What does it take to be a successful career person at a very young stage in life?
Young Zimbabwean model Nyasha Matonhodze surely has a clue.
Matonhodze is only sixteen (born on July 31, 1995) but she is already making waves in a trade made only for the brave and spirited at heart. She is being touted as the "next big thing" to take on the world of modeling.
This year, in a list of Africa's top 20 models put together by Forbes Africa, she came first beating off stiff competition from other modeling big shots like Kinee Diouf, Ataui Deng, Ajak Deng, Grace Bol, Nana Keita, Marika Le Roux, Candice Swanepoel and Aminata Niara.
To qualify for the top 20, a model had to be born in Africa, and must have done a lot of work during winter/Fall 2011 and Summer Spring 2012. This included advertising campaigns, magazine covers, fashion shows and editorials.
Making Forbes top 20 list was part of a regular slideshow of successes that she continues to embrace everyday. It is surprising how she does it but to think that at her age she's already shot a high-level advertising campaign directed by renowned fashion photographer Steven Meisel and styled by Karl Templer for fashion mogul Louis Vuitton, makes her story one of a kind.
"I thought 'Lord you are lucky!' It didn't actually hit me until I was in a Rolls Royce sitting eye-to-eye with Miesel," she told the UK's Daily Telegraph of the perks that came with shooting for Vuitton.
The 5'11/180 model was last year revealed as one of the faces of luxury for the French fashion label who found in Matonhodze a worthy face for their autumn/winter campaign. Her poise and maturity belies her 16 years of age, making her one of modeling's biggest assets.
Plus, it is her statuesque elegance and sweet-sixteen warm personality that's made her the favourite of most fashion houses.
"I'm getting the chance to work with people who are legends to me. People that I never thought I'd work with. Not only designers, not only stylists, photographers as well and models. What I hope for is a long lasting career. That is what I want and that is what I hope to get, to be seen on the runway at 24 or 30," she said in one of her interviews.
The Louis Vuitton shoot followed several others she'd already done for big brands like TopShop, Harper's Bazaar, Teen Vogue and V magazine.
Just like many of her peers, Matonhodze is also overwhelmed by how well she is able to model.
"I find it difficult to see myself and think that I'm a model. I feel blessed and honoured to keep getting that next step in my career. I've met amazing people that keep supporting me and pushing me further and further. It's like a dream, no matter how good I do; it's still so surreal for me," she tells the New York Magazine.
Consistently, Matonhodze has told tales of how her discovery into the world of modeling, "wasn't really a discovery".
Her story makes for interesting narration. In 2009, in a school uniform, she walked into the offices of Elite Modeling agency in the United Kingdom and became a finalist in a modeling contest the agency was running at the time, signed a contract, and days later, had her debut at the Spring Louis Gray show in London.
She's also walked for names like Loewe, Jonathan Saunders, Emanuel Ungaro, Marc by Marc Jacobs, Zac Posen, Burberry, MaxMara, DKNY, Carolina Herrera and Michael Kors among a tall, enviable list.
"My discovery wasn't a discovery. Since I was 12, I was tall and thin so I would always get the whole "you should be a model," but I never really developed a serious interest about it until America's Next Top Model".
Nyasha auditioned and competed in Cycle 10 of the very popular modeling reality television contest, and has since that time, gradually built her way up to the top.
"Seriously, that's when it all changed for me. Everything I wanted was pretty much based off that show".
It definitely took her a lot of hard work and dedication to get to the top after the effort by her parents, whom she had joined in the United Kingdom at the age of eight from Harare, Zimbabwe, where she was born and raised by her grandmother.
"...My mother, she was a single mother at 18 who moved to London without knowing anyone. She's always worked hard and seeing her overcome so much in life has been an inspiration for me. She's so successful now, and I want to be like her".
"I do still have memories of Zimbabwe - falling asleep in the sand, bathing outside, the warmth of the sun, and just the way of living".
"Moving to England, I saw their perspective on Africa and what they think it's like, and it's completely the opposite....
A great admirer of British Stylist Katie Grand and friends with Sudanese model Ajak, Matonhdze loves photography and enjoys working with Jason Kibbler and Daniel Jackson.
Already she's shot over 90 campaigns, 80 of which were shot in the last year. Matonhodze has certainly got her grind on, and wouldn't be long that she will make it into a list of the world's top models. Considering what she's achieved so far, that shouldn't be hard to achieve.
Matonhodze is also signed to Marilyn Agency in New York. For a young model to be represented by two different agencies in two different territories, is certainly a big deal and something most models, some older than her, will yearn for.
For years to come, Nyasha will be remembered as that young Zimbwabean lady who found in modeling, a life-changing career and went for it. Whether or not she will continue to remain relevant and be respected for what she does years from now is a guess that can always wait, as she continues to walk the fat budget runways of London, Milan, New York and Paris.
The cheers will always be loud when you make it out of very ordinary circumstances but allowing the fame to get to you can always be suicidal. Nyasha is fully aware of all that, and isn't prepared to have a taste of that sweet-sour experience.
"If you're not strong-minded, modeling can knock your confidence quite harshly. Every day you're judged on your look, and more so today you're judged on your personality. With that said, a lot of us are 15 or 16-years-old, so some girls could really take the criticism personally. What we have to understand is that there's not something wrong with us per se, we just aren't a right fit with the client," she tells New York Magazine.
"You never know what's next. One minute you're good and the next is a bit of a ... I'm just making the most of the time that I've got," she said in one of her interviews.