“She’s Iconic!”

Palesa Simphiwe Makam was born in Pretoria on the 6th of July in 1998 and grew up in Witbank for the first few years of her childhood with her grandmother. Her and her family have since moved to Johannesburg where they currently still reside. She is currently in her second year of studying Industrial or Organizational Psychology at Rhodes University. Her passions include makeup, making YouTube videos for her channel titled Palesa Makam and she adores both reading and photography. She has a rather large Instagram following that boasts 10 500 subscribers as it stands. She is a model and beauty content creator with features that are often compared to the likes of Rihanna, Yara Shahidi and Willow Smith, sometimes Zoe Kravitz too.

The first thing you notice about Palesa is her smile, a smile that she does not often show in photographs because she believes that it makes her look twelve. Her bubbly personality is the next thing that enthralls you, leaving you mesmerized. She is a triple threat: being beautiful, smart and savvy and it is not difficult to want to get to know more about her. When speaking she responds with quick wit, playful humour and confidence. She exudes a carefree attitude whilst not coming across as aloof, she is always aware. “I know I am funny and anyone who disagrees can fight me on it”, she says with confidence.

The inspiration for her demeanor and aesthetic comes from none other than Rihanna. “I just love her sense of style, she is my style inspiration, I love her makeup too but I take a lot of inspiration from her attitude. She shows that she is caring but people know not to F#$k with her”. It is known to many that Rihanna has not always had the best time in relationship situations but she always comes out on top and this absolutely appeals to Palesa. Rihanna has proven to be more successful than the relationships have wronged her and according to Palesa, RiRi has taught her that “Success is the best revenge”. She loves how RiRi embraces how cool it is to be different, that she is a trend setter: “She doesn’t care, she does what she wants, she makes it fashion… and that’s iconic.” When Palesa does her makeup, it can take between one and a half to four hours to perfect her look. She wants to look as flawless as possible, not unlike Rihanna herself. She also takes a considerable amount of time to style herself, making sure that an outfit looks good before she leaves to go anywhere. Sitting and talking to her while she gets ready is a site to behold as she executes her beauty techniques with precision I do not see very often. She taught herself to do makeup with the aid of platforms like YoTube, drawing inspiration on her coveted Rihanna. 

Palesa Makam is a brilliant example of how celebrities impact the aesthetics of their superfans.

Image Source: Taylia Meese

She first became a fan of Robyn ‘Rihanna’ Fenty in 2005 after the release of her first single ‘Pon de Replay’ and has been listening to her music every day since. “The minute I heard the song, I was like yes, I am part of the movement now”, Palesa says. If she does not get to listen to her on a selective day she says she will always ensure to listen to her the next day. Her ringtone is a Rihanna song and Palesa says that when she hears it she will normally go to her room straight afterwards and play an older album of the famous singers’. Rihanna’s lyrics all impact her as she says that they are all iconic but if she needs to identify a favourite catch word or phrase, she refers to the song ‘Needed Me’. “You can take anything from there, it really speaks to me” says Palesa. Some of the lyrics include: “You needed me/ To feel a little more, and give a little less/ Know you hate to confess/ But baby ooh, you needed me”.  Often breaking into Rihanna lyrics or playing one of her songs, you are clearly able to see where Palesa draws a lot of influence for her life from. Although she has not watched Rihanna interviews for over ten years, if Rihanna is on the cover of a magazine or is featured she will make sure to buy the magazine and read the articles. This also includes reading all the online articles herself. But the best way to keep up with Rihanna for Palesa is to follow her social media accounts.

In one of my questions, I asked Palesa: If you met them (your favourite celebrity) today, what would you say to them? She answered this about Rihanna by saying that she would probably initially cry but then she would ask her very own questions. “I would ask what keeps you going, I need to know her secret…”, she said. Palesa strongly advocates for Rihanna, making sure people know multiplex and multidimensional she is, stating that she is an entrepreneur, a business woman, she is involved with NGOs, has her own makeup, shoe and underwear lines, she works with famous brands and the list never seems to end. She is Palesa’s personal superwoman and sets an example of some of the things Palesa herself dreams of achieving.

“Has anyone ever told you that you look like Yara Shahidi?” I asked her this in the middle of a photoshoot and she told me that is was not unusual for people to ask her this question, that even her boyfriend had reminded her of this just the day before: that she did indeed bear a strong resemblance to Yara Shahidi. Although we were there to speak about Rihanna, there was no harm in diverging for a minute or two as she was also a huge fan of miss Shahidi, stating that she inspired her. She has never met Rihanna, nor has she met Yara Shahidi, springing from the question I last asked, but the most spectacular thing occurred. The closest thing to a meeting so far.

Palesa Makam is a brilliant example of how celebrities impact the aesthetics of their superfans.

Image Source: Taylia Meese

Being playful after an extremely successful photoshoot, it was time to get straight to work on editing. It became very clear in many of the photographs that there was not just a mere liking to miss Shahidi, but that often the resemblance was uncanny. Excited to show the world this, myself as the photographer posted a preview of the shoot to my Instagram story with the caption “Did I photograph @yarashahidi? @Ginandjuicy_ (Palesa’s Instagram handle) this is INSANE”. We joked around afterwards about how cool it would be if Yara Shahidi saw these photographs, never expecting someone so famous, with a following of more than 2.5 million people, would ever in her lifetime see my photography and Palesa’s face. That night we both slept usually, nothing was out of the ordinary. The next afternoon, I went to check who had viewed my story and the text following sequence between myself and Palesa does not effectively convey either one of our excitements:

After much profanity and celebration, the small action of a celebrity viewing a story felt like a major success: “you did it!”, she said. Although there was no direct communication, nor reaction and although Yara Shahidi is not the number one spot on her celebrity list, it still felt surreal. If you met your favourite celebrity today, what would you say to them? This never happened but the response I got from this event only solidifies her answer much more. If she is a superfan of Yara Shahidi already, what would happen if it was Rihanna, her idol, instead? The answer: absolute mayhem would ensue.

Despite getting many people comparing her to Yara Shahidi, there are often times that she gets likened to Rihanna too. I myself have seen that when the light hits her in a certain way, you find yourself questioning if you are in a room with Rihanna or not. It is the way she dresses, casual but classy and often times sporty but it is also her natural beauty. Without makeup her skin is beautifully taken care of, her complexion is even, she barely has any imperfections and you do not even notice them until she points them out. Although she loves playing around with makeup and creating looks that are “extra” in her opinion, she also loves doing simplistic makeup looks. These more natural looks are the ones that are most similar to the ones that Rihanna boasts in her everyday life. But Rihanna can be extra too, especially with regards to glamourous events and this inspires Palesa to play around with more extreme makeup looks. Palesa also likes changing her hairstyle often, not dissimilar to Rihanna. In the short time span that I have known her, she has had dreadlocks, blonde braids, her natural hair and wigs around me. What is absolutely amazing though is that she looks strikingly beautiful in whatever she decides to wear on a particular day.

Palesa Makam is a brilliant example of how celebrities impact the aesthetics of their superfans.

Image Source: Taylia Meese

To show the extent of how much Palesa admires her celebrity, in celebration of 200 subscribers on her YouTube channel, her and I collaborated in filming a makeup tutorial inspired by Rihanna. In this video we learn a lot more about her, not necessarily in line with the whole notion of super fandom, but it gives us a background of her. The way she carries herself is very similar to Rihanna. It was inspired by the tutorial Rihanna did for Vogue on the 3rd of May 2018. The only difference is Palesa spends between 1.5 to 2 hours on Makeup compared with Rihanna’s 10 or so minutes.

Palesa cares a lot about her aesthetics, she loves to look good. This is not done to please others but in fact to please herself. She has become more and more invested in makeup since she began at Rhodes University in 2017 and has been able to become well versed in this artform. Her look, like Rihanna’s is very reflective of her personality, cool, calm, collected and fierce. They say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but Palesa is able to control what the viewer sees through her fashion and makeup choices. She does not put her life out there and is quite reserved and this is all very reminiscent of Rihanna herself. Palesa is the face of aesthetics because it is abundantly clear that her celebrity has an impact on her external look.

Palesa Makam is a brilliant example of how celebrities impact the aesthetics of their superfans.

Image Source: Taylia Meese



Rihanna has her own makeup and clothing line: Fenty Beauty, named after her surname. Palesa often recreates outfits that Rihanna has worn because she draws style inspiration from Rihanna. She also spends countless hours doing her makeup, using Rihanna as an inspiration whilst hoping to get hold of as many Fenty Beauty makeup products that she can in order to perfect her looks. Whilst all of this is taking place, a song by Rihanna can be heard playing in the background whilst Palesa either sings or hums along to it.




Palesa’s entire beauty routine is like a homage to Rihanna herself. She spends many hours getting ready and perfecting her look. Sometimes she decides that she wants to do a makeup look that is simple, yet takes a lot more time than you think to create. Other times she decides to go full glamour which takes just about as much time. Either way, in each look she creates, you can see Rihanna’s influence, even if it is just small. Whether she is wearing a sports chic outfit or a completely elegant one.




Palesa speaks a lot about how she likes to adopt Rihanna’s approach in life. Rihanna does not take herself too seriously but she also makes sure to care immensely about things that are important to her. Palesa says that like Rihanna, she tries to priorities the right things in life and by doing so, she does not let that which is mundane or petty affect her. Rihanna also does not take anybodies nonsense and so Palesa also looks to her to incorporate that kind of ideal into her life, saying that it makes everything easy and it shows that one has self respect. She hopes that one day her confidence will be on the same level as Rihanna’s and it is something that she is striving towards. 

A get ready with me video on Palesa’s YouTube channel that shows how much effort she puts towards getting ready.