Queen of the runway, Andiswa “Andy” Manxiwa, gives us all access into her life as a fashion show producer, entrepreneur and modelling coach, and explains how she plans to use her platform to empower young girls.
Main photo by: Carla Van Aswegen
By: Mokgadi Letsoalo
Andy’s illustrious career as a model spans over a decade, and yet, she shows no signs of slowing down. Having graced the fashion pages of reputable magazines like Elle, Glamour, True Love, and Cosmopolitan – she is one of the few recognisable faces in fashion, in Africa.
Like a true chameleon, Andy is not just a model but has grown to become a savvy entrepreneur since making a bold move to fashion show production, in 2004.
She became the scouting judge for the Face of Africa model search, and with her production company AM Productions, she has directed the Mercedes-Benz and the AFI (African Fashion International) fashion weeks.
Modelling is a lot of hard work; it requires a lot of persistence and being professional. It’s not an overnight success type of a business.
The supermodel is now using her experience in front of the camera and on the runway to help cultivate a new generation of models with her new project “Strut with Andy”.
“I want to bring passion and personality back into local modelling,” she tells Blacklight.
Strut with Andy is a programme that hosts workshops to help young models walk with confidence, power and purpose.
Blacklight: Can you tell us more about your latest project, ‘Strut with Andy’?
Andy: Most of my work entails me sitting and watching models walk. Initially, I wanted to just help models prepare for fashion weeks and teach them how to strut. Back in my day, we used to give people shivers because of the way we walked and they would buy the garment simply because of how we walked in them.
We walked with such conviction and passion. Now, models are literally hangers with no personalities, and Strut with Andy aims to bring back the passion and personality in modelling.
BL: You started off as a full-time model before you became a show producer, how did you make that transition?
Andy: I was discovered by someone who used to be a model. I had no intentions of being in the industry – it was never part of my dream. I came to Johannesburg to study IT, and then I got discovered and did modelling full-time for about 4 years.
I excelled on the runway and it took me to New York and I got a chance to be represented by the prestigious Ford Models. I stayed there for about a year. I got a taste of what the modelling industry was all about overseas, and it was completely different from what it was here. New York was fast-paced; it made me more hungry.
After New York, I was very lucky to be approached by one of the best show producers in Africa, Jan Malan. He took me under his wing and I worked for him for about 5 years. Working with him actually helped me realise my potential dream of producing.
I started off as a runner for about a year, before I knew it, l was a choreographer. My work is now mostly with pageants. I did Miss Botswana, Miss Africa Nigeria and Miss Equatorial Guinea, to name a few. I consider myself blessed.
BL: How has being a female producer and entrepreneur, in a male-dominated industry, been like?
Andy: It’s very exciting and also challenging. It propels me to be a better person every day. I look up to the male show producers. Though, I must mention that there is a female producer, her name is Mary Raynolds and she has been a bull in the industry and has done so well. Mary is one of the best producers amongst my mentors. I look at her and I realise that it’s possible.
BL: What qualities does an aspiring model need to possess in order to make in the industry?
Andy: Modelling is a lot of hard work; it requires a lot of persistence and being professional. It’s not an overnight success type of a business. A lot of young girls think that if all fails, and they don’t pass their degree or diploma, they can fall back on modelling. No! It’s a hard career that you might not even crack.
There are also many girls who don’t make it because of their attitude. Humility will take you a long way and it’s worked for me. A lot of people enjoy working with me because of my humility, though in this industry it can also be a burden, because you must still have a backbone.
BL: What is the importance of having a coach or mentor as a model?
Andy: I had nobody to go to when I started modelling. I was thrown into the deep end and I had to swim. If I had an Andy who could coach and tell me all about modelling then, I could have been far; I would have never come back from New York. I would have understood my look quicker and made it work.
Another challenge is that aspiring models don’t do research, most models I come across are just informed by the overseas modelling world. They try to be Tyra Banks and don’t focus on what’s happening here. This is also because there is not much said about black models and coaching in this country.
BL: Is there a specific criteria to becoming models?
Andy: Like in singing, you need a good voice and the ability to sing to make it – modelling is like that. It’s that unusual human being that looks rare and who has striking features. A model also has to meet a specific criterion.
A model has to look a certain way and a certain size. However, I think models are struggling in South Africa because of Instagram. Influencers and celebrities are taking work that models are supposed to be doing.
BL: Are modelling agents accessible and reliable?
Andy: Agents are the only key to the industry and to getting clients. You can’t be a model on your own, you must be represented. However, there are fly by night agencies that models should be aware of.
Google the agency, check how professional the agency is, check if that agency is under NAMA (National Association of Modelling Agencies). NAMA agencies are accessible but unfortunately they don’t just take anyone. They take people with what it takes to be top models.
BL: Women are now making their voices heard all around the world, how does modelling give you a voice?
Andy: Walking as women is stepping into your power. You do not just wake up and take one step after the other because it’s part of life. When I say walking, I do not mean strutting; I am talking about communicating what you feel. There is so much that I have achieved because of the way I carry myself – I walk to conquer.
Walking is like choosing an outfit for the day, it’s what you want people to see and how you allow them to perceive you. I thank modelling for giving me that power – it is my voice.
I teach girls to work on their mindset before teaching them how to work their legs. You must have a conversation with the world when you walk. Tell it that you are successful, you are achieving, and it is your oyster – that’s how you create your voice through modelling.