Tshepiso Leeyola Leola on beauty, love and a new journey

Meet 31-year-old Tshepiso Leeyola, a transgender make-up artist, model, and now a Youtuber.

She talks about all things beauty, her career, LGBTIQ+ activism, her brand new YouTube channel, and a little bit about her love life to celebrate the last days of the “month of love”.

Leeyola on the beauty industry and activism

Leeyola you are a woman of many talents but would you say that makeup artistry is the one profession that is closest to your heart?

Doing what I love for a living and getting paid for it is a true blessing. Makeup artistry is one of those and it will forever be close to my heart because it launched who Leeyola is in the creative space. It has landed me in spaces I never thought I would and I am truly grateful.

Do you consider yourself an LGBTQIA+ activist?

Definitely. Activism is quite broad. I’m pro-queer rights and I do my activism by sharing my experiences as a trans woman on my social platform now and again. So many queer people always come to me when I’m out or in my DMs telling me how much I’ve inspired them to come out to their families by just being my true self or how they love the work that I do. I am so thankful that we live in a technological era. We never had that privilege growing up, but young queer people today do.

How important do you think it is for people who have a platform like yours to be queer activists? And why do you think so?

Social media is a very powerful tool to get messages across and we use our platforms for different reasons. I use my platforms mainly to promote the work that I do and to make an impact in queer people’s lives because life is a journey of discovery for our community. I need to encourage our fellow queer people to take their time in learning, accepting, and embracing their true selves.

The future is transgender

How has the beauty industry treated you as a black transgender woman?

In my 7 years in the beauty industry, I have never experienced a scenario where I didn’t get a job because of my identity. In the commercial modeling space, being trans was the reason why I got the gigs that I’ve done so far. I’m truly blessed to have crossed paths with professionals that have trusted and given me opportunities for the work I can do and respected me as a human being regardless of who/what I identify as.

Do you feel that you are held to a different standard in the beauty industry because of your gender identity versus your heterosexual counterparts?

No. In the beauty industry, your work speaks for you. It’s about what you can produce. It’s never really about your gender or sexuality.

Becoming a Youtube sensation

You recently launched your YouTube channel, tell me what’s it about. And what do you hope to achieve with it?

Yes. I’m 3 uploads into it. It’s still new but I’m learning and having so much fun. I’m creative at my core and my YouTube channel is just an extension of what I’ve always been doing on Instagram.

I get to share more of some of the things I get up to in my personal life through my vlogs. I also share makeup and fashion tips. Going forward I’ll be having a sit-down with a few trans women having “The Trans Talk” because I aim to make the channel educational too. And yeah I hope to eventually make money out of it too in the future of course (laughs).

I am sure like most people you get inspired by other incredible people. Who would you say inspires Leeyola in the beauty, and the YouTube vlogging space?

In the beauty space, I would say Stephy Kwenaite because I have worked with her. I call her my industry mother (giggles). She does her work with so much ease and she’s always kind enough to share her knowledge with people around her. In the YouTube space, I watch Seithati Letsipa and Xoli Gcabashe’s channels religiously and I can confidently tell you that their level of authenticity inspired me to start my channel.

Leeyola on the key to success

Your incredible work as a makeup artist has seen your work with some of the best artists in our country. What would you say has been the driving force for your success?

My passion for it. I am a self-taught makeup artist and it took me so long to accept or be comfortable with that title because I feel like titles need to be earned. I’m generally such a perfectionist so I invested so much time, effort, and money in perfecting my craft and it’s only then that I could be confident with the “make-up artist” title and I’m still learning, every day!

Give me 3 tips you would give to someone who wants to get into makeup artistry and modeling.

Doing it for the love of it should be mainly why you want to do it. Always do whatever it takes to be better and greater at whatever it is that you do. Don’t be afraid to ask people you look up to, they might be willing to do more than just give a piece of advice.

Who is your favourite queer icon and why?

I can’t think of anyone right now but I know a very close friend of mine Tumi Powerhouse is doing amazing things for the queer culture. She’s not just a friend but a sister to me. She’s an icon to the LGBTIAQ+ community.

A little bit about love and the future

It’s the month of love Leeyola so it wouldn’t be fair if I did not ask this question. What’s your relationship status, and what did your valentine’s day look like?

I have been single for almost four months now and Valentine’s Day was just a normal day for me. Sadly (laughs).

What other projects are you working on?

Still focused on growing my makeup business Blaq Pout Faces. I’m planning to launch something soon (crossing my fingers). I’m also creating more content for my YouTube channel, trying to get more influencer gigs, and doing commercial castings. You can just follow me on Instagram or YouTube to find out if there’s anything new coming. My handle is @iamleeyola

Leeyola what advice would you give to a young transgender girl who is struggling with their gender identity in a world that is still struggling with the acceptance of queer bodies?

Take your time and be patient with yourself. You are the only person that owns the power to define who you are. Focus on becoming a better, greater version of yourself. Whenever you are ready, introduce YOU to the world.


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