Millicent Mashile is Unapologetic: We’re not going to get lessons from men on how we should treat our own bodies.
On a rainy Monday morning in Johannesburg, Millicent Mashile arrives for her cover shoot with the Batswadi team at Pablo House, a luxury boutique guest house in Melville. She walks into the building wearing a flamingo pink tracksuit and sneakers only to transform into the goddess-like figure you currently see on our latest cover. Her poses are strong and assertive as she gives the camera deep and sturdy gazes. Although she is being given direction, every pose she works into the shoot is elevated by her aura. “You know, men will never really appreciate the beauty of the female form, not fully,” says photographer George Qua-Enoo.
The actress, television presenter and content creator married the love of her life Pontsho Mashile in 2010 and then birthed twin boys who are eleven years old today. Her family has been going through a difficult time since her husband’s mother passed away last month, but her unborn baby, who is due in November this year, has given the whole family something to look forward to.
In past interviews, she’s described her relationship with Pontsho as both practical and warm, with both of them falling deeper in love as they learn more about each other and their approaches to parenting.
“Look here, this isn’t Uber Eats! You can’t place an order and expect a baby to appear.”Millicent Mashile, on struggles with conceiving
“Losing my parents at a young age really informed the parent that I am. I knew what it was like to have an absent parent…My husband didn’t have a father figure in his life either so when we met we had that in common. We’re extremely conscious about giving them the experience we didn’t have, which is to have a present mom and a present dad,” she says in our interview.
Despite being able to fulfil the hopes and ideals of the type of family they wanted, which include the presence of a mom and dad who could fully support their children, difficulties in their marriage began to arise once they tried to expand their family. For several years the couple struggled to conceive and tensions between them grew, as Millicent explains.
“I was really young (about 22) when I had the twins and then when I wanted a third baby, I was older and felt I was ready spiritually, emotionally and financially. However, when it didn’t happen I was fine and I accepted it, you know. My husband was not content at all though and has always wanted to have a girl. He kept nagging me and we used to fight all the time about it. I kept telling him ‘Look here, this isn’t Uber Eats! You can’t place an order and expect a baby to appear,’” she says laughing.
“In all seriousness though, it was quite strenuous because I kept asking ‘Why are you getting frustrated at me? Your role in creating this baby is as big as mine and yet I’m the one going to check-ups, taking supplements and finding out what’s wrong.’”
Milly’s totally right! Men in heterosexual relationships struggle to fully appreciate the pressure women’s bodies are put under when it comes to both conceiving and preventing pregnancies. Fertility problems or delays in conceiving, especially when unexplained, can create a lot of blame, resentment and misunderstanding between couples. Men are often given greater credit when a woman falls pregnant, but the blame usually falls on women when there are troubles with conceiving.
“It’s important for couples to understand that it takes two people to make a baby and when that miracle finally happens, it’s important for men to also feel the struggles of pregnancy, even if it’s just a drop of what women have to go through when carrying,” she says mischievously. “[Pontsho] has been wanting this baby for years, so now, when I need anything or everything, I’m not hearing any excuses!” she laughs.
While it does seem like Milly is having a lot of fun getting her well-deserved pregnancy privileges from her partner, her very personal story is also a very political statement that upholds the need for women’s bodies to be valued and for the struggles and decisions that they make surrounding their bodies to be respected too. It’s not just in her words that you sense this message, it’s in the way that she carries her body too.
“With me being Christian and doing this photo shoot I know people might be upset and bring up conversations like ‘oh, this is what you’re teaching your daughter?’ For me, I hope my daughter will see it one day and learn about confidence and the importance of not caring what people say.”Millicent Mashile, on nudity and confidence
Her nude cover shoot, for instance, expresses the sentiment perfectly. As a woman of faith, Milly is aware of the strict, male-centric, Christian doctrines that require women to be ‘ladies’ and not expose their bodies to anyone but their husbands, but that doesn’t mean she follows them. By contrast, the star is pictured hugging her pregnant belly and concealing her chest with her arm. She is coated in a golden-hued body shimmer that illuminates the very body she is supposed to hide and celebrates the pregnancy that she thought she would never be able to have.
“With me being Christian and doing this photo shoot I know people might be upset and bring up conversations like ‘oh, this is what you’re teaching your daughter?’ For me, I hope my daughter will see it one day and learn about confidence and the importance of not caring what people say. I want her to know that she has autonomy over herself and that she can make certain decisions with pride instead of living behind fear, shame or lies. You don’t owe anyone anything and you only have one shot at life.
“It’s important for me as a mom to make my own choices so that my children know that their mom did this cover because she felt confident and that because a woman’s body can be art, that it’s beautiful. We’re not going to get lessons from men on how we should treat our own bodies and people aren’t going to scare us into shame with their ideas of Christianity. I know people preach about God as if He’s this scary being who just punishes you if you ‘stray’, but God is love and He’s given you the power to love yourself. This is what I want my daughter to know too.”
Her daughter will be named, Kganya, a Setswana name that celebrates God’s brilliance. “It’s similar to the name Khanya, which means light. With Kganya though, there’s a deeper meaning because it refers to the glory of God or the light of God. I heard it in a song called “Modimo o Lesedi” by Lebo Sekgobela and I always kept going back to it. It stood out to me because that’s what she is.”
Kganya’s due date is pronounced to be on the day of her father’s birthday this November, and Milly regards this with symbolic significance.
“My husband has always wanted a baby girl. He’s been talking about it since we met. So for her to come now when he’s turning 40 is huge. It’s a month after [Pontsho’s mother] funeral and Kganya is like the only reason he’s made peace with her passing. She’s definitely like a light that’s given him a reason to get up every morning.”