What exactly is the role of an influencer? Who determines their influencers? Is it just about the number of their followers? Or is it all about gratuitously posting images of luxury labels on your social media feed?
There is no one-size-fits-all textbook approach to becoming a "successful influencer", although IG explore would have you think otherwise. Instead, influence - fickle as it may be - at its very basic level, is about the ability to create a follower conversion either in terms of taste or consumer sales (ideally both, but more so the latter) by being as authentic as possible.
So when we think of South African influencers, names such as Sarah Langa, Kefilwe Mabote, Lesego Thickleeyonce Legobane, Lulama Wolf, the Mqoco sisters, and Mihlali Ndamase come to mind, just to name a few. They all have their followers who make up a niche market - some are into luxury and others are into art and sustainable fashion, for example. And they keep their supporters 'tuned in' by offering content through various mediums and collaborations outside of social media.
He's no influencer, but an example of how our local fashion, influencer, and entertainment industry faces are steadily etching their names on product extensions that will hopefully outlive them even once they have 'retired', was seen earlier this year when famed designer Gert-Johan Coetzee - in a celebration of 10 years of his eponymous brand - expanded his empire by venturing into the luxury scent space with the Double Platinum Eau de Parfum.
So in an industry that may sometimes appear frivolous, pretentious and as though it is characterised by short-lived success, Kefilwe Mabote, who is affectionately known as Kefiboo, and remains one of its most credible and admired faces, has also just put her name on bookshelves, thereby establishing a sense of permanence.
Kefilwe has now co-written a book with Lebo Grand, titled Influencer De Luxe: From Soweto to Milan, which was officially launched on 15 April 2020.
Published by Human & Rousseau
To Kefi and a handful of other credible local IG content creators much like herself, being an influencer/content creator is more than just posting pictures for her online community to gush over - it's about authenticity and communicating a message to followers. And now that message lives in a book.
If you're one of her 889K followers (and counting), you'll also know that the message is always clear whether she's sharing childhood pictures, busting out dance moves, enjoying a cold Coke in Soweto or walking the streets of Melbourne, Australia in Witchery threads.
What we may sometimes also get all from all this, is that black opulence is not a one-dimensional image only portrayed through Paris-filtered Chanel sunglasses - it exists ekasi and in Hyde Park, and it transcends the perception that it's "all Gucci in the hood."
There's culture, pop culture, nostalgia, and traditions attached to it.
In an exclusive interview with W24 last year, Kefi shared some intel about how to carve out an enduring digital footprint for yourself, saying "it’s all about working hard, being consistent, and above everything else loving what you do."
With regards to transparency, she said it's "not as important as authenticity in this industry. As influencers, we are building digital communities, and all these people are looking up to us not only for inspiration but for advice too. So being trustworthy is key. Besides, people can sense it when you are not being genuine."
The importance of authenticity was echoed when asked what Kefilwe thinks is the best way to ensure longevity in the local luxury influencer space, where she said, "If you love what you do, you don’t have to ensure longevity. For instance, fashion is my passion. It would still be my number one passion even if it wasn’t my career/profession."
In this interview, she also revealed that Nomzamo Mbatha is someone whose work and public image she admires - something she reiterates in her book as well.
About the bookIn this candid autobiography-come-guide to becoming an influencer, Kefilwe shares her personal journey, from humble beginnings in Soweto, all the way to the world's fashion capital, Milan. Raised as an ordinary township girl by a single mother, Kefilwe overcame bullying and many more obstacles through sheer determination, having a goal and a life strategy second to none. Weaving together biography and serious business advice, this book is filled with practical tips and real world tools for building your digital brand. Let Kefilwe inspire and equip you to go after your dreams! 'Honest and refreshing' Basetsana Kumalo
About the authors
Kefilwe Mabote is a multi award-winning Fashion Influencer born and bred in Soweto, South Africa. Her brand is about distinguished luxury from the exclusive styling service to the digital influencing side. Her mission is to leave a global footprint through her digital and styling career.
Lebo Grand is a women's sensuality catalyst, author of Sensual Lifestyle, singer/songwriter, and a thought leader. His biggest passion in life is to inspire and help women get more in touch with their sensuality.
Now let's see how Kefilwe Mabote has further elaborated on her previously shared advice - with additional insights into what sparked her tenacity - in an extract from her recently launched book, Influencer De Luxe:
"Claim the woman you believe you can be"
When I was little I was very insecure and withdrawn. I conformed to what I thought others expected of me. I faded into the background, hoping not to be noticed. I let my bullies taunt me and get away with it. When you look at me today, you may think that I was born with the confidence I exude. It may look like it comes naturally, but I can assure you, it doesn’t.Truth is, there came a time in my life when I decided to create an image of myself I could be proud of, one that others would, hopefully, look up to. I had to learn to claim and start fully to own the woman I believed I could be. Some of you may be wondering: who exactly is that woman?
Well, she is a woman who is strong and confident within herself. She has a voice and is not afraid to speak up. She is an ever-evolving and super-sexy businesswoman. She is also a domestic goddess … but more about that later.
Be a strong and confident woman who has a voice and is not afraid to use it
Today is the day you finally decide who you’re going to be as a woman. Are you going to continue hiding away from who you are because you are trying to accommodate others, or because you are afraid of what people might say? You know, it takes a really strong and confident woman to let her true personality shine no matter what. And I believe that if you take some time and look within, deep inside yourself, you will find that strong and confident woman waiting for you to claim and own her.
I can see that you are hesitant, so I want to reassure you. This is not an easy process. I had to learn to be a strong and confident woman and it came with a lot of trial and tribulation. But it was worth it because eventually I was able to muster up enough courage to stand up and say, ‘I am Kefilwe Mabote. I am not perfect and, chances are, I never will be.
But here is the thing: I won’t be who you want me to be. Instead, let me show you who I am. Let me share with you the lessons that have shaped me into the woman I have become. Perhaps then you will understand why I am this strong and confident woman.’Our society, today, needs strong and confident women. Women who are unstoppable and courageous. There is a Tswana adage that says, ‘Mosadi o tshwara thipa ka bogaleng’. Literally translated: a woman holds a knife on the sharper end. The way I interpret it, the saying means that a woman should hold herself to a higher standard than the standard that is set for her by society. It’s about time we woke up and realised our power as women.
Be an ever-evolving woman
Knowing how to be a strong and confident woman who has a voice and is not afraid to use it is not enough. You also need to make room for growth. You don’t want to be a woman who has a voice but lacks substance – just imagine! To become an ever-evolving woman you have to be willing to keep growing; to challenge yourself to get out of your comfort zone.
I’m the type of person who keeps pushing herself to think ten steps ahead; I have to if I want to stay relevant and continue to be impactful in the social media space. One of the things that gets me out of my comfort zone is when more people try to do what I do. Let’s be honest, there are a lot of copycats out there, so you have no choice but to always keep levelling up. In fact, as human beings, if we want to avoid getting washed out, we need to keep reinventing ourselves, to keep ourselves at the leading edge of our growth.
Think, for example, of Naomi Campbell – a woman who keeps managing, successfully, to reinvent herself while always staying true to herself. Be an ever-evolving woman who keeps reinventing herself. Push yourself out of your comfort zone. Keep learning new stuff. Refuse to be the same person or at the same level you were last year, or even a couple of months back. The world is not standing still. Why should you? Another reason why I keep pushing myself to grow and evolve is because I’m the breadwinner in my family. Both my mom and two siblings look up to me, and I want to provide for them the best life they could possibly have.
However, that’s not all that motivates me to keep striving to be better. Seeing my peers succeeding in their own space also motivates me. One phenomenal woman, someone who inspires me a lot, is Nomzamo Mbatha. She does not operate in the social media space like I do, but she’s an actor, a powerful speaker, and a UNHCR ambassador. What I see in her is fire and passion. Whenever I find myself getting lazy, it is by looking at women like Nomzamo that I find the inspiration and strength I need to keep pushing on.
"Image may not be everything, but it does speak volumes about you. This is why it’s important to work on having a sense of style as a woman."
Influencer De Luxe by Kefilwe Mabote and Lebo Grand, published by Human & Rousseau and retails for R285. The ebook is available for purchase here.