UNRULY Meets is an ongoing series where we chat to local creatives about their work; their journeys; and their greatest influences and struggles. The aim of this series is to uncover the not-so-pretty truths about working in the industry and hopefully provide some insight into what its really like working in the creative space
For this month’s cover, we had photographer and creative Daniel Walton ask his best-friend and bad-bitch partner-in-crime Mziyanda AKA Queen Lohaanda some intimate questions (and capture some never-before-seen images).
1. Hey miss henny! I think we should start off with just one simple question, how you doin, Wendy?
Hello Mevrou Bootz, I’m feeling much more comfortable now ,knowing that you’re going to be interviewing me!
2.For people that don’t know you like I do, please tell everyone a little background about you and where you grew up and where you are from?
I am Mziyanda, also known as Lohaanda and I am a 20 year old model, student and creative! I grew up in Khayelitsha until the age of 4, when my grandmother passed away from HIV/AIDS. After her passing I moved to Joburg for 2 years and returned back to the Cape when I was 8 and I’ve been here ever since (looking to leave at the end of my degree though). I’m terrible at “ABOUT ME’s”!
3. Growing up as a gay black male in a very white cishet normative school what were some of the challenges were you faced with?
Being exactly that (a gay Black feminine boy) brought issues such as bullying from the get go. I would get teased about the way I spoke, walked, “acted” and this all brought upon self esteem issues from a young age. These resulted in me disliking my African features (such as my lips and hair and bum) but looking back at it now, I think I was just trying really hard to assimilate and fit in (fitting in was always been something that I had never found/felt). I was too Black to be White and also too White to be Black.
4. If you were who you are now, with the developed voice that you have, what would you want to change and instil in the school?
I tried making a change when I was in Grade 11 but unfortunately I was unsuccessful. A change which is so important (especially in all boys schools) is the hatred that femininity and queerness had. “That’s so gay” was a term I frequently heard. The lack of teachers of colour, learning about other cultures, being taught actual African history and not the glorified version which paints white settlers as heroes rather than the villains that they are. These are some of the changes that I tried to advocate for and still want to advocate in my High School. Sitting back and watching queer boys being shamed for something they couldn’t change (their sexuality) was so disgusting and the schoolboys that are still doing the bullying need to realise that now; and not 3 years after school when they bump into their victims at clubs and apologise for how shitty they were back then.
5. With the great following you have on your social medias, what are the messages you are wanting to communicate?
The same messages that I have been trying to advocate for the past 4 years of being on social media – be yourself. I feel as though there are way too many youth trying to become someone or something that they see on their timeline. People resonate with someone who is relatable and just themselves and I think that’s what has led to my increasing following over the past couple of years. Other messages I try advocate, be it through a tweet, Instagram story or status is the ending of the systemic racism that so many Black individuals face not only in South Africa but in the world. #BLACKLIVESMATTER
6. Halleloooh, we always see you up in this modelling gig! Tell everyone about your background with modelling and how it came about!
A question I’ve been asked so many times but still don’t have an official answer for! I got scouted in a club in 2016 and I rejected the offer because I was still a bit self conscious of my teenage skin and all the joys it brings (pimples) and due to a lack of representation of someone like me, I really thought I was not what anyone was looking for. I once again got scouted in February of 2017 and decided to bite the bullet and do it! My first casting was for a Louis Vuitton editorial and I got the job! This really boosted my self esteem and since then, so many more amazing jobs have come my way and I am extremely thankful for them. My instagram has now become my portfolio in many ways and many brands (such as Woolworths) have approached me, from seeing the work that I do and me just trying to make the most of being young and living my life.
7. How has modelling been for you thus far? Do you ever feel nervous or self conscious?
Before every shoot I feel a bit apprehensive and nervous. I think the fear of not giving the photographer what they are looking for is there for me but the second I get in front of the camera, I almost enter some sort of trance and get creative with poses and the execution. Indeed I do get self conscious (I’m still human) but I find that this is often when I am at castings with heterosexual masculine males, while I have the body of a 10 year old and a face of a 12 year old hahaha! But luckily I don’t have to encounter castings that often to feel this way.
8. Do you feel that modelling has been able to give you a platform to communicate your ideas and feelings to the world?
Not so much of giving me a platform, but more so in helping further my voice. I have always been outspoken, especially about issues that mean a lot to me and are further oppressing minority groups. Modeling has just put more eyes my direction (something that I am learning to deal with, having 1000+ eyes watching your story every day is daunting) and given me more confidence to be direct about how I feel and not wanting to sugar coat every opinion which others don’t agree with. The Woolworths campaign did give me an even bigger boost in who I reach and I am glad about this because I feel as though representation is so important and being the first queer Black male ever in their nationwide campaign was more about representation of queer bodies than just Mziyanda on the billboards
9. If you have any advice for people going into the model game, what would you say? And also any advice in general would be cute!
It’s tough, rejection is not always an easy pill to swallow but if you really are passionate about modeling then don’t wait for an agency to give you the approval you think you need to be a model, grab a friend with a camera, think of amazing shoot ideas and execute it. That’s what my friends and I do so often. But also have fun, it’s not everyday that you’re being pampered and fed well onset. Embrace what makes you different to the model you aspire to be and love it! No-one person in the world looks the same, for a reason
10. Where do you want to see yourself in 5 years?
Living in New York City or London, doing what I love and letting it consume me. I can’t tell you what this is yet, one thing I’ve learnt is that life is very unpredictable. I would love to have done many more projects which have a meaning behind them, I want to still be the bubbly and happy person that I try to be everyday. Ideally in 5 years, I would like to look back (while financially stable) and be happy and fulfilled with where I am in life, knowing that I am still being true to myself.
Cover image: Hana Sho
Photoset: Daniel Walton
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