Mbali Nokuthula Siphesihle Nompumelelo Bathokozile Angela Patricia Mlangeni.
How does one child embody all those names?
I have been blessed in life with the love, beautiful experiences, harrowing trials, and the grace to keep going.
I am a child of God. I grew up in the Catholic Church, went to an Anglican girls school, and am a believer of Christ. That has been my saving grace, through Him is how I survive.
I grew up in the United States of America, for 10 years of my life I was a New Yorker in every part of my being and I loved it. I am a Swati, a Zulu, and according to my upbringing I’ve been deemed an honorary American. And I am a big girl.
In my early years I was an average sized little child, but as I grew so did my circumference. I gravitated towards baggy clothing and became the quintessential tomboy. Now I can’t say for sure whether or not this was my means of dealing with my larger than life body or a look I genuinely loved, but it was my reality.
Family can unintentionally influence how you see yourself. “Cover your arms”, my mom would say, sewing the seed of self-consciousness that I still possess to this day. So it might be one of the influences that led me to hide behind oversized shapeless clothes.
One day in my first year at varsity a friend reprimanded me telling me that I could not dress the same as my boyfriend. We went shopping and looking for items that flattered as opposed to hid me. I suppose that was my turning point. Some one pictured me as more and inspired me to aspire to be more.
I started playing with my look and learning to dress for my body. It helped build my confidence in ways I never imagined. Not say it skyrocketed to new heights, but there was a change. Taking part in this photo shoot was another such experience. It allowed me to see myself in a different light and afforded me to embrace my figure even more, I saw myself as beautiful, a word in generally shy away from.