A Model Must Have A “Thick Skin”

Not many people can say that they have attained their dreams or even a small part of it. This, however, does not ring true for 23-year-old Lerato Malatji, an up and coming South African model.

Born and raised in Orange Farm, Gauteng, by her single mother, Malatji has always dreamt of becoming a model.

“I love modelling. That is like my first option in anything,” Malatji says, her eyes shining with passion and the remainder of her laugh tingling the air.

Lerato smiling
Though she is currently studying towards a degree in Information Management at UJ, Malatji says that school has always been a second choice to her. Modelling is her dream, and something she has always had her heart set on.

But Who Are You?

“Who am I? Oh, gosh, well, I can’t be one thing at a specific time. I think I evolve a lot of times. So, what I might say I am today, I may not be tomorrow,” she says with a shy smile whilst her eyes shine brightly.

Modelling can be seen as a very self-centred career, but Lerato shows so much modesty and love; she truly encompasses the meaning of her name.

“I’m just a fighter,” she says. “I don’t give up on things. When I put my mind on something, that is basically what I do.”

This resilience is noticeable in Malatji’s nonstop quest in living her dream. She has tirelessly attended pageant after pageant, gone to many casting, and even though she was rejected several times, she persevered.

The beginning part of her career was filled with pageants and beauty shows. In 2015, Malatji’s luck broke through when she was scouted by an agent at the Miss UJ pageant.

A Model Must Have A “Thick Skin”

When it comes to the life of a model, it is really difficult. You have to have a “thick skin” and be able to take criticism really well. The pageants, especially, are a self-esteem nightmare.

“If you do not have a thick skin for it, it literally breaks you, because you’re competing with girls and as much as they say pageants are more of intelligence and all of that, they do require a lot of physical attributes,” she explains.

Trials and Tribulations

“Because I have natural hair, and I can’t enter pageants with my natural hair, I always have to put on a wig or a weave, which I feel, like, is something that I have to fight against,” she tells The Open Journal about her tribulations in the industry.


“It’s not something that I’m really comfortable in but just to fit in and to actually level my chances of winning, I have to look a certain way. So, I feel, like, that is one of the hardest things I had to do, even today, trying to portray this thing that I’m not really comfortable in.”

Weave with a white top

Another difficulty of being a pageant model, Malatji says, is that your rejection is aired for everyone to see. “You feel like you’re being a disappointment to your family, your friends…it’s heart-breaking.”


Malatji is a “thick-skinned” person.  Failure is not in her vocabulary. In times of turmoil, she reflects on the Bible, reads spiritual books and picks herself up, trying again and again.

Her Three Emotional Support Structure

Having a good support structure, however, helps.

“My friends, because they understand, they are this side with me and they see what I go through.”

“My agent is my support system. She’s taught me a lot. I wouldn’t have known a lot about this industry and how to present myself, so I feel like she has literally taught me every little thing about this industry,” Malatji explains.

And while it took a while for Malatji’s family to come on board with her modelling career, they eventually got there.

“My mother is only understanding it now and she’s saying, ‘it’s okay, my child is now on TV, she’s doing this’. That’s when she’s like, ‘okay, maybe you should consider doing this’,” says Malatji while eloquently reminiscing the pride her mother wears about her.

Malatji’s Achievements

It took some time for Malatji to get where she is now, and she truly encompasses the word perseverance.

Lerato’s three biggest achievements in her career so far are:

  • Iwisa Pap- Featured Extra
  • Dawn Commercial
  • Peak Milk Nigerian TV Advert

Apart from these remarkable appearances, her biggest achievement is “being the first grandchild from my family ever, to be in varsity.”

A Dream To Emancipate Through Modelling

From her modelling career, Lerato’s biggest dream is to participate in Miss South Africa. She believes such a popular pageant will open several doors for her.

Besides boosting her modelling career, Lerato dreams of “building a centre in my community, like a recreational centre, for youth to know about arts. I feel like they don’t have knowledge on a lot of stuff that I’m exposed to because I am this side (Johannesburg).”

Education Or Passion?

Hearing her speaking so eloquently about education, you would be stunned by her conflict of education and passion. So, passion or education? “Oh my God,” she blushes with a laugher.

“Education is important, it is important. There was a time I even thought about dropping out. But, hmm, I think they are equally, equally important. But if I had to choose one, I would definitely choose modelling,” Malatji said while taking a stance between what is necessary and valuable.


“Modelling literally makes me happy. Meeting new people, and even going to castings and getting excited whether they’re going to call you back or not, that excites me. I don’t think I’d get excited over an office job.”

Through her resilience, Lerato will surely go from strength to strength, spreading her infectious laughter and beauty with the world.

All images used are supplied.

About Kauthar Hayat 1 Article
Kauthar Hayat is currently obtaining her degree in Journalism at the University of Johannesburg. She is an avid reader, writer, and student activist.  Once she has her degree, Kauthar's goal is to become an international correspondent and cover stories in war-torn areas like Palestine and Syria.  Additional to her Journalism dream, she intends to become a teacher and change the world through education.

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