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Introducing Karabo Poppy for GLAMOUR’s Women’s Month issue

Illustrator, graphic designer and street artist Karabo Poppy Moletsane chats representation, capturing the attention of global brands and her collaboration with Sunglass Hut.

We’re excited to present our August - Women’s Month issue; powered by women for women. We have two covers this month so you already know you’re in for a treat.

We actually can’t decide which cover we love more because both Shekhinah and Karabo Poppy are such dynamic powerhouses. The collaboration between the stars and Sunglass Hut is also an iconic one. Seeing as pairs seem to the main theme for this issue, it would’t be such a bad idea to get yourself 2 copies.

In the interim, we offer you a glimpse of Karabo’s cover story here. Be sure to check out Shekhinah’s story here.

With a 6am call time, I expect Karabo Poppy to ease into the day, but surprisingly, she’s a ball of energy. I’m wondering if she intentionally works on her energy or if she naturally has an infectious aura? “I think it’s a bit of both, that we’re all born with joy in our hearts, but sometimes things happen that take that feeling away. I do my best to take ownership of my energy – it’s a small way for me to show respect to others and myself.”

What I find most inspiring about the Forbes Africa 2019 30 under 30 Creative is that she went against the grain to pursue her passion. She chose the arts at a time when it was considered risky. “When I first told my dad I wanted to pursue a career in the arts, he was sceptical because it was a time when our parents believed mainstream careers, such as law, medicine and engineering, were the only sustainable professions.” Fast forward to the present, and she’s championing an era of representation in the arts.

Karabo Poppy x Shekhinah, photographed by Niquita Bento

She says her approach is informed by a desire to be the voice she missed and longed for when she was in tertiary and at the beginning of her career in visual arts. “I found that in university, we seldom learnt about South African illustrators who looked like or had a similar background to me. Upon obtaining my degree in Visual Communication, I experienced great difficulty finding Black South African female illustrators whose career I could use as a model for mine. That wasn’t because incredibly talented Black women artists don’t exist in South Africa, but they’re often not offered the same notoriety afforded to their white or male counterparts. I set out to be that representation for the next generation of young Black illustrators, especially those who are women, as our challenges are specific.” She wants to use her influence to elevate other creatives in under represented communities. She also recognises those who’ve inspired her approach to style and concept.

“It’s my responsibility! Representation matters, and without it, it’s hard for future generations to see themselves in spaces where you don’t usually find people who look like them. When we have representation in place, it means we create a space where all people belong. Representation is the only way forward.”

She’s built a formidable brand as an artist and businesswoman, showing her dad and the world at large that it’s possible to turn your passion into a successful career. She’s a natural in front of the camera, and I’m intrigued by how she juggles her personas seamlessly. “I’m glad it looks seamless – maybe it’s as seamless as is humanly possible! I feel we’re all just doing our best, and getting it right often looks more like giving your best, and if that resonates with other people, that’s always a special way to feel connected. For me, it’s been vital to stay grounded and keep my priorities fixed on what matters. I do my best to balance work and time with my loved ones – that’s kept me going and helped me feel supported.”

Karabo is a household name across industries and boasts an impressive portfolio, which includes iconic collaborations with brands, organisations and companies. “Since the beginning of my career, I’ve had the privilege of working with Apple, Nike, Greenpeace, Sony Music, the University of California, The Wall Street Journal, Black Coffee, Pharrell Williams, JAIN, Calvin Klein, Afropunk and Amnesty International. I feel overwhelmingly humbled by it. It’s an honor to collaborate with brands and people who share a vision and want to bring it to life.”

She asserts her alignment with brands is authentic. “I must get along with a brand, as I would with another person. If the connection is authentic, it makes sense to collaborate, and co-creating is wonderful!” Of her collab with Sunglass Hut, she says it’s close to how she portrays her work, “I see myself as a canvas on which to create art. Something my mom said that stuck with me is that sunglasses add two, so if you’re already a nine, put on a nice pair of sunnies, and you instantly become an 11!”

From a fashion point of view, “shades have a way of elevating an outfit and changing the mood – either your own or those around you. There’s a playful element to them – it’s a small, but effective way to experiment with the energy of a look.” She describes her style as androgynous and experimental, incorporating classic elements.

She says her favorite sunnies are anything by Versace. “[The brand] just gets it!” Still on the topic of shades, I’m curious about whether the pandemic has shifted her perspective. “It affected some of my plans. I initially thought of 2020 as my travel year and putting as much of my South African aesthetic and identity into a global market, and had considered taking my work to the next level.” She shares that this changed because she no longer had the privilege of being able to travel and physically place her work in different countries, which prompted her to think of innovative ways to make her work globally relevant.

“In the digital age, that’s through social media. And seeing that growth shows you don’t need to travel to capture the attention of a global audience.” And, most importantly, “I’ve realised we've got a finite amount of time on this planet, so how we spend it matters. Time is a priceless commodity, and we need to use it wisely. I want what I prioritise to reflect the value I place on time – mine and others’.”

Grab your digital copy of Glamour’s 2022 Women’s Issue, here or pick up a physical copy now available in-stores nationwide.

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