Let’s look at the modelling industry here in Botswana. It’s growing –it’s not quite big but it’s growing. Even so, if anyone would mention top 5 models in Botswana the first name on the tip of the tongue is “Nature”. What makes you such a unique model?
I… I don’t want to say the obvious (laughs) ‘cause we all kind of know.. but (laughs)
It’s okay because I’m going to be addressing the elephant in the room, but go on…
I think also it’s just a lot of models that model here, there is a select few – and I can name and count them with just my two hands – that really say I want to be a model and it’s all I want to do. For other girls it’s something they want to do past time, and they care about it and love it, but to them they see it as a hobby. And I think it shows – I mean when I get off the runway people come to me and they say “you are literally a different person up there”. Because when I am on the runway I zone out, I’m not me, I really try to make myself whatever I’m wearing and whatever the designer told me to put into it because I don’t take it as a hobby, it’s my job. It’s my nine-to-five like being a lawyer or an accountant. So I’d like to think that’s what sets me apart, the fact that people can see my passion and they see how hard I work. I’m not afraid to get grimy and dirty, I think that’s what sets me apart. On a physical level, I’m too short to be a model.
How tall are you?
I’m 1.75m but I only reached close to 1.75m last year, so every year before that I was 1.73m so God thought shame she’s working so hard let’s add in a couple centimetres. (laughs)
I also couldn’t represent Africa a lot because I would always get the reaction that I don’t look African.
I was going to ask you on that basis, does your biracial aspect work against you at times, and has it changed over the years?
It only very recently changed and had me fairly working in the industry. because at the Donald trump gig I straightened my hair to come for the final night, and when the hair stylist was touching it up for me Duane Gazi came up and asked “what are you doing?” He told the hairdresser to spray my hair back out into the afro, and I found that weird because in Botswana back then, girls didn’t wear their afros, even black girls wore braids, relaxed hair, extensions and that was it. Internationally all the black models, Naomi Campbell, Tyra Banks, Iman for example had weaves and straight hair. So I automatically thought, if I want to do this I should have my hair straight. But he said “no, no, no! I want your afro it’s what makes you unique, I know you’re biracial, but you have white facial features –but you have an afro. It makes you really interesting; you look like a white girl with an afro. It doesn’t make sense, but it’s beautiful.”
At that time I didn’t understand the industry well enough to grasp what that meant, because everyone looked uniform. And I thought why should I stand out whilst everyone looks the same? So it took me a while to embrace my difference and understand why I need to be unique. But here, they would call me for things where I was called because they already had black girls and they would add me only for diversity.
Its’ interesting because it’s an opposite for the western world, where a black person would be added for diversity…
Yeah… I was turned away from competitions and gigs because I would be told, the colour of my skin doesn’t represent the face or brand of our country, or that I’m not African enough. So my skin colour didn’t work in my favour at all. Until now recently where people are trying to put modelling on an international scale and standard. Also understanding the importance of being unique or having a unique look. It came to a point where we stopped going for castings and instead we’d get direct calls for bookings, mainly because of our hard work, but before that it was not fun at all. It was a struggle.
Looking into that, do you feel like there is a double standard of the mentality of not being ‘African enough’?
There is! But there are certain things you can never understand until you are that thing. As much as I’m half black I cannot fully speak for back people or understand racism in the black context because I’ll never experience it as a black person, at least not here in Africa. Because I suppose in places like USA, I am considered black. I’ve experienced racism as a biracial person but I have no right to speak on it as a black person. So I think it’s something you’ll never understand until really you’re in that position, just as many people here won’t understand what it’s like for me. But what I will say is, it’s definitely not a nice feeling being told you’re not at home in the only place you know as home.
I remember, for example, when I won in Fiji and I put up a status on Facebook saying ‘oh Botswana we did it, I’m bringing home the crown for us’ I was so excited, only to have about 200 people saying ‘but o lekgoa’ (meaning you’re a white person) or ‘why does Botswana only send yellow bones nowadays’ and it was all negative comments, they were a lot of positive comments too! Definitely more good than bad and I appreciate that but it was really a lot about how I don’t belong here because I’m “white”. Even now I can’t walk through the bus rank without people screaming “lekgoa lekgoa”! It’s just, ridiculous. I mean, I am the exact same mix as the president, so what are you trying to insinuate?
I have friends that are purely white and were born and grew up here, and wanted to represent our country in different fields and they were told no because they are white. And this is a problem that our society has because how are we meant to grow and develop our country if we are to put racial constraints on who can and cannot be a Motswana. Look at South Africa for example, they experienced Apartheid but they still send black, white, Indian people out to represent their country. We should really take a page out of their book if we want to move forward together.
Understood. Let us now move into another area which has hints of controversy. Do you consider yourself a feminist?
Yes, I do.
Looking into the modelling industry, there is always a constant undertone that modelling is the objectification of women (also based on history) and that it is beauty over brains, do you feel that it that thought is being countered?
I think feminism is a difficult subject but it shouldn’t be, it should be an easy subject because the concept of feminism is so simple. However, I honestly think that about modelling. What is powerful now in the modelling world is that women are taking back the fashion industry. You can say the same thing about media – that it use to objectify women, because everything was about naked women, sold to women – taking advantage of a woman’s emotional self image. It was the same with modelling but now women are taking back fashion.
The most sold ranges and labels, shoes and everything are being made or are owned by women. The most powerful models – just the fact that you could say “powerful models” is something that years ago was impossible. A model was just a face; no one knew their name. Now women are saying ‘I built your brand(s), I am your brand’ and they are taking that power and making their own brands and their own names for themselves. There’s so much power behind fashion because it literally is self image. There is so much power in terms of feminism for a woman, how you want to be seen, how you want to dress, and how you will allow people to dress you. That’s the most important thing as a model. Essentially, you let people dress you. You have to learn your line as a model, as to what is too naked for you etc. it is your right to choose that for yourself but at the same time, if you get too choosy, it may not be the right career for you.
For me personally, I don’t like to mix politics with pleasure, I don’t think they should be mixed. I don’t think things like hair and fashion should be painful, difficult things to talk about or made into subjects on which we slander and judge each other. I think we should all smile as women, and be like ‘Gosh! I’d never wear that but hey, that’s her and that’s it’.