By Tiyani Rikhotso
Tell us a bit about who you are, what you are passionate about and what you are doing at the moment.
I’m an 18-year-old girl from Johannesburg. With good matric results I know I will study further, but for now I have an opportunity to model full-time for an international agency, so I have moved to London with the intent of pursuing a career in modelling. I’m passionate about people, equality and open-mindedness.
How did you get into modelling?
I have always been tall and slim, so people often asked if I was a model, even from a young age. In 2016, I was lucky enough to have my photo noticed in the #weloveyourgenes campaign, and after major discussion both at IMG and in my home, I was signed with IMG International at the age of 16. I wanted to finish my schooling which they were super supportive about, so they put me in the hands of the local agency Boss Models who have actively represented me for the past three years.
You’ve recently matriculated. What would you say are the 3 biggest lessons that high school taught you?
I worked hard as an academic during my school career and achieved the result I was looking for with five distinctions. My high school years taught me that female empowerment is vital to make a difference in the world; that community is always stronger than the individual; and that my goals can only be achieved through good attitude, work-ethic and consistency.
How has it been moving to a new country? What were some things that helped you settle down and figure out the new environment?
Moving to a foreign land is daunting especially coming from South Africa where the public transport is minimal. The inner-city commuting in a city like London or Paris is complicated and crowded and initially quite frightening. My life saver is using the “CityMapper” app on my phone. At least in London there is no language difference – shopping in a Parisian supermarket where not even baked beans are familiar was tricky. Homesickness is cured by a hot cup of Rooibos and frequent Skype calls with family.
On the point of settling down and getting grounded, modelling is quite an intense industry to work in. How do you take care of yourself?
To stay grounded, I have plenty of non-model friends as well as friends in the industry. I follow mindful meditation using the app “Headspace” before I go to bed every night (just to centre myself and concentrate on my uniqueness) and I find that following an exercise program is not only for body tone, it also clears my mind.
Can you talk about the moment that solidified in you that this is something you are good at and want to pursue wholeheartedly?
It was during my first official shoot that I realised that loved being in front of the camera. The positive feedback you get from everyone on set from the photographer to the client inspires you to do what you do as well as you can do it.
What are some of the weirdest experiences you’ve had while on set?
I have worked with a Great Dane that was not interested in me or my instruction; I have burnt my belly lying down on the desert salt pan waiting for the shot; I have had armed guards provide protection for the expensive jewellery I was wearing; and I have had to eat numerous donuts on set to get the exact right visual shot.
If you weren’t modelling, what would you be doing?
I think I would be doing something involving aesthetics, like graphic design, architecture or decor design.
What are you currently reading, watching or listening to that you would recommend to others?
I love reading and binge-watching series and movies. I’m a sucker for a good love story like “Call me by Name” or a something with a twist in the tale like the book “The tattooist of Auschwitz”.
I believe in the power of manifestation and putting things out there. Is there an experience, opportunity or dream you would love to manifest, and see come true?
It has been a dream of mine to be a brand ambassador for a well-known fragrance. It would also be a wonderful opportunity to inspire people to follow trends by the visuals that I portray. In my career I would love to work with people who can make a difference.
To end off, can you give our readers the best advice that you’ve gotten in terms of learning to love and appreciate yourself.
It is important for me to differentiate between “who I am” and “what I do” – between the person and the picture. In this industry there is plenty of positive and negative feedback but loving yourself, that inner self-talk, must be the loudest voice you hear.