By Latoya Nel
Well to start from the beginning my name is Latoya – I’m originally from Zimbabwe and I’ve been a full time model in Cape Town for 12 years.
Growing up I admired the likes of Tyra Banks. She was kinda my idol when I was a kid and I knew the first time I saw her on the runway at the tender age of 13 that modelling was what I wanted to do when I grew up. I never dreamt of being a doctor or a lawyer, only a model and I was determined I would get there. I’ve always been a voluptuous girl, as they call it 34 C bust and a then size 8 (South African size). I am 175cm tall, which for the runway world was way to short and despite many people telling me I wouldn’t make the cut – I never needed anyone’s approval even from a young age!
As soon as I finished my Matric (final high school year) I came to Cape Town, wide-eyed and bushy-tailed, found an agency and realised I was not prepared. It was not what I expected, it was tough, but you know what? I never started in this industry thinking it would be easy.
I got a part time job as waitress at 18 and started going to castings. I met my now husband of 10 years who was a model as well. He really did a lot in helping guide and advise me and with his help 1 year later I started working as a full time model. At 20 I got married (I know I was crazy…but it all worked out!) and we then started attending a local church where we both gave our lives to christ. Many people were like really a Christian and a model? And i’d just say yes a Christian and a model!
I quite my job as a waitress a year after I started modeling and I have never had to look back. I know there are many dark sides to modeling and I sympathise with all the negative stories but I am proud to say that I have never experienced any of it. I have never been taken advantage of and I have never compromised my integrity or who I am.
I have found that this job is not for everyone though, out of everything you need to have a strong character and you need to know how to handle yourself. You also need a strong support around you. I’m grateful to my parents for teaching me to be independent from such a young age and I’m grateful to my husband and agency of 8 years – Grace models who have been like a family to me.
By the age of 25 we decided we would like to start a family. Which changed everything. I thought my career was over. I’d had 7 amazing years in the industry and i’d put on 20kg when I was pregnant. I started the process of loosing the baby weight with the help of a trainer, and boy that was tough. I managed to lose 13 kilos in 6 months but till this day, 5 years later I still have those 7 extra kilos – they just won’t come off!
I am now though, a happy size 10 and I love my curves. I work out 3 times a week, eat what I want (cause life is too short to diet) and to my surprise I am working more now than what I ever did when I was a size 8!!
The world is changing, and the market in Cape Town is very commercial; skinny, tall girls simply do not work and are in fact told to put on weight or try a European market where they like the skinny look.
I have never been told to loose weight since I have had my baby and I am very much a working model. People care more about your personality and your ability to act rather than your size or height anymore.
I am now 30 and a confident size 10 making a very good income. I love my job and I am excited to go to work everyday. I have met so many amazing people and traveled to so many amazing places because of this job and I have no plans on stopping for at least another 5 more years.
I hope this helps others out there to realise, that for a little girl from a dying country like Zimbabwe, modeling saved my life and has allowed me the most amazing opportunities!!
The key is to know who you are be strong and find yourself a good agency that cares and you will be just fine!!