JOHANNESBURG –  one of South Africa’s most self-confident women, sets the record straight about being a plus size woman in the 21st century. She poured her heart out exclusively to Plus Size Africa Magazine in an pulsating interview.

Born on September 3 in Ulundi, northern KwaZulu Natal, the pretty woman also known as Zandile Samukelisiwe Khumalo, attended Mkhazane Primary School, formerly known as Mahlabathini High School.

Zandy Samke Khumalo holds two degrees, one in psychology and one in human resources management, and finally a postgraduate diploma in business management. After working in the hospitality industry shortly after graduating from the University of Zululand, she was employed by the Pretoria-based Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). She currently plies her trade at Johannesburg Water, an entity of the City of Johannesburg.

Perfect woman

Well, we all know that modern society has force-fed us the idea that the perfect woman is the slim one regardless of her bad manners, poor education and lack of respect for moral values. We now know that is not true. What is your take on this?

I generally define a perfect woman as someone who is beautiful, honest and genuine, empathetic, consistent, ambitious, works hard to improve herself and carries herself with class.

Therefore, it leaves no room for me to define a woman by the way she looks. The worst thing about being quick to judge others based on their appearance and our limited knowledge of their lives is that we miss out on really knowing those people, and how fantastic they are. I do not have any problem with anyone calling me plus size, curvy, voluptuous, and big — I do not really give a damn. I represent plus-size women.

Growing up

How was it like growing up as a full figured girl or woman? Did you encounter any challenges in school, in the workplace, on the streets, or anywhere? In addition, how did you deal with that?

The only challenge I had it was in school, when they nicknamed me “Sdudla Mafehlefehle” a Zulu name given to plus size women. I did not have any problem with the name but the surname “Mafehlefehle”, lol.

People asked me I would want to lose weight. Others said that I would be sexy if I could. Nevertheless, I always respond that I have worked hard for who I am and what I have. Therefore, I do not care much about how the next person thinks of my body size. I am okay as long as I am comfortable and at peace.

Relationships

Again, the concept of a slim woman comes to the fore of this debate. Men want to date slim women ones because they are allegedly cool, sexy or whatever. Well, you and I agree that you are beautiful and attractive. Did you ever have problems dating because you are a full figured woman?

Nowadays, society teaches young boys from that a beautiful woman is one who is not overweight or fat. The women who play leading roles on TV or movies and magazines are always thin. Overweight women are never portrayed in a flattering way.

Unless a guy has an overweight mom, sister, grandmother, or other relative or close family friend that he has a good relationship with. He will never know that plus sized women can be beautiful people. Women are also told that if they want to be successful in relationships, they have to be thin.

In high school, dating was the worst, my crush told me that he was into slim girls because fat girls are ugly and they smell. I was shuttered and my confidence went from 80% to 0%. To him it was a joke but it pierced through my heart.

After that, I found it difficult to believe any man who says he loves me. It took time, but eventually I discovered body positivity and began to actively embrace my body. Honestly, dating got pretty easy once my body image improved, and that was after tertiary studies.

Looking back, I think I was always my biggest barrier with dating. I wonder if there would have been a lot more chances to date had I felt better about myself.

I know, if we could all just snap our fingers and be confident, everything will be solved and this story and will be over by the end of this sentence. Just like dating, self-confidence is challenging for almost everyone, but it really is hard work worth doing.

Fashion

How do you choose your clothes? What size do you wear? Do you buy in the shops? It looks like most of the shops in South Africa are full of slim stuff but not much of big size stuff. That is also also another aspect of discrimination. Do you any have specific person who makes your clothes?  Another question on fashion: is it true that nice clothes only fit the slim women not the full figured women?

I choose my clothes based on comfort. Unfortunately, our society has many opinions about what plus size women should or should not wear. However, the same does not apply for the straight size women. Woman’s size should never restrict what kinds of clothes she is able to wear.

The question of should a plus size or curvy woman be wearing certain things is infuriating. When it comes to straight-size fashion, all styles are fair game. Clothing options should not be different for curvy women. We should be given options and not be told that we cannot wear something before I even try it on.

I am size 20 and sometimes it is difficult to find nice clothes in certain shops, but I still believe that I look nice in most of my clothes. Sometimes a tailor makes my clothes. But, not all the time, maybe for special occasions.

Marriage & children 

Are you married? Do you have children?

I have not met my significant other yet…so I am not married. I love children a lot, and when I was growing up, I had a dream of having over five children of my own, but currently I consider my siblings’ and friends’ kids as my own.

Quite honestly, I had a good upbringing. I am coming from a family of full figured people, from my great grandparents to our generation, so being big is part of the family, such that when one is slim, they would be teased to eat more so that they gain weight.

Lifestyle

As a full figured woman, what is your lifestyle like? What are your hobbies? Do you read? Do you go to the gym? What type of food do you eat and why?

I have a normal lifestyle; I have a day job. When I remembered lol), I walk about 2 km, which has nothing to do with my weight, but mostly to stretch my legs, get some fresh air and think. I try to eat well to avoid health issues, such as cholesterol, blood pressure, among others. Essentially, I live a normal life.

In my free time, I go to the movies, gospel shows, church and spend time with my family and friends. I do read, but I am not a bookworm.

Do you go to the beach if you have a chance? If you ever go to the beach, aren’t you perhaps scared that people must try to whisper about your size? Can full figured women live different lifestyles? If yes, why?

I live far from the beach, but when I go, I gear up with my swimsuit and enjoy myself. I have no business with what people think or say about me. I cannot deprive myself because I am full-figured, I do me!

Travel

Do you like travelling? Solo or in groups? Have you ever travelled outside South Africa? If yes, where? On holiday or work assignments.

I love holiday traveling, I like exploring other parts of the country beside my city. That helps create memories that will last forever. I do both solo and travel with close people. Sadly, I have not travelled outside South Africa. But it is on my bucket list.

Business

Do you want to go into business? What would you do when you retire?

Yes, I am working on a small business start-up. It is good to supplement my income, especially in this current economy crisis, and maintain my life and travel when I retire.

Advice

If you were to give an advice to all the plus size sisters advice, what would you say? Please say it loud and clear.

Sexy Queens, true beauty is power. To change yourself and to conform to anyone else’s standards of beauty is to change your essence. Beauty comes in all shapes and sizes, but sometimes it can be hard to remember that on a day when you are feeling down. It’s all about accepting yourself the way you are. If you want to work towards a “better you” in whatever regard…do it

  • Look in the mirror and tell yourself that you are perfect just the way you are
  • Stay positive and don’t let other people’s doubts slow you down
  • Know that body shape and size does not equate to good health
  • Prioritising confidence and self-awareness will make you happier
  • Don’t be your own worst enemy, your confidence and self-love can pave the way for others…Love yourself.