|The world is coming together despite unresolved
political problems. People are moving across national boarders to enjoy
their vacations, visit friends and relatives or live and work for
multinational organizations. The experience of living in a foreign
country with different culture could change one’s lifestyle. AFRITOPIC
conducted an interview with a lovely German model, Rebecca
Unterschemmann, whose experience in South Africa changed her lifestyle.
Are you from Bavaria?
I am a typical Bavarian girl. But I always dreamt of living in Hawaii. I
had a girlfriend that went to Hawaii. She told me about the beauty of
Hawaii and the very nice, very cool people and way of life in Hawaii. I
dreamt of how life could be wonderful on the island. My dream remained a
dream. I have never been to Hawaii. Looking back today, I prefer my life
as an adolescent better than my life before the puberty. This has
nothing to do with the way I was brought up. My parents took very good
care of my brother and me. I believe that everyone develops his/her
character, personality or taste irrespective of the parent’s
influence. In the elementary school, the subjects I liked and my
motivation to learn depended on the teacher teaching the subject. I did
not like most of the subjects and I found the lessons boring. I
retracted into my own world and immersed in my own thoughts when the
topic was uninteresting. I knew that going to school was not for me.
Moreover, I was a very shy girl. I could not defend myself whenever I
was attacked, despite the fact that I was one of the tallest in the
school. I did not know how to defend myself.
Did you stand out in the school because of your height?
Again, in the secondary school, I was taller than most of the boys in
the class. Many of them were intimidated by my height and avoided asking
me to dance with them at school parties. Some of them summed up the
courage and approached me. I accepted their invitation, towering above
them on the dancing floor. Later, I started receiving complements about
my beautiful hair and soon about my looks. One day, I was offered a
modelling job. Though, my father was a model, I never thought of being a
model. Anyway, I took the offer and earned some money. Before long, I
received more offers and was earning money while in the school. I
decided not to go for the Abitur
(Secondary School Certificate), which would make me stay longer in the
secondary school. Instead, I optioned for a one-year school that taught
correspondence in foreign language. However, I stopped attending the
school after four months because I realized that I would have to work in
an office all day for a job in the field. I am not the type that sits in
the office. I decided to take up modelling as a full-time job.
Was being a model your dream profession?
Working as a model was not my dream. Like most kids, I loved animals and
thought of animals as my friends. But I did not think of working with
animals or working in any professional field. I never thought of
following a career path. If I should tell anyone what I wanted to be, I
think the person would just laugh. As a young girl or rather as a kid,
all I wanted to be was a princess. I just wanted to be a princess and
nothing else. As I grew older, I realized that I could never be a
princess. My taste and lifestyle do not fit into that of a princess. I
wanted to be free. I wanted to say whatever I feel like saying and
express my opinion anytime and anywhere. In terms of fashion, I prefer
casual street wear; jeans, sweat shirts, pair of snickers etc. The wish
to be a princess was just a child’s dream. I got into modelling
because I was offered the job at an early age. I was told that my height
and figure are suitable for a modelling career. These were the basic
requirements. I did not think of myself as being pretty. I never
attended a modelling school. My modelling career was unplanned. It just
happened. Through contacts from the modelling jobs I did, I was
introduced to an agent who later handled my bookings and contracts. I
was already earning good money at the age of 18 years. While many in my
age group were sitting in classrooms, I was travelling to different
cities in Europe and the USA for photo shooting and fashion shows. I
felt good and was enjoying myself. This is the sweet side of modelling
as a profession. continue>
the difficulties in a modelling career?
There were times when my bank account was filled and I had a lot of
money at my disposal. There were also times when I was in red and had
difficulties in paying my bills. There were times of uncertainty.
Contracts were not coming in and I was being turned down because I was
too fat, too skinny, had wrinkles or pickles. Sometimes, the company is
not satisfied and not ready to pay. There were times I felt burned out.
In many cases, I had to travel long distances within short notice. I had
to be at one photo shooting location after the other with minimum
interval for a quick lunch or dinner. I sometimes have to act; if I am
asked to smile and I am not in the mood to smile; only acting can help.
Being a model is not all glamour. Many young girls aspire to be models
because they believe that models earn a lot of money, have glamorous
lives and are celebrities. This might be true for the very top models.
But this is not the case for the majority of models. Even the highly
paid top models have to cope with stress and other discomforts entailed
in the business.
What are your hobbies?
My high priority hobby is listening to music. At home or when I am
driving, the music is always on. R & B and Hip Hop are my favourites.
I also love African rhythm and percussion. Talking about music artists,
I would say I am a fan of Eminem.
I do not like most of the boys/girls groups. When I was younger, I
started learning to play the piano and tried to sing all the songs I
liked, though I was aware that I couldn’t really sing. To be a singer
would mean that I would have to practice hard almost daily. No,
practicing long hours is not for me. I enjoy singing and feeling like a
pop star, even if I am singing the song totally wrong. I like watching
pop stars on the TV and going to music concerts. I find music concerts
entertaining and I would admit that I do fancy some artists. But I am
not the type that falls into ecstasy because of a pop star. I once
attended a George Michael
concert with 3 girlfriends. During the concert, my girlfriends went
frenzy and were creaming. I could not believe it. I enjoyed the music,
found the show cool and I had a lot of fun. That is all. I cannot
imagine myself going crazy because of a music artist.
Do you have other professional or business intensions?
Today, apart from modelling, I am developing my own clothing line with
my mother as partner. I create new pieces of t-shirts; sweat shirts,
sweater and jackets by modifying ready-made ones using embroidery,
patchwork or colourful textiles. All the modifications are hand-made.
The idea of starting a clothing line originated during my stay in
Brooklyn, New York. I thought of capitalizing on my design talent; the
talent I inherit from my mother. She used to make beautiful dresses for
me when I was a little girl and taught me how to sew. My brother also
has affinity to design. I buy most of the ready-made clothing from
different outlets including second hand shops in the USA. Each piece of
the clothing with the label nakid desin is unique. I love doing the design. It gives me joy. I have also been approached with the idea of starting a
jewellery line. This is quite interesting because I was making jewellery
while living in South Africa. I was inspired by the creative handworks
of Africans; using colourful beads, they create beautiful jewellery. I
am looking into the possibility of working together with a jewellery
producing company. If all goes well I might combine jewellery
accessories with the clothing line. I get a lot of help from my mother
and sometimes from my brother. My mother helps me with sewing and if I
lack idea she gives suggestions. But I am sole responsible for the
sales/marketing, distribution and promotion. At present my designs are
distributed to shops in Munich area. In the future, I hope to distribute
to shops all over Germany.
Are you engaged in any charity organizations?
I also work part-time for an organization in Munich, catering for
children welfare and fighting for a better world for children. The
organization is a children foundation called Children
for a Better World. I am happy being a part of this organization
because helping people especially children makes me happy. When I was
living in South Africa, there were many situations where I could offer
my help due to the economic condition of the majority of the population.
This is not the case in Germany. As I mentioned earlier, I do not like
working in an office. However, I am willing to help. So, I decided to
work twice a week in the office to help in the organization. I have been
doing this for the past 3 years and I enjoy doing it.
You mentioned living in South. What impact did your time in South
Africa have on you?
The time I spent in South Africa is very special for me. It is a
significant period of my life. Before going to South Africa, I was
living in countries, where I felt secured and protected. In Germany, I
have my parents, my brother and friends. If I had to work in other parts
of Europe or the USA, I could easily contact people I know very well. I
never felt unsecured or exposed to any danger. I always felt like a girl
embedded in the loving care of her parents and friends. My travelling to
South Africa changed my life dramatically. I had to work and survive on
my own. My parents, brother and friends were far away. The subconscious
feeling of protection was gone. I had to face reality of life in a new
environment and solve problems. On the other hand, I had the freedom to
take my own decisions. I was free to do whatever I wanted to do without
anyone questioning my action or intruding my private life. I was 23
years old. It was time for me to grow up and be myself.
go to South Africa to work as a model?
I visited South Africa for the first time on vacation with a friend.
During the fabulous vacation, I made some contacts and decided to go
back whenever I have the opportunity. The chance came and I took it. I
was back in Cape Town, South Africa. For the first time in my life I was
in the minority of a population. The situation opened up my eyes. I was
in a new role, different from the situation in Europe. I started
learning that what I took for granted in Europe might not be taken as
such in South Africa. I became aware of other views and perspectives to
social and organizational issues. In Europe I used to complain about
every little disorder. I would complain if I found an insect on the wall
of my hotel room. Life in South Africa changed such habits. I met my
boyfriend in South Africa and experienced outdoor camping, which was new
to me. I had direct contact to nature and having insects moving around
my sleeping bag became normal. The beautiful beach and sunshine with
blue sky induced in me a hitherto unrealised happiness. I was confronted
with a different culture. A culture in which, generally speaking, the
people are open and warm. I would not like to paint South Africa as a
paradise. I had my share of bad experience and there were also people I could not get along with. But I met a lot of very friendly and amazing
people. I made new friends and helped wherever I could.
Which type of help did you give in South Africa?
Unfortunately, the wealth derived from the abundant natural resources of
South Africa is still within the reach of only a few. Many families are impoverished. I met a woman raising 4
children, a boy and 3 girls, alone as a single parent. She became sick
with heart problems and could not earn enough money to provide schooling
for the children. I decided
to cater for the 3 girls named Abigail, Tumi and Manana and support the
family financially to provide education for the children. They all speak
3 South African languages; Afrikaans, Zulu and Xhosa as well as English
as a fourth language. I am fond of them and communicate regularly with
them either via post, phone or SMS. I could also contact them through a
German family friend residing in Cape Town. The family lives in Guguletu
Township, Cape Town. I hope to continue helping them until they can take
care of themselves. They represent my tie to South Africa. Overall, I
had a wonderful time in South Africa.
Why did you leave South Africa?
left South Africa due to 2 major reasons. At that time, the South
African currency, the Rand, was devaluated and I was not earning much as
a model. For better paying modelling contracts, I had to go to Europe.
Secondly, the relationship with my boyfriend came to an end. My
relationship was the most important reason why I stayed in South Africa
despite the devaluation of Rand. I could not bear staying in South
Africa any longer. I applied for contracts in Europe and was lucky to
receive offers that took me to Turkey, England among other countries. I
visited South Africa again after seven years. I was happy to see that
the family I have been supporting over the years were in good condition
and my 3 “little” girls have now grown into adults. Meanwhile, their
mother’s health has improved and she has a job. The joy we all felt
during my visit was overwhelming. The girls wish to attain higher
education and would still need my help. I have discussed the issue with
my parents and people I trust. They are willing to help.
Is modelling still you main focus?
I intend to continue working as a model. I feel I could be a model for
more years to come like my father who still models. However, I have
stopped excessive travelling as a model. I like to travel for other
reasons, such as promoting my designs but not for jobs as a model. I do
not want to do that anymore. I am shifting my focus to my clothing line.
I would like to devote more time to my designs and develop the fashion
business, while I work for the children foundation. Naturally,
priorities change the older one gets. I am not a teenager anymore. I am
now living together with my Bavarian boyfriend in Munich. We understand
each other very well. In fact I left Miami for Munich because of my
boyfriend. This shows that I am not all that emancipated.
living in other countries, do you have difficulties adjusting
to life in Munich?
On arriving in Germany during the winter, after some years of sunny
weather in Miami, I was depressed. I think that the weather could impact
on peoples’ feelings, moods or state of mind. I also missed the multi
entertainment available in Miami due to the mixed cultures. This made
life boring for me and reinforced my decision to start the clothing
line. I am now used to life in Munich. I am fine and I do not have any
depressions. I believe that I can never have any form of depression
again. I have lived in different countries and mixed with different
cultures. I have experienced great happiness and love. I have gone
through sadness and pain. Together, these experiences have made me
psychologically stable. Though I was brought up in a Christian home, I
do not believe in going to church. I believe in God and pray before I go
to bed. In terms of religion, I do not constrain myself to Christianity.
I worked in Nepal as a model at the age of about 17 years old and have a
small Buddha statue at home today.
How important is love for you? Do you believe in God and are you
afraid of becoming old?
My zodiac sign is Aires. I believe in love. If I were to choose between
love and money, I would definitely choose love. My parents gave me
abundant of love and still shower me with love. This is surely one of
the reasons why I am able to give love. Money is necessary to pay for
the living requirements, which is why we have to earn money. There are
problems caused due to lack of money, but there are also unhappy rich
people. I am happy with my life and I am not afraid of becoming old. I
only hope that I retain my good health in old age. I pray that I remain
physically fit like my parents and grand parents. I am careful
about what I eat and maintain a balanced diet with a lot of vegetables.
I go to the gym regularly to do yoga-like exercises. I enjoy relaxing
with a glass of wine and background music. With the combination of all
my activities, I am optimistic about keeping my body and soul together
for many years to come.