As Women’s Month approaches, it reminds us to appreciate the multitude of exceptional women who continue to propel the continent further in virtually every industry – completely on their own terms.
One such woman is Cape Town born-and-bred Candice Manuel. The so-called “plus size model” and advocate for body positivity is shaking up the local modelling scene by being unapologetically herself. Beginning her career at the tender age of 18 to be the breadwinner of her family, she was rejected three years later for being “too fat”. While this was a blow to her confidence and self-esteem, she eventually came back stronger and more determined than ever to break down beauty stereotypes.
Today, not only is she confident in her own skin but she’s a successful entrepreneur running a children’s party line, an apparel range printed with motivational quotes and is the host of ‘Keeping up with the Candashian’ show on YOH Radio.
She launched the Embrace Your Curves movement as a platform for women of all shapes, sizes and colours to inspire each other. The platform encourages women to send their motivational stories to Candice, who then arranges an interview that includes make-up and a mini photoshoot. This gets shared to the Embrace Your Curves Facebook page. “We’ve created something to break down barriers. As women, aside from societal expectations, it is also our own fears that get in our way of reaching our full capabilities. We need to step out of our own way and realise that we deserve and can achieve what we desire and more.”
Her Youtube video PLUS IS EQUAL, which shows Candice removing items of clothing amid curious onlookers as she walks down the street, is another project that shows her determination to be bold and daring in her approach. “We can’t take ourselves too seriously! We are all equal and should all be comfortable in our own skin,” she ways.
In 2018, she continued this endeavour by entering the #GHMiladysModelSearch and went on to become one of six winners. She says of the contest: I want to play my part in breaking the narrow-minded moulds that society subscribes to plus-size women. I also want to motivate and uplift my community; to demonstrate that life’s circumstances don’t define you.” Later that year, she was selected as one of a few plus size models to walk the runway at African Fashion International, where she modelled for the renowned local brand, Ruff Tung. This was a watershed moment in her career and a testament to the fact that a significant shift is happening in the industry.