The skinder in the make-up room was electric. Some of it went back nine or 10 years, so it seemed juicy and serious. And when the two women sat down to be interviewed, Ramaboa assumed the role of elder sister and articulated her friend’s social media journey with sensitivity that at first seemed out of place.
The two may have divergent careers now, but they started out together – on the ’gram, in fact. They shre a Soweto home base, many friends and a palpable love of luxury. Eight years ago, when Instagram was launched, both of them began building an online presence. They laugh about shooting each other’s weekly content in short bursts. Ramaboa would later branch out into fashion designing and boutiques (see their profiles on p27 and p28).
The sensitivity in the conversation stems from the cruel assumptions that many people seemed to make about Mabote as she grew in popularity. Barbed whispers accused her of faking her online success. Meanwhile, she says she was selling Herbalife tonics feverishly to buy the fancy things she loved.
“When you’re a beautiful girl who takes care of herself, people like to gossip – and it can be very painful. People used to assume that social media marketing wasn’t actually a job. It’s only now that they understand the transactions involved in social media,” interjects Ramaboa.
She met Mabote more than 10 years ago at her Parkhurst, Johannesburg, offices when she interviewed her for a job at the retail and facilities management companies Ramaboa used to run.
“I remember that she was driving a new Jaguar. I went in for the interview and saw all these certificates on the wall listing the work her companies were doing. I was very inspired by how much she’d achieved,” says Mabote.
Ramaboa recalls being struck by Mabote’s ambition. “I’ve always seen a bit of myself in her. We both work extremely hard. You look at how cute Kefi is and immediately assume she has it easy, but I know what she’s been through to get here.”
Mabote’s now considered one of SA’s most successful digital influencers, commanding tens of thousands of rands for campaigns. She says she recently made six figures off an international Instagram campaign and recently added weddings to the repertoire offered by her styling consultancy.
“I think it’s possible to build wealth off social media consulting, but it takes a lot of patience if you’re really passionate about it. Technically, anyone can make money, but to really build wealth, you have to be smart about saving and investing most of it.”