Multi award-winning transgender activist, media personality and fashion entrepreneur Yaya Mavundla is undoubtedly an icon in her own right.
Being bold, unapologetic and comfortable in her truth, she wears multiple hats and serves to disrupt various stereotypes that engulf the LGBTQI+ community.
For the love of Fashion, Activism and Success
Having a quick glance at her outfit on any given occasion, one is able to see the star’s passion for fashion quite clearly.
According to Mavundla, her love for all things clothing and style began in her childhood years.
“I remember using a Tastic rice plastic bag to make a skirt and a crop top. At the time, I was deep in the rural areas of KZN and there were no crop tops or fashion references,” she reminisced.
After matric, she started organising fashion shows. Although her fashion knowledge was very limited at the time, the fashionista believes those experiences served as a solid foundation and opened up the door to many phenomenal opportunities that followed.
Today, Mavundla is the founder of a clothing line known as Queer Comfort. It was established in 2022 and funds generated are aimed at assisting transgender people in South Africa who are in need of access to hormones and education. This is just one of the many achievements which her journey in activism and fashion has come with.
She was also named Fashion Muse of the Year at the 2022 Fashion Industry Awards South Africa and has had the opportunity to work alongside some of the world’s most coveted fashion designers and industry stakeholders in international cities including New York, Paris and Amsterdam.
More than anything, she views the fashion industry as a space that has not only brought her success but also a whole lot of joy and freedom of self- expression.
“For some reason, fashion truly brings me joy and I find myself becoming a greater version of me.
In a way, that has also helped me wear any fashion item with pride and I think it is the reason why so many designers are always happy to work with me,” she explained.
Mavundla’s latest project is expected to launch next week and is said to be nothing short of excellent and exciting.
“It is a project that has given me sleepless nights but I am very proud to be able to see it through and I’m happy it is becoming a reality.”
Stumbling Blocks on the Journey
Mavundla’s journey to greatness has not always been smooth-sailing. There have been plenty of challenges and some discrimination along the way.
“What used to be a challenge was definitely not getting the opportunities that I deserve and being an afterthought, but I have since changed that because I now constantly create my own opportunities and that has given me so much power over those that believe they can dictate what people can and can’t do”.
Mavundla further added that some of the misconceptions she continues to face include being perceived as someone who has no responsibilities, thereby insinuating she should earn less (as compared to a heterosexual person). Should she request for her worth and to be treated better in such a situation, she runs the risk of being labelled a diva or being viewed as someone who is difficult to work with.
“But because I know better and have given myself better, I do not settle for what society wants me to settle for. I only do what I like and what makes me happy,” she added.
More than anything, a common thread that runs throughout the many aspects of Mavundla’s life is boldness.
When asked about her interpretation of living boldly and what boldness truly means to her, Mavundla pointed to unapologetic queer individuals who are unashamedly and unapologetically living out their truth.
“Myself, TumiPowerhouse, Lehlohonolo Machaba, Nino Maphosa and all other marginalised individuals who face the world as themselves even in the most oppressive conditions. And those openly queer people in the township…that’s a true definition of living boldly,” she said.
With many achieved goals, broken barriers and phenomenal career moves made, Mavundla aims to connect with God more as she continues to inspire those who come from difficulties, those who are marginalised and those who are constantly told they can’t.