When beauty has brains and purpose

By: Sobukwe Mapefane
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Maseru - Relebohile Mamaphathe Kobeli, the 2014/2015 Miss Lesotho, has achieved a great deal quickly in her career as a beauty icon but she has shifted gears and aims to play a more practical role in communities after her Miss World experience.

Public Eye Online sat down with the national icon and mentor of young Basotho girls to find out why she decided to transition from being a model to being mainly only a mentor who is there to usher aspiring models into the beauty industry.

Her decision came soon after her return from the Miss World competition in late December 2015 and given that the common procedure would be to enter into more competitions she chose to dedicate her time to giving back.

"Many people really don't know that I fell into a mild depression when I came from Miss World as a result of my experience whilst still at the competition. After having realized how trying the competition was I saw it fitting for me take full responsibility in ensuring that I share what I learnt so as to equip aspiring Miss World competitors with the right tools to overcome the challenges that come with the competition."

"Despite having learnt a lot I also had a lot of fun because its not every day that one can be amidst 114 most beautiful women in the world from various countries, with various ethics, morals, backgrounds and cultural principles. The experience was quite life changing and almost overwhelming," Kobeli said.

Being the fourth Miss Lesotho in history to go to the Miss World competitions, she shared that her most challenging times whilst competing were having to keep the vision of flying the Lesotho flag high in the Miss World pageant as a result of the pressure that came from the intense competition.

This then brought forth doubts that made her question her self-worth and an extremely low level of confidence, which initially threatened to cripple her but realising that she was representing Lesotho and not just herself alone made her stay hopeful and perseverant.

"Ultimately, the experience at Miss World taught me a lot of things about myself; being a strong woman and being grounded. I realized that what I feel and think about myself as compared to what other people think about me is just a difference of opinion. On top of that I learnt to value myself more than anything no matter how challenged I could feel at any given point in my life," Kobeli said emphatically.

Currently her mission is to start a sisterhood programme whereby she intends to play a very active hand in young girls' lives through mentorship giving career guidance, administration of the importance of self value, programmes that equip the participants with skills that assist in the everyday challenges that women face.

She said she has a burning desire to break the stereotype that people have about individuals who have achieved milestones being unapproachable and inaccessible.

"Because I realized how the young girls I have interacted with react when they talked to me, I decided I needed to be very approachable. Through the programmes I have started and aim to start, I believe I will be able to influence a lot of girls and women through my work.

"This is what I have decided to commit myself to it while still modeling in its various interpretations besides that of beauty pageants," she said enthusiastically.

To qualify in the top 26 for beauty with a purpose she presented a sustainable project she did with the Haramabele residents in Matsieng. The programme involved the training of the locals in handicrafts and also farming. Soon after the goods had been produced, a social market was created as a platform for the locals to sell some of the work they had done.

The sole purpose of the programme was to leave a mark in Matsieng so as to avoid giving perishables that the locals won't have for a long time but rather knowledge and skills that would build them as a community in the long run.

"Being a geology student and a farm girl as well, I really enjoyed the programme because it gave me the opportunity to interact intimately with the locals whilst doing a lot of work. I also believe in giving back in a way that does not cripple the recipients but rather in a way that leaves an eternal mark even in my absence."

Other programmes that she has been involved in include that of the Lesotho Indian Association where the society's members provided free consultation and medical care for various communities around Lesotho.

The 20-year-old has been in involved in beauty pageant competitions since 2013 when she was 17.

Her first pageant was the Face of Lesotho where she came out as the 1st runner up in her first attempt of being crowned princess. Because she had found beauty pageants very stringent in terms of creating a platform for creativity when it comes to self-application, she took a short break from them.

Following this short break she then entered into a series of pageants that allowed her to express herself creatively.

Later in 2013 she entered the Untamed Limited Fashion Show 2013, Miss Quteniqua 2014, Quiteria & George Fashion Show 2014 then later in 2014 she entered Miss Lesotho where she was crowned the winner.

After being crowned Miss Lesotho 2014/2015 she had a life-changing moment ahead of her as she began to prepare for the world stage at the Miss World Top Model/World designer competition.

"I'm quite aware and grateful of how far I have come and it goes without saying that it's mostly because of the support I got from my friends and family together with my desire to break boundaries that are mixed with pessimistic stereotypes.

"Moving forward as an individual brand I aim to apply myself intellectually so as to escape the stereotype that models are merely about 'beauty without brains'.

"I for one am not afraid to speak my mind and being a woman also comes with its challenges that I am gradually overcoming as I progress in life," she added.

As quick as the events happened in her life Kobeli has chosen a path that is mainly focused on empowering young women, building communities, becoming a successful role model and also furthering her passion for the beauty industry as well as fashion.

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