Slay queens turn their beauty into business, charging big bucks for hosting lavish parties at nightclubs around Joburg. Ntombizodwa Makhoba spoke to a new generation of slay queens. Mpumelelo Buthelezi took the photographs.
Semakaleng “Mongy” Mathobela
Instagram followers: 57 900
Semakaleng ‘Mongy’ Mathobela
Mathobela (27) from Seshego, Limpopo, “ran away” to Johannesburg six years ago, looking for a better life. For some time her family didn’t even know where she was.
Judged by her neighbours for having her first child at 17 years old, Mathobela says: “I felt I didn’t belong. I wanted to start a new life anywhere that no one knew about my background or my past. Johannesburg was the perfect place for me.”
She shared a tiny apartment with five friends and sold clothes, as well as Brazilian and Indian hair, to survive. She wanted a luxury lifestyle, which she couldn’t afford because the money she received from older men, her “blessers”, was not enough for what she wanted.
“I started looking for a job as a host in a nightclub. My first night’s salary was more than R1 500 and I realised I could make money on my own without depending on older men,” she says.
Today she charges at least R10 000 per appearance and has graduated from hosting in Johannesburg to hosting abroad. She recently hosted at a concert in Dubai and made R20 000 in a day.
“Who says slay queens are poor?” she asked during an interview in her home.
“Look at my apartment! I also have a bed and my fridge is full.”
Mathobela says a host’s responsibility is to attract big-spending patrons to clubs.
“They put your picture on the flyer, it attracts more clientele and big spenders who come and spend their money on alcohol,” she says.
A club owner told City Press that if they didn’t hire slay queens their nightclubs “would have been closed down by now”.
“Slay queens bring us business, entertaining crème de la crème patrons with huge budgets, so we need them in our clubs. We pay them from R3 000 upwards and make sure they have bouncers to protect them because we don’t want men to take advantage of them,” he said.
Mathobela says patrons do sometimes try to take advantage, but she “deals with them”.
She also met her boyfriend while on the job in a club eight months ago.
“No one will force us to go home with a man, we would do it willingly. If you love him you’ll go home with him, but it’s always a choice. If I like the same guy I am entertaining I will go with him,” she said.
Mathobela defines a slay queen as a woman who is always dressed to the nines, with her hair and make-up always on point; “a girl who is well put together, always ready for a perfect picture; someone who follows the latest trends and everyone wants to party with”.
She has diversified into business, working as an image consultant with her own skincare line and has a high-profile clientele.
“My wish is to be on the Forbes magazine. I want to share my story of how I [came from being] a village girl to being a businesswoman. But most importantly, when I die I want to be buried here in Sandton; it became my new home eight years ago. I will never go back.”
Instagram followers: 126 000
Lewis, from the Eastern Cape, quit her job in banking to become a slay queen.
“I was just fed up with a nine-to-five job,” she says.
She lost 20kg and shared her weight-loss journey on Instagram. As she sat at home thinking of how she could make money from her story, she received a direct message from a modelling agent asking if she would be keen to become a club host.
That was the beginning of her new career. Today, she describes herself as one who lives a lavish life at someone else’s expense.
“People compensate me to entertain them – for my time and beauty – without wanting sex as a trade exchange,” she explains.
Now she makes about R40 000 a month, more if she “isn’t lazy”. Club hosts also receive 10% of what the big spenders splash out on alcohol for the night.
“We get this money just to play along for a night. I have the best job in the whole world. I don’t regret quitting my previous job,” she says.
Lewis says many have “misconceptions” about club hosting and think patrons demand sex, but she has friends who found their soulmates while on the job.
“Today they are married and have families.”
Instagram followers: 29 000
Eva Modika describes herself as an independent entertainment entrepreneur
Modika (24), known as the “queen of the north”, always liked the finer things in life. She was introduced to the party life by her elder sister, Michelle, a former Capricorn FM news reader.
Eva would tag along to parties at the station.
“From then I knew I wanted to live large,” she says.
Modika, who calls herself an “independent entertainment entrepreneur”, says being a club host is the biggest thing that has ever happened to her. She now earns about R60 000 a month in retainers and bookings.
Hiring a slay queen isn’t cheap, she says. After paying their hosting fee, clubs need to provide them with Champagne of their choice, such as Moët & Chandon, Armand de Brignac or Dom Pérignon, as well as five-star hotel accommodation afterwards.
Modika established a clothing business with the money she earned from hosting.
Her family has also been supportive, she says.
“I’m very passionate about my work and I take it very seriously. I make time for myself, family and friends, while creating value at work. I always advise my peers that it’s okay to party, but make something out of it. Be smart in all angles and be your own boss.”
Instagram Followers: 38 400
The turn-up queen (26) is not just a slay queen, she also hooks up other young women with club-hosting gigs.
Morolong, who hails from Welkom, Free State, has a communication science degree and also runs an events management company.
But earlier this year she was accused on Twitter of pimping young girls, which she denies, maintaining that she creates job.
“After the bad publicity I had to step down and take a step back. But at the same time I had to prove to people close to me, like my family and community, that I am not what Twitter trolls say I am. But I have since bounced back,” she says.
Morolong is inspired by Khanyi Mbau and Babalwa Mneno, who are paid for appearances, but says she knows this lifestyle is not forever.
“I will look for a job when I retire from hosting. We are all aware that finding a job isn’t easy these days, so for now hosting is my passion and I am content with it.”
Nokulunga “Miss Pruehanna” Msomi
Instagram followers: 36 000
Durban-based Msomi is not a club host, but she is considering doing it to make more money.
A self-described introvert who just loves beauty, clothes and travelling, Msomi says she was exposed to a luxurious lifestyle when she worked for a travel agency.
The fashion design graduate, who owns her own fashion line called Forever Envied, says a slay queen is always “killing it”, from her clothes to her weave, bag and shoes.
“I am my own competition, as I am always investing in myself,” she says.
Diamond and his dolls: (from left) Eva Modika, Tebogo Ramokgadi and Nokulunga Msomi at Camelot Spa in Sandton, Johannesburg
Tebogo “Diamond” Ramokgadi is among the pioneers of the slay queen business.
“As I was busy hanging around with the dolls, I realised that people love partying with them because of their beauty. I then advised them to take advantage of that and turn it into business.”
The musician/TV producer/fashion stylist used his club owner connections and introduced some of the young women to the business, but he makes no money from it.
“Beauty on its own is a talent. Look at Kim Kardashian, Amber Rose and Blac Chyna; they made money from their beauty,” he says.
“I’ve learnt that when you are beautiful, let your beauty pay you.”
Asked if he hires out any young women for sex, Ramokgadi said: “I have morals and I would not pimp young girls. I have sisters and cousins that I always protect.”