

“I am working towards success – I am a work in progress. I am constantly evolving and growing. I have not yet arrived or comprehended what's to come or what I am yet to be.

“I haven't yet tasted all the fruits of my labour, hard work and tears – as long as I have breath in my lungs my work is not yet done.”

Suzan’s latest book, The Immigrant That Found Her Unapologetic Voice, can be purchased at WHSmith.

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