Someone once said that true success means living out your unique life’s purpose and that who you believe you are, how you relate to others, and how you engage with the world around you is directly aligned with your purpose. Thulani Ndzotyana, is a 21-year-old model from the Eastern Cape who came to Joburg to uncover her purpose. Over the years, she was accorded many titles in the pageants and continues to strive for more accomplishments, including occupying the highest office in South Africa in 2044. She opened up and shared her life story with me.

Tell me about growing up as a little in the Eastern Cape?

I’m a proud product of the New Brighton Town in “the friendly city” of Port Elizabeth. Growing up a kilometer away from the Red Location township was quite eventful and colourful. I took part in traditional Xhosa dancing, sports, and modeling. It was here that I realised that I had a passion for giving back and that I wanted to make a difference in my impoverished community.

What were your dreams and aspirations?

As a child, I wanted to serve in the military, but as I grew older, at 12 years old to be exact, my aspirations shifted. I had new aspirations of becoming the President one day. Then later, I made a declaration that: I Thulani Ndzotyana aspire towards becoming the President of South Africa in the year 2044. This is an ambition I continue to work towards, and it is fuelled by my passion to empower and boost the low morale of the youth in my township.

When did you start modeling?

Growing up, I was tall and thin, as a result, they called me ‘slender’ and ‘model’. So, I started to have the desire to pursue modeling. Then, I entered a pageant called Miss Gunguluza named after our street. I was the second runner up, in a group of girls who were much older than me. Thereafter, I signed up with Extreme Models, a modeling agency in Port Elizabeth for a period of five years. Being part of the agency boosted my confidence and gave me an opportunity to walk for brands like Edgars, Truworths, and Legit. I also became the Face of Extreme Models for  2012-2013.

When did you realise that you could model professionally?

Whilst with Extreme Models, I figured that if I moved to Johannesburg or Cape Town, I could pursue modeling and actually make a career out of it, as these are the Capital Cities for models in South Africa. Making this decision has proven to be a successful move.

Which modeling agency are you currently signed with?

I am currently signed with Rage Models. It’s an agency that predominantly caters for commercial models, like me. But I am working my way towards becoming a high fashion model and will look for agencies that provide this.

Mention three major modeling gigs that you’ve been booked for thus far

  1. Working as a Production Manager for the Buyel’ekhaya Fashion Show in East London in 2018.
  2. Walking the Huawei P30 show in a Quitteira & George Garment.
  3. Walking the Sof n Free Hair experts show, which showed on DStv channel BET Africa.

Which model do you look up to for inspiration?

Andiswa Manxiwa inspires me, she is not just a supermodel, but a fashion entrepreneur. She also comes from the Eastern Cape and she is one of the most humble and genuine people I have ever met in the industry. Her involvement in the industry spreads throughout the continent. She is our Tyra Banks.

Who inspires you outside the modeling industry?

My mother has been my role model since childhood.  She was a teacher in a rough neighbourhood in Port Elizabeth, Motherwell who opened up our home to those of her students who were in need. She has taught me a lot about caring for others and she always gives me affirmation that all my dreams are valid.

As a football fanatic, I am also inspired by  David Kekana ( who sadly passed away recently). His knowledge of sports was remarkable, and I looked up to him for guidance. He was a football encyclopedia. His passing is a huge loss to our nation. May his Soul Rest in Eternal Peace!

As an aspiring radio personality, I also draw inspiration from Bob Mabena. His career and journey continue to prove that he is a living legend.

Tell me about winning Miss Mamelodi Sundowns last year – why you entered, the competition and the winning experience

Winning Miss Mamelodi Sundowns was a blessing that I still thank God for to date. The title changed my life for the better and brought me closer to my dreams. I will forever be grateful to the President of the club Patrice Motsepe and his wife Dr. Precious Moloi Motsepe. Through this title, I was able to meet great women, and build a sisterhood that extends beyond the provincial title holders. I had always wanted to get involved with the Foundation, so, being their Ambassador was not only a dream but a crucial part of the validation of my dreams.

How did winning this title boost your modeling career?

This opened various opportunities and allowed me to mentor and judge in other pageants, like Miss Ekurhuleni and Little Miss Soweto.

Tell me more about model training

During my reign as Miss Mamelodi Sundowns, it was an honour for me to spend time traveling in the townships of Tshwane and motivating students. Many girls approached me seeking advice and mentorship. My training involved catwalk or pageant walks and speech articulation. In 2019, The Model Academy asked me to train their catwalk course. I am currently training upcoming models about posing, model etiquette, and scams. I also do private training and have taken part in pageants like Face of Devotion Mzantsi 2018. Later this year, I will be traveling to the Limpopo Province in Matlelerekeng, to train the Miss Moutse contestants.

What is the Helping Hand initiative about?

Helping Hand is what I call my first self-driven initiative, founded in December of 2017. I collected non-perishable goods and hygienic goods using social media and collecting from my family and friends. Together we collected 25 food parcels and distributed them to car guards and street vendors. In 2018, we gave food parcels to 60 families based in Gauteng and Port Elizabeth. I was blessed, to be sponsored by PUMA South Africa for my ‘Kicks with Goals’ initiative last year. This was aimed at encouraging students of Masiqhakaze High School to continue kicking towards their goals in exchange for Puma sneakers and grocery parcels for their families. This year in August, I distributed 30 food parcels in Johannesburg as part of my ‘Winter Drive’ initiative.

Tell me about #2044

I think I answered this question in my dreams. However, for now, vision #2044, seeks to establish and create initiatives which address some of the social issues we have in South Africa. There is a lot that I am currently working on in this regard and it is beginning to materialise. In due course, the impact of my vision will be realised in Gauteng and the Eastern Cape. I plan to expand it nationally to ensure that we produce some sustainable solutions to beneficiaries in the foreseeable future.

You have an athletic body – what do you attribute this to?

Fitness is something I’ve incorporated into my lifestyle for creative purposes. I think and plan better when I am at the gym. I am also blessed to be built like my late father; whose legs were very toned. In 2020 I hope when this question is asked, I can attribute it to healthy eating as well.

Tell me more about your ambitions of becoming a President in 2044. Is this a serious plan with a strategy in place?

I play life by the hand God serves me. I have academic goals, and I have a vision board. The #2044 project for me is to expand my knowledge, to discover opportunities and share with South Africa. #2044 for me is about being the difference I want to see in our nation. It is about breaking boundaries as a young black girl in South Africa and I hope that completing my B Com Law Degree will further develop my skills in pursuing this movement. When I was asked at school what I wanted to be, I said a South African President. In High School, I dreamt of my inauguration day and all I remembered from that dream were banners behind with 2044 written on them. My mother laughed and was fascinated when I told her about this dream. She then shared it with her colleague who counted that 2044 would actually be an election year. My mother and I believe that this was God’s hand validating my dreams.

Do you think you have what it takes to occupy the highest office in SA and why?                             

Every day, I take steps towards making South Africa a better place, and every day is a learning curve.

Where does your ambition, drive and passion stem from?

These stem from having a mother who validates my dreams by simply believing in me and holding me accountable to my words.

What message do you have for young girls who look up to you?

In a world that continues to be shaped by social media; do not allow this to change who you are. Strive towards being the best version of yourself. Love yourself and everything else in your life will flow from your heart. Remember that your current circumstances don’t define who you are. Your dreams are valid! Also, remember that Rome was not built in a day.