FROM KHAYELIT­SHA TO MI­LAN WITH LOVE

Siphosethu Ncise’s dream has led him from the town­ships of Cape Town to the fash­ion cap­i­tals of the world, writes

Sunday Times - - Review - Nicky Green­wall

In his pic­tures Siphosethu Ncise looks ev­ery bit the new-age su­per­model: 1.87m tall with im­pos­si­bly smooth skin and a di­astem­atic smile. “I think my smile has helped me stand out from the crowd,” he says. “Even though I’m more se­ri­ous in most shoots it’s helped me get a lot of jobs. Although … some­one once told me I had ‘iconic ears’. I was like, ‘Whaaaat?!’” Ncise’s first ex­po­sure to the world of fash­ion was at the age of 12 when he watched his first episode of Amer­ica’s Next Top Model. “I used to shout at the TV and tell the mod­els, ‘Don’t pose like that! Do it like THIS.’ When each episode ended I was al­ways sad. I just wanted to be part of that world.” Ncise was born and raised in Khayelit­sha in Cape Town. He is one of four chil­dren and his mother, Con­stance, is a teacher. “Most of the kids in my street were in­volved in gangs or do­ing drugs. I was bul­lied as a teenager for ‘play­ing with girls’. I ‘came out’ at 16 while I was still in high school. It was a very hard thing to do, but my fam­ily has al­ways sup­ported me.”

De­spite his love of fash­ion, Ncise ini­tially chose to study ac­count­ing. At 21, af­ter one year in col­lege, he ac­com­pa­nied a fel­low as­pir­ing model to an open day at 20 Model Man­age­ment in

Wood­stock.

“We saw in Sethu what he saw in him­self,” says agency founder Robin Fryer, him­self a for­mer model, once based in Mi­lan. “He’s got some­thing that’s hard to de­fine. We found the right pho­tog­ra­phers to shoot him and in­vested in build­ing his ca­reer.”

“My first few shoots, I was ner­vous,” says Ncise. “But the pho­tog­ra­phers al­ways said, ‘Are you sure you haven’t done this be­fore?’”

But con­vinc­ing his mom to let him give up his stud­ies and take on mod­el­ling full-time proved more chal­leng­ing than con­vinc­ing an agency to in­vest in his ca­reer. “She was very ner­vous for me. She even spoke to her pas­tor. He’s ac­tu­ally the one who said, ‘If he loves it, let him do it!’ I’m so grate­ful to him.”

Af­ter shoot­ing with sev­eral Cape Town­based pho­tog­ra­phers Ncise’s port­fo­lio was even­tu­ally ex­ten­sive enough for Twenty to send to agen­cies in New York and Mi­lan.

“We recog­nised the fact that his look was very ed­i­to­rial and his tal­ent could be lost in a com­mer­cial mar­ket like Cape Town,” says Fryer.

“When I trav­elled to Italy last year it was my first time on a plane,” says Ncise. “I ar­rived at the air­port four hours early — I didn’t want any­thing get­ting in the way of me get­ting to Mi­lan!”

The trip re­sulted in a main ed­i­to­rial in Vogue Hommes shot in Paris by renowned Ital­ian pho­tog­ra­pher Paolo Roversi. Fash­ion de­signer Alessan­dro Michele took him to Rome to work for Gucci. “I was so ner­vous to meet him, my legs were shak­ing. They all spoke Ital­ian, I had no idea what they were say­ing, but they seemed to like me.”

He then took on Mi­lan Fash­ion Week walk­ing for lux­ury Ger­man Fash­ion brand Jil San­der. “I ar­rived so early for the show, even be­fore they had set up the run­way. When I even­tu­ally got to walk I just felt like I be­longed there.”

He also landed a world­wide cam­paign for United Col­ors Of Benet­ton along­side fel­low Cape Town-based Twenty Model Jae Won K. Twenty re­cently se­cured him rep­re­sen­ta­tion in New York, Lon­don and Paris.

Though Ncise is clearly rid­ing high, he ad­mits re­jec­tion is still a huge part of his cho­sen ca­reer. “My sis­ter and my mom are al­ways there to en­cour­age me when I have my down days.”

And now that his ini­tial dream has been re­alised, his goals are more de­fined. “I want to be on the cover of Vogue and GQ. I want to walk for Prada, Fendi and Chanel.”

And his plans aren’t far-fetched as the in­ter­na­tional fash­ion in­dus­try turns to Africa for in­spi­ra­tion.

“Africa is very di­verse and rich in cul­tures and the world is fi­nally show­ing some love and ap­pre­ci­a­tion to­wards it. I’m def­i­nitely rep­re­sent­ing South Africa with ev­ery­thing I do. One of the rea­sons I’m do­ing this is to in­spire more young peo­ple to fol­low their dreams too.”

When I even­tu­ally got to walk I just felt like I be­longed there

Nicky Green­wall’s tele­vi­sion show, “The Beau­ti­ful Peo­ple”, which tracks the highs and lows of the Cape Town mod­el­ling in­dus­try, will be re­leased in­ter­na­tion­ally later this year.

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