As Wayne Chirisa rightfully put it, “Beauty is a flamboyant spectacle, it never goes unnoticed.” Mihlali ‘Mimi’Nxanga exudes such incredible, effortless, pure and subtle yet noticeable beauty. The 16-year-old radiates natural beauty, so much so that she would choose to wear makeup, but only to enhance, never to create.

She was born in in Cape Town but raised in Johannesburg where she says, for as long as she can remember, she has always wanted to be a model. Well! She definitely has the face of a model. Mimi says whilst other kids spoke about being firemen and doctors, she had a strong aspiration to be up on a ramp.

“Whilst my mom was at work, I would prance around in her high heels and as I grew older, I was eager to own a pair of my own. When I finally got my first pair, at 11 years old, I basically lived in them for a month. I’ve also always enjoyed being in front of the camera and my mom often teased me about how camera ready I always am. My dad has never really been sold on the whole modeling industry, so I waited until I was 14 years old and in Grade 8, to pursue modeling professionally,” says Mimi.

She was first introduced to pageantry through the TV show ‘Toddlers and Tiaras’. “I remember my friend and I strung together our own modeling routines from what we saw on the show. We’d have our own little pageants in my room and occasionally, when my parents had guests over, they’d be invited to watch. All the pageants I do are for various charities, so they are my fun way of giving to the under privileged. Pageants are a great way to play dress up, pamper myself, whilst showing support to the less fortunate and learning fundamental life skills, such as public speaking,” she says.

She has entered several beauty parades but the one she is most proud of is winning the Miss Beach Body South Africa 2018. “It was my first time walking on stage in a bikini and I hadn’t done any previous swimwear pageants. I am proud of myself, because it really does take courage to get onto the ramp, more so in a bikini,” she says.

In addition to pageants, she is an editorial and commercial model where she gets to fulfill her yearn for being in front of the camera. Being an editorial model has exposed her to the larger professional modeling industry, and she believes that it will elevate her to the global scale as a model. Because of her height, she is unable to accomplish her dream of being on a ramp.  

But Mimi will have you know that she is now very much content with being an editorial model. She signed with Model HQ in April of last year and says she has no regrets. “The agency has helped me to build a strong foundation and an understanding of the industry. They have opened and are still opening numerous doors for me. Since signing with the agency, I have been to five commercial castings for big corporate companies and although I have unfortunately not been booked yet, they have all been educational experiences. I have learnt to always carry myself in a professional manner and to be punctual. Time is crucial in this industry and the people hate it when you waste theirs. Castings have also taught me to be more patient and to deal with rejection in a constructive way. In addition to the castings, Model HQ has also booked my first test shoot. I assimilated different poses, facial awareness, makeup and style tips. They made sure that the images from this shoot would gain a significant reach and it is evident that they have,” she says.  

In as much as the modeling industry is trying to move away from that stigma surrounding the industry, how models must be stick thin and the pressure to maintain that image. A model is expected to embody perfection. But Mimi is adamantly trying to steer away from this mindset and instilled pressure by the industry as she profoundly puts it; “We often need to remind ourselves that we are our own definition of beauty. Getting jobs is not just about being tall and skinny, it’s about what the client is looking for, we shouldn’t doubt ourselves just because we don’t get booked. There are so many more other opportunities and avenues that will avail themselves. We feel the pressure from others to live a perfectly balanced life, have a toned body, be tall, have clear skin, dress a certain way and ultimately not show any signs of weakness. We also put pressure on ourselves by developing misperceptions, from what we hear and what social media depicts, as to what being beautiful is.”

She says her strength as a model lies in her ability to adapt quickly in this fast-paced, ever changing and last-minute industry. She alludes to the fact that it is imperative to ‘stay on your toes’ as anything could happen at any time and as such, her adaptability and versatility works in her favour.

Whilst many people would not reveal what their weaknesses are, Mimi is quick to admit and point out her flaws of constantly comparing herself to others. She honestly expresses that she generally has self-doubt and constantly looks for qualities she doesn’t have that she sees in others. When I was younger, my mom would always tell me that I can’t always have what others have and that I should stop making comparisons. Now, I feel that I should’ve listened and gained that mentality earlier because I don’t like being consumed by obstacles but rather want to find solutions. I am learning ways to improve on this weakness,” she elaborates.

Mimi is also a dancer of note. She is currently a professional MGHHDA dancer, but her dance journey started much earlier. “I did ballet from grade 1 to grade 3 then moved onto hip hop in grade 4. I dabbled a bit in acrobatics and started modern dancing in grade 6. In grade 7, I started SADTA dance exams in modern freestyle until grade 9. During this time, I tried to pick up ballet again to help with technique and flexibility, but it didn’t last very long. Then, halfway through grade 9, I joined MGHHDA. I do contemporary and hip hop and take part in various competitions. In fact, this year I am going to compete in Portugal,” she gloats.

Mimi’s beauty and fitness regimen includes dancing 5-6 hours per week, playing netball twice a week, going to gym three times a week and occasionally goes for a run. For a healthy glowing skin, Mimi says, because of her

sensitive skin, she uses the Body Shop’s tea tree oil line for her face. “I wash my face twice a day with the foam wash, then put tea tree oil over any pimples and blemishes. Thereafter I use a face lotion and Blue Seal Vaseline to keep the natural glow. I scrub my face and use a mask two to three times a week. I also use the Body Shop’s body butter and shower gel on the rest of my body. I use hair removal cream to shave instead of razors, to avoid ingrown hairs. With regards to makeup, I make sure to keep my brushes clean and check the expiry date of the makeup and make sure to wash it off thoroughly after application,” concludes Mimi.