The New Wellness

In Conversation With Nandi Madida

THE OUTNET’S Head of Content, Claudia Mahoney, caught up with singer, activist, creative, basically, woman of all talents and star in Beyonce’s film, Black Is King, earlier this year, Nandi Madida. In case you missed their live conversation about dealing with failure, staying well during this hectic year and being a force for change — we made sure to save some of the best bits…

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Blue cashmere sweater

Claudia: It’s so nice to meet you! It’s funny because I’ve been looking at your Instagram page and following you for a while so it’s so great to actually see you, even if it’s virtually, in person!

Nandi: Absolutely! No, I think we’ve gone through quite a year this year so just seeing a smile on anyone’s face and just being able to socialize, it’s just incredible. And I love your earrings!

Claudia: Thank you! You know what I was thinking? I was thinking what would Nandi like? She would like sparkles because I think of you as a really sparkly, joyful person. Just having some sort of connection with someone is just such a privilege and each week we’ve been doing these conversations with what I would call women of substance and you absolutely fit that bill. From being an activist, creative, a designer, a singer, a presenter, where do your talents reach their limits?

Nandi: Well, we only have one shot at this life, why not do it all? And more than anything, why not explore your talents and your passions. And I think if anything during lockdown, a lot of people got to almost explore themselves once again and find out what they really do enjoy and find a different trajectory or just like path, that’s been so interesting. I’ve kind of always lived that way. I think that’s paramount for all of us, to not restrict ourselves and then also just from a survival perspective, diversification has been key this year. Enjoy yourself and feel fulfilled because mental health has definitely been topical, it’s been on everyone’s mind.

Claudia: So many people don’t have that lucky upbringing where they’re encouraged and given the opportunities to try things, but do you think there’s something in you as well that’s not been scared of failure? You’ve given things a go, you never let anything hold you back.

Nandi: I remember being told this very young, is there any human being who’s never failed? The answer is no. Why don’t you go for it? If you fail, you just relate to everyone else. And I’ve always had that concept with me whether it’s been TV shows or songs or whatever the case may be, businesses — I’ve failed many times but just knowing the concept is not individual and it’s not only mine, we can all relate to it! It’s actually what gives you an edge. Failure is a barrier and that concept, it isn’t failure, if anything it’s growth, and it’s one we can all relate to.

Claudia: It strikes me that you’ve made a conscious decision to use your platform for good. And you shine with confidence and a lot of the projects you work on feel very much about promoting Black women in particular in industry and about loving your bodies and I just wondered if that came to you at a young age, that decision to be that positive beacon?

Nandi: Well, I think life always teaches you a lot of lessons and my one came very young because I grew up in a kind of suburban set up, which in South Africa from a demographic perspective is predominantly White. As a young girl, looking the way I look wasn’t accepted in media, I couldn’t find people I could relate to, the closest thing was like Naomi Campbell, but very few. And, because I was somewhat a minority in my set-up, it was important for me to do a lot of, just finding myself and digging deep and understanding that I have to find a way to love myself because I just didn’t look like anyone else and I couldn’t relate to anyone else.

Claudia: It’s that thing, isn’t it? You can’t be what you don’t see reflected.

Nandi: Absolutely, and it’s as simple as that and you’re saying it very well. More than anything, not only for a Black person, but for all people because at the end of the day we’re humanity. I find it so strange for example, where people are celebrating a curvaceous woman on the cover of whether it’s a Vogue or an Elle, whatever the case may be because that’s how it should be, who else are you relating to? That’s how the world is! The fact that we’re doing that in 2020 where it’s a big deal to find a woman who, and even when they say, ‘you’re plus size,’ even that connotation. What is a plus size? You’re just a female! Do you get what I’m saying? 

Claudia: I wanted to ask you about your social media — you’ve got, a mind-boggling amount of followers. Do you feel the pressure in what you’re posting? Do you succumb to the filter and a bit of vanity or do you try to be as authentic as you possibly can be?

Nandi: It depends how I feel if I’m honest. I’m going to be candid, sometimes I completely, I mean I like being very authentic as much as I can but the odd time, I’ll have a pimple I’m not happy with and that day I’ll feel insecure like everyone else. Because we’re all human beings and our self-esteem is not always on 100. Like for anyone watching this as well, we’re all human it’s not every day we wake up and we feel beautiful.

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Claudia: So, your song ‘Organic’ that was a lot about embracing all the things you just said?

Nandi: Yes, absolutely. And, it was important for females, especially females of color to embrace who they are, but it was essentially a tribute to an incredible human being called Sara Baartman who, was exploited in many a ways, this was during the 1500s, going to Europe and was made fun of and abused in many ways for her body. And it’s so funny because now in mainstream media, that’s the body everyone wants, everyone wants the big booty, and everyone wants the small waist. So, that’s what inspired the song to say, essentially to appreciate and love who we are, even if the world doesn’t but we’ve been blessed organically. We look this way aesthetically and it’s all organic. So, I’m just celebrating all women and I think that’s also important that doing the work as a Black woman is key but also knowing that we’re doing it with love. That if anything, I refuse to inherit any hate, any past hate, but to show people to lead with love.

Claudia: It’s interesting at THE OUTNET about what products are selling. I think originally, there were an awful lot of elasticated-waist leggings, the temptation is to cocoon yourself but then over time you realize that the psychology of clothes is a really powerful thing. And, what you wear really changes how you feel that day. So, do you subscribe to the power of clothes and how they make you feel?

Nandi: I’m from the cradle of fashion, not only of humankind, Africa is the cradle of fashion. So, I mean if you look at our ancestry, even ancient Africa, you could NOT just be in a t-shirt and jeans, it’s just not in your ancestry! But of course that’s what I love about being from here and whenever I travel… because our pieces here, they’re always topical. Everyone always asks ‘where did you get that from? Oh, that’s fantastic.’ That’s the continent I come from. We just wear vibrant colors, muted colors, whatever the case may be, we’re the most genetically-diverse continent in the world. So, every day’s different, even for myself.

Claudia: So, you mentioned something earlier about mental health and how that’s such a big, important thing out of this year and how people are all coping. And, I think that’s been interesting to sort of take stock of what’s actually important to you when everything else has been taken away. What have you found that maybe you didn’t realize before is really important to you and how have you stayed sane?

Nandi: That, and I’m glad you asked that, because it’s something that I really want to share with everyone. So, I had no idea that I have extreme anxiety. You really can’t breathe properly, in fact, it was my husband who said, ‘are you sure you don’t suffer from anxiety?’ So, this year, and I think a lot of people can relate to this, our anxiety levels shot up completely, the whole world. I really discovered myself and I’m still going through that process because I still find myself almost having shallow breath and not breathing properly and just taking a moment and understanding that I need to breathe more deeply, more intentionally, more purposefully.

Claudia: It sounds to me like you’re taking the best approach where you’re being kind to yourself as well through it all. And I think sometimes people, when they have anxiety, they forget that if they were talking to their best friend, they would be so empathetic and sympathetic but we’re not so good at taking that approach with ourselves, are we? And speaking to ourselves like we’re our own best friend.

Nandi: Well said. We have to be, and that’s what I learned, to be kind to ourselves and that’s key. So, mentally to work with the stories in our head and go, ‘it’s ok.’ If something’s not done on time, it’s ok, it’ll be fine.  

Claudia: Nandi, you are a force of nature and I’m so conscious that I’m taking up more of your time and I just want to sort of leave you with what next? You’re sort of a Beyonce protégé, social media star, designer, advocate and activist, the sky’s the limit! Do you have a sort of grand plan about what’s coming next or are you just leaning into staying sane?

Nandi: Well, doing both. Of course, staying sane but I think 2021 is going to be my biggest year for sure. I can’t wait for everyone to see what’s to come, but the world needs to watch very closely because I’m going to be doing incredible projects and I’m super excited.

Claudia: I can’t wait! Honestly, it’s been such a pleasure. I’m so grateful for your incredible words of wisdom and I wish you, not that you need it, every success with the year ahead and your career. It’s going to go stratospheric I’m sure!

Nandi: Thank you, and I just wanna say to everyone watching here, thank you so much, as well as you. I’m a huge fan of THE OUTNET, you know that. All things fashion and may you continue to grow and do incredible things, your strides are incredible, we’re watching you guys. Really.

Claudia: Thank you, that means a lot to us, that really does. Thanks again Nandi!

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