Tell us about yourself.
My name is Busi Manunga. I am a beauty assistant at Destiny Magazine.
I do a lot of admin. When I get into the office I think I spend at least 2 hours replying to emails, sending out emails, dealing with office admin, getting invoices from photographers and things like bookings. Everything at Destiny is done in house so a lot of my admin is bookings and invoicing for bookings.
I also attend launches. Let's say a new fragrance comes out, I have to go to the media event, spend time socialising with other beauty assistants and learn about the fragrance. It is very educational and scientific.
I also do the hair pages for Destiny. They needed a black woman to do the hair pages because it is predominantly a black magazine with 92% black readership.
Do people have a certain kind of perception of you based on what you do?
When they meet me they think I am very bubble-gum and ditzy. Normally I wear a lot of make-up when I attend a launch because it's terrible for you to work in the beauty industry and rock up "oily". I mean you have all these products on hand to make you better. You go as presentable as can be.
Everything is image based. This is something I didn't think of until I started working in the beauty industry. When you go to a job interview why do you wear a suit? Since you are so qualified you could just wear jeans and a t-shirt.
Does your job require a lot of writing skills?
Yes. It's the mandate.
What happened to me was Khanyi Dhlomo advertised a beauty internship on her Instagram and I applied like anyone else would have through Destiny's HR. I wrote a story about myself and within 3 weeks they called me back and asked me in for an interview.
One of the first questions my boss asked me was, "Can you write 350 words in an evening?" What's 350 words when I've written 3000 word essays the day before they're due? That really impressed her and I see why she needed that because deadlines are hectic.
What is the best thing about what you do?
The free gifts! There are few things I don't have. It's so crazy because even my mom lives a very blessed life. When I come back from launches she’s sometimes like "What did you come back with?”
We have a circulation of like 200 000 in print and online is far more. So if I put you online you are opened up to women who have achieved and can afford luxury goods. Destiny caters for a very high-end market and if there is a client who has an R8000 face lotion, the Destiny woman can afford that - we cater to the black diamonds. People will gift you things to get on your good side and, hopefully, get into the magazine. Gifts are quite nice; I have a perfume in my bag right now with my name on it (laughs).
What is some advice you can give to people that are trying to make it in the beauty industry?
My biggest thing is that you don’t get paid well. If you can pay for petrol, accommodation, and groceries you get paid well. I live with my parents and I can pay for my petrol, food, and lifestyle but I cannot afford to move closer to work. If you love writing beauty writing is very good. You learn to write for a demographic and cater to your demographic.
Persistence is key. I was the beauty intern and some people land up without jobs after internships. An internship does not guarantee a place to work and they tell you.
You have to be very people-orientated in this industry. You have to be able to keep relationships open. When you meet someone, they become a friend so being outgoing helps a lot. I have a varsity degree but I am by no means highly educated, there are so many people that I work with that are extremely educated. Don't be intimidated. You can make it just as far as anyone else. Education doesn’t stop you from having a brain.
What are some of the lessons you have learnt?
How to be an adult. I was never prepared for paying taxes. You think you're going to get paid A and you get paid X. I literally went to our accountant and was like "My contract says I earn this much, why did I only get this?”
I have a wonderful boss; she is so patient. I learnt how to listen. I have a boss that is willing to really communicate with me so it would be to my detriment to not listen and learn. I also learnt to take better care of myself. Use sunscreen every day because you will age.
Hard work also pays off. I want a certain position right now and things have been working for me simply because I’ve been working so hard and I think I am going to get it. You can get anything that you want, and I didn’t know that when I was still in varsity. I was doing so badly in school and hated what I was studying. Even my love life was crap. Your life may seem like shit but you can really get anything that you want if you are positive and you work towards it.
Is that an attitude a lot of people have?
A lot of people become defeated after the first hurdle. They don't do well in school or something and they give up. If there is an issue right now, fix it.
The first hurdle is not even the highest. Our generation is very spoilt. Everything is given to us by people who didn’t even have shoes when they went to school. We expect jobs and promotions to be given to us because we think we are so great. We have the Kanye West mentality without knowing that Kanye only sleeps 3 hours a night.
What traits do you have that have allowed you to make it this far?
I have struggled. I have terrible anxiety that was diagnosed as depression. 2014 and 2015 were the worst years of my life. I was very unhappy. I took time off school, left Braamfontein and was on anti-depressants. It was really bad. I didn’t think I'd live.
When you live through a day where you didn’t think you would live you realize you can make it. I just developed a positive attitude off having been in the darkest of places but I am also aware I could go back. Anyone could go back anytime.
Do you think mental health is something that is spoken about often enough?
No. I think there are categories to illness. If you have HIV you are sick but as soon as you have arthritis it is not as bad. That time you will find a person who has HIV is living their best life but when you have arthritis you can't even get out of bed.
People think these categories are the same with mental illness. When I had depression it was serious - I might die or kill myself so someone needs to watch me. As soon as it was "downgraded" to anxiety I was apparently better, when in reality there were moments where I couldn't breathe. I had panic attacks.
What do you think needs to change about that?
Media. As soon as we start seeing it for what it is on TV or start reading about it for what it is in the media, people will take it seriously. If someone had taped me having my panic attacks they would take it more seriously. You are educated through what you see in the media.
What do you think the future of print media is?
I think at this point there is a future in niche print media. If you like sneakers and you have a lot of money then the only way for you to see what is coming out right now is if you pick up the sneaker mag. Car magazines are also doing well.
Everyday entertainment media is not doing as well simply because you don't have to pick up a magazine to see what Angelina Jolie is doing right now. You watch V Entertainment on TV at 18:00. You go on Instagram, it’s on there. When it comes to witnessing people's lives unfold, fashion or pop-culture, your best avenue of receiving any news is online now. When it comes to finding things out that you are interested in, niche media is very focused and does well.
What do you think of the content that is being created by South Africans?
South Africans don't appreciate South Africans. Everything is better if it comes from abroad and that limits our creativity. Laduma Ngxokolo was only a great designer when Beyonce featured him on her website. Why does that have to happen? I feel like we should be aware of what we have.
I don’t feel like Tommy Hilfiger had to move to France to do well, he was great being this Southern guy who made clothes for the Hamptons. It was for his Americans but here we are as South Africans rushing to spend 2k on Tommy Hilfiger shirts. Why can't we do the same for our South Africans?
We're very creative but we are just not business minded about our creativity. Take Trevor Struurman. He is a photographer and fashion icon. He was very clever with how he marketed his creativity. The reason why a lot of people do a lot of things is for the love but you also have to able to eat. Eating is not a hobby, you have to be able to pay your bills. He was bigger abroad than he was here.
Creatively we are doing amazing things. Look at our bloggers! We are honest, expressive and have so much to say but we never recognise each other until someone from abroad does.
What are you not saying right now?
I wish this niggah would text me. I am busy with a very out of my league person and I don’t know why I think he is out of my league. He is not texting me and we should be meeting up later tonight and he hasn’t texted me back and I hope he reads this about that night. He said he was at training. He is a martial artist and his name starts with a T.