29.10.2015

In Bloom

Poppy Ntshongwana chats Superga, social media and style

Words: Rosie Goddard | Photography: Chisanga Mubanga

Tracking Poppy down for an interview is no easy feat. In the ten years since she became a 5fm DJ, her career has really taken off, and she’s since added model, MC, TV presenter and now shoe designer to her lengthy resume. What does this mean? That free slots are few and far between, so regardless of whether you get one at at 5am or 8pm, a little heads up, you’ll want to take it.

Spirited, striking and undeniably stylish, there’s no doubt that Poppy is carving a name for herself on the South African celebrity/media scene. But to write her off as little more than a pretty face would be doing her an injustice. A quick scroll down her Twitter feed will show you just how active she’s been in the ongoing Fees Must Fall movement, dedicating her time to protesting and educating her followers on why the whole campaign is not only significant, but necessary.

“Is this that kind of interview?” She exclaims, wondering whether I’m about to start quizzing her on the future of SA, yet unperturbed, she launches into what is undoubtedly her most passionate comment of the chat.

“The whole experience has been a massive lesson in the power of the youth as well as social media. People often disregard their opinions and think they’re not connected to what’s going but this has shown the opposite. Obviously the protests are about so much more than fees but what I find really inspiring is that people aren’t just publishing disconnected tweets, they’re following through on the ground. Social media is such a powerful tool for galvanising support and holding people in power accountable.”

It’s also played its part in helping Poppy to build her career outside of the recording studio. And she’s done well in harnessing the power of platforms like Snapchat, Twitter and Instagram to express a different side to herself that’s not revealed on her show.

“As a broadcaster I’m drawn to Twitter because it’s a great platform for engaging with people and sparking debate. You can also explore controversial or topical issues in a way you can’t on other channels. I use Instagram for things like fashion and fitness-related posts, and it’s been a great way for me to debut my Superga collection.”

Fashion is evidently something she’s passionate about. Sure, she’s written it right there in her Instagram bio, but her regular posts prove she’s as adept at dressing for a run as she is the red carpet.

“Oh jeepers, my style has seriously evolved over the years!” She says. “I’ve come into my own and I think it’s more about developing confidence – wearing exactly what I want to wear and inspiring others to do the same. The way I dress is also linked to my hairstyle. When it was long and wavy, I was channelling an 80s Whitney Houston vibe circa “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” and now that it’s short my style is definitely more chic, sporty, sharp, and a bit more sexy.”

This leads us to the topic of her shoot, captured by our street style photographer extraordinaire Chisanga Mubanga at Constitution Hill in Joburg. 

“I think each look really displays different sides to my personality and my glamorous yet somewhat grungy approach to dressing. I’ve been loving skirts recently so I wanted to incorporate one into a look, I enjoy channeling that childhood nostalgia, but I also wanted to show off a little skin. My gold flatform Supergas felt like such a natural fit here.”

“The second look is something you’ll find me in 24/7. The ballet pump sneakers and pink top contrasted really well with the distressed jeans and while they’re all statement-making pieces in their own right, they come together really well. The last look was inspired by a Michael Jackson-esq image I shot for my shoe collection. I wanted to see if all-white would work as these Shweshwe-print shoes are summery and expressive so I kept the rest of the outfit crisp and clean.”

As she excitedly discusses her looks from the shoot, she’s quick to mention that even though she loves radio, she’s always dreamt of designing shoes and clothes, and as with all things in her life, she’s made this happen at exactly the right time.

“I started off as an ambassador for the brand and curated a range from their existing collection. But I wanted to do more and inject a bit of my personality into the shoes so we decided to do a collaboration. I think the shoes I designed are something different for Superga, they’re a high-fashion take on what are usually considered quite casual sneakers. My favourites are the gold flatforms as well as the patent black ones which were inspired by my cousin. She said I wasn’t allowed to create a range unless I made some black shoes for her that she could wear everyday, so I did.”

With the release of her collection, it’s safe to say that her career is on the up and up. And while Poppy may speak with all the authority, composure and self-assuredness of a seasoned celebrity, she reveals a self-awareness during our short chat that shows she hasn’t yet been seduced by the trappings of the industry.

“You can, and a lot of people do, get caught up in the glamorous whirlwind of it all but you can also attempt to keep it real. I’m pretty chilled and don’t like to succumb to the madness. At the end of the day, I’m not going to live like a Kardashian when I’m not one or paint a picture that’s unrealistic, so I just go at my own pace.”