I was chatting with my friend Shiraz Reddy- a publicist and host in Cape Town, South Africa about coming to SA to model. I felt as though I also would need to take a break in his gorgeous country while exploring my roots. I had tons of questions about modeling and the entertainment industry there, so he suggested I chat with a model he has worked with, Mr. Lesala Mampa. After Instagram stalking this gorgeous and statuesque model I asked if he would be willing to share his experience as a model in SA as well as his advice to any aspiring models in general.
R|A: First I must thank you Lesala for agreeing to be a guest on my entertainment blog. I have always enjoyed the art of entertainment in all its forms. To start- how old are you and for how long have you been modeling?
L|M: Thank you for featuring me, a true pleasure. I am 29 years old and this will be my 7th year of modeling professionally.
R|A: What are 3 things you love about modeling and 3 things you hate about modeling?
L|M: 3 things I love:
- The creative process– coming up with incredible concepts/story boards, the set designs, the amazing locations; the art.
- The cast and crew – I have had the pleasure of working with incredibly talented people; photographers/videographers, designers, stylists and makeup artists, all with fierce imaginations and passion for their work.
- Growth– being a model really pushes you out of your comfort zone. From taking a powerful shot with live lions to becoming a completely new character for a TV commercial, it always requires more from you. In order to be convincing, for the shot to have depth and dynamism, you really need to embrace each character entirely and by doing so you discover a whole new layer to your personality and skill set.
3 things I dislike (I try not to hate lol):
- Fake- The superficiality and pretentiousness of the industry.
- Struggling artist- The instability and at times bipolar market.
- Mental growth- How the industry can make models feel extremely insecure about themselves. The way you look, walk, talk, carry yourself, from the way your hair curls to how your foot lands on the floor, all of it is judged the instant you walk into any casting. If you’re not comfortable in your own skin, have not made peace with who you are and love your crazy quirky and at times awkward self, it can be very discouraging and damaging to the developing soul.
R|A: It’s important to have a supportive foundation in an industry that can be very disappointing, who would you say supports you most and in what way?
L|M: I would have to say my friends and family. It can be a very emotionally draining and disheartening industry at times and having some encouragement and loving support from time to time really helps. I don’t know how many times I’ve wanted to give up and just follow a stable career in Physiotherapy (what I studied and ended up lecturing at the University of Cape Town) but every time I make that decision, I get a message from a friend praising a new shoot I featured in or a random passer by stops me and compliments my look and suggests I model. Words are powerful in more ways than we can fathom, and if spoken in kindness and love can truly move mountains.
R|A: Who are some of your favorite models in the industry today?
L|M: I really like connecting with people I work with, and I’ve always been inspired by models around me in the industry who have done incredible work locally and internationally but have remained humble and true to themselves. Elodie Venece, Happy Umurerwa, Warwick Denman, Thane Williams and Jimi Ogunlaja, to name a few, have always kept me inspired and pushing harder.
R|A: Do you feel the modeling industry in South Africa is racially biased as it is in say Europe and America?
L|M: For the most part there is a balance as can be seen on TV commercials and print. A lot of the black international models I’ve worked with have said they find they work more in South Africa. But it all comes down to your look. South Africa has a very strong commercial market as such if you have very editorial or high fashion features it will be difficult to break it into the market here. It’s all about networking and marketing yourself well.
R|A: What’s something you just can't live without?
L|M: Music– soothes the soul and centers me. And tea– a liquid hug.
R|A: How do you train to be a model? Did you take any runway classes or study posing?
L|M: I did drama club and music in school which really assisted in gaining confidence when performing to a crowd. When I started out modeling I was lucky enough to be sent to a casting and ramp walking class where I was taught the basics. It’s a learning process. Each shoot, each job is a chance to push boundaries and better your skill. You just need to be open to learning.
R|A: I’ve learned some great techniques from photographers I’ve worked with. What is a good modeling tip you can share?
L|M: Modeling is just not striking a pose, it is acting. You have but a moment to show the exact emotion, mood, dynamic and power the designer and/or photographer has in mind. So keep good open communication with the designer, photographer and/or director in order to be on the same page. Find out what they want and need from you. Get into character and become the James Bond, warrior, rap artist, hero, athlete, boy or girl next door they need you to be.
R|A: What agency are you signed with and can you tell readers when you signed, what the feeling was like, and the steps following?
L|M: I’m currently with Fusion Model Management in Cape Town. It’s always exciting when signing up to a new agency as again it’s an opportunity to grow and excel and better your career. Most agencies have an online form you fill where you can submit your pictures and details. I suggest that you apply to three or more agencies you have an interest in and once you’ve met up with all of them, choose the agency you had the best connection with, the one which was most excited for your look and most aligned with your goals.
R|A: Finally- what advice would you give readers who are aspiring models?
L|M: Do not model for the glitz and glamour, that kind of goal is short lived and not sustainable. Instead become a model for the love of creating art and acting. Allow yourself to get out of your comfort zone and immerse yourself into the infinitely fascinating world of creativity and performance. Most importantly remember that as soon as you become a model you become a brand, so network and get your face out there as much as you can. The agency can only do so much; the rest is up to you.