Our Future is Female – Bold and Fierce! Meet COSMO's 19 Under 19

Girls really do run the world!

Meet COSMO’s 19 Under 19 2018 – proof, if ever you needed it, that our future is female – and fierce AF!

Tholwana Mohale, 18, singer/songwriter

tholwana, 19 under 19

On our list for: Winning SA’s Got Talent 2014, aged 14

‘My passion for music started when I was enrolled into guitar lessons at school, which lead to three singles, including “Warrior”.’

Youth isn’t a barrier because: ‘We’re the innovative souls looking to expand beyond what is expected of South Africans.’

Icons: ‘Beyoncé: her strength and dedication blows my mind.’

Life MO: ‘I’m the shit. You’re the shit. I’m the shit.’

Best thing about being a woman: ‘Seeing women rise.’

Future goals: ‘Carrying on with school, plus releasing my pending album.’

Kiara Nirghin, 18, scientist, speaker, engineering student

kiara, 19 under 19

On our list for: Winning Google’s Community Impact Award and overall Google Science Fair winner aged 16

‘Driving to KwaZulu-Natal, I was shocked to pass empty reservoirs. I won the Google prize for developing a superabsorbent polymer [type of molecule] that holds hundreds of times its weight in water when stored in soil. It’s biodegradable and inexpensive. It increases the chance for plants to sustain growth by 84% during a drought and can increase food security by 73% in disaster-stricken areas.’

Life MO: ‘Dreams don’t work unless you do.’

I feel powerful when: ‘I get a standing ovation from a room full of adults.’

Icons: ‘My sister, for teaching me to never settle. Sundar Pichai (Google CEO), for his humble nature. Elon Musk, for reaffirming that South Africans can change the world!’

Youth isn’t a barrier because: ‘With the increase of online engagement, any teen can gather any knowledge in a specific area and initiate change.’

Future goals: ‘To inspire girls to believe in their abilities and make a difference using science. I’m also starting at Stanford University this year.’

Rabia Ghoor, 18, entrepreneur

19 under 19, rabia

On our list for: founding SwiitchBeauty aged 15

‘There wasn’t really a trendy beauty brand making its mark locally. We had affordable brands or super high-end brands, but not one in between – so I founded SwiitchBeauty.’

Life MO: ‘Love and let live.’

I feel powerful when: ‘I’m wearing a solid black wing and red lipstick.’

Icons: ‘Beauty Instas I’m here for include @cantaraxo, @hayleyshaymakeup, @cara.kiesouw, @nosiphoxolo & @ambs_jade.’

Youth isn’t a barrier because: ‘You’re adaptable, have a smaller fear of failure and are resilient.’

Future goals: ‘I have a ton of beauty content planned, plus new products.’

Minentle Bizana, 17, TV presenter

10 under 19, entle

On our list for: becoming a YoTV presenter in 2016 aged 15

‘My mom saw an ad for YoTV auditions and encouraged me to try out. I always knew I wanted to be on TV. Believe in yourself and your dreams.’

Life MO: ‘Live in the moment.’

Icons: ‘Basetana Khumalo, a successful businesswoman, philanthropist and TV personality. I consider all the women who fought in the struggle for women’s rights as iconic.’

Youth isn’t a barrier because: ‘It’s about your mindset. If you look at South African history – the Soweto uprising – the youth took it upon themselves to make a change. That’s the power of youth.’

Best thing about being a woman: ‘Women are taking their power back. I love being part of this and proving people wrong.’

Future goals: ‘Perfecting being a presenter and acing Grade 12.’

Kwanele Jennifer Matibi, 16, entrepreneur

19 under 19

On our list for: founding Muse hair accessories; being a Beyond The Lemonade Stand’s 2017 Teenpreneur Festival winner

‘We buy hair accessories that aren’t acceptable at school and get confiscated. So I came up with Muse in 2016, offering stylish hair accessories that don’t break school dress codes.’

Life MO: ‘Act against your current circumstances.’

Icons: ‘My mom is one of the bravest, strongest single mothers I know.’

Youth isn’t a barrier because: ‘We face a lot of challenges, and the ways we solve them often leads to innovative ideas that can make the world a better place.’

Best thing about being a woman: ‘We’re given most of life’s responsibilities and we always manage to handle them with braveness.’

Future goals: ‘To grow my business, and perhaps enter Miss Teen South Africa.’

Hana Jayne Sho, 19, model, photographer, design student

19 under 19, hana sho

On our list for: modelling for Gucci x i-D Italy; photographic collections including ‘Boys in Lights’

‘I’m self-taught through YouTube, and I love portraiture as well as street style. I like to capture people in a soft, angelic way.’

Life MO: ‘To constantly create.’

I feel powerful when: ‘I can speak about my mental health. I’ve recently overcome anxiety and depression – not completely but I can handle it and, more importantly, speak openly about it.’

Icons: ‘Petra Collins, a photographer, model and director from Canada. She’s a total badass.’

Youth isn’t a barrier because: ‘Our ideas are fresh; we’re going to shape the future.’

Future goals: ‘I’ve just started at Cape Town Creative Academy doing communication design. I’ve also recently invested in a Contax T2 so I have photography projects on the way…’

Botlhale Boikanyo, 17, poet, spoken-word artist, actress, dancer, student

19 under 19

On our list for: winning SA’s Got Talent in 2012, aged 13

‘Since winning SA’s Got Talent I’ve moved into poetry, spoken word, acting and dancing. My passion for poetry has become a tool to make my voice heard.’

I feel powerful when: ‘I watch Black Panther! But also when I perform.’

Icons: ‘As a poet, Maya Angelou’s work and spirit as a civil activist inspire me. Steve Biko: his fight against racial segregation is one of the reasons I have rights as a young person today. Nomzamo Mbatha’s spirit, humanity and drive are beautiful to watch.’

Youth isn’t a barrier because: ‘We all have dreams and aspirations – it’s about the extent of your hunger to achieve them. Just like the youth of 1976, we have so much power.’

Best thing about being a woman: ‘We’re multifaceted: builders of communities, leaders, nurturers… the list is endless!’

Future goals: ‘I’m working towards presenting and my first poetry night.’

Paxton Fielies, 17, musician

19 under 19

On our list for: being the youngest winner of 2017’s Idols SA aged 17

‘Winning Idols blew things up, including number-one singles, ‘Demonstrate’ and ‘Smother’, and being asked in April this year to sing for the Swedish royal family.’

Life MO: ‘The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.’

Icons: ‘Rihanna and Aaliyah – they achieved so much, at a  young age.’

Youth isn’t a barrier because: ‘Your dreams are achievable at any age. We are the future and our voices deserve to be heard.’

Best thing about being a woman: ‘How we can empower each other.’

Future goals: ‘My debut album is out, and I’m planning to go on tour.’

Michelle Nkamankeng, 9, author, speaker, entrepreneur

19 under 19

On our list for: being the youngest African author and top 10 youngest writers in the world

‘I was seven when my book was published, but I wrote it when I was six. I remember going to a bookshop and seeing that most children’s books were written by adults. I thought: why can’t we, as children, write our own stories?’

Life MO: ‘Mediate and pray.’

I feel powerful when: ‘When my words help destroy negativity in society.’

Icons: ‘Tata Nelson Mandela because he stood up for children’s education and helped changed the way society looks at children.’

Best thing about being a woman: ‘A woman gives birth to a nation and as mothers of the nation, if you educate a woman, you educate the nation.’

Future goals: ‘Besides achieving at school, I look forward to publishing at least two more books this year.’

Siyasanga Kwinana, 19, activist, law student

19 under 19

On our list for: co-founding Amaqhawekazi

‘Amaqhawekazi educates black female teens about health, hygiene and self-esteem. We also donate sanitary and educational materials to girls to keep them in school, and remind teenagers that their dreams are valid.’

Life MO: ‘I’m a work in progress. I am working on myself, by myself, for myself.’

I feel powerful when: ‘I work with others, believe in my own abilities and remember that God is on my side.’

Icons: ‘Winnie Mandela for helping me understand resilience and perseverance. Steven Bantu Biko because he revealed to me the gift of the mind and education.’

Youth isn’t a barrier because: ‘Innovation, dedication and hard work are recipes for success that anyone can adopt.’

Future goals: ‘To excel in my academics, do vacation work at a top law firm and to walk in my purpose.’

Cwayita Kweyi, 19,
 activist, actuarial science student

19 under 19

On our list for: being deputy chairperson and co-founder of Amaqhawekazi

‘Amaqahwekazi is a for-women, by-women organisation that seeks to transform the lives of underprivileged teenagers in East London. We do this by donating sanitary material and orchestrating programmes that teach things like hygiene and mental wellness. Our vision is to see intentional, self-driven change in the lives of black female teenagers.’

I feel powerful when: ‘I’m participating in causes bigger than myself and impact others’ lives.’

Icons: ‘Steve Biko – his ideas were crucial in the struggle and can be applied in any context where injustice thrives.’

Youth isn’t a barrier because: ‘Anyone who can conceptualise an idea has the capacity to implement it. It takes proactivity and guts; these aren’t dependent on age.’

Best thing about being a woman: ‘Women are the backbone, strategists and moral compasses of society. Female collaboration is a force to be reckoned with.’

Future goals: ‘To expand Amaqhawekazi to other provinces.’

Mihlali Xozwa, 19, activist, finance and accounting student

19 under 19

On our list for: being chairperson and co-founder of Amaqhawekazi

‘Amaqhawekazi is a non-profit that helps black female teenagers overcome adversities through fundraising, donating resources and mentoring. One of the ways we empower teens is through sanitary pad drives, key to keeping girls in school.’

I feel powerful when: ‘I accept that I can achieve anything – I am my own limitation.’

Icons: ‘My grandmother – she’s imparted so many values to me. If I can be half the woman that she is, I would have achieved a lot!’

Youth isn’t a barrier because: ‘There’s no formula for success. Your purpose is your “why” to everything that you do – when you know this, there’s no stopping you.’

Best thing about being a woman: ‘Together, women are a powerhouse. I also love that one day I can give birth to children who will become individuals in this world.’

Future goals: ‘To stop doubting myself, pass my second year and work on advancing my career.’

Margot Dower, 19, illustrator, fine arts student

On our list for: Her feminist art

‘Art serves as a bridge between you and an experience or feeling. Art forces people to confront things within themselves.’

Life MO: ‘To look for and acknowledge the beautiful things around me. And to ask myself “Am I getting closer?”’

Icons: ‘My mom keeps everyone and everything together. Marina Abromović’s writings: she talks about using your body as a weapon or tool to make art.’

Youth isn’t a barrier because: ‘Being young means you have a little bit of invincibility. That feeling of ‘nothing can hurt me’ is important: being unafraid to go out and get what you want.’

Best thing about being a woman: ‘Knowing that other women are on your side. I love being connected to all the other women who exist and who have existed.’

Future goals: ‘Pass first year! And find a way to balance my self-motivated illustrative work and my degree.’

Katlego Ncala, 18, TV presenter

19 under 19

On our list for: being crowned 2015 Miss Teen World aged 15; being a YoTV presenter since she was 16

‘I definitely experienced “the power of the sash” – it was amazing to see what I could accomplish in the year of my reign and the platform it gave me. The next year, I landed my presenting job at YoTV.’

Life MO: ‘What’s for me will always be for me. I don’t need to compete or seek validation.’

I feel powerful when: ‘I know there’s absolutely nothing in this world that can break the love between God and I. And when I’m listening to Beyonce!’

Icons: ‘Soccer player Zlatan Ibrahamovic’s ‘me’ attitude is everything. My mom is my business guru and inspiration. My grandmother tells it like it is and her support is overwhelming.’

Youth isn’t a barrier because: ‘Like Dr Seuss says: if you’ve got a brain in your head and feet in your shoes, you CAN steer yourself in any direction you choose.’

Future goals: ‘To take my company, Petropower SA, to new heights. In July I’m off to Mexico for the Miss Teenager Pageant 2018.’

Amonge Sinxoto, 17, content creator, activist

19 under 19

Photography: ©Spree / Neo Baepi

On our list for: co-founding Blackboard Africa

Blackboard Africa creates spaces where the voice of African youth is heard through content and social media. There was nothing that resembled who we are and resonated with us – so we started Blackboard Africa. It’s about having uncomfortable conversations that are the catalyst of reform.’

Life MO: ‘”Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37).’

Icons: ‘Can Themba, a playwright and journalist who told authentic stories reflecting the lives of South Africans. Chimamanda Adichie, a Nigerian writer who writes beautifully. Steve Biko for his activism and recognising the power of the mind to achieve freedom.’

Youth isn’t a barrier because: ‘Our voice is fresh and current. Age is not a measure of intellect or maturity.’

Best thing about being a woman: ‘Women are the backbone of our society. I love being part of such a resilient force that’s only getting bolder.’

Future goals: ‘To mobilise the reach of Blackboard Africa, finish high school and pursue further education.’

Ansolet Rossouw, 18, model

19 under 19

On our list for: walking for Dolce & Gabbana and Chanel

‘I was scouted via Instagram when I was 16. A few months after that, I was in Milan doing my first fashion week. My first major show was for Dolce & Gabbana in 2016. Then I finally got cast in Chanel this year. Working with Karl was such a proud moment.’

Life MO: ‘Live for the moment you’re in.’

Icons: ‘Candice Swanepoel because she doesn’t care what others say.’

Youth isn’t a barrier because: ‘You’re never too young to start making your dreams a reality.’

Best thing about being a woman: ‘Women are beautiful! I love being a part of that and being powerful.’

Future goals: ‘I’m travelling to NYC for the next few months – we’ll see how it goes from there!’

Ripfumelo Nkomo, 16, author, poet

19 under 19

On our list for: being a self-published feminist author

‘A feminist author who wants to re-write the narrative of sexism and patriarchy. The purpose of my work is to liberate people’s minds and inspire them. I self-published “Indulge in the Profound”, a poetry collection, in January 2018. I want to re-write what we’re taught to believe.’

Life MO: ‘”Being realistic, is the most commonly travelled road to mediocrity. Why would I want to be realistic?” – Will Smith.’

Icons: ‘Terry Pheto, Wangechi Mutu, Pretty Yende, Shonda Rhimes, Oprah Winfrey, Lebohang Mashile and Basetsana Khumalo. They embody passion and determination.’

Youth isn’t a barrier because: ‘As young people, we know to fight for what we believe in and to change what we cannot accept.’

Best thing about being a woman: ‘Women are indestructible, finally rewriting their narrative, redefining their worth and repossessing their voice.’

Future goals: ‘To sell my books across South Africa.’

Sesam Mngqengqiswa, 18, scientist, mechanical engineering student

19 under 19

On our list for: Being part of MEDO Space Launch 1, designing Africa’s first private satellite

‘I started working with MEDO Space Trek in 2015 when they contacted my high school in Cape Town. I went on one of their workshops and had no idea what was going on – but I loved it! After that, I went to further camps, which was where I took part in the MEDO Space Launch 1 satellite design.’

Life MO: ‘Be the change you want to see.’

I feel powerful when: ‘I think of my identity. Knowing that I carry the genes of people who died for justice has allowed me to be where I am today makes me feel like I can conquer anything.’

Youth isn’t a barrier because: ‘You can be anyone and anything you want, regardless of your age.’

Best thing about being a woman: ‘I love that I am beautiful and don’t have limits.’

Future goals: ‘I want to get my masters and PhD, and get more experience in my field. For now, that means committing to my studies.’

Brittany Bull, 18, scientist, space science and engineering student

19 under 19

On our list for: Being part of MEDO Space Launch 1, designing Africa’s first private satellite

‘Through Space Trek workshops I got involved in learning to build devices. At the end of 2017, we finalised the design of our satellite, due to launch later this year. We were teen girls without engineering degrees, but could still be revolutionaries!’

Life MO: ‘Education isn’t preparation for life, it <is> life – it’s not something you ever finish.’

I feel powerful when: ‘I can make a difference in people’s lives. Having the ability to create change makes me feel powerful.’

Icons: ‘My mentor Judi Sandrock, a chemical engineer. My mom is strong, kind and a huge advocate for education. Elon Musk’s innovations in tech are huge, and if he’s from a small South African town, I know I can be that great, too.’

Best thing about being a woman: ‘Having the ability to be soft and strong, to nurture but also to conquer.’

Future goals: ‘I’ll be studying at Morehead State University in America from August.’

Photography: Valentina Nicol, Judd van Rensburg, Kevin Mark Pass Photography, Omri Dahan, supplied

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