She’s been accused of using her “fat girl chronicles” to seek attention, and her body positivity activism isn’t always met with kind words.
But for plus-size model and photographer Lesego “Thickleeyonce” Legobane, being a leading voice in the body positivity movement has brought her nothing but great opportunities.
She recently bagged a gig with international clothing brand Calvin Klein — as the first South African plus-size model/influencer roped in to work on the campaign for Calvin Klein Women eau de toilette.
“It’s crazy and I actually still have to pinch myself a couple of times every time I think about it. To say I am a Calvin Klein influencer in itself is just insane,” she said this week.
“I got an e-mail from Calvin Klein, telling me they were looking for a plus-size digital influencer in SA, which they have never had. They wanted to associate themselves with a local plus-size model to sign on as an overall influencer and work with them on really cool campaigns.”
The 26-year-old model said she was excited to be part of a campaign which allowed a fresh take on limitless self-expression. “The first campaign, which is for a new fragrance for Calvin Klein Women, is out. Obviously, I signed on because it also stands for everything that I believe in, which is women being unapologetic about loving themselves and being themselves in totality.”
The #IAMWOMAN campaign has influencers of different shapes, shades and sizes from all over the world and Legobane said it was mind-blowing for her that her body positivity set her apart from all the other influential personalities who might have been “obvious” picks.
“I always work with big brands but there are certain brands I doubted I would ever work with, they were like a distant dream. But when something like this happens, it just defies societal norms. A lot of girls who look like me or have a body like mine don’t believe it’s possible to get these kind of things unless you fall into the ‘conventional beauty’ category. But this says the exact opposite. If I can do it, so can they. It is a big deal for SA’s plus-size women community.”
Legobane has been applauded for handling several body-shaming attacks with grace. In 2017, she made international headlines for her fierce and no-nonsense stance against body shaming. In a viral clap-back at the Twitter troll who dissed her, she spoke about body positivity and how to deal with it to magazines such as USA Teen Vogue.
The model said she didn’t mind that her name was synonymous with the “fat girl” narrative because she had accepted that she was a necessary role model for young South African girls, filling a void on social and mainstream media. “I am a big girl and I love being a big girl. I want to be remembered as the big girl who made a difference, one who accepted and loved herself so much that she inspired others to do the same.”
Legobane credits her confidence to her mother, who raised her single-handed. Her mom is also raising her two nieces, without whom Legobane said she can’t imagine life. It’s her mother’s teachings and the desire to be a good role model to her nieces that moulded her confidence.
“It’s probably a cliché but my mother always told me that the best thing I could do is be myself. She always told me to love myself for who I am. That’s where I got my confidence, from watching her do that every day. My mother was always supportive of my dreams and because of how much she believed in me, I built my confidence.”
Legobane said this had also been a great help when she went into the retail business with a clothing range called LeeBex. The store, co-owned with Rebecca Garande, was established online in 2016. They recently got a physical shop, to be officially launched at the end of this month. Legobane credits her loyal fan base with the success of LeeBex.
“The shopping experience for the big girl is hardly ever pleasant and we had that in mind when we started talking about the physical store. It’s sad that in SA, where most women have curves, it’s taken us so long to catch up. LeeBex will be a safe space for these girls because Bex and I understand the insecurities and struggles of big girls.”