IF YOU thought the fact of being a female bouncer is already scandalous enough, then wait till you hear Celestine Uwishaka’s story. The 23-year-old, one of the few female bouncers with Bouncer and Protocol, a local bouncer and protocol service provider, traces her love for the job back to her primary school days.
“I can say that since 2005, when I was a Primary Six student at Espanya Nyanza in Butare, I have been a bouncer, though not as a professional. I remember I was always the one stopping noise makers from interrupting the class. Sometimes I would be forced to throw them out, and that is like the work of a bouncer which I’m doing now for a living.”
As early as then, Uwishaka already had a fair idea of what it means to be a bouncer.
“At that time I had a boyfriend who was a nightclub bouncer and he always made it a point to tell me about the good side of his job. He taught me the basics and told me that bouncers have very many opportunities as they meet very many people in the course of their work,” she says.
Most evenings when they were together, she found their conversations revolving around the subject. Ironically, much as she grew to love her boyfriend’s trade, for her own, she only looked at it as a stepping stone to her true professional love – a career in the army.
Presently, her duty station is at the Le Pichet Club in Kiyovu, where she holds the title of Bouncer Supervisor. For this interview, we met at the Hilltop Hotel in Remera, where she had gone to check on her bouncer colleagues stationed at the hotel’s Club 9 discotheque.
Uwishaka gets nod
She joined Bouncer and Protocol on January 2, 2014, but prior to that, she had been doing her thing semi-professionally, and on freelance terms.
To get on the job, a few hearts had to be broken, beginning with that of her mother, who at the onset was opposed to the idea.
“She condemned my choice of career, saying what I planned to do was a man’s job. After I insisted to her that it is what my heart wanted, she gave me a go-ahead, saying what mattered most was whether I loved what I was doing. Other family members and relatives also remained opposed to my career choice, and up to today, some of them still make surprise visits at my duty station just to prove if indeed I work as a bouncer.”
She asserts that “a bouncer is a super star because the job requires a high level of fitness, and then you get to meet all these new people every time you are on duty.”
But while her immediate family seems to have come to terms with Uwishaka’s rather unpopular career decision, she still has to deal with a lot of hostility and stereotyping from the wider public.
“People say we are prostitutes, but female bouncers just love the nature of the job. People will always talk, and everybody has their opinion, but mine is to do my work. I know it and love it.”
And it comes as no surprise when she reveals that she is a Tom Boy through and through, and has little business with fellow girls.
“I have no girlfriends to talk of. I work with men, and my friends are all men. I could say I’m a boy in girl’s skin. I don’t really hate girls, I just feel more comfortable around boys. The only girlfriend I have is my sister, and that’s just one of them.
Since childhood, I’ve never been into girl company and girl stuff. But I had only one girl who I could say was my best friend, but she passed away. The only other best friend I had after that did something to me that I’ll never forget, and I’ve since given up on girls.”
She defends her job as a female bouncer, arguing that most female patrons checking into night spots are more comfortable being handled by feminine hands.
To make ends meet, Uwishaka also doubles as a hair stylist at a salon in Kimironko, where she spends the rest of her working time when not on bouncer duty.
“The money from my bouncer job helps me look after myself, son and family, while the money from the salon caters for my small day-to-day needs.”
On sexual advances she receives from male patrons she says: “I turn them down, but with politeness, because at the end of the day they are customers so in a way, they are also my bosses.”
She works out twice a week, on Sundays and Mondays, at the Amahoro Stadium gym. Her bouncer job occupies her from Thursday to Saturday, between 8:00 pm and 5:00 am, while the rest of the days go to her salon work.
Advice to girls
Her word to other girls as regards her type of work is: “Girls should learn to love all jobs, as long as they are paying. Today we have builders, taxi conductors, mechanics and taxi motos who are girls. When considering a job to do, girls should view themselves as human beings, not just girls.”
ABOUT BOUNCER AND PROTOCOL
LIKE THE name suggests, Bouncer and Protocol Ltd is a local bouncer and protocol service provider established early this year.
According to Nelson Mukasa, the founder and managing director, the company employs 60 trained and professional bouncers, 28 of whom are girls.
“We are still in a continuous process of training more because it is an on-going project,” he adds.
The bouncers work at various entertainment spots and nightclubs around town, and at other such key social events like Kwita Izina and local music concerts.
The company’s aim, says Mukasa, “is to promote this project and create as many jobs for the youths as possible, and supplement the police’s efforts in ensuring security and safety of private persons.”
Of late, the bouncers have been working hand-in-hand with the Rwanda National Police to curb social vices like teenage sex and the rising trend of underage girls gaining admission to adult entertainment venues.
“Many of the bouncers we have at events and entertainment spots are indisciplined due to lack of training. Some report to work drunk, and end up being rude to the clients. When a person goes to an event, they are out to be happy, and the least you can do is insult them with the presence of rude bouncers,” says Mukasa.
He adds that to qualify as a bouncer, one must first undergo two weeks of intensive training and assessment programme covering such areas as; ethics and discipline, hospitality and clientele management, observation and search techniques, administrative duties, physical fitness, legal basics, fire fighting, and surveillance, among others.