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Beautiful the way that I am...

This month Carob is delighted to have the totally stunning Audrey Chabalala as our cover. We talk to her about a topic Carob really likes to discuss, African beauty. What is it like for her as a black model to be working with her natural hair? What inspires her to keep it real? We find out... And she also shares a few beauty tips with Carob.

CAROB : Who is Audrey Chabalala,  where were you born?  How was it like growing up? 

AUDREYAudrey Chabalala is a girl raised between two townships (Alexandra and Diepsloot) I was born in Elim Hospital (Limpopo) and moved to Johannesburg at a very tender age. I attended my primary school in Bovet Combined (Alexandra) and relocated to Diepsloot when I was in grade 5. I completed my matric at Diepsloot Combined School and thereafter went on to volunteer at an NGO called Oasis South Africa for 3 years. I am currently studying South African Sign Language at Wits University. Growing up for me was pretty hard because I was raised by a single parent. Like other privileged kids I didn't get everything I always wanted, having 4 siblings didn't help much for my mother always had to think of all 5 of us. As much as I wasn't privileged to get all the luxury in the world I am grateful that I had an amazing mother and sister who made sure we never went to bed hungry.

CAROB: When did you know that you wanted to be a model? 

AUDREY: I knew I wanted to be a model after doing my first photo-shoot with a friend and I posted my pictures on Facebook and I got great feedback from my friends asking if I was a model and encouraging me to go for it. My sister always told me to consider it and I never really took it to heart, so the pictures and the feedback just pointed me back to the seed which was planted at home by my sister. 

CAROB: Tell us about your look, very real, very rich, totally African, why have you chosen to represent yourself (your brand) this way instead of the conventional route most black models take? 

 AUDREY: Growing up my hair was always relaxed. I got tired of my scalp having to endure the burning pain one gets when relaxing their hair. When I just registered with my first agency. I realized I enjoyed being natural and I felt very comfortable and that just happened to work for my look as well and I never looked back from then.


CAROB: What are the challenges in the modelling Industry? 

AUDREY: Being expected to meet the beauty standard is one of the biggest challenges because you constantly have to remind people that "my kinky hair doesn't have to be straight for me to be considered beautiful, my skin doesn't have to be light for me to be beautiful." I get to work with a lot of hairstylists who will ask me why I don’t relax my hair and I constantly have to tell them that I love it as it is. I think that's the most challenging thing with working in this industry having to constantly tell people that I am beautiful the way I am.

CAROB: Who is your role model and why?

AUDREY: My mother is my role model, she is a strong woman. The way she carried all her 5 of her kids with her through her divorce and till this day still carries us through everything we go through. She inspires me by how she supports me with all that I do, reminding me that she's my rock. I love how she always encourages me to follow my dreams regardless of where I'm from. I love how she keeps me grounded and focused. I love how she cares for all of her kids even those who are not of her own blood. I love how she always reminds me of Ubuntu and treating everyone equally. I just love how amazing she is. That's why she's my role model.

CAROB: What are your thoughts on African Beauty? 

AUDREY: Africa is very rich with beauty and I think African beauty has influenced a lot of different countries and Africans are not even aware of that. Many are trying to be western and they don't see the beauty they have. 

CAROB: Who’s your modelling icon? 

AUDREY: Alek Wek. I love her, she's just amazing.

CAROB: Please share the secret of how you care for your skin and hair with our readers. 

AUDREY:  Condition and wash your hair at least every week to keep it most and protected from breaking. Use natural hair oils to treat it, it will always remain healthy and beautiful.

Skin... love it... keep it moist too...

CAROB: Which African country would you like to travel and work in and why?

AUDREY: Kenya, I think their culture is beautiful. It's just one of the countries I'd love to know more about and explore.

CAROB: Which words of motivation do you live by?

AUDREY: Where there's a will there's a way.

CAROB: What would you say to young and aspiring models in Africa?  What do you think they need to know about the Industry? 

AUDREY: Go for what you love with all your might. Modeling is like any other job, you'll have to work hard and you will go through ups and downs like any other job. At the end of the day its your passion and hard work that will take you to the places you want to see yourself in. It's not all glitz and glam but it's a very fun job.

 CAROB: What are you currently working on?

AUDREY: I've been receiving a lot of questions on social media and emails about modeling and how to go about being a successful model.

I am currently working on starting modeling workshops in Johannesburg. We're launching in August.

The workshops will help upcoming models with information on where to start. When I was in New York last year I attended a lot of workshops and I'd like to share the information that I have with other models. I have an amazing team that is working with me on this, FeelArt Media, Ntsikayezizwe Enterprises and Malebojmoropa who are and will be helping me with putting together tool kit for models. 

The workshops will also give models  modeling portfolios that they will use when they go to agencies. Hopefully everything that they learn through the workshops will equip them on how to be a great model.

Story by Ntsako Mbhokota
images by Kat Grudko