Some look at challenges as stepping stones to great achievements and history records these crop of people as great achievers.
Lebohang Monyatsi is one of such people. She is the first African woman to model in a wheelchair.
Popularly known as ‘The Rolling Goddess,’ Monyatsi is a physically challenged person who defied her condition to focus on her dream of becoming a model, ultimately becoming the first African woman in a wheelchair to be a runway model.
Right from her tender age, Monyatsi had always wanted to be a model. But according to her, there were no opportunities for persons with disabilities in the entertainment industry.
Born and raised by her unemployed grandmother in the North West Province in a small town known as Vryburg; Monyatsi was diagnosed with Poliomyelitis, which affected her so much and delayed her education.
Tragically, she lost two motherly figures in her life (her mother and High School teacher) during her teenage years.
She lived mostly in a boarding school and had to be dependent on a wheelchair for mobility since the age of three.
Monyatsi was so poised not to allow her situation to limit her. Whilst she was a student at the North-West University where she studied Social Psychology, she showed a strong ability in sports, which earned her a spot in South Africa’s wheelchair basketball team.
She was part of the team that played in a qualification tournament in Guadalajara, Mexico. But unfortunately, the team could not make it in the 2012 Paralympics games held in London.
“I have always loved modelling from a young age but I couldn’t pursue it because of a lack of opportunities for people with disabilities. As we all know that media impact on society and there’s no one who looks like me in the media industry to serve as an inspiration to those who live with disabilities. I decided to embark on this journey so I can be a role model to everyone who thought it is not possible.”
Monyatsi now plays for both provincial and national wheelchair basketball teams. “I don’t see myself not playing basketball, I love it,” she said.
Through the Only One Foundation, an organization paving way for persons with disability to get a space in the fashion industry, Monyatsi became a finalist for Face of The Globe and was chosen to represent South Africa in 2017.
The Face of the Globe is a worldwide confidence-building program and competition for young women of all ages with a focus on volunteerism and raising funds for charity. Monyatsi was the only finalist in the competition with a disability.
She went on to represent her country in October 2017 in Warsaw, Poland at the Miss Wheelchair World, the first contest of its kind, which featured 24 young women from 19 countries.
The competition was held in Poland and Monyatsi made a record for South Africa and also made history as she emerged the “First Princess”.
Although her home country has not done much to support her or celebrate her accomplishment, she says she wants people to know that disabled persons have other abilities beyond sports and office.