“How I went from depressed about my weight to a proud plus-size model”

Plus size model Tsekeleke Pumba
Plus size model Tsekeleke Pumba
Tsekeleke Pumba/supplied

Jelly-belly, Tsekeleke, Pumba, these are some of the derogatory names plus-size model Rejoice Monchumi was called after she gained weight. There was not a day when she would walk down the street and was not insulted for her weight. Social media was worse, when some people disagreed with her; they often took a jab at her weight. This took a knock on her self-esteem.

“I lost confidence in myself, and gained even more weight,” the 39-year-old says. “I tried almost every diet from slimming teas, diet pills, and shakes, but nothing seemed to work for me,” she says.“Your body changes as a woman when you have given birth. I only understand that now,” she says.Rejoice was not always full-figured but gained weight after she had her 12-year-old daughter Noluthando.“I wasn’t always a big woman, “she says. ”I gained weight after I gave birth to my daughter,” she says. “It took me lots of time to accept my new body,” she adds.

After struggling to accept her weight for years, she was spotted while walking at a mall by fashion designer Madira Matjeke in 2014.“I was so surprised when she approached me to model for a fashion show,” she says. “She asked me to model her new range for plus-size models, and the rest is history,” she says.“I agreed because I wanted to prove to myself that just because my body has changed, does not mean I am not valued or loved,” she adds. “I wanted to feel beautiful for myself and to encourage others to love and accept the changes that come with growing up.”Being on stage boosted her confidence and self-esteem.“I had become obsessed with losing weight. But when I got on stage, the crowd loved me and realised that its time I accept myself for whom I am, “she says.

Rejoice eats well and does home exercises to maintain her figure.“But I don’t want to be skinny anymore. I am happy with my body,” she says.Rejoice has walked many ramps her at home and in Nigeria, Swaziland, Botswana and plans to take her career even further.