The Q&A

By Tevin Andrews

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Maishe Mashigo

@maishe_mashigo

Martin Luther King once said: “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”

Maishe’s journey has consistently been fueled by that very faith. With over 10 years as an account manager, he has worked with a plethora of brands but it’s his heart that has set him apart. 

What does Pride mean to you?

A reminder to be true to self, to affirm myself and the people who form part of the LGBTQI+ community. Juxtaposed to that, it is also a time of reflection  to realize just how far we still have to go as a people in order for our personhood to be acknowledged. We deserve more than a month in order to feel seen and validated.

What is your spirit animal?

I’ve actually never given it much thought;I feel inclined to give a philosophical response here. However, in all honesty, I’d love to be as free as a bird. So, a bird it is – preferably one that isn’t at the bottom of the food chain, lol! 

If you were an artist, what would you paint on your first day?

A portrait of the sun gently setting into the ocean. I’ve always loved the sunset; for me it is a reminder that I have fought, survived, and that it is time to rest now, for a new day awaits.

If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

To fly: I live in Jo-hustle-burg, if there is one that I just can’t stand about this place is the traffic!

As a creative entrepreneur and professional, how important is diversity to you?

It is quite important. I think as queer-identifying people, we often have to show up twice as hard in order for our efforts and opinions to be seen or heard. I guess such is the norm for all marginalized communities; after all, we all find ourselves having to operate in a patriarchal society that deems white and male superior. I’ve always viewed diversity as a driving force for creativity and innovation; it interrogates the blanket-approach worldview that many people find themselves in and pushes boundaries, further challenging the many societal ims that many people purport to – not all black people love to dance, and in the same breath, not all queer people fit the “flamboyant” mold that society often compartmentalises us in. It is for that reason that diversity and inclusion must be brought to the forefront in all spheres of creative and professional settings.

Finish this sentence: Be yourself…

” the world will adjust.”

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How do you empower the queer community through your work?

I’ve been fortunate to be in a position where I can actively develop strategies that are not only inclusive but offer opportunities to queer bodies in the digital content creation space. Where, I get to collaborate with some AMAZING queer identifying content creators who not ALWAYS show up but show off in the work that they do. I’ve learned from an early age in my career that in order to see more people like me in mainstream media, I must bring them with me as I rise through the ranks.

Can you mention any queer/ adjacent or gender-non conforming individuals that have influenced your work?

Whoa, where does one start? There are actually quite a few. Firstly, let me start with the people that I look up to, period: Beverly Ditsie and Simon Nkoli, two giants in the South African gay and lesbian liberation movement. The first time I heard those names, I must have been in my latter teenage years; the internet was still in its infancy, but I recall actively searching the internet to learn more about them, who they were, and what they did. You know that fuzzy feeling you get after indulging in something that you are not supposed to have? That’s how I felt when I kept reading more and more about them and the liberation movement. Then there was K Sello Duiker, what a writer! As an avid reader, I am seeing how their work continues to influence a lot of my favourite local writers; it is a marvel to see. In a professional setting, there are also quite a number of people that have influenced me, and, to some extent, the path that I have taken for myself in the industry that I am in, I think a prominent name that always comes to mind is Sylvester Chauke; the work that they have done in their career and continue to do is just awe-inspiring.


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Letlhogonolo Mokgoroane

@mx_mokgoroane

Toni Morrison once said: “If you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else.

Firebrand, Letllhogonolo Mokgoroane who also goes by @mx_mokgoroane, has unapologetically claimed his space as a foremost queer  figure of our time. Letlhogonolo’s voice, work and visibility in every sense, live up to the words to the literary juggernaut as a law fundi and co-host of The Cheeky Natives.

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As a creative entrepreneur and professional, how important is diversity to you?

This is a hard question. But in short, it is recognizing that we are not all the same and that difference makes me useful only as that difference is not rooted in someone else’s oppression.

What does Pride mean to you?

Pride is so much more than an annual festival or rainbow-themed parties. It started off as a protest led by trans women of colour—namely Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera—against oppressive forces that tried to get them to silence, shrink, and diminish their truth. So many of us feel restricted by norms, traditions, other people’s expectations and desires of us, or the dominant (read: white cisgender heterosexual male) narrative. So many of us let fear, guilt, and shame keep us from following our most genuine desires. We get into the habit of erasing parts of ourselves and making our truth small. We give our power away.For me, pride is about claiming all the parts of yourself that everyone has tried to take from us. It is a place of creating freedom for yourself in every way.

How do you empower the queer community through your work?

Morgan Parker writes a poem that says “the body is a person”. My work empowers queer and trans people to begin to live a life that is filled with dignity. I work to dismantle and change laws that deny queer people their rights. 

If you were an artist, what would you paint?

FREEDOM.

Can you mention any queer/ adjacent or gender-non conforming individuals that have influenced your work?

Dr B Camminga, Prof Zethu Matebani, Landa Mabenge, just to name a few.

If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

Shapeshift – we already do it as queer and trans people.

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Finish this sentence:

Be yourself… It is the best thing you can do for yourself.


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Mamolefe Molefe

@mo.lefe

Maya Angelou once said: “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”

A largess of creativity, a queer ally and a PRISM award winner, Mamolefe lets her heart lead her in all of her endeavors. Metaphor by metaphor and simile by simile, she is telling her story…

What does Pride mean to you?

Pride to me means showing up for yourself openly and being able to share that love with others. It means holding space for your loved ones. It means educating yourself and educating folks around you. Pride means showing up for your tribe. It also means setting and honouring boundaries. Being able to empathize and respect others. As a queer Ally, Pride also means inviting people that are a part of the community into noteworthy spaces. For the longest time, we have been ‘tolerated’ or ‘accepted’ in different parts of the industry. I believe it’s time that we, as a society, invite each other into spaces and present opportunities for one another.

What is your spirit animal?

Often times when I am going through a significant shift in my life, a Dragonfly flies past (or above) me. So they definitely become my buddies overtime.However, if we were to take it back to ancestry, I am a Lion at heart.

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If you were an artist, what would you paint?

I’d definitely take a shot at painting the astral plane! No one knows what that world looks like, but we definitely know what it feels like. I’d grab the opportunity to paint an abstract piece that incorporates different elements of religions and spirituality.

Can you mention any queer/ adjacent or gender-non conforming individuals that have influenced your work? 

I remember attending a poetry workshop hosted by Tanya Evanson. First of all she’s just godly. Second, she taught me to look at my poetry in a different way when it comes to performance styles. How do I present myself in front of the mic? Am I owning my stage presence? The moment I saw MJ Rodriguez on the TV screen, I knew I had to follow her and see more of her work. Whether an interview or a silly Instagram post, she showed me how to be free and comfortable in one’s art. Oftentimes we compare ourselves to other artists and creatives; thinking about how we could morph ourselves to be more likable. MJ showed me that that mentality will only set you back. A friend and artist by the name of Witney. showed me that it is okay to not know things. That way, I am more receptive to creative juices, perspectives and change. 

As a creative entrepreneur and professional, how important is diversity to you?

Very. When entering a room, diversity is actually the first thing I look for. How many queer people are in the room? Who is a part of the decision making? How are they treated? I actually used to lead the Diversity, Equity & Inclusion division at my previous agency. So it was always imperative that myself and the team reflect on what we’re currently doing and how we can make our workforce better for our colleagues.

How do you empower queer bodies through your work?

My favourite way of supporting and recognising queer creatives is through collaboration. Whether it is collaborating on a poem or inviting them to be a part of a creative project, I enjoy accessing the minds of my partners. This also means buying and promoting their products should they have any brands as well. When given the opportunity to perform on stage, for example, I make it a point to wear items that were created by queer bodies and curate it into my performance. My next step is to begin telling more queer stories through my writing. I’m really excited to begin curating that!

If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

I am a big Avatar: The Last Airbender fan. I would love to be a Water Bender!

Finish this sentence:

Be yourself… in the most uncomfortable of situations.


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Lindokuhle Mkhize

@lindopariss

Angela Davis once said: “You have to act as if it were possible to radically transform the world. And you have to do it all the time.”

Lindokuhle is blazing a trail of transformation with her serenity, surety and strategic savvy. Innovation is what she does best and with her effortless style and wit, she leads the pack.

What does Pride mean to you?

Pride is a safe space for me. It’s like a warm embrace that makes me feel seen and supported. I have always been fluid when it comes to the way I dress and who I choose to love. And I think it just gives me courage to know there are others like me out there, who are unashamed to be the most free versions of themselves.

What is your spirit animal?I am obsessed with elephants! Their calm demeanor and majestic air of authority appeals to me. Lol and they love eating clean. But get on their bad side? It’s tickets for you fam. That’s my personality, in a nutshell.

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As a creative entrepreneur and professional, how important is diversity to you?

Highkey. Representation matters not just for us but for the generations behind us. Living in a world that feels like it was lent to us because every media placement, every textbook and or every crime article carries a stigma of being gentrified or not having black people, African people acknowledged, prioritized and included isn’t enough for me. We need to have honest conversations about how Africans are carrying the world of innovation on their back, since history books. Periodt!

How do you empower queer people through your work?

Queer people are literally the crux of creativity. The range, the ideas, the assertiveness and being comfortable enough to experiment with any and every artform make my job so much more enjoyable. Be it campaigns or event initiatives, they’re my first selection.

Can you mention any queer/ adjacent and gender-non conforming individuals that have influenced your work?

Yes, there’s plenty. Tony Gum, a visual artist and YOONS, the creative director for AMBUSH are the first names that come to mind. They just ooze future forward thinking.

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If you were an artist, what would you paint on your first day?

A mural of what Nina Simone’s music sounds like to me.

If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

My superpower would be the ability to keep generating funds, increasing my wealth to diabolical amounts.

Finish this sentence: Be yourself…Be yourself, because only you can do what you dream of doing, the way you dream of doing it. The world needs you.


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Stunning Maze

@stunningmaze 

Miriam Makeba once said: “There are three things I was born with in this world, and there are three things I will have until the day I die… Hope, determination and song.”

Stunning Maze is a sea of love that is filled to the brim with those very things. Boasting over 100k followers on TikTok, his tranquil demeanor compliments his bright aura. Creative arts are his haven and he is now winning the hearts of South Africans, one octave at a time. 

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What does Pride mean to you?

It means self acceptance, self awareness and self appropriation. There’s nothing greater that being aware of who you are and appreciating oneself.

Who/what is your spirit animal?

Oh sure, it’s Denis Rodman any day! 

As a creative entrepreneur and professional, how important is diversity to you?

I believe that everyone exists for a reason, and everyone deserves a chance to show why they exist. When you’re not given the platform to express yourself because you’re a certain way, that takes away the true essence existing as a person, we’re all here to LIVE and we all deserve a CHANCE to be ALIVE! 

How do you empower queer bodies through your work?

By living my truth and telling stories that touched me as a kid through my music and visual content. 

If you were an artist, what would you paint?

Some flowers. There’s something so timeless and soothing about flower paintings.

Can you mention any queer/ adjacent or gender-non conforming individuals that have influenced your work?

Denis Rodman in the 90s, there’s just something about him during that time. he just didn’t give a flying FAQ*.

If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

I’d definitely love to be able to listen to everyone’s prayers and be able to fulfill them. Only the ones with pure intentions and in need of assistance in any form. 

Finish this sentence: Be yourself…

My stunner, it all makes sense when you listen to YOU.

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