They are an interesting-looking bunch – which is not surprising for faces regularly on TV, radio, in print, on billboards, Twitter and Instagram – when they finally make their way into Braamfontein’s Bannister Hotel in the middle of May.
Luthando “LootLove” Shosha seems to tower above everyone in her quiet, regal manner. Her disposition is sometimes a little awkward, keenly aware of how striking she is with her bold lip colour and box braids tied in a bun, exposing the shaved sides.
Trevor Stuurman’s now signature hat introduces him, backed up by his brightly coloured and printed outfit. Rapper Kid X, in his aloof, daydreaming but still fresher-than-you manner, trails behind. He strolls alongside fellow CashTime Life record label-mate Nomuzi Mabena, who is the epitome of Beyoncé’s ***Flawless: with her fresh chiskop, black minidress, nude lip colour and white sneakers.
The Threaded Man’s fashion and lifestyle authority, Siyabonga Beyile, is perhaps ironically the most unassuming of the lot – the un-celeb, if you will. Adding even more cool is that they are being shot by award-winning young photographer Gareth Pon, who has an easy run-and-gun style for the afternoon’s shoot.
A considered cool
Perhaps the most surprising is how quiet and unassuming they all appear – especially photographer, hat man, film student and now Woolworths 2015 winter face Trevor Stuurman.
I had seen him at all the major fashion and social events, always resplendent in a fabulous hat and brightly coloured, well-curated, African-design outfit. When we sit down, it occurs to me how young Stuurman is, and it comes as no surprise when he tells me he’s a “a 22-year-old, born and bred in Kimberley”, who moved to Cape Town to study motion pictures, and four years later is freelancing in photography and film.
He’s currently living between Cape Town and Johannesburg, and, as his life and profile grows, finds he’s been spending more than 70% of his time in Jozi. I ask him at what moment he realised he may be something of a big deal. He starts laughing hysterically – in his quiet laugh of course, doing nothing to diminish his inimitable cool.
Eventually, he stops and says, gasping: “Oh my word! Not yet! I think it might be too soon. But I do have those ‘Yes!’ moments, every now and again, but they prepare me for the next thing. Like landing Woolies. Once the pictures are up in store or in the magazine, I think: ‘How do we top this?’”
Stuurman has been bubbling since he was barely out of his teens. The Woolworths deal came to him two years ago, but he was unable to take it up at the time.
Siyabonga Beyile, creator of the Threaded Man – a blog-turned-successful fashion and lifestyle business – has added another accolade to his name, as one of Forbes Africa’s 30 under 30 to watch for 2015.
“I think that’s what makes me cool,” he says. “That I’ve been able to work and do that. I studied fashion, majoring in trends, and I have the ability to know that something will be cool or trendy before it’s cool.
“When I was young, I always kind of kept to myself because I had a different outlook on the future. Everyone spoke of the future as if it were time passing. But I always thought that a century could pass and, if nothing changed, that would not be a future. For me, future is about change.”
Beyile contradicts the stereotype of young people who have no concern for their culture or heritage. He is impassioned when speaking of the preservation of culture, in particular his own Xhosa culture.
“I worry about the future of culture. I worry about what kind of culture we are going to have in 10 years’ time,” he admits.
“Now I am asking: How are we taking our past and culture, and using it as basis for the future? And that’s being able to be cool without mimicking Kanye West. I mean, I love Kanye’s style, but how do I make it meet me, Siya Beyile, who is young and Xhosa?” he asks.
Fitting in while standing out
Style is enormously important for this group and their individual style is evident as they pose together under the newly decorated bridge in Newtown. But they each tell me a different story about it. For MTV Base VJ and CashTime Life’s Skhanda Queen, Mabena, her style is just who she is.
“My vibe is cool because it’s just natural. I’ve never tried to fit in. I stay in my lane and do my own thing, and I am focused on doing things my own way,” says the new rapper, whose single Se7en with Kid X is doing well.
LootLove has a similar outlook on her own brand of cool. “I have a twist to me ... I don’t want to say edgy, but I guess I’m edgy. And as much as I have been here for three years, I think I’m still refreshing and people aren’t tired of me.”
Shosha and Mabena are emphatic about running their own race. Shosha, in particular, says she’s “unbothered” about the idea that her career should be somewhere else, referring to the constant comparisons to media queen Bonang Matheba, who also presented the TV show Live.
Shosha articulates the restlessness of standing out. “I never want to fit in. It genuinely irks me; it genuinely defeats me. And if I see something that I like somewhere else, I will make it truly my own and, when I feel as though too many people are beginning to look like me, I switch it up.”
Kid X’s style outlook is a little different.
“I look no different from the guy next door, or from someone you know,” he says, dressed casually in a pair of blue jeans, a black tee and red sneakers with a backpack slung over his shoulders.
“Which means, hopefully, a lot of people can see themselves in me and think that maybe they can be like me.”
The talented young rapper has featured on many a hit song, including last year’s monster hit Caracara with K.O.
In an experience much like those of many middle class kids who grew up after 1994, Kid X (26), who is putting the final touches to his first album, says his cool lies in how much of South Africa has contributed to his personality.
“I have lived in Mpumalanga, Boksburg, the south and now north of Joburg, Kroonstad in the Free State and Pretoria. I speak six or seven languages, and so people have heard me rap in English, isiZulu, Afrikaans, isiNdebele, Sesotho ... so I sound like the people who listen to my music.
“Caracara put me where I wanted to be ... on that national stage, and I realised I wasn’t upcoming so much – I was actually here.”
Coolin’ ain’t easy
We move around a lot that afternoon, chasing the autumn sun from Braam to the Joburg Public Library and under the M1 highway in Newtown – they pose, run and jump for Pon’s camera. Despite the long hours, all five are patient, still smiling and still swaggy.
Later, LootLove echoes this, saying: “Once you become famous, people assume you get things and that it all falls from the sky – but actually the opposite happens. You need a thick skin to prepare for a lot of noes, and you actually need to work harder to get whatever you want next.”
It’s a sobering thought coming from the presenter of the country’s largest music show on TV.
Stuurman is emphatic that being “cool” takes work. He adjusts his hat a little and says: “What people don’t understand is that this is work. Every post, every outfit, every bit of photography is work.
“I am always working, especially as a freelancer. And while it might look effortless, it’s work.”