Key Takeaways From Kaone Kario's Untold Stories In Her Modelling Journey

On 3rd August, renowned supermodel, Kaone Kario, featured on Andiswa Manxiwa's Women's Month Conversation series on instagram. August is known as Women's Month in South Africa, and 9th August is particularly celebrated as annual Women's Day, commemorating the 1956 march of approximately 20,000 women to the Union Buildings in Pretoria to petition against the country's pass laws that required South Africans defined as "Black" under The Population Registration Act to carry an internal passport, known as a passbook, that served to maintain population segregation during apartheid.

Archives are of the essence, even though it has taken long publishing these gems, it's better late than never. These stories need to be documented for future generations to pick a leaf, because when you know better, you do better. Remaining informed is key for the new generation of models so they can make better informed decisions than their predecessors, therefore, these conversations are vital and are not restricted to Women's Month. Everyday is a great opportunity to spark dialogue around such issues.

During their conversation, the Nokia Face of Africa 2005, super model, film graduate, actor, and farmer shares her journey in the modelling and fashion industry as a whole, her experience with the Nokia Face of Africa competition, which launched her modelling career, as well as untold stories about her 15-year modelling career.

Kaone reckons as a village girl, modelling gave her access to the world. Her mother used to say to her when she was teased as a little girl about her feet, and she would say her feet would show her the world, and winning the competition did just that. Winning Face of Africa was proof to her that dreams come true. 

These are some of the insightful quotes from Kaone's untold stories about her experience in the modelling industry, which are not exclusive to people working in her industry, but rather pearls of wisdom for anyone trying to thrive in this oppressive world filled with well-oiled systems that were never designed for us to blossom in our full humanity:

Modelling is a business:

"The mistake I made in my young years was not knowing that modelling is a business. Your relationship with your booker is crucial, but don't forget that you are as good as your last job; you're a money making machine, they are not your friends. So, don't get emotional, don't get attached. I got so emotionally attached to bookers and agencies and by the time they robbed me dry, I didn't see it coming because I was so caught up with "we are a family". So it's work. Read your contract, have a lawyer, an accountant, someone who can remove their emotion out of it, because you need to be protected from such." Two agencies did her robbed her, there was an email from SARS etc, and it turns out the owner of the agency had put money in trusts so she needed a lawyer, and at some point she had to give up due to costs, also because the owner of the agency can't be held accountable because he put the money in a trust and the industry didn't do anything. She even resorted to begging some of her clients not to pay the invoices, but they didn't honour her request. 

It was excruciating for her face to be everywhere while she's broke, and not because she made bad decisions with money, but because the industry is full of greedy people.

To a model fighting such business battles... Her advise to a model doing so well currently, with  an agency who's not South African:

"If there's a girl out there struggling with their agency, tone is very important. How you say things matters. Find a particular tone. Find the people who know the language."

Leaving South Africa for New York:

"I don't like to wander. I hate the feeling of  being afraid. New York scared me and also I had to rebuild and there was no way I was going to rebuild earning Rands. I was pissed and wanted a different story. I was mad as hell, truly. And if I'm going to start again, then I'm going to start again earning a different currency, because I was curious about it, I was so sick of wondering how would its season in New York play out. Everybody has their opinions, but every dog has a different season. I went to New York 25 years old, hips much wider than what I wanted them to be, my point is, I showed up in New York with a not so perfect story that I wanted initially, but I worked. So, what made me move to New York was: I needed to start again, and I wanted to do it in a different place. I needed a new challenge and I had done everything; what's next? It's easy to be a peacock in a small market."

On people perceiving her to be humble: 

"New York was good for my ego. People say I'm humble, I'm not. I'm just aware that it's not that serious. I have been in rooms with women that make you shake, and think yeyi! I don't compete with you, I compete with the voices in me, so I went to New York to fight my own demons; to prove to myself I could; I do these things to prove to me that I can. So I went to New York because I wanted to, because I was curious, because why not? Because I have the access. A whole me, has access to America, its a big deal so I'm going and I went. That's why."

On Returning to South Africa and reclaiming/gaining her clients' trust:

"I'm not trying to reclaim anything, I'm different. That girl (Kaone pre-New York) had her season and this is this woman's (Kaone post-New York) season. It wasn't easy coming back to SA, she took a break from modelling and her story is different now."

Her hardest lesson in this journey as a model:

"My hardest lesson was realising how much of my value I had attached on my work. The having to wean myself of the applause was painful, because I came in very wet... It's like a puppy for applause, and so when it doesn't happen, there's a part of you that is in pain. The realisation that I think that what's lovable to me is how is I'm on these billboards and windows. The realisation that that's not true was hard. It was a relief, but it was hard."

On models being best friends with each other, while gunning for the same jobs; how that can affect friendships:

"It's better if everybody in the group is working. It's better when you and your friends are having a season of your lives together. However, if you are the one in the group doing amazing, or you do have a friend, please enjoy it. Enjoy your season and don't be apologetic about it, but don't be an ass either. If you're having a season of your life, run through it like you're running through a field of sunflowers. Enjoy your season and enjoy it. Everybody gets their turn and have the grace to support others when it's not."

How she has managed to stay relevant, the "Queen Kaone Kario":
"It's because I've always been, I just didn't know it. The relevance: now the difference is, I'm aware of me now in a different kind of way. And sometimes it may come across as arrogance, but it's not really... when you've walked through the hell of fighting internal demons, to experience a joyful day is a big deal. So, I have no desire to play small anymore. I have no desire to contain myself, I have no desire to dim me down. I have finally accepted that my value is not in what I do. The TV, the acting, the modelling, those are just things; that's how I express my humanity; it's not the totality of my being. That's the difference. "

We need more of such conversations to be aware of exploiters in the industry. Research! Research! Better yet, capitalism must fall.  Seriously!

Key takeaways from Kaone's story: Boundaries, detachment, being informed, not being afraid to ask are of the essence. And most importantly, bookers are not your family! I hate this concept of "family" in the workplace. Exploitation and toxicity thrive on that fake family narrative. It is vital to have a good relationship with your bookers/co-workers etc, but they are NOT your family, and you're as good as your last pay check. In addition, because we live in a capitalist world, this is not even limited to the modelling industry. It is everywhere. Capitalism in all its inhumane nature, has conditioned us to believe that we are dispensable, like we are mere commodities and I truly loathe and reject this narrative. 

Side Note: Throughout this conversation, I kept on thinking; "how wholesome is Kaone's spirit?" There's something about her essence that is wholesome, even before she speaks, you can see it and feel it, which draws you to her. Keep soaring, Kaone!

Source: Kaone Kario | Instagram
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