Behind the scenes with South African Model Liyanna Basini
Nomfundo Liyanna Basini who gave herself the name “Liyanna” in matric she felt that she wanted to be known as “Liyanna” which means “rain” or “it’s raining” in Nguni. – Southern Africa nativity) for example Zulu, Xhosa, Ndebele, and Swati. According to the Islamic culture, the name “Liyana” is of the Arabic origin “Liyana” is a secondary Quranic name for girls. Which means, tenderness, softness, and delicacy.
Liyanna says, “my mum would tell me growing up that it rained when I was born and it had been a hot day and out of nowhere!” – When my mum was going through labour and she wanted to name me “Nomvula” but my dad’s best friend named me Pearl. That’s when I realized I didn’t feel like a “Pearl” so instead of “Nomvula” I chose “Liyanna” and removed “pearl” legally.” Originally from Swaziland, home is both Swaziland and Mpumalanga where Liyanna’s late grandparents chose to settle down. Liyanna moved to Cape Town to pursue her career in modelling…
Liyanna grew up in an Adventist home. She says, “I am the firstborn of 3 children, I was raised by my mother Gwen Basini and my grandparents. – “We grew up as a close family from aunts to uncles who have about 9 kids in the house or more there was never a dull moment. We were an Adventist home which was also a very musical one. Thinking about it now, there were so many kids at my grandparent’s home that you always had a child in the house that was your age or close to it so that meant a guaranteed best friend, mine happened to be Lumkile Basini, my late baby sister, she was my hearts point. Still is to this day.”
“My family moved from Swaziland to Port Elizabeth, I went to Erica Girls Primary I had wonderful life everything seemed pretty much good I was a child life was colorful even when it’s gray for the adults you never see it cause you’re shielded. My mother was now separated from my dad as soon as they moved to Port Elizabeth so I feel my mother didn’t want me to feel the separation so she made sure to enroll me in a top tier school at the time and making sure I excelled. I struggled to fit in for a while because I couldn’t speak Xhosa which is the main language spoken there were very few kids of color in my school but I still felt like I needed to know this language they spoke I was never really close with anyone accept for Amy Liu a Chinese beautiful girl with impeccable bangs and a bob cut.”
Just after a couple of months, Liyanna says, that she could speak the language and decided that she would further her language skills by learning to speak all the South African languages or at least give it a go, as she didn’t want to have a language as a barrier from getting to know other children at school or around her area during the time. She says, “I was in a whole new city and so out of touch which I didn’t like.”
After having moved between Mpumalanga and Jhb after matric Liyanna decided to move to Cape Town to pursue her dreams in modeling. Liyanna says, “in my Mother’s words, my mom would tell people that I was a happy child, a dreamer, a believer, and full of heart. Not afraid to lead. A little entrepreneur in grade 1, she sold pens on her school bus, so that she could pay for her own bus fare and not take it from her mother. Organizer; when we moved to a new neighborhood, she would look for a child who lives closer to her, and chat her way into securing a lift to school. Headstrong; when she sets her sights on something, she pursues it fully; at the age of 10, she made it to top 10 of Little Miss South Africa, having taken a long-distance bus on her own from Port Elizabeth to Johannesburg Park Station where she met her mom who then, took her to an agency lady, who was taking them to a lady named Kimberly who took Liyanna and her mother to the pageantry competition. Liyanna says this is where she knew she would one day walk the runway. Liyanna says, she was told at the pageant week, that she will one day be a famous Model. That experience made her set her eye on being in the Entertainment, Fashion and Modeling Industry. – “Growing up my aspirations were to be a professional singer and model and be involved in community welfare projects after the passing of my younger sister whom I lost so sudden to meningitis at the age of 13 the time I felt it was time to be a part of a community one that I felt that I belong in and can prove useful to and to stop living in my head because I have a lot to say and a lot needed to be heard.”
“That’s why I started The Liyanna B foundation for women and children which was brought about the escalation of gender-based violence and rape in our country and for myself as I know how hard life can be once you have been violated like that at such a young age and not know if you are going to walk out of this rape alive and not murdered. I wanted to find a way to assist these women and children and still equipped them to show them that there’s life out there even after you have been through all this difficult journey… They can still aspire to be models, artists, creative directors, whatever they put their mind to, I wanted The Liyanna B foundation to be that candle burning because I know that it can be a dark and lonely place. – The foundation is fairly new I started it last year in September and I hope for it to be active as much as possible. I will be hosting a podcast where I want to reach out to other young girls who want to be models and I know it’s not much but I feel like it’s a good place to start talking to these young girls about their dreams, their goals, and the endless possibilities.”
“I am Black and I am Proud”
Liyanna started modeling last year April around the 18th. Her first professional international shoot was last year April after Liyanna had relocated to Cape Town to pursue modeling She says, “I fell out of love with it for just a minute. When I came to Cape Town and saw how harsh modeling was I decided that this environment was not for me it was toxic, filled with colorism, self-hate, vanity, under the carper mindset towards mental issues.” She adds, “I’ve heard I’m not the right look many times which was discouraging, here I am far from home here to be a model and too short, too skinny, knees are either to round or sharp I couldn’t believe that I was going to allow another human being that bleeds the very same color just like I tell me that I’m not good enough… I couldn’t bring myself to taking modeling seriously after what I had experienced so I stopped, I broke up with modeling and whatever dreams I had with it, I convinced myself that maybe I’m not meant to be a model and then the year 2018, a friend who was signed to a modeling and talent agency and mentioned that her agency was a good place to start because they have a different kind of vibe to them which was more open to looks. So I sent my polaroid images to them through their website and before I knew it I was signed by April I had booked my first gig… I loved the Nataal Media shoot so much I was photographed by Sven Kristian, he presented me the way I have always dreamt. I wanted to be placed as a model. We shot out in the Karoo it was my first shoot with 18 looks like it was the most challenging and exhilarating time in my life.
I felt so grateful throughout that process the team was lovely. After the shoot, the images came out and I saw myself on a Nataal Media Magazine. Like Fufu to her mother the little dark girl who loved modeling all her, who decided we are not stopping we are going to do it better than before.”
Nomfundo and Liyanna B hadn’t come to play. She says, “I wasn’t fragile or in doubt anymore, I didn’t want to fit in because I was never meant to fit in and the more I thought this and saw it as a disadvantage the more my blessings I was blocking. Liyanna added, “The journey that I am currently on is exactly where I should be there are lessons that I need to learn. If anything this journey has taught me you can have absolutely nothing to your name but, if you have one good solid friend and a loud, supportive family, you are the richest man in the world and the richest man in the graveyard! I realized that everything that I was fighting inside of me was exactly what made me magical and I felt seen by this natal media team. The word melanin for me in at that moment meant that I am who I am, to some, I am what I am, despite life’s detours”…
The vision for Liyanna is bright despite the color of the skin she says, “I am destined for wonderful things beyond my wildest imagination. Who am I to stop myself from meeting the world. My pigment is found in the very essence of the earth, the very soil of the earth. I feel like there is a moment that Is taking place for all dark models, for the first time we are seen by ourselves first as godly beautiful women and now we are seen by the world because we as dark women all around the world have started to embark on a journey where we are practicing self-love and not looking for imperfections where there are none.”
Liyanna wants to let everyone know, “We are different and that is exactly what beauty is, what it should be! A good friend of mine wrote a quote in her book Rare – ‘We give undue Power to what we brand as imperfections. Beauty, however, receives nothing but constantly evolving scrutiny. Yet she is always waiting for you to clear the false smoke and embrace her – Kgosi Gray’. “We are now starting to appreciate who we are, who we have always been. We have met our fellow melanin sisters the way we want to be met in the industry, with love and this has vibrated vigorously into the universe and into the world of fashion and the world itself. We are no longer apologetic or shying away we are baring it all out in shades of melanin and nobody can stop us we are no longer kicking doors we are building a fashion industry the way we see it fit, inclusive of all things beautiful, showcasing all the beauty, heart and brains. We are no longer intimidated by the next black girl instead we are moving as a unit, we know that a win for another dark woman that got us means a better tomorrow for other women in the industry.”