Even though one of the many highlights of a modeling career is the chance to showcase a designer’s new collection on the runway, if you’ve never stepped foot on the runway, it can be quite a daunting task. Walking on a long stage in front of hundreds of people and flashing cameras all focused on you! Let’s face it, it doesn’t always go according to plan even for an experienced model. Runway walking is an art form in which models have to put a lot of time and dedication into perfecting it.

As she turns 21 years old this month, Naomi Sibiya reminisces about one of the major milestones she achieved this year, walking on the runway for the first time. Landing a coveted runway spot as a new face to distinguish herself during the Soweto Fashion Week (SFW), Naomi made it a point going into the show that not only does she have to walk the walk, but she had to stand out from the pack. Well! She did that! She turned heads with her graceful walk and wore the different designer garments with elegance.

For this rising star, the fashion week was about more than clothes, it was a manifestation of hope, ambition and a dream coming true. Based in Mamelodi, a township in Pretoria, Naomi had long dreamt of her moment in the spotlight, so when the opportunity arose to model in SFW, she seized it.

She walked the runway for designers such as Clavon, Negustyle, KMD, Siania, Freshwear and Shona Accra. While every collection she walked during fashion week provided its own thrills, Naomi’s standout experience came courtesy of Siania’s long gold evening dress. “It made me feel beautiful and sexy, she says.  

“I practiced my walk every day and made sure to familiarise myself with the shoes that I would be wearing for the show, in order to feel confident and to avoid falling on the runway,” she says.

Photograph: @onthabangphotography Makeup:@beautebybianca

She describes her first catwalk encounter as euphoric and nerve-wracking at the same time. “Overall it was a dream getting to walk for so many amazing brands for the first time. I absolutely enjoyed walking the runway, even though I was nervous at times. I am grateful for the platform because it gives inexperienced models an opportunity to learn how to walk on the runway. It ignited my love for the runway,” says Naomi.

Runway modeling is a popular career goal, which might lead one to believe that you just need to be gorgeous and graceful to be a success. However, you need to take care of yourself because the world of modeling can be demanding.

Naomi shares her experience; “For instance, on the day of the fashion show, it is always hectic! Almost nothing goes according to plan and the changes can be straining. But none of the disappointments can curb the excitement I get before and after doing the show.  All the time, it doesn’t matter how many times you’ve walked for shows, those butterflies will make their way to the tummy.  The designers expect us as models to sell their garments, hence they go through the process of choosing models they believe will give life to their designs,” she says.

Naomi started modeling this year in March and explains how it all began. “My journey as a model began when I met Onthatile Mahlangu of Onthabang Photography. I had my first professional photoshoot with her, and she helped to set up my Instagram account and to harness my craft. Modeling has always been a passion of mine, but growing up, my mom wouldn’t allow me to pursue it or even talk about it. The funny thing is that, now that I’m modeling, she talks about how when I was younger, I would insist that my grandma wrap me in her scarfs and then start prancing around the house,” she says.

She talks about lessons she quickly had to learn in her short time modeling. “The biggest lesson I learned, is to always be grateful and humble! I’ve also learned how to be consistent and to absolutely believe that I can do anything,” she says.

“Just because you’ve got a pretty face doesn’t make you a model. The more you embrace your own natural beauty, the better you look and feel. Modeling teaches you to take care of your body. I’m learning to love myself, just the way I am.”

Photo: @onthabangphotography

Naomi is undeniably one of the models to watch in the future, after her resounding success at the SFW, she went on to walk on the Fashion Without Borders Africa stage. Her dream is to model clothes for one of South Africa’s popular and talented fashion designers, Gert Johan Coetzee.

“I want my modeling career to not only flourish in South Africa but in the whole of Africa and then to the rest of the world, gracing runways and heading big campaigns,” she says. 


Photo: @afixs_foto