Cool Kid: Mbali Shongwe

From navigating personal mental issues to helping destigmatise and claim ownership of one’s mental health: Meet this week’s cool kidMbali Shongwe, activist and founder of the youthled nonprofit, Mindful(l) Organisation.  

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Q&A with Kopano Fanasi

Kopano Fanasi is a Wits master in physiology student and South African model. He has a significant ten and a half thousand followers on Instagram, where he has collaborated with prominent South African photographer Cedrik Nzaka. Fanasi spoke about the future of fashion at UP’s Tedx Talks in June 2020 and has modelled for brands such as Dickies South Africa and Diesel, among many others. Fanasi completed his undergraduate degree in physiology and biology at Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University, located in Pretoria North. 

When did you start modelling or realise you had a talent for modelling?

I started modelling around 2017 but it really started to pick up in 2018. I remember my first ever job was a Nedbank commercial, one of the biggest sets I’ve been on and especially as someone who had just booked a job for the first time. 

Funny story because the set was one that a friend of mine was taking behind the scenes and I happened to be in their snap then got scouted for African Fashion International week. Literally a few days later I was on set for an entire week preparing for the shows… I even had to take a whole week off school.  

To be honest I still don’t feel like an “actual” model because I respect the profession so much that I feel like I haven’t even done enough work to say I am one.

What inspires you your creative energy when going on a shoot

 I’m naturally a dreamer, I fantasise a lot! So, going out for a shoot is an event for me because I channel what I want to feel like and almost create a new person and personality from my imagination fused together with people I find inspiring…so basically channelling my “spirit animal” but with a bit of me in it. 

I won’t lie though it’s very scary because it’s my responsibility to make sure the shots are great…I can have award winning photographers and producers but if I can’t perform the work is going to look whack anyways. 

Actually, shooting for the first few minutes before the camera rolls are the worst for me because I can’t stop thinking about how I need to KILL IT.

Why is it important for you to still complete a degree even though things could work out for your modelling career?

I’m very passionate about medical sciences and medicine as a whole, all that I’m doing now academically is to really get into medical school, the toughest journey ever, really. So, I wouldn’t really say it’s important for me to get an education but it’s more so my passion and that’s probably the sole source that’s driving me to make sure I achieve what I want academically otherwise school? No! I can’t imagine studying towards something else that’s not medicine

How did you gain a following on your social media and how do you use it for your benefit?

I honestly started posting very model-esque and fashion-esque like content and again with really no intention of modelling or have a significant following. I just did it because it was an outlet, I enjoy seeing myself in a picture. 

Also having become an influencer has helped my modelling career in a sense that with all these deals people believe you’re “somebody” and want to collaborate with you etc. So that’s really also how it picked up

What would you like to see innovate in the modelling in the South Africa industry?

I want a more diverse scene, a one that not only books you based on your following or your presence on the socials. I want to see more fashion, serious fashion…crazy productions that really push the envelope because I think we have mad potential.

Would you say that you market yourself as a brand and leverage it in an entrepreneurial sense? 

Oh absolutely, making money from social media and modelling is also what’s keeping me going. Funny story I had a job actually, I worked as a promoter for a cleaning solution and jeez I couldn’t do it! 

So, I promised myself to rather take the risk, leave the job and take social media seriously and make some money to get by. It worked out and I’m super grateful for that to be honest!

FEATURED PHOTO: Kopano Fanasi posing on his instagram page, dressed in Dickies South Africa. PHOTO: Provided.

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