*Interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Self-proclaimed Body Activist, Bongi Rofhiwa Sithebele has been leading the crusade in helping full figured women feel comfortable in their own skin. The South African beauty has gained a steady following with her blog Self Love Army ever since it was published late last year. Supreme Culture caught up with the 20-year-old to discuss breaking down body stereotypes, music, and how she plans to spread her message even further.
For starters, when did you start your blog?
I started my blog late last year–November 15th to be exact.
Your essays have a constant narrative: female empowerment. How important—especially in this climate, is it to encourage women to empower themselves?
Self Love is the way. You can’t ever go wrong loving yourself. Confidence is what can make and break you. Once you have that confidence you believe you can achieve everything you’ve set your life on. Whether it’s loving yourself more , being kind to yourself more or believing in yourself more. It’s a very important way to empower not only yourself but other women too.
Besides being a writer, you also dabble in modeling. Is modeling something you actually want to pursue or it’s just a hobby?
Currently I’m doing modeling as a hobby. I would definitely like to take it more seriously if the opportunity presents itself.
You exude so much confidence and are free spirited. What advice do you have for women who aren’t as comfortable in their own skin?
I was bullied in high school about my size and I think it was mainly caused by how much confidence I had for a girl my size. I just didn’t let them make me feel self-concious or ashamed. That’s the message, you are in control of how you let people affect you. Your confidence shouldn’t be based on the opinions of others. Never seek validation from your peers.
You’re heavy into music. What music artist do you connect with the most and why?
Yesss! I love me some good music. I’m always looking to discover new music and artists. Especially on apps like SoundCloud where I discovered artists like IAMDDB , H.E.R , Goldlink , Sango , Childish Major , Jenkins–I could go on and on. Music helps me with my emotions. Most of the time the song I’m listening to at that moment relates to my mood whether I’m happy or sad. So I can’t pinpoint as specific artist I connect with because I connect with so many.
“Your confidence shouldn’t be based on the opinions of others. Never seek validation from your peers.”
Have you noticed that full figured women are becoming more acceptable now? In the past magazines only sought after slender built women to grace their covers. Models like Ashley Graham are changing people’s perspective on what the ideal woman should look like. What changed?
Yes , things have definitely changed. People are more into the the idea of seeing full figures women in magazines however we still have a long way to go, because people still have this idea that plus size models , plus size influencers/bloggers, and body activist [try to] promote an unhealthy lifestyle. So it’s going to still take time for people to understand that healthy is not only determined by your size, but how you personally take care of your body no matter the size. Plus the world is still into the idea that being thin is what makes you ‘perfect‘.
What has been the overall general response people have given you about your blog and the essays you write?
Overall it’s been positive and well received. Just can’t wait to grow the blog and [seeing] it reach more people. [I want] it to help those that need advice or encouragement.
Are you working on any projects? Anything we can look forward to in the future?
Right now? No. Only because there has been a few changes. However, I’m planning on doing a few body positivity campaigns and workshops. I want to rebrand online music marketing business as well.
“So it’s going to still take time for people to understand that healthy is not only determined by your size, but how you personally take care of your body no matter the size.”
Tell me something about yourself that people would be surprised to know?
I’m actually an introvert. I love to be at home because true honesty I don’t really have a lot of friends. Sadly.
Random, have you checked out the Netflix show Black Mirror? If so, what are your thoughts?
Yes, it’s fucked up. But I still watch it. [Laughs.]
”I was bullied in high school about my size and I think it was mainly caused by how much confidence I had for a girl my size.”
[Laughs.] Any other shows you’re into? I’m a Netflix junkie. Narcos, Ozark, but I recently been on this Living Single binge since it started streaming on Hulu. I live for 90s nostalgia.
Well, I love How To Get Away With Murder, Stranger Things, 13 Reasons Why, Atlanta , Insecure, The Fixer –well you guys call it Scandal in the US. I’m not a series junkie to be honest. However, I’m slowly getting influenced.
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