People of Joburg

The rise of super-vlogger Mihlali N: first stop YouTube, now the world!

Jun 6, 2019, Author: Candice May

Influencers have totally shaken up the social media landscape in recent years, but Mihlali Ndamase was dominating YouTube, Instagram and Twitter before glitter-flecked skin and smoky peach eyes were even a thing. The beauty and fashion social media star is an Instagram OG who’s made the impressive leap from bedroom beauty tutorials to a self-made millionaire at just 22 years young.  

Inspiration can strike at the most unlikely of moments. For Mihlali, that unlikely moment came when she was 15 and stumbled upon the likes of Nikki Tutorials, Nicole Guerriero and Aaliyah Jay (still one of her favourites today) on YouTube. The first seed had been planted. “These content curators inspired me to do my research on starting my own YouTube channel. In 2016, I’d saved up enough money to buy a camera and that’s when I started the Mihlali N channel,” she explains. 


Mihlali made the move from her hometown of KwaZulu-Natal to the busy city of Joburg in 2015 after finishing high school at St John’s Diocesan for Girls in 2014. “People often say that girls from small towns come to the big city, mix with the wrong people and lose themselves. I came to Joburg knowing what I wanted to achieve and motivated by the three most influential people in my life – my mother, my grandmother and my aunt,” she says. She did a short makeup course at LISOF and is now studying a BA in Strategic Brand Communications at Vega, which she feels will be beneficial on her journey to building her personal brand. “My degree will also help me manage current brand partnerships and be useful for future business ventures – I believe in having multiple streams of income.”  

Mihlali’s first paid campaign was hosting NYX makeup masterclasses when the brand launched in South Africa. Since then, she’s been crowned the first face of Swedish watch brand Daniel Wellington in South Africa and the face of the Johnson’s Fresh Hydration range. Mihlali has also worked with beauty powerhouses including MAC Cosmetics, Bobbi Brown, Inglot, Essence, Revlon and LUX plus fashion and lifestyle brands like Superbalist, Bata Shoes, Beauty Revolution, Bernini and Brutal Fruit. 


Along with her Daniel Wellington collaboration, Mihlali’s proudest career highlight to date was being on Cosmopolitan’s first-ever selfie cover for their March 2019 Influencer Issue. “Being on the cover of Cosmo was such an honour. To be recognised by this magazine for my craft was a blessing,” she says. However, Mihlali’s most exciting campaign hasn’t launched just yet. She spills some tea: “For now, all I can say is that it’s with a brand that I have a long-term relationship with. I love how they’ve incorporated my story into the campaign and communicated the message in a relatable way rather than just promoting the product that they’re selling.” 

In Mihlali’s opinion, ‘influencer’ is the best term to describe what she does as a content creator. “The great thing about being an influencer is that you get to be yourself. People follow you because they have a particular interest in you, whether it be your personality or your craft, and brands collaborate with you for you to incorporate their products or services into your lifestyle to market them,” she explains, adding that the most important thing an influencer should stand for is what they believe in.  


Touching on the importance of being selective with brand collaborations, Mihlali points out that collaborations that influencers aren’t passionate about will always show through their content. “You won’t be as enthusiastic when sending out a message and this will confuse your audience,” she says. There are a number of big-name brands that Mihlali aspires to work with in the future, one of the main ones at the moment being Mercedes-Benz. “I love everything that the brand embodies.”  

Mihlali talks out  

On making her first R1m… 

I owe my success to my determination to succeed. When I decided to pursue a career in beauty, many people questioned how I’d succeed as a makeup artist, so I owe it to myself – I worked extremely hard to become the best person I can be and to prove the doubters wrong. Being an influencer is hard work! You need to be in creative thinking mode 24/7 and dedicated to filming and editing. It can also be emotionally draining at times considering you’re putting yourself out there, which makes you vulnerable. My top tip for aspiring vloggers is to remain authentic, consistent and determined. 

On her signature look… 

My signature makeup look is a neutral eye and bold red lip with a nude manicure and a spritz of Pure Musc For Her by Narciso Rodriguez or Chanel Chance. In winter, my go-to outfit is a pair of jeans, a turtleneck sweater, a long, dramatic scarf and boots with my all-time favourite handbag, my Louis Vuitton Neverfull. My handbag essentials are hand cream, wet wipes, lip-gloss, sunglasses and an iPhone charger. When travelling, I always have foundation – either Essence Insta Perfect Liquid Makeup or Estée Lauder Double Wear – concealer, setting spray, mascara and lip balm on hand.  

On her favourite Jozi hangouts… 

My favourite restaurant is Gemelli in Bryanston – I’m obsessed with their pastas! I also like the newly opened Saint in Sandton, especially for drinks in the gorgeous bar area. When it comes to shopping, Sandton City is my go-to because they have everything from affordable to high-end brands. I love shopping local too though – Style Alert SA (check them out on Instagram) and Gelideli Fashion Housboth have amazing on-trend garments. If I were to ever move out of Joburg, it would only be because I’d been given the opportunity to live and work abroad for a few years. 

Facebook: @mihlaliindamase 

Twitter: @mihlaliii_n 

Instagram: @mihlaliii_n 

Spread the love