I first met the breathtakingly gorgeous Ayanda Nhlapo at a Range Rover launch event in May this year, announcing her as the brand ambassador for the Evoque as well as the start of the second season of her TV show, Ayanda In Fashion. The minute I saw her I knew I had to get just five minutes with her, that was all I needed. I cornered her outside near the car (that sounds a bit stalker-ish but my intentions were good) and our conversation lasted much longer than five minutes.
Fast forward to early December, to the first in fact, and I am on my way to downtown Joburg to the Ethembeni Children’s Home, around the corner from the Ellis Park Stadium. It is also Ayanda’s birthday and we are about to do a #PowWowWith piece for the blog. Doing this piece on her birthday was Ayanda’s idea, as she wanted to give back to a cause that lies close to her heart.
How do I describe Ayanda Nhlapo to you? TV Host, Fashion Designer and Business Woman are just some of the hats she wears; she has also played the lead role in commercials for brands including Coca-Cola, MacDonalds and Nissan. But I only need one word to describe Ayanda – heart. All heart.
Arriving at Ethembeni Children’s Home in the heart of the Joburg CBD, we were met by young children with excited screams and arms open wide, just wanting to be loved and played with. It is here that I got an insight into the true Ayanda, despite being dressed to her usual exemplary standard, she was more than at home playing with the children, picking them up and swinging them around.
The Ethembeni Children’s Home, a caring ministry of the Salvation Army, started operations in 1995 in response to the ever-growing need to accommodate abandoned, abused and HIV positive and AIDS babies, ranging from birth to three years. Ayanda shared her thoughts on our youth with me, in my video below. The caring staff at Ethembeni Children’s Home took us on a tour of the facility where we were met with love and kindness, both from the staff and the children.
Ayanda had also been on a mission to clear out suitable items not in use in her home as well as the homes of her family, which she brought along to bless Ethembeni.
Saying goodbye to the children was no easy task, so with last hugs exchanged, Ayanda and I headed off to Maboneng to toast the birthday girl in style.
We found a spot at Mama Mexicana and settled down to chat. Ayanda shared that she is the youngest of two daughters and was raised by her single mom, but still maintains contact with her father. Family is key to Ayanda, who finds her source of identity from within her family, who also keep her grounded, something key in the business she is in.
I was keen to understand the space Ayanda is currently in, which she described as transitional. Our conversation revealed a young lady who is both confident and comfortable with who she is as a person, as well as her African identity, defining herself as an African Queen.
I am in a space where I am channelling everything, my powers and my weaknesses. I am facing things in an honest way.
Ayanda recently completed season two of her TV show, Ayanda’s In Fashion. She describes the experience as fulfilling personally and an opportunity to open up the local fashion industry. Asked about season three, I received a great big smile and a simple statement there is room for so much more still to come. I’ll be waiting for the new season!
Vintage fashion pieces, and a mother and sister known to hoard gave Ayanda a start in the fashion business. Her custom pieces and the attention they attracted from others, made her realise that she had a definite knack for fashion. Ayanda then entered Young Designers on SABC 3, which she won, after which she enrolled to study fashion design. Her fashion offering now comprises her fashion range, image consulting and personal shopping. Watch out in early 2017 for the official launch!
I asked Ayanda where she saw herself in five years time. International baby, international! She sees herself doing what she is doing now, but on an international basis as she reaches what she believes is her full potential, and beyond. Collaborations with other artists are also important to her in achieving this, having already made waves in Sweden and London.
A short Quick Fire session with Ayanda revealed that she is a movie watching, jazz loving, summer appreciating, Apple committed, white wine drinking lover of Cape Town. Following our little chat, I pulled out my custom-made Wolf & Maiden fragrance bag for the fragrance pairing.
I had selected a range of five fragrances from Bacher & Co for Ayanda to choose from, which proved quite a challenge. After much debate and a few second tries, a final decision was made – RiRi by Rihanna.
No #PowWowWith session would be complete without handing over to Ayanda her very own pair of My Lime Boots. No sooner had she received her boots than she was already talking about how she would customise them. Can’t wait to see what she does with them! In what I had come to expect as true Ayanda Nhlapo style, she kindly made her mark on my original pair of My Lime Boots, which are fast becoming a work of art in themselves. Long live the Lime Boots!
I made this video of my morning spent with Ayanda, which really gives a sense of the lady and her heart for the children of South Africa.
When asked what South Africa doesn’t yet know about Ayanda Nhlapo, she immediately responded how big my destiny is. Her recent award of The Next Big Thing in the 2016 SA Style Awards confirms that she is well on the road to this destiny. Go get them, our African Queen!