‘Beauty has no rigid look’ – Wits fashion show aims to empower women and celebrate diversity

‘Beauty has no rigid look’ – Wits fashion show aims to empower women and celebrate diversity
From left: Melicia Tulwane promotes body positivity in a creation by Simelinkosi Mcineka | Wits University student Nneka Ikenna on the runway in a dress by designer Athenkosi Irwin Mngoma | Zintle Solombela and Karabo Thusi in dresses by Katlego Nimrod Seonyane at the In Her Skin Fashion Show. (Photos: Mzingenkosi Sibanda)

In Her Skin helps students at the University of the Witwatersrand to break societal beauty norms and build their confidence, with models finding healing, strength and self-worth on the runway.

In a triumphant return, In Her Skin, a fashion show by students from the University of the Witwatersrand’s Girton Hall, reclaimed the runway after two years of pandemic-induced silence.

The show, which was previously called Love Yours, aims to challenge society’s conventional standards of beauty while empowering women to be confident in their skin.

Naomi Tshimanga, the student development officer at the university residence and the driving force behind the show, said it was a tradition at Girton Hall.

“The aim of it is always to build confidence within the ladies in any space they are in, as evidenced by the variety of categories that the event showcases, including formal, workspace or occupation and tradition.

“Building body positivity within females is important, especially in the society where we are, with a lot of normalised standards of perfection which often leave many feeling less beautiful. Unfortunately, because of Covid-19, the event could not happen in the last two years.”

In Her Skin featured 11 students, who each had their own reason for participating. However, they all shared a common thread of personal transformation through the show. Most were not professional models.

Takalani Ratshibvumo, one of the participants, said: “The event meant healing and empowerment for me. I joined the In Her Skin show because I wanted to gain confidence and self-esteem and be reminded of my beauty and power in [the hope] it could inspire others. There were times in my life when I didn’t necessarily feel beautiful in comparison to others.

“So this event meant a lot to me, meaning I could help heal the inner child and experiences from the past,” Ratshibvumo said.

Another participant, Amy Scholtz, said she found empowerment in the entire journey.

“The show and the whole process leading up to it was empowering for me, because arriving at university and residence was difficult for me to adjust to and be confident in who I was. Walking on the In Her Skin show with the other ladies was a chance for me to convince myself to project that confidence and claim who I am.”

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Reflecting on her personal growth, participant Mathuto Motaung said: “As much as people often tell me I have a beautiful body, I was not confident in myself.

“Joining the In Her Skin campaign has been beneficial for me because through it I have gained a sisterhood. I am generally a shy person in public, so being around the ladies I have had to work on my communication skills, making friends, and being comfortable with more people in my space.

“And I do think the event achieved its objective. I, for one, walked away from the event more confident and I was not worried about anything; I just enjoyed embracing myself,” said Motaung.

Speaking about her lifelong desire to be a model, Mihla Mabono said: “Now I feel that I can walk anywhere and take up space.

“Despite enjoying modelling growing up, I didn’t look a certain way acceptable by society, so I often got teased. This event was a platform for me to start. Post the event, I have been receiving assurances and compliments that are boosting my confidence.”

Body positivity is not only about the applause you get when on stage, but also about engaging in practices that help you maintain your self-confidence.

Nokulunga Sosibo highlighted the importance of representation. “I entered the campaign owing to a low representation of bigger girls and I felt as though my being part of the campaign could help someone who looks like me build confidence in themselves. I learnt to be able to walk with pride while advocating and celebrating the acceptance of different bodies, and to also grow one’s self-love.

“Beauty has no rigid look; it’s all about inclusivity and diversity,” Sosibo said.

For Lungelo Sehlogo, taking part in In Her Skin instilled a profound lesson about holistic well-being.

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“I participated in Love Yours in 2019, which was recently changed to In Her Skin. I learnt a lot from being a model, including the fact that you don’t have to be thin to identify as beautiful.

“I learnt the value of sisterhood and the importance of seeing other females as beautiful and complimenting them to boost their self-esteem. I learnt to be confident in myself, to stand in front of a crowd and to represent myself well.

“I learnt that body positivity is not only about the applause you get when on stage, but also about engaging in practices that help you maintain your self-confidence.

“We need to take care of ourselves; body positivity should not make people think that it encourages obesity or anorexia. In your quest to look like your confident self and your beautiful self, don’t forget about your health,” Sehlogo said.

The fashion show has primarily focused on women and girls, but Milka Madahana, a supporting staff member, said plans were in motion to expand its reach, encompassing individuals of all genders as well as non-­gender-conforming people.

In Her Skin is a powerful testament to the transformative impact of self-acceptance and the celebration of diversity in an era when society’s beauty norms are being redefined. DM

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available countrywide for R29.

DM168 front oage


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