“1995 when I was born there was no Facebook, there was no Instagram and there were no filters. My mom had to accept that I was different. So for me, it’s more of giving back to my mom and my family for raising and loving me the way I was.”
Allow me to introduce you to Brian Maqhawe Makhubela born and raised in Nkomazi, Mpumalanga. After deciding to follow the advice of many voices that persisted he should be a model, fate took Brian to greater heights.
Today we have seen him on our screens alongside Khanyi Mbau in the iconic production Iconoclast film by Josh Dylan, and worked with great brands like Vodacom and Superbalist. To put the cherry on top he has made history by becoming the first-ever Mr. Albinism South Africa and this is just the beginning.
Now we get to know him better as he opens up about his journey, shares his honest opinion about the industry, and gives details on current and up-coming projects.
AYANDA: How did it all begin, how did you become a model?
BRIAN: It all began at a very young age, at some point, I stopped thinking about modeling. When I got to Pretoria in 2015, I just wanted to focus on my school work but a lot of people were approaching me and telling me I should consider modeling, but I was not thinking about it. So in 2019, I decided to try this modeling thing after I finished my studies.
AYANDA: How would you say your upbringing has shaped you as a model?
BRIAN: I think my upbringing makes me an entire person because I have a supportive family that always makes me appreciate myself. As much as people looked down on us. My family has played a huge role in my life and that’s why I had the confidence to pursue modeling.
AYANDA: Naomi Campbell once said that the modeling industry is moving backward in terms of diversity and inclusivity. How do you think the fashion industry has implemented diversity and inclusivity over the years?
BRIAN: To be honest, the modelling industry in South Africa is not as prominent as it is in other countries. In terms of diversity and inclusion, we are making progress in some areas and going backwards in others.
Honestly, I think we still have a long way to go because ultimately you say that you are a designer but you make garments specifically for a certain type of look or physique. For me, I think there is a lack of trust in a way. People don’t want to trust other faces, other body sizes, and other skin tones.
Lack of diversity will continue to be an issue as long as we are still fighting amongst ourselves, and pulling each other down on social media. We must keep in mind that a united front always triumphs especially on these uncharted waters of diverse modelling.
AYANDA: Why do you think representation matters in the industry?
BRIAN: It matters a lot, when people see us do what we do, they appreciate themselves better. I mean five years ago who would have thought that there would be the first Mr. and Miss Albinism South Africa.
Inclusion and diversity in the industry set up a seat for a lot of people whether they look like me or don’t, have the same physique or not, but for them to appreciate themselves.
AYANDA: In one of your interviews you mentioned that you have a formal qualification that is not media related. What was your initial plan, and do you ever think of leaving modeling?
BRIAN: No, I don’t think I will leave the modeling space anytime soon because by the grace of God I am doing better than I would have been if I had a normal nine – to -five job. Modeling empowers me, It has given me the platform to address social issues like Albinism. I also get to travel and meet all kinds of interesting people.
I studied Eco-Tourism and Wildlife Management. It requires me to be in the sun a lot, and because of the condition of my eyes, I cannot be in the sun for a long time.
When I was doing my 3rd year in varsity, I got a job at the Kruger National Park. I only worked for three days then I resigned. I was like “no I cannot continue with it” because ultimately my health was at risk and I would have jeopardized other people’s lives as well.
AYANDA: You have worked with top brands and appeared in some of the coolest editorial campaigns. What would you consider your career highlight?
BRIAN: My career highlight has to be Mr. and Miss Albinism South Africa. I didn’t take it as a gig. It was a gift to my family. In 1995 when I was born there was no Facebook, there was no Instagram and there were no filters. My mom had to accept that I was different. So for me, it’s more of giving back to my mom and my family for raising and loving me the way I was.
AYANDA: Who is your greatest inspiration and why?
BRIAN: My greatest inspiration is ‘shiy indoda eDubai’ (Khanyi Mbau). It’s not because I have worked with her before, but it’s because of the controversy around her name, and what she does as a person. I think I can relate to her story because I have gone through a lot. I have been called a lot of names, but when I look at her life and everything that she does, I relate to her.
At some point in high school or even primary when people call you names, you don’t fight back. As soon as you start fighting them you are giving them what they want, but the moment you start saying, “no it’s fine to call me Sheamus, call me whatever you want to call me,” they get tired because they are not getting the same attention that you would be giving. So, Khanyi Mbau is my inspiration in life.
AYANDA: What are you currently working on and what are your future projects on the lineup?
BRIAN: I am currently focusing on Mr. and Miss Albinism South Africa. My current title ‘Mr. Albinism SA’ means a lot to me, I get to serve and bring more awareness about Albinism.
When I started modeling I told myself one thing and that is to inspire people. I want people to look at my life, be inspired, and believe in themselves.
I recently shot a UNICEF HIV and AIDs campaign for Namibia. Other jobs are coming my way, they just come unexpectedly but my main focus, for now, is to use my title in a positive way.
Story by Ayanda Mavundla