Lethabo Malete is a 20 year old Fashion Influencer and model who grew up in Welkom, and later moved to Pretoria with his father in 2012. In 2013 he moved to Bloemfontein and has lived here since. He is currently doing his first year at the Central University of Technology.
Lethabo describes himself as a shy person though people often mistake him for being rude, “I’m quiet most of the time and very observant” he added. Lethabo oozes with confidence and his energy is out of this world. “I love every flaw I have and I wouldn’t wish to be anyone else”. He also mentioned that he thanks God everyday for who he is and how He made him.
Lethabo is currently signed to StyleID-Africa, a website for influencers and a platform for brands to get in touch with them. He is currently working with Foschini and Trendspotter. “I’m obsessed with clothes “he added. As a fashion influencer, Lethabo gets paid for dressing up and posting on social media.
Even though he is both a model and an influencer, he says “I’m a model first”, even though his focus is on influencing for now. He gets approached by stores and brands to wear their clothes and post the outfits. “It’s not easy as it looks. There’s a lot of paperwork to be done before posting and getting paid” he explained.
With modelling, Lethabo gets to pick and choose who wants to work with. “I have turned down so many agencies and castings because I felt like I’d be exploited, the modelling industry is cruel”. He goes on to add that some agencies tend to use models and exploit them in exchange for “we are helping you build your portfolio”. Though he is a great runway model, he would rather not model at all than be exploited.
He started doing pageants in third grade and he won ‘’Mr Valentines” in primary school. In high school he was shy so he would decline taking part in pageants and he was not as confident as he is now. He also believed that male models should be “muscular” and they looked way better than him given that he is skinnier.
In 2015, GEMA (Global Entertainment & Modelling Agency) came to his school to scout models for Mr & Miss High School. His friends and class teacher forced him to go enter. He did well and was even part of the Top 3 and he was the only person out of the five chosen from his school who made the cut. After that he realised that there is truly something special about him. “I stopped looking down on myself, built this confidence and never looked back” and that is how he started.
Asked if his family is supportive, he replied, “yes my family is very supportive”. His parents were into modelling growing up, so they would often say he took it from them. Although they did not understand how he does things, because of the changes through generations and technology, they have been supportive regardless. The first time Lethabo appeared on a newspaper, his mother bought a pack and gave them out to her colleagues and that is when he knew that she was supportive. “I could tell how proud she was” he said. Given that his parents have both been in the modelling industry, it’s easy for them to support him. “My dad on the other hand calls me an influencer everyday”. His father often jokes about wanting to be an influencer and getting clothes for free.
He has been at it for three years now and says he is inspired by Rihanna because of how unapologetic she is and how good she can channel her model side. He is also fond of her fashion sense and how she turned it into a multi million dollar business. “I soak up everything around me for inspiration, I pull from all sources of nature the positive and negative, everything”.
Asked about the challenges he faces in the industry he answered, “As a gay boy in this industry I find that I’m not treated fairly like other straight artists that are doing what I do”. Lethabo also mentioned that it is also a struggle with photographers as he has watched them promote other people’s work more than his because of his sexuality. He explains that it is not easy being gay regardless of how great he is at what he does. “I am still side stepped by the straight and homophobic people I work with”. He says he learns from all that negativity and builds from it. “It is like I become iconic every time some think they used me”. With this positive energy there is absolutely nothing that will derail Lethabo.
Asked what he would say to someone who wants to get into modelling/influencing he answered “start now with what you have and stop saying next month or next year”. He also goes on to add that, he knew that he wanted to be in the fashion industry after his first shoot. He started with old clothes in his closet that weren’t so great. Another thing he’d advise an aspiring influencer to do is to learn more about brands, read a lot of magazines, do research and be confident. “You are going to meet a lot of people and get comments that are going to tear you down along the way and the key to overcoming the negativity is to believe in yourself and what you do”.
Lethabo has aspirations of running his own agency or school, which nurtures models from a young age as he often gets texts from people who want to get into the industry but don’t know how to go about it, so he would like to help such people. He would also like to model for Chanel and walk the runway for New York or London Fashion Week.
Lethabo recently signed a one year contract with Converse, that will see him put out their latest collections on his various social media platforms.