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Life as an artiste is hard!. . . Oliver Keith aka NaJesca narrates his journey

There is a lot that goes on in the lives of arts personalities which a lot of their followers are rarely privy to as most prefer to show the public the good side and hide the struggles they face daily.

Oliver Keith aka NaJesca
Oliver Keith aka NaJesca

In order to give people an insight, South Africa-based model-cum-comedian Oliver Keith recently shared his journey into the world of the arts on his Facebook page, taking it from where it all began.

Below is his journey which he shared on his Facebook page.

A lot of people always ask me how I became a model and I seldom answer this question. In 2008 in an attempt to raise my Advanced Level school fees, I became a stay in manny in Burnside to three beautiful girls who later moved to the United Kingdom (UK) with their family. (A manny is a male nanny).

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Each time I visit the UK, they all make time out of their university and work schedules to take me out, along with their parents. The last time I was in Manchester they took me to J D Sports and asked me to choose whatever trainer I wanted.

See, it’s not that my parents couldn’t afford to pay my fees. The issue is that I had siblings that also needed to get to Ordinary Level and I told my parents I would pay my fees, that way it wouldn’t be too much for them. I mean we still needed to eat and be accommodated.

One afternoon on my way to Dynamics, a training facility opposite Central Police Station, between dropping off a taxi and picking up one of the girls from Dominican Convent, I had about 45 minutes to go to the gym.

While walking past City Hall, a lady called Sarah Mpofu, better known as Tashi (who had previously played a big role in Bulawayo’s most popular soapie Amakorokoza) approached me and told me I had the looks of becoming the next model. You should have seen my face! How could a nobody like me become a model?

I barely afforded a pair of jeans.

My salary was paid directly to the school and also went towards stationery and toiletries. I was just another mindless young boy wondering how my life would turn out. Being told I had the looks for a magazine cover sounded more of a mockery than hope from a lady I had always admired every time I watched TV.

I enrolled to be a model the next weekend and attended grooming classes every Tuesday and Thursday evenings for three months. Before I knew it, I had graduated as a professional model, and my approach to life had changed. To be honest, I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

I have often been warned about the myth and stereotype that associated male models and designers as either gay or bisexual. Whether that myth was justified or not, it mattered not to me.

Life later taught me never to worry about people’s opinions of me. I learnt that human beings had a right to have an opinion and I had my right never to be bothered by what someone else thinks of me.

To this day I have heard plenty of opinions of myself, with the popular one being that I’m full of myself. I remember one individual saying “Who does this guy think he is?” The person said it so loud that I turned around and said “Well, unlike you, I don’t think who I am, I know who I am.”

I have now resorted to asking people to get to know me to test the theory that I’m full of myself.

In 2009, I was crowned Bulawayo’s Best Male Model. It had been a tough competition because it had stars such as Dean Banda, Ben Chest and Qinisani Ndlovu. How I emerged the winner still beats me. I didn’t feel bad about winning.

Two years later, I became Zimbabwe’s Best Male Model and then came that Facebook online competition called Zimbabwe’s Sexiest Men Alive. My friend Percy Matuassa submitted an image of me and people voted and I emerged the winner.

My idea of being a model was me in Louis Vuitton underwear and baby oil all over my body, Hublot watches and magazines. Yes, I did that, but I learnt it went beyond that. I learnt it was all about being a model of love, excellence and humanity.

Since then, I have done plenty of shoots with different clothing companies in Zimbabwe from Mzansi Exclusives in Bulawayo, to Edgars, The Rack and Nesbitt Castle brochures among others. I have also had the opportunity to shoot with international models in Central London, England, Scotland and Wales.

I then became NaJesca, a comic character. So if you’ve always wondered what I do, there you have it. I am a model-cum-comedian. I am an advocate for love, empathy, compassion, empowerment and the rights of discriminated individuals. I am a humanitarian. I love people. I prefer the question, what is it that I can do for people as opposed to what are my friends or “followers” doing for me.

There are days I wish I could be supported as an artiste, but there are more days I ask myself what it is that I can do for the people who encourage me daily, for the people who watch my videos or trust me with their brands, and for the people who randomly message me and tell me my videos help them when they are feeling low.

You see, being an artiste is probably harder than I thought it would be, harder than you perceive it.

You have to come on social media and put on a false front that your life is perfect, knowing well you have to go and deal with a horrible self-centred landlord, or have to open an empty refrigerator that you had opened a few minutes prior hoping chicken wings and yoghurt emerged from somewhere.

You have to get on a 16 hour-long bus journey from Johannesburg to Harare to MC a wedding and be paid just enough to cover your bus fare back and if you’re lucky, you may be given a plate of rice and beef stew and a hot can of cream soda to have along the way.

Being an artist means getting onto the cheapest flight available to England and having a 26-hour layover in Addis Ababa, arriving at Heathrow International Airport a few hours before an event and spending another four hours going through immigration, and still expected to get to the event and smile and take pictures while your feet hurt and tummy growls.

Be that as it may, I love everything I do. I embrace it daily and encourage others to do so. Will it be easy? I can bet my last dollar, it won’t! The Chronicle