I first met Ayanda Thabethe back when she worked for L’Oreal and I worked in advertising. After you meet Ayanda you quickly fall in love with her. She is one of those people who is genuine, kind and really cares when she asks “How are you?” She’s the kind of woman that you can cheer for from the sidelines because she really deserves the achievements reaped from her hard work. Here’s the story of her rise and rise…
RB: It seems like you’re an overnight success but I know you’ve worked really hard to get to where you are. Where did it all begin?
AT: There’s a quote that has become my favourite over time on this journey; “It takes a long time to become an overnight success”. I’ve always known from a young age that whatever I do will be in front of people. My mom often referred to me as living in dream land as I spent most of my time talking about what seemed to be very out of the box dreams for my surroundings back then having grown up in a buzzing township in KZN.
I started really pursuing my entertainment career part time while completing my degree at the University of Pretoria. I would take taxis to Joburg to audition, which was a frustrating task… I often wish people knew the amount of no’s behind the triumphs… Eventually about 5 years after all the part time auditions and odd jobs, I gained a great contract as a package model on Sunsilk. I became wiser with the auditions I worked to hone my craft – eventually with confidence gained, the modelling and commercial jobs started coming in and that was the start of it all.
RB: How did you get into modelling?
AT: Casting director for Bomb, Kutlwano Distele and I had been good friends for a while when I told him I was struggling to find a modelling agency to represent me due to my height. I had before then been with artist agencies that really didn’t focus on what I wanted to do. By this time I had knocked on every modelling agency door I could think of or find and I would receive the same response, “You have a great look about you but you’re too short.”
I needed to be at least 1.73 and I’m only 1.6 in height. He asked me to send him some of my pictures. I did. And he then forwarded them to Shashi Naidoo who owns Alushi Model Management. A day later, I received the stamp of approval from her and my journey began. I’m always thankful that she took a chance on me.
RB: And now you’re a TV host! How do you feel about representing E! Africa?
AT: Being the red carpet correspondent for E! has been the greatest privilege and honour. I have been an avid viewer of E! since I was a very young lady and more often than not, would tell everyone around me that Giuliana’s job was my dream job.
Little did I know then that E! would come to Africa. For me it has been a real honor to showcase Africa’s style, lifestyle and diversity. Most stories told about Africa are centred around poverty and world aid, which are of course critical stories to tell, but there’s also a lighter side to us that’s fun, fabulous, opulent and has a world worthy appeal and I love being at the forefront of showcasing just that.
RB: You’re quite the style star – how would you describe your personal style?
AT: I love good fitting, comfortable clothes that accentuate my curves. I would describe my style as effortless elegance.
Ayanda is the face of fashion label Khosi Nkosi
RB: How do you not let the criticisms of the industry get to you as women are often pitted against one another?
AT: The best thing about focusing on your personal goals, targets and improving yourself is that you don’t have to watch or compare yourself to what others are doing and or what they have to say about what you are busy with.
I’m also very lucky that I’m gaining traction in this industry at a more mature stage in my life where I’ve been exposed to the marketing and branding side of the business as a previous brand manager at L’Oreal. This taught me a lot about work ethic, investable brands and the business side of this industry.
As long as I’m learning, improving and enjoying the journey that’s all that matters to me. I love this quote by Eleanor Roosevelt: “Do what you feel in your heart to be right – for you’ll be criticised anyway. You’ll be damned if you do and damned if you don’t”
RB: What advice do you have for young women who want to follow in your footsteps?
AT: I believe that every great success story has stemmed from a person who inherently believed that they were great before there was any evidence of it. Everyone is born with a purpose – find it, believe in yourself, believe in your purpose then do everything in your power to go after it. Don’t procrastinate, if you wait for when you think you’ll be ready, you’ll be waiting forever.