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Rosette Mogomotsi: pin-up appeal

Rosette Mogomotsi is everything you’d expect from a supermodel – beautiful, elegant, refined – with one notable exception. She’s no diva. Instead you get humility, warmth, and generosity.

“I get it from my upbringing,” she bubbles. “I was taught to appreciate what I have, and to really love people, so I’ve never really looked down on anyone or felt that I should be bigger than anyone else.

“I grew up in an environment where I learnt that you must take care of other people if you see they can’t take care of themselves, and if you have more you should share with the others,” she continues.

“So I can’t act like a diva because it’s not even in my blood.”

It’s certainly helped her carve out a successful career – eight years and counting – that’s taken her from swimsuit shoots to Charlize Theron’s side in a TV ad, by way of magazine covers, fashion editorials, and beauty product campaigns.

“Once you’re humble you get good energy with the people you work with every day and that just brings the best out of you and everyone around you.”

What else have you learned about yourself since becoming a model?

That I’m actually stronger than I thought I was. I have thicker skin right now, nothing gets to me so easily. I always thought I was the fragile one, that if bad stuff happened to me, I’d start crying. But I don’t cry anymore. In this industry you can’t crack in front of people. And you can’t let anyone or anything bring you down. There’s a lot of rejection, there’s a lot you have to go through that could break you, but I’ve learnt to be strong and keep going.

So you weren’t always as confident as you are now?

Not at all. Because my mom had me when she was still young, I had to stay with my grandparents on a farm outside Johannesburg. It was quite uneasy for me because I was shy, I was a quiet one. I was a girl that looked like a boy because I had no hair and no earrings and I was dark like the boys on the farm are. I was the typical ugly duckling and people were always saying to me: ‘You know you’re ugly’. So I would just shy away, be in my little space, and not be in anyone’s face. And grandparents have very little they can boost you with – they don’t understand you that much.

Once I went to stay with my mother, things started looking up. She would see my little weaknesses when we went out and just started motivating me as a child.

Now you have your own daughter. How has she changed your life?

When Gabby came into my world two years ago, I thought: ‘Oh my god, how am I going to balance work and the motherhood thing? The last thing I want is a child who feels neglected by her mother.’ And when she came in, motherhood just somehow worked itself out. Everything just fell into place. There are times that I miss her to death when I’m travelling – she’s the cutest – and I want to be with her all the time, but I can’t. But when I’m not working, we spend so much time together. She’s just changed my world dramatically. I’ve become this sensitive person, I’ve become extra loving, I’ve become so nurturing right now. She’s brought out the best in me.

Were you worried that having a child would derail your career?

I was. A lot of models I looked up to when I was starting off, after they’d had a baby they were gone gone, gone, and never came back. But when I was pregnant, I decided: ‘I will not be forgotten.’ I still did lingerie shoots until I was six months pregnant because I didn’t show and a month after having my daughter I was booked for a swimwear shoot. That booking pushed me to do way better, it got me doing the gym thing every day and eating healthily, so it helped me bounce back into the industry. And once I did, everything came back together. I was just on fire.

You’ve definitely kept that fire burning. Do you draw any inspiration from other South African models, like Candice Swanepoel and Bonang Matheba, who’ve made it big overseas?

Their success gives you encouragement. If you see your own kind getting noticed, getting all those big jobs, it gives you as a model hope as well that you can be recognised sometime soon. I mean, I desperately want to do Victoria’s Secret so, so, so badly, and we’re from a country where it’s instilled in everyone to go work so that you can provide for your family. And you want to go out there and make your money. I guess when we go out there to other countries to work you’re going to put 100% into it so that you come out successful. You don’t want to go overseas and come back with nothing. You want to make it work and come back a better person than you were when you left.

You keep mentioning bettering yourself – do you see yourself as a role model to young South African girls?

I definitely do and I never want to disappoint them one bit. They’re young and look up to me, which really warms up my heart, and the only thing I can do is keep on encouraging and inspiring them. I strive to better myself so that they can see their lives also getting better in the same way, because I’m not from a rich family, I’m just how they are. That’s where I started from, that’s how I’ve been growing up.

And where do you see yourself headed?

Before I wrap up this whole modelling thing, I want that Victoria’s Secret shoot. Once I’m there, that’s me done. I’m going to give other models, the upcoming ones, the chance to be great in life and be the best they can be. In my future I just see myself being behind the scenes of the whole industry – I have a plan involving property – and taking care of my baby. I don’t want to be in the limelight anymore, but I do want to keep going from strength to strength and growing as I do.

  • This article originally appeared in Man, the men’s lifestyle magazine of the Foschini group.

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