Leon Payn is a South African male model, fitness junkie and influencer who has made a great name for himself working with local brands including the KZN Fashion Council. He is not just a ‘cool cat’, but he has brains too. He has a degree in Media Communications and an honours degree in Linguistics isiZulu. Payn is a self-proclaimed ambassador of the city of Durban with a following of over 20 000 people on social media. Tabloid Newspapers spoke to Payn about his life and work.

Tabloid Newspapers (TN): Tell us about yourself, what kind of a person are you?

Leon Payn (LP):
There is so much to tell. I am a very positive, professional and maybe a bit of a perfectionist type of a person. So far I have achieved everything I have by putting my time and energy. People don’t know that I look confident, but I am shy. Leon in the public is a persona.

TN: What inspires your line of work?

LP: I worked in a PR and marketing sector before I became an influencer. I knew the impact advertising and authority had. In my vertical, people kept complimenting me on Facebook and Instagram content, that is when I knew that I can start making money from my social media. I also have so much passion which equates hunger to learn and understand more about how each brands identity inspires me. The more brands and people I work with, the more I get inspired. 

TN: What did you want to be when you were growing up?

LP: So here’s a story that most people don’t know. I wanted to be a lawyer, got to Durban and things changed, growing up on a farm at the time, I did not know there are other career options. I remember being so afraid to tell my father that I want to do a bachelor of Social Sciences in Media and communications.

TN: Do you have any regrets about where you are in life?

LP: Yes, there are so many fears coming in many disguises. I think, my biggest regret was not believing and trusting myself that I can do the things I am doing now.

TN: What do you do most when you are bored?

LP: I enjoy being at the gym, doing cardio, editing my pictures, travelling or working on a client’s Instagram pages. I always find something to keep myself busy with. If I am indoors, I am sleeping. I love my sleep.

TN: What do you think about more than anything else?

LP: Getting everything done in a day and looking fabulous whilst doing it. Everything is planned in my head before, from my clothes, hair and food. I also stress a lot about not meeting client deadlines, social media management is not child’s play.

TN: What about modelling do you love the most? 

LP: I am lucky, most designers give me their clothes to keep because I get invited to so many events. I also like the travelling part, staying in different hotels is the coolest.

TN: What has been your highest achievement?

LP: Passing my honours degree with a certificate
of merit and in the same month getting accepted at Michigan State University to study.

TN: What are your favourite things about yourself?

LP: My height, everyone looks up to me (laughs). I am
195cm tall.

TN: What aspect of your life needs tremendous improvement?

LP: I need to stop worrying. I worry a lot. I also think I need to smile more, I never smile.

TN: One thing you know now that you wish you had known as a child?

LP: Trust yourself always, you will make mistakes and its ok.

TN: Who is your favourite model and why?

LP: Sanele Xaba, it gives me so much joy to see someone I use to work with fly all over the world and live his dream.
TN: On a scale of one to 10, with 10 being the highest and one being the lowest, rate your fashion sense?

TN: You speak 100% pure IsiZulu, how has that help you?

LP: Seven I really don’t cut myself up about trends, but working in fashion does make me conscious about my fashion sense and also we do it for the gram.

LP: My grandmother is African and I grew up on a farm so I was immersed in the language, that’s how I understood isiZulu. I now have an honours degree in linguistics because of my love for isiZulu. Leon’s social media feed is filled with his personal style images where he collaborates with local fashion designers and photographers to create the perfect Leon Payn look that South Africans have fallen inlove with over the years. When not looking for inspiration for his next shoot or doing some shopping online, Leon is seen out and about trying out new restaurants or onset shooting a campaign for a client. Metro FM Awards, Jumbo Ethic Hair Show and The NWJ Beauty and Bridal Show are some of the events that Leon has been tasked to work at, from MC’ing to covering the red carpet and building much needed brand conversations. “I have made it, people understand that it is okay for males to wear make-up, the loyal following I have built over the years makes me one of most trusted voices online and I am proud of that. I enjoy it when I hear feedback from my followers because it always gives me ideas on what to work on next or what is it that they want to see” – Leon Payn