Tshepang Mollison's living her best life in Levi's
Words: Dylan Muhlenberg | Photographs: Chisanga Mubanga
“Right now I feel okay but I know that it’s going to catch up with me later.”
You would never guess by looking at her, fresh-faced and smelling of clean linen, but just a few hours ago Tshepang Mollison was popping bottles with rappers. Which immediately makes us ask about Riky Rick and, well, Twiggy is getting pretty tired of all the rumours.
“Riky is my friend. There’s no story there. Last night he had his hon with him, who is beautiful, but people will still talk shit. Some Heat magazine stuff. Wow. You hang out with someone and suddenly you’re dating? It’s weird.”
Whether she likes it or not, as founder of the leading fashion and lifestyle blog Sleepless In Soweto, and part of a new generation of South Africans making a career from sharing their story, Twiggy is now something of a story herself.
It was just a dream while doing Film & Radio Production at UCT and then Brand Strategy & Communications at Vega, studies she followed up by working in strategy and PR at an agency. Then, much to her mother’s dismay, Twiggy resigned to focus on the brand she’d been steadily building for years – herself.
“I live with my mom, she’s a single parent, and at first she didn’t get it. I wasn’t getting paid for anything, I wasn’t doing any campaigns, and my mom said, ‘What’s your plan?’ and all I knew was that I couldn’t do the 9-5 thing anymore. My mom’s amazing though, and decided to do her research. She now understands what I do – the events, the social media, the campaigns… In fact, now she shouts at me, ‘You haven’t posted this week, what’s going on?’ Or ‘Lulama has 42 000 followers, you only have 11, what are you doing wrong?” Oh my gosh, so much pressure, mom! It’s cute though how she gets it and really supports me now.”
And it’s not just Twiggy’s mom who believes in her either, with Sleepless in Soweto being bookmarked by brands as a platform to align themselves with. Alongside her sister and BFF, Lesedi Ramonyane, in five short years, Twiggy has taken Sleepless in Soweto to brave new heights. The gamble has paid off.
“I genuinely started blogging because I loved it. I didn’t even know that you could get paid for it. I think my personality works for me. I’m real. On my Twitter I’ll talk about my crush or how my mom is annoying me, and then later I’ll Snapchat myself drinking at the club until 7am in the morning.”
Which is exactly what Twiggy was doing the night before our shoot, Snapchatting what she describes as her average night out, “so that people can see that I’m normal.”
“Pre-drinking in Braam with my sister and then off to our favourite nightclub, Taboo. I haven’t been going out as much so last night felt like a reunion. It was a Head Honcho party. A lot of fun and lots of drinking. Lots of champagne. Rappers really like champagne.”
After checking herself, Twiggy laughs, saying that it sounds weird but popping bottles has become the norm. In fact, it’s become the norm for a lot of Joburg kids, with the rest aspiring to that lifestyle.
“Dropping 10k in one night has become perfectly normal. These rappers get paid, like, 50k for one show, so it’s nothing. And we’re not doing it to please anyone or to show off. We’re a family and just want to have a good time – treat our friends. A few years ago that definitely wasn’t the case, and I’d nurse a vodka cranberry for the whole night, but now I’m in the VIP section and sipping Champagne and if I have to go somewhere and pay for something it’s like, ‘Don’t you know who I am?”
Again, there’s a tone of irony here and Twiggy is quick to laugh at herself, something that resonates with her audience. Instead of trying to paint a picture of a perfect blogger life, she’s happy to share who she really is, the ups and downs, and it’s inspiring to see just how many layers there are to this girl, who is as comfortable posing in front of a grimy Brixton backdrop for this story’s corresponding photoshoot, as she is in a boardroom or dancing in a VIP area.
“I am more than one thing. It’s like how we work nowadays where we don’t just do one job anymore. I blog but I’m also a brand manager, digital marketer and a lifestyle and fashion influencer.”
Twiggy’s style is forever changing too, and depends on what kind of mood she's in. She flips effortlessly from one look to the next but what remains constant is an element of sexiness and her devotion to Levi's denim.
“Yesterday at the casting everyone was wearing denim on denim, and I think that looks really nice, but I like to always do something unusual. So when I got to the casting everyone was saying, ‘But you’re not even wearing any denim?’, and I said, ‘But Levi’s isn’t just denim!’"
Twiggy ended up wearing her little black Levi’s shirt and heels to the club later that evening and says she left all of her flats behind in Cape Town.
“In Joburg you really have to dress up. You have to have your high heels on. I stick to wearing all-black. Either a little black dress or skinny black jeans and a little black top. And high heels always .Think of a hip hop video, that’s how I dress, because it’s a big deal to go out and you should dress appropriately, which is something that I missed when I lived in Cape Town.”
And you’d think that a life of champagne, guest lists and VIP booths would be as easy as slipping into a warm bath, but not so fast. This can get tricky when you’re juggling several campaigns, being pulled in numerous directions and trying to balance everything else in your life.
“It can be difficult. Yesterday I finished the tourism thing I was doing in Stellenbosch, flew straight into Joburg for the Levi’s casting event, then popping bottles with rappers and today shooting with you guys. That’s my life. That’s just how it is. And the week before it was the same.”
Lesedi’s advice to her sister wanting to take some time off before she burned out was, “Just go on holiday! You do realise that you’re your own boss and don’t have to answer to anyone, right?” But Twiggy says that she can’t just go on holiday. That despite giving up agency life because she wasn’t about that 9-5, what she didn’t realise was that her new life would be seven days a week with no down time.
“You always have to be on it. I’m scared to take time off and miss an opportunity. Talya Goldberg is my mentor, even though she said that blogging is dead, but I look at her and how Nifty250 is everywhere now, and it’s shown me how blogging isn’t necessarily where it ends.”
Eventually Twiggy would like to go into either brand or image consulting, or maybe start her own PR agency for the young people whom she believes in.
“It’s exciting to literally create your own job, a job that’s all about sharing who you are and the things that you do in your life, but eventually we need to get into the business side of things, because blogging is fun, but we need to make some real money.”