The modelling industry is evolving and inclusivity is at the core of this formidable revolution. Though there is still progress to be made, it is essential to continuously celebrate the shapeshifters at the forefront of presenting an idiosyncratic and much-needed broader perspective of what is deemed beautiful. One such trailblazer is 26-year-old fashion model, Nontobeko Mbuyazi, affectionately known as Ntobe.
“The modelling industry has been very kind and accepting. I’ve been exposed to people who did not really know much about my condition and I was happy to educate them about it. I usually forget that I have albinism because people don’t constantly remind me about my condition. They appreciate my physical appearance but their appreciation is not fundamentally based on my condition,” expressed Ntobe.
Hailing from Richards Bay, north of KwaZulu Natal, the accomplished model was scouted by a photographer in 2017 and as they say, the rest is history. Since her modelling debut, Nontobeko has worked with various industry tastemakers such as Vogue Portugal and Jean Paul Gaultier, among others. However, being an inspiration to young women and girls is Ntobe’s most cherished career highlight.
“Seeing people’s reactions to the work that I’ve done and being an inspiration to the younger generation especially, little girls living with albinism has been the highlight of my career,” shared the model.
A woman of many talents, Nontobeko is an academic possessing a degree in Criminology and Political Science. Outside of modelling, she describes herself as a creative who loves creating art, painting and of course – being a fashionista who puts comfort above all else.
“My personal style is more unisex, I prioritise comfort over everything and I don’t follow trends. It’s mainly inspired by Japanese fashion,” said Ntobe.
Being a health and wellness enthusiast, Ntobe believes in maintaining an effective, yet simple beauty regimen. Her holy grail products? Sunscreen, coconut oil, and most importantly — water!
“You can never go wrong with sunscreen and this goes for everyone. Coconut oil works wonders on your skin as well, and lastly, hydration, drinking a lot of water will save you loads of money,” shared Ntobe.
An advocate for change, Ntobe aspires to represent women whose beauty differs from the kind that has been commercialised by the media since its inception. Speaking about her journey in modelling, the trailblazer shared that she has had a blissful experience, with most people accepting of her condition.
“My main modelling career aspiration is to inspire others who think they are less than others because they don’t look like society’s idea of a “normal” looking person. I think I’ve fulfilled my dream of becoming the person I never saw on magazines and billboards growing up. It brings me joy to see young girls admiring someone who looks like them on TV, in magazines, and on billboards. I think I’ve shown a lot of people living with albinism that anything is possible, your condition isn’t there to hinder your success,” expressed Ntobe.
The fashion model further expressed that she is honoured to be part of the beauty and modelling industries’ revolutions, but shared that there is still a lot to be done.
“I think we are slowly moving towards the direction of more inclusiveness but we still have a long way to go. There is quite a lot of inclusivity in social media campaigns. However, I think we still need to see more variety on fashion runways across the world,” she stated.
Beauty standards are evolving and the world is becoming a more inclusive place, with social media at the forefront of this change. However, there are still some consistencies that are making it difficult for women and girls across the globe to feel comfortable in their own skin.
Speaking about the importance of embracing one’s authentic self, Ntobe shared words of wisdom to young women and girls who don’t fit the current beauty standard.
“There’s absolutely nothing wrong with looking different, you should embrace those things that make you look different, it’s uniquely tailored to you. There’s been a shift in the modelling industry, it goes out of its way to include more people who look “different” as long as they have the confidence to sell it. And they should remember that people will always speak ill of things they don’t understand, they are just as insecure about themselves as the next person. The important thing is to work on building your confidence and loving and embracing the way you look,” concluded Ntobe.