While we’re still riding the Black Panther wave and the spirit that has emerged from it, I thought it fitting to write an article or two celebrating African talent in the fashion and film industries. Since we’ve zoomed in on Zimbabwe this month, we'll begin our journey with Latoya Mihaylova a Zimbabwean born model and businesswoman.
Latoya is a native Zimbabwean who is currently based in Cape Town, South Africa. She is an established model, entrepreneur, mom and wife who is passionate about all her vocations. Latoya is also a globetrotter who enthusiastically confesses her undying love for food.
“To appreciate and understand the significance of how far you’ve come it is imperative to reflect on and remember where you've come from.” Perpetua Mbali
Growing up in Zimbabwe
“I was born at a time when Zimbabwe was still thriving, when it was one of the best countries in Africa. My life in Zim was happy, free, filled with laughter and a community of wonderful people. Now that I am a parent myself, I have realised that the best thing you can give your child is a normal happy childhood. My parents made sure that I got exactly that.”
“Mom and dad - a normal hardworking pair, came from nothing and wanted better for their kids. They worked very hard to provide for us. I am truly grateful for the way they raised me, I was allowed to believe that anything was possible, I could dream freely.”
Life as a model
How did you decide on modeling as career path?
“For as long as I can remember I dreamt of someday becoming a model. I would spend my spare time watching fashion TV, paging through magazines and imagining myself on the covers. I started modeling in Zimbabwe when I turned 16 and started doing small jobs while still going to school. After graduating from high school, I went to visit my best friend who had relocated to Cape Town with her family. I decided to take this as a chance for me to put my foot in the door of a much bigger market. So I searched and found an agency, signed a 3 year contract - it was all up hill from there.”
Climbing the ladder
"It was more like a roller coaster ride than a ladder. There were a lot of tears, hard lessons, ups and downs. Coming fresh off the Zim boat, I had no idea how much work it would actually take to become a working model. It took me about 1 year before I booked my first job."
Working as a model
"I have been modeling full time for 13 years. In that time I’ve represented great brands from all over the globe. I’ve had the honour of sharing a ramp with my idol Tyra Banks. Even as a mom I’ve continued my work as a model."
One myth about African models
"Apparently we all come from poverty and the industry saved our lives, which isn’t true. African models contribute their talent to this industry because this is what they love and choose to do."
“Being accepted as a woman with curves has been a challenge over the years. There was always an insane amount of pressure to lose weight and fit into the “stereotypical model shape”. I am glad to say that the industry is changing. I refuse to kill myself to meet the biased ‘standards’ set by ghosts we never get to meet. I am older now and as a mother to a daughter, it's important to teach her that she is beautiful just as she is. I have learned to embrace and love my body as it is, and to my surprise there are many clients that want just that – me, just as I am.”
Aunty B`s Chilli
"I have my own little business called “Aunty B`s Chilli”. My aunt is famous in the UK for her chilllie. I jumped on the wagon and opened up a little branch in Cape Town, it’s doing well, the response has been amazing and I am looking forward to seeing it grow."
How do you do it all?
“By the grace of God" and as they say - 'do what you love and you will never work a day in your life.'
The biggest lesson I have learned is; be yourself, you are the only YOU on earth and that is your super power. Dreams do come true, work hard, stay humble, follow your heart and you will realise that you are capable of doing anything.
Follow Latoya on instagram @modelmumdiary
Writer's Bio - Perpetua Mbali