Port Elizabeth-born model Yonela Shenxane, 22, is dishing out career goals for her peers as she makes her mark in the entertainment industry.
Raised by her grandmother, Eubeta Shenxane, in Veeplaas until the age of nine Shenxane and her sister then joined her mother in Cape Town and later moved to Johannesburg. Now she has signed to Boss Models and Cape Town-based Fusion Models.
However, although she is now a full-time model she had initially dreamed of being a fashion curator or stylist.
“The idea to become a model was instilled in me by people who kept asking me if I was a model and at the time, I didn’t know what that was,” Shenxane said.
She then started to contact magazines directly to market herself at the age of 15 but was not very lucky as most of them rejected her saying she had to be signed by an agency first. Although her mother was not very supportive of the idea at the beginning, confident Shenxane never gave up.
“[My mother] said no so many times it was not even funny. She was like ‘Yonela if you do modelling I will not be paying for it. It will come out of your own pocket because these things are expensive’,” Shenxane said.
Her passion grew stronger when she made her first television appearance in 2013 in a music video Ben10 , by South African singer, producer and songwriter Shota. She got this opportunity after she had accompanied a friend to shoot Cassper Nyovest’s music video and was spotted by the producer.
At the time she was doing her first year of study at the Tshwane University of Technology. Shenxane also featured in Take Me Out SA, a reality TV show that aired on SABC1 in 2014.
While she had always dreamed of being a Boss model, the agency turned her down at the time and she signed with Alushi Models. Then, last year she decided to re-apply – it worked and now her career is at a high as she has since done commercials for Cell C, Zando, Takealot.com, and Nedbank.
It has not been a smooth road however. Financial shortcomings and the fear of making bad decisions for her career are some of the difficulties that Shenxane has come across. She says it was hard to put her BA Diploma in Marketing on hold to pursue her modelling career.
“School got in the way a lot, to a point where I [knew] I needed to make a very last-minute decision and weigh my chances of being a good model and actually making it right now, in my time. And I was like, I can actually do it and I can always go back to school.”
Shenxane’s ultimate life goal is to inspire people enough for them to want to do something with their lives, regardless of what it may be.
Although Shenxane has not been to PE since 2003, she still has a close relationship with her grandmother and often visits their family home in Tsomo over Christmas.