Multi-faceted creative/curator, DJ and writer Lelowhatsgood clearly wears an impressive number of influential hats but even those titles come second to his purpose-filled life of creating safe spaces for the queer community to express and celebrate themselves through his well-known Vogue Nights JHB event as its founder, while progressively navigating through the entertainment industry himself mind you… Lelo’s voice loudly advocates for queer excellence and so here he is answering a few of our questions that touch on topics such as perseverance & societal reflection as well as his list of young Africans he considers are doing well to cause a positive impact with what they do.
It’s been quite visible that the previous year has been one of the most challenging due to the obvious but even taking that aside, the state of living in SA is not only tough but can be a constant struggle to achieve a dream. However, even with all the obstacles set in place in our country, there are so many young African individuals doing amazing things… Where does your current source of inspiration come from to push forward?
It’s been tough indeed, and incredibly challenging for creatives as our work isn’t taken as seriously. Yet the one true distraction people resorted to was entertainment.
The inspiration to keep me going or motivated during these times comes from the community I operate in and base my work off of. I think we have so much to offer and there are so many queer individuals who deserve to be spoken about and given a platform. This is what I’ve been doing. Shining a spotlight on them and telling our stories as authentically as possible.
Every day presents itself with new opportunities and ways to walk closer towards your goals. Your career seems to be very diverse from DJing to essentially Social Activism, so how do you manage to balance out all these identities but still present them as part of one brand?
I’ve found the balance in everything to speak to each other as unique parts of my being. They’re all part of a golden thread. Being a writer, DJ, a cultural curator and working in the digital media field all translate to each other and don’t feel so far-fetched from one another. I lend my voice to things that matter, and it helps that I use to show the injustices within these creative fields because the issues are present there as well.
Going back to looking at how young Africans are constantly forced to thrive in environments that discourage optimism, what would you say are some of the biggest problems faced by the Youth of SA that need immediate solutions to bring back confidence in a brighter future? (I ask this because there are so many that feel stuck)
The biggest problems right now are the lack of opportunities. And this is mainly the government at fault. Many young people are still fighting for things such as access to higher education. The youth isn’t lazy or entitled, they deserve just as much but all of that is being taken away by leaders who cannot lead. We’re sitting with some of the brightest minds in tech, creativity, finance who have solutions but are at a dead end because no one is willing to hear them out. Although some are creating their own opportunities, there are still many who need a helping hand to make their dreams possible.
You have a huge list of motivating friends and colleagues that are doing amazing things within their field of work or influence and as part of this Nike Air Max Day celebration, you recognised some people you consider as inspirations. Can you briefly talk about your love for Mashstartup, Ponahalo, Lunga Ntila, Maneo & Rendani?
These people all have touched my life in different ways, and they’ve done the same for others as well. They understand the true meaning of “putting others on” while staying on their grind. That is inspirational for me. True inspiring work doesn’t happen in isolation, and this is why I take inspiration from all of them because of their talents and dedication.
They understand the true meaning of “putting others on” while staying on their grind.
Do you think that the spirit of “Ubuntu” or “Collaboration” is still being practised by the Youth of today?
100%. I don’t think any of us would be where we are today if we didn’t get any help along the way, or by means of collaborations because your ideas might not work in isolation but would be better if there was someone involved. We need to continue doing this because no one will help us if we don’t band together to make our spaces better for all of us and for generations to come.
We’ve touched on how young Africans are progressing in a midst of challenging circumstances but we can’t ignore the set-backs that young people apply to themselves as well. What would you say are the things that young people do to themselves that hold them back?
It would have to be self-doubt, imposter syndrome and also the increasing mental health issues we all face without tackling that. We have a lot of self-reflection and fixing that we need to do that holds us back to reveal our true forms or better selves. This is something that I’m working on as I grow older.
Finally, what does the future look like for Lelo right now? What are you working towards and what are you dreaming of?
I’m dreaming of finally releasing music or musical projects. This has been something that I’ve played around with for the past year because I have something to offer for the music scene in this country and how to elevate it. I have dreams to take Vogue Night Jozi to higher places and make it available for other queer bodies around the country and establish it as a home for the community. People can look forward to more of that.