One of the beautiful things about Instagram is that you can discover incredibly inspiring people to connect with on a daily basis. I stumbled on Zoya’s profile a little over three weeks ago and decided that I wanted to know and share a small part of her story right here. Be inspired and enjoy the read.
Where were you born and raised?
“I was born and raised in Cape Town.”
How old are you?
What does a day in the work life of Zoya Pon look like?
“I’m a full time model with Ice Genetics, content creator and founder and editor of an online magazine, Three Magazine. Every day differs for me, depending on the season! Most days I have coffee and see what’s going on in the world, check in with my Three team members, check emails and work on Three or conceptualizing shoots. In between I might have a casting or shoot content for Instagram or my portfolio. I usually clock off at 6 unless I’m shooting a job that day. Hopefully I can get in 8 hours. I like sleeping. Oh I love sleeping.”
As the founder of Three Magazine, please tell us what the Magazine is about?
“I began working as a freelance writer at 17 when I had my first piece published in Saltwater GIRL (I loved that mag as a teen so it was a big deal!). I loved a good Facebook rant and the things I would post revolved around social justice, human rights and trending social topics. The response I received urged me to start Apeiron, a blog, which I produced content for and managed myself while I worked as an editorial intern, then freelance content producer for Marie Claire when I was 21. Apeiron received good traffic because I soon realized, there were a lot of people in my age group who WANTED to know what was going on around them and converse about that but didn’t have that platform that engaged with them on these topics. When I was 23 I worked as acting online editor for Cosmopolitan and Marie Claire before beginning modeling full-time and deciding to focus on launching Apeiron as an online magazine, and bringing other people on board. Since then it’s evolved into Three, and we’re currently re-branding so the website is under construction. There are big things coming soon for us, and I’m really excited about it!
If I can summarise Three into three sentences it’d be: An online magazine for the creative youth, by the creative youth. Three aims to inform, empower and encourage the reader to create their own opinion on the world around them. We are a conscious, collaborative and inclusive platform for young South African creatives.”
What are some of the greatest lessons you’ve learned from being the founder and editor of your own publication?
“I’ve learned a LOT along the way and it’s been up and down. My main lessons for anyone starting their own anything are:
If you know the why of what you are doing (and there must always be a why) then you are on the right track. Keep going and remember that.
Ask. Don’t be scared to ask for advice. Find a mentor if you can in your field and do the research you need to.
Believe in yourself. Too many times I looked for validation that I was on the right track, but ultimately I needed to believe in what I was doing first before I could ask anyone else to.”
How long have you worked as a professional model?
“I’ve been modeling on and off from the age of 9, but I began working part-time consistently from 20, and full-time from 23. It’s a career I’m grateful to do because it challenges you and always brings something new. It’s taught me a lot about myself because you have to have a very solid idea of who you are to work consistently in such an appearance-based, and ever-changing industry.”
As an Asian-South African woman, what are some of the challenges that you contend within the modelling industry?
“I’ll speak frankly and say: There’s a lot of tokenism, which is expected with any POC in any industry… I’m typecast often. To do well, I realized I had a niche, and I had to capitalize on that so I made tokenism work for me in a way. I’ve always experienced ‘nice racism’, and my Asian heritage was made fun of growing up in a majority white community but modeling actually encouraged me to take ownership of that part of me (I’m half white), as something that made me unique. Hence my Instagram handle ;). Tbh being a petite model has been more challenging than anything. I was shot down by agencies, and I had to prove myself and make sure I was on my A game before I could shoot editorials locally, and now I’ve done worldwide campaigns. I hate hearing justifications for the height and size requirements, such as ‘tall models look better in clothes’ (what absolute bullshit) or ‘it’s just the sample size’ (then change that). It’s boring.”
In your opinion is the South African modelling industry working hard enough at becoming more inclusive?
“The local industry is very ahead of the curve in terms of inclusivity in my opinion. I see so many models of different sizes, ethnicities and looks doing the damn things for local brands and magazines. South African women are especially diverse, and I think the industry does well to reflect that.”
If you could only choose 5 items to wear for the rest of the year, what would they be? (Love your style, btw)
“Thank you xx
I probably only wear 5 things consistently in my closet already, which people can probably gather from Instagram LOL.
- My sparkly Doc Martens
- High waist shorts
- A white cropped tee
- Over-sized denim jacket
- My black fanny pack with the squishy toy key chain my sister bought me.”
Where can people keep up with you and your work?
“I am most active on Instagram so that’s a great place to start!” @thatasiangirlza