In case you missed my Phreshman feature, here it is. Also, be sure to check out the really dope blog here, to keep up with student culture in SA.
Who is Kenny?
I always have such a hard time answering this kind of question. It’s difficult to define yourself in terms other people can understand, or are even open to hearing. I’m a work in progress, I guess. On paper, I’m a 23 year old mixed race South African young woman living in New York, but the subtext of that statement? I’m the product of two very political parents from opposite corners of the world. I’ve lived in 4 different cities, in 3 different countries, speak 2 languages fluently and have only 1 chance to make that all mean something. I’m a vegan Digital Anthropologist with a Bachelors Degree in Art History, Anthropology and Media, an Honours Degree in Anthropology (both from UCT) and am currently pursuing a Masters Degree in fashion Studies from Parsons School of Design, here in New York. I’m specialising in Sustainable and Ethical Design, and am fascinated by the politics of fashion. I’m a writer, a lover, a blogger, aspiring game changer, and a host of goals still yet to be achieved. That’s a good start I think.
What do you do for a living?
I am fortunate enough to not have to work for a living yet, so most of what I do is out of pure passion. I’m a brand influencer and freelance writer contributing for digital publications such as my own blog IIIRD CITIZEN and Mad Mash, a new lifestyle App for young people. I do intermittent Social Media Management work for digital brands such as Plan de Ville, an e commerce platform for emerging designers in New York, and GBNYC, a digital marketing agency.
I’ve done odd jobs here and there in the past to gain experience, internships at Coty International in Paris (product development), Metropolitan Republic in Johannesburg (copywriting) and Emporio Armani in Cape Town (visual merchandising), but have yet to settle into a formal role. It’s hard to find a position that encompasses all my pasions and goals, so I’m trying to carve one out for myself. Since I’m still a student, my flexible schedule allows me to do a lot of things in between completing my thesis, one of which is developing an e commerce platform specifically for luxury sustainable design on the African continent, that will be launching early next year.
What inspires you?
At a very basic level, I’m inspired by my environment. Growing up the way I did, you learn to adapt to change, be open minded and curious. That influenced the way I absorb information, I try to take in as much as I can from the world directly around me; think of it as a survival tactic gone right.
At a conceptual level though, I’m inspired by architecture, that happens when you’re accustomed to getting lost in new places; by literature, in particular the leather bound books in my father’s office; by music, specifically the old school jazz my mother sings while cooking; by art, and most importantly, by the abundance of dynamic people I meet on a daily basis in my very colourful life. Good design makes magic out of the little things.
Why is education important to you?
My love of learning came from a place of wanting to understand myself better. I needed to contextualise my parents’ experience as an interracial couple under apartheid, I needed to understand why my dad made me read To Kill A Mockingbird twice, why people think Kenny is a boy’s name, and I needed to understand, why I needed to understand these things.
That’s the part I think a lot of people forget. Education is not only the key to a better financial future for yourself, your family and your country, it’s also the key to understanding your fellow man, and isn’t that the key to everything? I think so at least. In order to affect change, you must understand it, and if people are agents of change, we must understand them first. That’s why I went to Anthropology before Fashion, even though it was my ultimate goal. I needed to establish a framework of thought from which to approach a subject that is so highly saturated with opinions. Learning things, helps you unlock other things you still have yet to know about. It’s an endless endevour, and I’m grateful to have been able to study this far. I hope to take it to PhD level eventually, but my learning itself will never be finished, and I’m lucky that my youth comes with an abundance of life left to pursue it.
What are your top 5 must have items for students?
Well, what my 6 years of study have taught me is that the top 5 must haves for ANY student who wants to succeed are all things you can’t buy in shops or online, if you could, trust me, I would have.
1. A steady support system. Be it your family, friends, social networks or classmates, establish a steady support system because when things get really tough, and believe me, things will get tough, cute stationary isn’t going to help you push passed the hurdles you are sure to face. Like-minded, goal oriented friends you can study with, family you can call for comfort or a boost of determination, or a professor you have a mutual respect relationship with who can remind you that countless students before and after you, have felt and will feel, all of the things that you do. It’s not easy to do this education thing, so don’t do it alone.
2. Balance. Work hard, but an important part of studying is being social. Balance out the way you use your brain, establish networks with people who you could learn from and possibly teach. Go to social events outside of your comfort zone, expand a little bit so that all that knowledge you’re learning in class, has somewhere to go in the world. Also, this will keep you sane.
3. Health. This is a must have a lot of us neglect. Mental, physical and emotional health, all contribute to your academic experience and performance. Take care of your body, try and eat things that nourish instead of drain you (I once ate plain yoghurt and 2 minute noodles only, for a month straight, bad idea). Also, and this is something I feel like we don’t talk about enough as a generation, your sexual health is extremely important. Get regular check ups, get tested, familiarize yourself with your student health center and the services they offer. Explore all your options and resources when it comes to your sexual health. The subject is no longer taboo, but with that freedom comes a lot of responsibility, so be smart about yours and stay informed.
Take care of your mind, make time for your passions and hobbies, time to relax and decompress. And take care of your well being. Make time for friends, do new things and try new foods, anything it takes to keep your heart happy and in tune with the rest of you. I joined a handful of campus societies in my first year like Wine Soc and Social Waterpolo, and that helped. Universities have the highest rates of undiagnosed depression, and it’s something we really need to be better about tackling, so look out for each other too, care of others is self-care in the mirror.
4. Have a plan. This is a must have that kept me driven on all those late nights I spent up crying over my work, or racing against a deadline. Have a plan for your goals; why are you here, what do you have to do to get to the next stage. What is your plan B if you fail something, or your ambitions change. How much time do you have to achieve certain things, and what happens if you don’t. I had a 5 year plan that is about to come to an end as I graduate with this Masters, and am currently in the process of figuring out what my next plan is. It’s tough, but when nothing else makes sense, the plan will.
5. And lastly, you must have hope. Don’t let that 8 am Monday lecture (I literally had one for 2 years in a row), or that professor you’re sure has a grudge against you, discourage you (I’m pretty sure he/she doesn’t). Have hope. You will get through it. You will finish. You will enjoy it, and when you graduate, you will miss it.
MY top 5 things that money CAN buy though:
1. A durable bag. I carry a large leather tote bag to school with both a shoulder strap and short handles. Carrying a laptop or textbooks around is both heavy and inconvenient, but if you’ve ever had a strap break on campus (like I have), you know you must invest in something sturdy.
2. A classic pair of sunglasses. If you’re anything like me, mornings can be a miserable time, mostly for people who have to engage with me before 10 o’clock and 2 cups of coffee, but I never leave home without my shades, at least that way I can hide my misery.
3. Comfortable shoes. I’m not much of a sneaker head, so my go to shoes are usually casual brogues or loafers.
4. A Raincoat. I went to UCT, and those of you who do/did too know that Cape Town is unpredictable and rain can come at you side ways. My good people, an umbrella won’t save you. Get yourself a swag raincoat/drimac and keep it handy in your bag or in your car during the winter time; because there is nothing cute about sludging across campus looking like a wet dog, that goes for all campuses.
5. Hand sanitizer. Guys, the world is a filthy place.