Image is everything?
Facilitated by Alex Gwaze (Curator)
There is no other being more scrutinized than a woman. Facts! From birth to death, every inch of her is examined. From what she wears to what she eats to who she is with and how she dies (was she married, did she have children). Even her body is broken down into specific parts so everybody can look for wrinkles, stretch marks, curves and hair. It seems everything goes into the construction of the ideal woman. Well almost everything. A woman’s voice (meaning her thoughts and her rights) – are periodically ignored. Without her voice what is left is a carefully calculated ‘imago’ of a lady (or a whore) – which all women are modelled after. Nowhere is this ‘imago’ more prevalent and adorned that in the media. The media (social media included) has invested heavily in the construction and re-imaging of women, yet they rarely depict real women. This is why I contacted two women who have engaged the media on several platforms to find out what it has left unsaid.
Firstly I got a hold of Image Consultant, Model, Presenter and Actress, Joanne Peters. Joanne is the current President of the Rotaract club of Belmont and the Operations Director at Open Eye Studios modelling agency. As a model, Joanne has walked in several fashion shows for local designers and the international designer, John Ablaza. She was the host of Umceco (a live fashion talk show based Bulawayo) and has appeared in the film “Liabilities of Love” and Roki’s “Let Her Go” music video. Joanne has a diploma in International Travel and Tourism from IATA and she is currently training to be a presenter at Onvi TV.
Next I contacted Chelsea Yvonne Chasi, aka Von Chase. Von is an Actress, Model, Event Host, Image Consultant and Voice Over Artist. She is the former “Miss African Child” and she runs Von Chase Bridal and Von Chase Image consultancy. She is an actress who has appeared in the film “Golddiggers”, Master Zhoe’s “ Akungise” music video and AJV Afri Arts / Bhekiwe’s short film “Powerful”. Over the years she has hosted the likes of Okmalumcoolkat, Dj Maphorisa, Lady Zamar and Prince Kaybee, just to name a few. In addition Von has narrated promotional videos and adverts for Green Supermarket, Sanlam and NAMA legend, Rashid Jogee.
Joanne and Chelsea have met several times over the course of their careers – so they had no problem finding some common highlights and challenges. They both speak English, Ndebele and Shona, and in their conversation they talked about money, comments, their bodies, prostitution and their first time on camera.
JOANNE: How your doing Chelsea? Been a long time. You are also an Image Consultant now?
CHELSEA: Hie, yes! Well I noticed that it has always been a hidden passion of mine to help other people by making them feel good about themselves in the way they dress, talk and handle themselves. But you’ve been doing this for years, what made you want to be an Image Consultant?
JOANNE: Well it wasn’t much of a calling or passion for me. It came more from wanting to change my own image. Over time I looked around and saw many people changing as I grew older and I felt myself unable to do so because of funds (laughs). So I came to the realization that I had to change but on a budget (laughs). But seriously, I saw how quickly the world of fashion changes and how some are stuck with one particular look for a seriously long time.
CHELSEA: Nothing worse than having a dated look (laughs).
JOANNE: (laughs) People start to think you no longer relevant. Especially in the modelling industry. You know that’s how I really got into image consulting – through modelling and fashion.
CHELSEA: My mother always tells me that even when I was a child I was into fashion. I would always put clothes for her on the bed and and help her style her outfits by putting handbags and jewelry together. So I started long back!
JOANNE: I started after years and years of wanting to be a model and later became a grooming and etiquette coach at Open Eye Studios.
CHELSEA: I also did a course through Open Eye Studios after I met Samantha Tshuma at an event. I attended the classes and graduated as a professional model. Through modelling I gained some knowledge on personal branding and styling. But I felt I wanted to learn more about everything so I attended Presence School of Image Consulting during the covid times. After that certificate I was now able to do corporate branding aside from personal branding. So far the journey for me has been great!
JOANNE: Congrats! So who were your first clients?
CHELSEA: After graduation I started off by having grooming and etiquette classes with small groups. Models firstly because I was always around them. Then youths at church, tea parties (laughs).Then I gained more confidence. I was now able to speak in front of bigger crowds at business showers or brand launches, bridal showers and other events. And leadership conferences. I’m now also able to speak in front of management teams for companies. It’s all bloomed out. And you?
JOANNE: In terms of image consulting outside of modelling, I’m still on that journey. I work with all kinds of models who want to compete for pageants and other shows. I’m still focused on fashion – coaching the models on grooming, etiquette and communication skills.
CHELSEA: People always overlook communication skills when it comes to image.
JOANNE: Yeah people focus on the image they are creating and forget about what that image is communicating. I know there is an emphasis on how you dress, body language and etiquette, but people forget about cultural relations, lifestyle and articulating your brand. It’s all these things at once.
CHELSEA: You know some people call me a stylist, but it’s deeper that than that. Image consulting gets into improving other aspects of your life.
JOANNE: It’s the same with models. People always mistake models for mannequins.
CHELSEA: Yes! Models are not mannequins. When we ‘model’ we model to help you promote your brand. We attach our ‘made-up’ image to a brand. Making it more visual. We are not modelling to advertise our bodies to potential suitors. We are advertising what we are wearing!
JOANNE: People find that so hard to understand. Men and women. Because we can’t explain ourselves. Modelling isn’t about talking (laughs).
CHELSEA: But it’s not that hard to understand. When you are advertising your body for sex that’s prostitution. When you are advertising clothes you are wearing that’s modelling. There is a huge difference.
JOANNE: One, your clothes come off – the other your clothes stay on (laughs). You know I had a friend who asked me why I no longer put pictures of myself on my profile picture. I tried to tell him I got tired of people downloading my pics or taking screenshots and posting them all over the internet. You find your image on some IG profile with some funny captions and a horde of inappropriate comments. Sometimes social media makes you feel like your body is no longer yours but everyone’s.
CHELSEA: I wouldn’t say that your body is ‘everyone’s’. Unless of course you are boudoir modelling in a red light district (laughs).
JOANNE: You know it’s not just the sexual aspect but the way people butcher you into different body parts, and rate you. Then they add information or aspects of your private life. I mean I know modelling is basically a public thing but not all of us want to be seen or rated after the work is done, if that makes sense.
CHELSEA: I totally understand Jo. And it honestly sucks that most people don’t understand the art of modelling and what modelling really is. You know whenever some guys hear there will be models they ask me if they are going to be stripping or going to be in bikinis. We not those kinds of models.
JOANNE: That’s when image control comes into play. Everyone, even the IG models and strippers have a public image and their private lives.
CHELSEA: I know a lot of models who only focus on the ramp or wearing a brand for a campaign. That’s their work. It’s a job. That’s the public thing. And when they are not working you wouldn’t be able to recognize them in the streets. Men just need to know that we have private lives and we have our personal issues. There are certain things about ourselves that we want to keep private just like any other human being.
JOANNE: Modelling is a different kind of role compared to being a socialite or influencer. They make their living by being seen and interacting with people. They are like entertainers and there are in it for fame and followers.
CHELSEA: Which reminds me, don’t you also act?
JOANNE: Yes I do!
CHELSEA: How did you get into acting?
JOANNE: Some people act or model just to gain confidence whilst others do it on their journey to fame. For me acting was a personal challenge. Just to prove to myself that I am capable and I can do anything I want to. Plus acting gives me the chance to withhold my identity – depending on your role, the make up and the outfits. And you get to talk more than modelling. You add more of your own thoughts and interpretations. But I feel only people who really know me, would be able to recognize me in the roles I’ve played.
CHELSEA: Oh with acting I totally agree. When I started acting I could see changes with my self esteem and confidence. Especially in theatre. It gives you an adrenaline rush. You have to make sure to get the lines right and not make any mistakes because of the live audience. Even for film. I have always been a very shy person and the pressure I would feel when the camera is facing you – yoh (laughs). Everyone in the room is just looking at you not to mess up. When I started it would give me the frights (laughs).
JOANNE: I know just what you mean! It’s the shakes for me (laughs). You feel your nerves taking over and your body shaking and your voice trembling, but as soon as you’re into your role it just somehow goes away. Then the same cycle happens all over again with every new audition or show (laughs). But it helps when you work with a good team. There’s so much fun to be had on set and behind the scenes. Goodness I’m feeling nostalgic now!
CHELSEA: Oh my! You know what I’ve just noticed? We have so so much in common! Image consultancy, acting, modelling and tourism! And I also love how you have managed to balance your life and work. Your private life is in the background while I’ve kinda been mixing both in the forefront. My brand and work. It can be so demanding and draining. You know what? We should work together – teamwork.
JOANNE: Girl! I love your drive. Perhaps we can work well together. We have complimentary skills. I can’t help but feel like we stepped into an Alex set up. Perhaps we can combine our knowledge and do something spectacular!
CHELSEA: I wouldn’t put it past him. But honestly I like what you said about working with a good team. I’m happy to have gotten people who also helped me to overcome my fears and pushed me when I was still a novice. I feel I have gotten better over time but I am still not where I want to be and that’s what pushes me. I know people who only see my pictures might think I have already arrived but this is just the beginning.
JOANNE: For me the way you present yourself online is just a part of your image. The other part, and the most important part is in your behavior and how you communicate. That speaks volumes. Way more than any clothing could or event could. Brands go out of fashion, clubs close down but character is forever. If one just doesn’t have good mannerisms and empathy I’m almost always instantly put off.
CHELSEA: Couldn’t have said it better myself! True character rises above gender. It makes you big. Look at Oprah. I tell women, ‘ladies please don’t go through life trying to be small, silent, accommodating to everyone’. Crafting an image of a perfect woman to people who wanna use you. Be you. Be the best version of yourself. Give yourself the opportunity to bloom – challenge yourself. Go to school, go to work. Do something that will improve your life and make you a better person to those around you. Don’t be small (mxm).
JOANNE: (Laughs) That reminds me of what my friend said to me earlier this week. Allow me to share. He said, “women need to start being violent with their no’s on social media. Ask deliberate questions and stop engaging silly demands and glancing past innuendos. Being direct in dodgy situations is the most polite way of communicating your character”.
CHELSEA: To that I would add, have confidence in yourself and your voice. And take care of yourself. Some women don’t take of themselves. It’s not just about taking of the outside – the hair, nails and outfits. But your lifestyle. The best image a young girl can see is a content self made woman.
JOANNE: Agreed! Take care of the parts that you don’t want the public to know about (laughs). By that I mean your health, your wealth and your loved ones. The real you that needs your protection.