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Bloemfontein modelling queen determined to groom catwalk stars

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You have probably come across dream-come-true headlines of a 16-year-old Bloemfontein model, Tatum Macalagh, who graced the New York Fashion Week (NYFW) in February this year. And if you were wondering how the teen sensation has managed to set the runway abuzz at such a tender age, look no further than her mother.  Indeed, as the saying goes, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. A keen model herself in her youth, the 33-year-old Yolande Macalagh has not only inspired her daughter to become a model but has also set up a modelling academy where she is nurturing dozens of other aspiring models of all ages and shapes. The Free Stater this week caught up with Yolande, from Heidedal in Bloemfontein, to talk about her experience in New York and her passion for modelling and fashion. Excerpts:

Yolande Macalagh says she is working hard to produce top models at her Bloemfontein academy

How was your New York Fashion Week experience, watching your daughter strutting her stuff on one of the world’s most coveted runways?

My time at the New York Fashion Week was a life-changing experience. I always knew and believed that we were heading for the better, but it’s still amazing what God can do. Seeing Tatum walking at an international show got me in tears because I know her heart. I know her dreams. I know how hard she pushes to be an international model. Her words to me a few years back were: “Mommy, I will do NYFW at the age of 16.” And she did. It just shows that it’s very much important for us to teach our children to speak life over their own lives. So, yes, it still gives me goosebumps just thinking how blessed the experience was. One can just learn and better themselves from such a breath-taking experience.

We are sure you met influential people in the industry, including designers, agencies and media personalities. What would you say was your biggest take from New York?

Oh yes, definitely! I met a lot of influential people thanks especially to the great media coverage that was involved at the event. People from magazines. My biggest take must be Time Square . . . Hahahaha I want to spend my life there. Shopping and never stop shopping. It felt like I’m in a movie. The place is amazing. I must say we had a great time although we did not go there for fun. It was all about taking Tatum’s career to the next level. Models doing international fashion shows are serious about what they do. It’s no child’s play – it’s either you’re in or you’re out. And that’s what I’ve learnt from the experience. There are millions of models around the world that want to do these shows. You are super-privileged and blessed if you get a chance.

As a kid growing up in Bloemfontein, did you always have an interest in modelling?

Modelling was surely one of my dreams. I think that we were not as privileged back in the days as our children these days. We had to work hard on our own to make things happen. The support or opportunities were very rare. And it sometimes happens that your dreams are not that important to the people who are supposed to support you. So, yes, I have come a long way with modelling. I remember as a child I had to run around borrowing dresses and shoes from people to attend a competition. I went to a modelling school on my own to sign up. I just took the contract to my parents to sign and pay whatever needed to be paid. It was never easy but I did it.

So how and when did the idea to establish your own modelling academy or agency come about?

I always had the passion for teaching young girls and boys about the modelling industry since I was at a very young age. I just never had the courage or platform to start. But it always burned inside of me. My daughter started off at eModels Bloemfontein and was part of Jeanre Neethling’s models for a few years before I started the eModels Heidedal branch. Later I set up my own YEZ Models Academy. I always knew I had the talent of being a model. But it never happened that I could accomplish my dreams. God opened a door for me to help and be a mentor for models. He trusted me with the lives of His beautiful children.

Modelling is probably one of the toughest industries for one to make it. What inspires you to do what you do?

What inspires me in the modelling industry is the desire to see absolute change in my models. I love to work with models that take the industry seriously. Models that want to give their all. It gives my heart joy to see people growing and when I have been part of their growth in life. It make me happy to see models take what I teach them about the industry and make something out of it. The modelling industry is not only about being a pretty face and the skinniest or tallest model there can be. But we as YEZ Models believe in training all models to the best of their ability and for them to be career-driven individuals. So to see change and happy faces keeps me going and I love what I’m doing with my whole heart.

It must be satisfying to launch the careers of aspiring models who might become big names in the future. What is it like to watch them grow?

It’s an absolute pleasure to see growth in my models. It’s sometimes so emotional and brings tears to my eyes. I work hard with my models. Strange enough they all become like your own children. You give your all to educate them – sometimes sleepless nights to make things happen. But to see them grow makes me want to push harder, even if it’s one child or model at a time.

You have had a number of youngsters, including your own daughter, under your wings for some time. Has anyone scored a big contract yet?

Yes, my daughter Tatum got a contract at an international agency in Cape Town, which is a totally blessing to us. We work hard to develop our models to be ready for the modelling world. Some of my models did Top Models SA recently. Two senior models are also signed with big agencies in Johannesburg and Cape Town, which is a big step towards becoming greater. One of the keys to success is to grab the opportunities and make the best of them.

How do you scout for potential models and what do you look for in potential models?

We are looking for committed and hardworking models. You must have a passion for the industry. Any size or height can be part of us. Everyone has a place in the industry.

What do you hope the future looks like for your agency as well as the models you groom and represent?

I am hoping for a great future. I trust that our training and platform will give positive opportunities to all our models. We work hard and strive for success.

As you push to become a major player in the modelling industry, what are the values you stand by that have helped you so far?

Pray and never stop praying. In my best or worst days, I keep on praying. It is also important for me to respect the next person or their decisions; to do everything I do with passion and love; to appreciate what I have; to trust and believe for better to come; and, most importantly, to run my own race.

With many new modelling agencies opening up in the Free State and South Africa, how important has it become for potential models to do their research when seeking representation?

It is very important to do research on modelling academies, schools or agencies. You as a model must know what the modelling agency stands for and if you want to associate yourself with such a brand. It’s important what image the modelling agency has and gives to the society.

Modelling is a career that is probably still little understood. What advice would you give to parents about modelling?

A lot comes with being a model. It’s really not all about being on the runway. It has a lot to it. Models learn a lot from us as modelling academies or agencies. Modelling gives a child great confidence.

Last but not least, can you provide us with one beauty tip and product that you swear by?

Beauty tips (laughs)! I’m a make-up artist and love to dress up. Every girl or woman needs a good mascara. It may seem like a pointless idea but those seconds you spend in front of the mirror curling your lashes will make a huge impact. It will make you look wide awake, even if you’re not. You also need to throw on a hat! I honestly feel that a hat is every girl’s secret weapon. Find a cute one that flatters your face shape and the bonus is that you’ll be able to skip washing or styling your hair that day.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Reevan Salis

    April 16, 2020 at 4:56 pm

    Nice interview!

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