Mihlali Ndamase, whom many may know as a digital content creator, entrepreneur and influencer, was born to be in the beauty space. The 25-year-old CEO of beauty specialist platform Malakyt, is one of the most followed YouTubers in the country with a following of just under 400K subscribers.
Mihlali’s rise to digital fame didn’t come overnight. She is one of the few bloggers who found the YouTube space at a time when it was not popular at all in the country and ran with it. After many years of being in the space and mastering it, she has become the epitome of a successful South African blogger bagging endorsement deals and socialising with the who’s who of society.
Her love for all things beauty started at a young age, Mihlali’s obsession with jelly heels, handbags and make-up ensured that.
“I’ve always been a girly girl. I come from a small town and was raised by my aunt and my grandmother while my mother was finishing her degree.”
Being raised by women has played a major role in the woman she is today.
“It has had a huge influence on me aspiring to be independent. They raised me in a way that I never felt the absence of a father. As a child you ask questions about your father (I did see him every now and then) but growing up I never felt like there was a missing part in my life.”
She is thankful for the role her family played as it taught her to truly understand the importance of loving oneself.
“The woman I am today – I know I don’t need anybody else, I have myself. Valuing relationships from a place of need is the most dangerous approach to have. That’s why it’s important to be content as an individual – come whole and form healthy relationships with other whole people.
We are not perfect, there are ways we can learn and grow together.”
She adds the dangers of being dependent will result in a lot of people staying in toxic situations and abusive relationships.
“Don’t look for a partner who you need to fill something in you. When it comes to navigating that, I am very big on only looking for happiness with the person I am with and once that becomes toxic and full of insecurities, I leave.”
Mihlali has found her own happiness in her beau.
While much has been speculated around their relationship, Mihlali wants people to know one thing – her career was never built on the basis of who she is dating.
“I don’t see the need to speak about my relationships. I will only speak openly of my relationship when I am married.”
She smiles when she states just how in love she is right now.
“I am crazy in love.”
Pictures of the two have been circulating on social media with many coming up with their own ideas of what could be going on. But Mihlali has always been cautious with what she shares when it comes to her relationship.
“The timing to post each other was not right. He posted and I reposted his story. People will always have their opinions, it doesn’t affect me. I am a firm believer in living my life the way I do. I also understand the responsibility I have as a public figure so I am conscious about it.”
Mihlali has had a lot to say about dating on her YouTube channel and she insists that she has no regrets on those comments as many times those things happen in real life.
She matter of factly states that she did not wreck anyone’s marriage.
“Another important thing is that men are not possessions, you don’t just take and run with it. People are responsible for themselves. We make it seem like these men cannot think for themselves and in that regard, we never hold them to the same standards we hold women.”
Mihlali isn’t bothered by a lot of opinions about her, she considers herself strong in that regard but it isn’t always easy.
“People will always have something to say and that is fine, I am very strong and I normally never pay attention to social media noise. However, I cried for the first time recently, I was overwhelmed. I am human, certain things will get to me. I found myself questioning intentions and motives of people close to me. I felt let down. It hurts when you feel like you are being betrayed by those you trust.
Shaming women who are in the limelight for their dating choices has increased. Men don’t get the same smoke. When relationships don’t work out it’s okay for men to move on, without being shamed. Why should we be expected to stay in relationships that do not work? Also, men are never questioned or judged for moving on to other relationships.”
While Mihlali appreciates the beauty of South Africa as a country, she strongly feels that women are not safe.
“Women and children are completely unsafe and it is disheartening. It is not even about wearing provocative clothes, men are just violent. Another thing I have seen even with some of my friends is the gender pay gap, women still get paid less for jobs they are excelling in, and their male counterparts are earning more for the same job. I am lucky, I work in the beauty industry and it is mostly women-centred. I have not had experiences where I will be paid less because I am a woman. I have however encountered hostility from some male content creators who think they can do what I do better.”
Just from browsing through Mihlali’s 1.9 million Instagram following feed, one gets the sense that she is a woman filled with confidence. But getting to that confidence was a process for her.
“It is a journey. It is something you work through the moment you become self aware.
My journey started in High School, I had a lot of insecurities. I even planned to get work done once I turned 18! But I’m glad I went through that (insecurities) at that age before I put myself out there because by the time I started on social media I no longer needed validation from anyone else.
I had built my confidence, it wasn’t just my internal work but also just growing up. I got to a point where I didn’t care if I had stretch marks. It was a journey of just loving myself.”
Her greatest inspiration is her mother whom she looks up to. She is also inspired by other women who are making a mark for themselves.
“I love the Birth of Stars cast, those womxn are going to do amazing things. I hope they commit to their dreams and push through, their future is bright and I am excited for them.”
The self love advocate also acknowledges that loving yourself doesn’t necessarily mean perfection.
“Nor does it mean that I am 100% happy with what I see or feel. What it does mean is that I am loving who I am so I can have a healthy approach to pursuing who I want to become. If you hate what you are working with now, you’ll never be satisfied with who you are working on becoming in the future. Appreciate yourself, don’t look at others and be envious of them.”
Mihlali’s confidence is playful and authentic. She loves a good laugh and being silly on the socials.
“Being authentic and foolish isn’t harmful. I am a playful person and I say a lot of silly things but never to cause harm or affect my brand partnerships.”
She uses social media platform Twitter for some lighthearted banter while her Instagram Page and YouTube Channel are her platforms to engage professionally with fans, clients and friends.
Mihlali believes in the power of collaboration and often features on other YouTubers channels as a show of support and encouragement.
“I am intentional with collaborations because you never know how that person can help you or what relationship you could end up forming with them.
When I started out there was one other person I knew who was in that space and it was hard to reach that person. I don’t want to be that person that doesnt recognise people, it’s a huge market, there’s enough space for everybody to eat so why close off opportunities?”
She reiterates, with passion, how gatekeeping will only stunt this growing industry.
“We want this industry (digital creation) to be credible. We want people to see this as a career path. The more people are doing it, the more seriously it will be taken.”
While it may seem, through images on social media, that her work is but a dream for many, Mihlali knows the effort it takes to have it look that way.
“You have to have a good work ethic. The space is still so young and brands don’t often take us seriously. There is a lot of work to be done and having a great management team behind you makes it better.”
One of those things that have proven her good work ethic is her beauty platform, Malakyt. Malakyt is a platform for womxn to thrive, get access to work and to even leverage off Mihlali’s network.
“The pandemic pushed for it to happen quickly. We offer people beauty services in their own homes or for them to go to a specialist studio through the platform. It’s a great way to empower others in the beauty space. Malakyt is a platform where everyone has a chance to show their craft and people can choose what they need at that time and get the service.”
Her content creation is inspired by other creators, new spaces, travel, music, and the mood she is in on that day.
“There’s a lot of vulnerability that goes into putting yourself out there. A lot of content creators have gone through mental health issues. People can be horrible and nasty online. You could be going through something and still have to work because you are a public figure. A comment can be so shallow and they don’t know what it is tapping into. It’s important for people to go through quiet seasons to nurture themselves, have great support systems and use therapy as a coping tool as well.”
At 25, Mihlali has achieved great success on a platform that is still growing on South Africans. The digital age has brought with it different career path options for many people.
Some of those people see themselves heading in the same direction as Mihlali and becoming content creators.
Mihlali has this advice: “Be rooted in what you are trying to achieve. You want to be creative? Work towards it and prove that this is your passion. Loving yourself is a journey. Social media comes with its own dangers and is often seen in a one dimensional space, don’t let that chip away at you.”
While many may say she has done it all, Mihlali has many more boxes to tick for herself, including growing her empire and her foundation.
“I’m forming my own foundation that will empower women and children. I want to start a new sanitary pad line for women and also not shy away from empowering boys. I want my foundation to give back to the less fortunate; do back-to-school drives where we give school uniforms to children – both boys and girls.”
Not forgetting about her channel and social media pages:
“People can expect a lot more content and fabulosity. We are growing and are hard at work.”
Cover star: Mihali Ndamase
Interview: Sibongile Gangxa & Mpiletso Motumi
Editor in Chief: Bonnie Meslane
Managing Editor: Sekelwa Mpambo
Photographer: Katlego Mokubyane
Creative Director: Lesego Kgosimolao
Wardrobe styling: Advice by KgosiLesego
Styling assistants: Bongiwe Masina & Michael Dlamini
Hair: The San Hair
Video editing: Dave Kabale
Studio: New Katz Studio, Randburg