More than Enough: Claiming Space for Who You Are (No Matter What They Say) Elaine Welteroth – Book review
by Chiedza Dafi
“Elaine’s book is a call for young women to find their voice and spark their courage—it’s a book I would have loved to discover as a young woman starting my own career.”
I couldn’t agree more with this quote by Reese Witherspoon above.
Elaine’s courage sure has inspired me to find my courage and push harder for my dreams. It was the perfect gift just as I had my birthday now in September. Mindset and heart are everything and off-course faith. Elaine is testament that nothing should stop you, not your background, your race, your gender, or your age should stop or make you hesitate.
If you are looking for that “sign”, the sign which tells you to go for it. This memoir is definitely it. Elaine Welteroth, 32 years old, shares how she climbed the ladder of media and fashion. Elaine has become a profound story teller who focuses on speaking her truth, sharing the trials and tribulations of life and chasing your dreams. Through taking risks she became the first black and youngest ever Editor-In-Chief of Teen Vogue when she was 29 years old.
Teen Vogue is America’s and the world’s leading magazine for young women on the move and who are aspirational and have more than enough money to spend. It is the feeder magazine to Vogue Magazine, the world’s leading and most influential magazine when it comes to high fashion, beauty and wellness. So to have a black woman as the lady determining what influences young women around the world was a big and brave move.
The memoir starts off by giving a breakdown of her childhood and how she had to battle with identity. Identity is a big theme throughout the book because she had to figure out where she stands and how to maneuver in each sphere of her life. As a mixed-race girl, who grew up in a white neighbourhood, Elaine would be confused on which race to draw closer to. In pre-school she had her first memory of realizing she is black when given a school project to create a collage which displays her family. She went through a pile of magazines which had no representation of her mother or father. Her mother is a black woman and her dad is an unconventional white man.
Years later, Elaine attracted white friends because of her environment but also had this desperate urge to be acknowledged by her black peers. She had to constantly prove her worth in both societies. Elaine still had to deal with the struggles of breaking boundaries within “white” spaces. She was courageous enough to just implement daring projects which represented black culture. Elaine wouldn’t ask, she would “just do” and deal with the repercussions later. She had a loud influence on the fashion industry and literally paved a way for other people of colour.
One thing I love about this book was the strong reference to divine power, she recognizes the power of having faith and how God can move mountains for you. She finds herself in unbelievable environments which led to showcasing her talent even when one can see it as overstepping. Elaine is bold and knows exactly what she wants, she still strives though factors such as ageism, sexism and racism surround her daily.
A journey criticized by many, virginity introspection has been seen as a violation of ones right in the modern generation/society, and others argue that it is nudity as the attire that is worn allows girls to be “half naked,” I see and experience it differently.
I am Sikhulile Ndawonde from eMsinga in Kwazulu Natal, a student at Wits University and I recently attend the Reed Dance known as Umkhosi Womhlanga in Zululand. I joined amatshitshi at the age of twelve and I am twenty two years now which means it has been a decade that I have been participating in cultural practises for girls and young women of the Zulu. I grew up in a very traditional household whereby we all had to abide to my father’s rules, so Zulu tradition is me.
Growing up I have always been fascinated by indlamu or ukugida, which is the traditional Zulu dance. In my community we only had males who participated in this. As an outgoing and hyperactive individual I would always sneak out and go watch them in the afternoon when they practiced in a nearby forest.
However when my father found out he was not pleased, so I stopped going. I was raised by my stepmother Lungile Khuzwayo Mchunu and luckily she always has a positive outlook on life and honestly I do not know how she does it. My older sisters Nokwanda and Londeka had always wanted to join amatshitshi, which are the girl regiments that participate in the who tradion leading upto the Reed Dance, and in my village there was no group. My mom therefore found a group in Greytown (a nearby town) where they joined. A year later when I was nine years
old she allowed me to go with them to camp so I could enjoy ukugida and singing the Zulu songs, unfortunately it did not last long since I was still very young and I complained about the cold water because of how we use to bath in a nearby river around 3h00 am thus I was forced to stop.
When I moved to Estcourt for my high school, and this was after my father had passed away, I was so eager to find a group, my cousin Sanelisiwe Mayoni introduced me to ugogo Dladla who was unomehlo (a women that does the introspection). I never looked back ever since then.
Umkhosi womhlanga is looked down upon by many in the twenty first century and partially I do not blame them because we are living in a generation where there is choice and different kinds of information, therefore it is highly justified if people critique something they feel is a violation to them. It is their right to do so. And I also understand why feminists find my culture or aspects of my culture offensive but we all have a right to choose.
Nonetheless, for all the choice and abundance of information and easy access to information, I do feel that we are a generation that is quick to judge and play victim without actually collecting the proper evidence or information on something we are criticizing. At times we actually don’t exercise our freedom of choice and we follow what has become “culture” at that time, we have herd mentality at a time when we shouldn’t.
People think umkhosi womhlanga is all about virginity “testing” and therefore they believe girls are violated since boys are not taught the same values of purity. This is incorrect, we cannot argue that being a virgin is one of the requirements of umkhosi womhlanga but we are taught more than that, yes virginity is encouraged. Whether it happens or not now, boys were taught about manhood and responsibility in a way that discouraged them from leading a girl who is not married to have sexual intercourse. Boys were warriors and were discouraged from sexual intercourse. It has changed I am sure, but I do not have inside information on what the male regiments are taught now. I learnt from the age of twelve that it is ok and within my rights to say no, not only to sexual intercourse but to anything else I don’t feel comfortable doing, thus when I was in my adolescent stage none of my friends could peer pressure me to doing something I morally did not support.
I always say that this journey teaches girls to not see each other as competitors. Onomehlo (women who do the introspection) teach us to be sisters more than anything else. I for one, am very certain that I will never walk or stand alone because of the support we give each other.
Umkhosi womhlanga has taught me to be comfortable in my own skin, we are all girls and all we have different body types but the experience being around girls and you walking around naked without anyone judging you takes away all the insecurities girls always have about their bodies.
Moreover, as much as we go kwaNongoma to eNyokeni royal palace to present our reeds to iSilo, the Zulu king, to celebrate our purity, which is not the most important thing. Umkhosi womhlanga is prayer for rain by virgins thus in KwaZulu Natal virgins actually go to uNomkhumbulwane before umhlanga.
UNomkhumbulwane is the Zulu Goddess of rain, nature, and fertility, and is regarded as the Mother Earth. Therefore going there before umkhosi womhlanga is to ask her spirit to be with us at the main event.
Most of our song praise uMkabayi ka Jama. Mkabayi ka Jama was a Zulu princess that did not abide by anyone’s rules, and it is said that Mkabayi Ka Jama actually organized her father’s second marriage so that he could give birth to an heir before his death and Senzangakhona who was Shaka’s father was born. We are encouraged to be like Mkabayi, to be bold women.
This past Saturday (21 September 2019) served me in ways I wasn’t quite ready for and pleasantly so! I particularly want to share on my morning which offered a moving, emotional and positive start to the day, also just so unbelievable! And it’s important that I share on what I was served because it illuminated parts of us (women) that need not be neglected, the gaping holes that need attention and the collective power that we have as women to heal each other.
As early as 06:50 I set off to Midrand for a workshop titled ‘My Be-you-tiful Life’, kicking off at 07:00 with registration/ breakfast and meditation at 07:30. I thought I’d miss breakfast and arrive in time for meditation. Luckily time was pushed a little to accommodate late-comers such as myself but in no time, the programme began.
“Learn how to transform your life into a beautiful, purposeful, inspired and energetic journey by identifying your purpose and gifts and creating a vision and plan informed by your purpose” – this is what participants were going there for and I was relaxed and ready to take notes on the perspectives and experiences of the impressive speakers that were on the line-up (Jackie Freemantle, Akhona Ngcobo and Ayanda Borotho). Different and colourful women kept pouring in the venue as some of us early birds (clears throat) sat sipping on tea and coffee and nibbling on sandwiches.
“This intensive immersive workshop will give you tools to change your mind-set, challenge and re-programme your beliefs and manage your emotions so you can live your best, beautiful life.” These are words written on the poster and I swear, nothing about “intensive and immersive” unnerved me, I just thought it spoke to being present and being intentional about your own transformation. So of course I was up for it! Little did I know… Jackie Freemantle (International Life Coach and Leadership Development Specialist) stilled us for meditation. Arms unfolded, legs unlocked, hands rested on the knees and deep breaths in and gentle exhales. It was about silencing the noise, listening to the heartbeat, being conscious of it, taking in the feeling of being alive and relaxing. It was good, peaceful and stilling.
And then Jackie started on her session: ALSTAR Coaching Towards your Beauty-Full Life – part one. And let me tell you, none of us were ready. She shared a bit on herself and her journey; being raped at the age of 4 years and going on to redefine and create her future. She is an amazing woman who is set on defying the odds and standing tall as a conqueror who has full control of her life. She then shared a story about forgiveness, where in another workshop was a woman who had lost her parents and had for years held on to the anger and pain. In the same workshop was the man who killed her family and for some reason, the lady changed seats and went to sit next to him. Now the exercise required that you partner up with someone and speak of the hurt that you need to forgive. As fate would have it, the lady partnered up with this older man she had sat next to and uttered the words “I forgive you for killing my parents”, only to have the man confess that he was the person who caused her so much heart-ache. At this point of the story, Jackie also mentioned that we should never think that things happen by chance and that there was a reason whoever was seated next to us was there. There’s a lady who had moved closer to me on my right and I quickly scanned her as it was obvious she’d be my partner for this exercise. So what exactly was the purpose of us being next to each other?
To tell you the truth, I would have gladly skipped this exercise – this was the “intensive immersive” stuff they were on about and I wanted out! I was already feeling emotional and couldn’t place my feelings on how I felt about locking eyes with a stranger and bearing my soul and not just that, but also having this stranger pour out whatever pain… I mean, what was I going to do with it? I had little time to script a warm response but Jackie had said all we’d need to do is utter the words: “I forgive you”, simply because the subconscious mind needed to hear the words. So we stood up and introduced ourselves to each other. We will call her Thoba. A beautiful woman clad in dreadlocks and very little make-up. Upon our first attempt at locking eyes, she immediately announced she was bad at maintaining eye-contact. It turned I was the one who was bad (and really, I’m not), it was just so awkward, I wanted to run out! But soon we settled into each other’s searching eyes and engaged in a “trust” activity which involved leaning on each other and trusting on the support of the partner.
And then we were onto the forgiveness talk. We locked eyes again and before she could say anything, her face was shaking, literally moving out of its own volition. Those couple of seconds were so intense I actually tiered up, tears just streaming down my cheeks. And then she broke my heart; Thoba was abused and molested and is currently being abused in her marriage. After we had both shared, we released heavy sighs and embraced for what seemed like an eternity. How was this light threatened?
Looking around the room, I noticed that more women were in tears and it broke my heart to see how hurt and broken we are but was equally happy about the session and the release it offered everybody. Thoba is my new friend and what an easily loveable heart she is! I don’t know what to do with her current situation, what to say to her and how to be relevant but I realized how being present, listening and loving on another woman can be meaningful for her fight. Women are going through the most and the recent attacks and killings that we have witnessed over the past few weeks are just a fraction of the traumatic experiences that a whole lot of other women go through and are lucky enough to survive, at the hands of men. Moreover, I realized how important it is to affirm another woman; we need each other, our experiences intersect and quite frankly, we get each other. Thoba and I were basically in conversation throughout, whether it was the brief holding of hands, rubbing each other’s shoulders and hushed mutterings of whatever one wanted to share or comment on. I loved her so easily and that emotion I felt made me happy and hopeful for better days. I know why we met and I look forward to seeing her again.
I couldn’t stay on for the rest of the programme so I missed out on Akhona Ngcobo (Life Coach and Enneagram, Behavioral Specialist) and Ayanda Borotho’s (Author, Activist, Transformation Practitioner) sessions. But I’ve no shadow of a doubt that both these women were phenomenal, the atmosphere itself along with the women attending had just the right vibe to transform their lives for the good!
After lunch I sped off to a friend’s wedding and I was in good spirits! Clad in a short blue dress, a brightly coloured headscarf matching my shoes, I was ready for a good time. And indeed it was. Happy faces were all round, there was colourful and delicious food, great music and we danced into the night. Can I just say that the deejay was absolutely great and of course, as you would have guessed it, the deejay was a woman!
To wrap up my weekend, I fished for Thoba’s business card in my bag, saved her number and sent her a warm, loving and encouraging text. May it be well with her.
Show did you care and love yourself this weekend? Tell us about it.
– by Nonhle Matsebula
We have been longtime fans of both Keeping Up With The Kardashians, where Kim Kardashian the founder of KKW Beauty is a star; as well as America’s Next Top Model, where the world came to know the star that is now international supermodel, Winnie Harlow.
We love how Kim Kardashian used the fame and influencer status she built as a reality star to build a longer lasting legacy and more wealth for herself by starting her own businesses instead of being the face of other brands and helping them grow in value without benefitting much from the value herself except for a once-off cheque, sometimes multiple cheques. She now has KKW Beauty that does facial and body makeup, KKW Fragrance that does perfumes, and Skims, body contouring pieces, amongst other businesses.
Winnie Harlow (real name Chantelle Brown-Young), 24yrs, is a Canadian model born to Jamaican parents who has lived with vitiligo since she was 4yrs old. She was continuously called names and eventually dropped out of high school due to being bullied for her skin condition.
When Winnie was on America’s Next Top Model in 2014 she was only 19yrs with raw scars from being pushed out of high school because she looked different. But she never tried to cover up her vitiligo, not even on America’s Next Top Model. As early as 2011 Winnie was speaking up about vitiligo that all it is, is a skin condition that whoever has it can’t do anything about. Her YouTube video titled ‘Vitiligo: A Skin Condition Not A Life Changer’ increased awareness around the need for people to accept diversity in beauty and that we don’t all look the same nor do we have to.
Vitiligo is a skin condition in which patches of skin lose pigmentation, they lose their melanin. The cause is unknown and there is currently no cure. 1% of the population develops vitiligo. Michael Jackson claimed to have vitiligo.
Kim Kardashian is clearly on a mission not to just sell makeup and perfumes, she is using her brands to bring awareness to socio-political issues, and we are here for that!
We love the KKW Beauty x Winnie Collabo because:
- Kim Kardashian has been the poster girl for beautiful chiseled high check bones, curvy, full hips, full butt and full lips for almost a decade, and Winnie Harlow with vitiligo is just as beautiful and interesting as Kim. Winnie is just as confident and beautiful as Kim. We love how this collabo says #MyBeautyMyWay the way we say it here at #GirlBossSA
- Winnie brings to life the phrase “Your Uniqueness is Your Super Power!” We sometimes don’t understand these phrases in our quest to fit into a certain narrative or to look a way we are not. Winnie is a clear case that what makes her different also makes her powerful because she owns it and is making bank with it as an international supermodel and brand ambassador.
- Many accuse the Kardashian-Jenner clan with cultural appropriation, using black culture to advance themselves. Whichever way you see it, they are an inclusive bunch, we believe they truly are inclusive. And this KKW x Winnie collabo is a case in point, after collaborations with her family members and her makeup artist, Mario, who is gay.
- The palettes, lip-glosses and highlighters in this collabo clearly suit all skin tones, including those that are heavily melanated like us African girls and those with light skin tones like Kim. Often times in a makeup collection, highlighters are not suitable for all skin tones, but this collabo will clearly suit us African girls too.
Kim is a #GirlBoss and is always #BossingUp and breaking boundaries and challenging the norm even if she knows there will be naysayers and backlash. And we also love how she is quick to apologise and backtrack when she makes the wrong move, like when she first tried to launch her now “Skims” solutionwear, she had named the body contouring range “Kimono” and even trademarked the name used for a Japanese traditional garment. After public outcry she backtracked and relaunched the range under a new range “Skims.” We look forward to trying her body contouring range in Mzansi one day!
by Nqobile Mkhatshwa
Let’s face it, we are living in tough economic times in South Africa and at the rate things are going, it does not seem as though much is going to get better, at least not any time soon. It’s an uncomfortable season and for many, has been for a while. The anticipation of retrenchment and uncertainty over the future in the place of work is, on its own, stressful. ‘Side-hustles’ are becoming the norm and for numerous other reasons, people are leaving 9 to 5 jobs at their own will and are getting into the freelancing space or the gig economy , creating each day as they rise to it.
Whether due to the state of the economy or retrenchments at places of work, more and more people are considering freelancing to fill their days, and bank accounts and are welcoming the prospect of having to find creative and practical ways of affording their livelihoods. Being a freelancer is exclaimed as one of the best jobs in the world because one gets to exist in a freeing space, and can work from anywhere in the world and get work from anywhere in the world. It’s a great creative and free space in which they can determine their own working hours, place of work and whom to work with. It’s a fantastic space, only made better by doing work that one actually loves. But, as rosy as it all sounds, surviving as a freelancer requires good old hard work!
“The life of the professional writer – like that of any freelance, whether she be a plumber or a podiatrist – is predicated on willpower. Without it there simply wouldn’t be any remuneration, period.” – Will Self
I came across the above quote which reminded me that to be a freelancer, you have to be strong-willed to complete tasks day after day. You have to get ‘it’ done, sometimes without the luxury of awaiting inspiration to strike because you still have deadlines and bills to pay. This is sometimes terrifying because the reality is, the bills won’t pay themselves, which means that as a freelancer, you have to put yourself out there, find work and do it properly, especially in order to attract more work and therefore build a solid clientele. There is no guaranteed pay-cheque at the end of the month.
I reached out to a few friends of mine who work as freelancers and spoke through how freelancing serves them to live the lives that they want to live and why it works for them. Keenan(Social Media Specialist and Writer), Nikho(Video Editor) and Lebo(Content Producer and Writer).
Lebo: “I love owning my time and not having to deal with annoying questions from a typical boss such as ‘is there a reason why such and such is not done?’ Right now I get to decide what needs to be done and when. I have my own time-lines, I commit only to deadlines that I know I can meet. One of the best things about being a freelancer is also choosing which clients to work with, you eventually get to that place where you’re not just accepting any and every work because you’re still starting out but when you’re established, you get to choose the characters and personalities you’re willing to tolerate and quickly end working relationships with bad energies. Imagine living in a world where you get to interview your boss, clearly stating your expectations as an employee? That’s the bliss of freelancing. It’s bizarre to think that the best work can be achieved between 9 to 5; for instance, I love early mornings, I’m most creative then, late nights too. I fill the day as I see fit. Also importantly for me is the flexibility of being able to make money and still enjoy being with my family at the same time. I have a son and it’s important for my family to have me more present than absent. In cases where a specific gig needs me to be on location or at the office, I commit specific days and hours and that’s it!”
Nikho: “I love freelancing because I dictate my own schedule especially now that I have been at it for a while and have retainers with numerous clients. I love being constantly challenged by the different jobs I get and the people I meet. It’s all refreshing. I’ve had to learn to budget and handle money differently because I no longer depend on a salary that is sure to come with the end of each month. I plan ahead with whatever is left after paying bills and have enough savings to carry me through a couple of months should work be scarce because there are those days. As a freelancer you also get the chance to invest in yourself which is probably one of the best things you can do because you can never go wrong. For me personally, I need to have good equipment to get my work done so I have been investing a lot on that. But hey man, a lot tests your temperament – there’s a lot of uncertainty that comes with not having an assured pay-check; some payments come later than expected so it’s always a question of how far you push yourself, how willing you are to keep fighting and what measures you’re willing to take to ensure that you get to where you want to be. You definitely become more resilient and tougher. But all in all, it’s worth it!”
Keenan: “Look, in the words of Arnold J. Toynbee, “The supreme accomplishment is to blur the line between work and play.” That is what this freelancing thing is all about, for me. I’m constantly blurring the line; some exercise in the morning, a good breakfast, checkout the news, a short nap after and then I’m up again in no more than an hour for some solid work. My job is my hobby so I definitely don’t want to be frustrated by it. I do it and I do it well. I have afternoons and evenings where I sit at home working and watching Netflix and that’s okay. A lot of the time I find that people glorify being stressed and enduring sleepless nights, being extremely busy and just downright hectic! No, that’s not me. I don’t deserve stress, I don’t want it. I want to work and play and have a balanced life. I of course have times of back to back deadlines and in all those times, I allocate my hours accordingly. Discipline is very important in the life of a freelancer, with no one to report to but yourself, you have to get it right. But I must say, I love taking naps as and when needed. Have you even fought sleep in the office with your boss not too far from you? I don’t wish that on even my worst enemy!”
And there you have it, from the freelancers themselves! There are of course countless more perks of being a freelancer and motivating reasons to become one. Other people that I have come across have shared on their disinterest in keeping on with unsatisfying careers and committing to working in one space or location. Making your own decisions, being in control of the turn your career will take, owning the work you produce and taking pride in what you’re able to contribute are just some of the reasons that some have for becoming freelancers.
The freedom of changing spaces is what freelancers enjoy, sometimes working alone, not engaging a single soul because they just choose to. ‘The office’ often offers sometimes annoying people that you don’t necessarily want to see nor converse with daily so being able to get on your chosen work in utter peace is the joy of a freelancer. Avoiding and not sitting in traffic, independence, being paid for something you do for fun, dressing however you like… There are plenty more reasons to love freelancing.
How did you get into freelancing and what do you love about it?