Born with a unique birthmark across the side of her face, Kgothatso Dithebe has been stared at, bullied and told to cover it up. Until one day … she simply had enough. That’s the day she ditched the cover-up make-up for good and started proudly flaunting her mark.
Today Kgothatso Dithebe is a sought-after model … successfully booked for loads of campaigns and television commercials and has graced many giant billboards.
Although she is not your average looking model, she is a huge inspiration for many. Why? Because – despite society’s traditional beauty standards – she embracesher birthmark.
Her life story was not always easy. Although quite shy, Kgothatso is not one bit scared to make her voice heard. She loves to share her story of hope, especially with those who feel mistreated, misplaced or misunderstood. Simply because she can really relate.
‘When I was at school, I used to get bullied verbally … I was called all sorts of names, people used to say how my birthmark looked like an African map. I had people pointing and staring at me a lot, thinking I have vitiligo, a condition that causes loss of skin colour in patches. It goes without saying that this really affected me badly and I preferred to be indoors. The birthmark made me feel like I was not pretty enough for society.’
She was spotted by a modelling agency when she was 15-years-old, but the message was clear. Cover up your ‘difference’ with thick make-up. So she did just that – and felt beautiful. At first. But that feeling did not last very long. And it wasn’t until Kgothatso started to accept herself that doors started opening.
‘I realised that make-up was way too expensive to keep covering up this mark. I just stopped hiding and I guess I gained the confidence to be myself and celebrate my uniqueness.’
Then she started posting pictures of herself on Instagram. Without any make-up. At first, she was very scared and nervous, not sure how people would react.
‘But I got lots of compliments. I made a declaration that I was beautiful. By doing so, everyone around me started accepting and embracing me. And now if I get jobs, I get them for my birthmark. Clients see me and want to use me because I’m different and they remember my face.’
By the age of 19, Kgothatso had defied the modelling industry and bared her natural skin, making her the first model with a birthmark in the country to walk Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week.
Refusing to think of her mark as a flaw, but rather a blessing and an asset, she entered Miss SA this year for the second time around. In 2019 she made the top 5 and at the time of writing, is one of the top 10 finalists.
Kgothatso told us she decided to enter the pageant once again due to the rapid increase in bullying and cyberbullying in South Africa which has led to a lot of suicides and mental health issues.
‘This has urged me to enter Miss South Africa once again, to be loud, and to ensure that I spread the message across all borders. I want to be an inspiration and someone people can relate to.’
Bravo Kgothatso … we think you’re brave and beautiful. Inside and out.
Details: Follow Kgothatso on Facebook @kgothidithebe and Instagram @kgothiiman
Fast facts about Kgothatso
She’s currently an LLB student, but growing up she wanted to be a detective. ‘Maybe because both my parents are detectives in the South African Police Services. But once they caught a whiff of my plans, they quickly stopped me in my tracks. So, second in line was law. I find it so interesting. At a stage, I had quite an interest in criminal law, but I’ll see where the road will take me.’
Although she is not fond of watching TV, she loves to watch wrestling. ‘Growing up my cousins and I used to watch a lot of wrestling. It somehow was like our thing to watch it together. And funny enough I still enjoy watching it. It cannot explain why though … I even have a few favourites, Drew Macintyre, Roman Reigns and Kofi Kingston.’
She is quite handy in the kitchen. ‘I love to cook and try out new recipes. Cooking to me is like one of the most basic forms of meditation, finding peace and enjoyment in simple daily tasks. And cooking is a simple daily task. I’ve been asked if I will enter a reality cooking show. The answer is simple. No. That’s next level of seriousness. Although I’m very organised and the clean-as-I-go type, I still love to have fun.’
If she could invite three people over for dinner it would be Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey and Basetsana Khumalo. ‘I’ve always looked up to these women. Their strength and resilience speak volumes. They are nurturing, caring, willing to help others and have worked hard to get where they are today. They are not only smart but strong, beautiful and hold way more substance than we think. I might be a little star-struck at first, but once I get over my shyness, the conversation will be lit!’
Kgothatso’s words of wisdom:
• Next time you think of yourself as an imperfect person with flaws, know that the person you think is perfect also has a flaw!
• Be yourself. Add value to the world by being yourself, you bringing something that was never there before.
• Love yourself wholeheartedly. Never give a person the power to make you feel self-conscious because of what they believe is not a societal standard.
- Don’t try to fit in if you were made to stand out!
- Be resilient and believe in second chances. Failure means trying again … this time with experience.
* Text: RIALIEN FURSTENBERG. Photographer: HILDA MANS. Make-up: ELAINE BOSHOFF. Venue: GARDEN WORLD.