Glamour meets activism at the 2023 Feather Awards


Thami Kotlolo presented Thandiswa Mazwai with the Simon Nkoli Award (Photo: David Penney)

The 15th annual Feather Awards brought a unique fusion of glamour, activism, and entertainment to The Market Theatre in Johannesburg on Thursday night.

Hosted by Refilwe and Bontle Modiselle alongside Andiswa P Gebashe, the glitzy event recognised and honoured individuals and organisations for their outstanding contributions to promoting tolerance, inclusivity, and diversity within the LGBTIQ+ community over the past year.

The evening underscored the importance of unity, acceptance, and breaking down societal barriers, and featured heartwarming moments and captivating performances.

“The focus this year was to celebrate the diversity, creativity, and resilience of all communities, during these challenging times”, commented Thami Kotlolo, co-founder of the awards. “As a nation, we are going through a lot right now. And as a community we always focus on the positive, inspiring not just each other but others with our boldness and braveness and colourful outlook on life.”

An emotional Yaya Mavundla accepted the Best Styled Individual award (Photo David Penney)

Memorable Winners and Style Statements

Trans trailblazer Yaya Mavundla and model, DJ, and creative PonaHalo jointly won Best Styled Individual. Mavundla made a striking entrance wearing a Queer Comfort creation adorned with headlines addressing hate crimes and the horrific “grindr gang” attacks on LGBTIQ+ community members.

Hunk of the Year was awarded to actor Thembinkosi Mthembu, while Banyana Banyana footballer Andile Dlamini claimed the Sports Personality of the Year title. Singer Buhlebendalo Mda and visual artist Botshelo Mondi were recognised as the Cutest Couple of the Year.

Celebrities and fashionistas made a splash on the black carpet (Photo David Penney)

Honoring Icons and Initiatives

Longtime musical ally Tamara Dey received the Fag Hag of the Year title, and Otiz Seflo was honoured as Designer of the Year. Nike’s support for the rainbow community earned them the Best LGBTIQ+ Initiative in the Private Sector.

The Best LGBTIQ+ Initiative in the Public Sector was, however, not awarded this year, as the organisers felt there were sadly no worthy initiatives to nominate.

Out footballer Phuti Lekoloane’s foundation was named the Best LGBTIQ+ Youth Movement and longstanding Zimbabwean LGBTIQ+ activist Samuell Matsikure received the African Feather of the Year honour.

Samuell Matsikure was recognised for his years of committed activism (Photo: David Penney)

The Simon Nkoli Award: A Pinnacle of Recognition

The most prestigious award of the evening, the Simon Nkoli Award, was bestowed upon the multi-talented, award-winning, and proudly queer South African singer-songwriter Thandiswa Mazwai. The award is named after the iconic South African anti-apartheid and LGBTIQ+ rights activist who died in 1998.

Accepting the award, Mazwai expressed her gratitude, stating, “I have been many things, but something I’ve always wanted to be is a gay icon, and tonight, I can safely say that I have that honour.”

She emphasised the transformative impact of the LGBTIQ community on her life. “In this room, in this community, I found home, I found safety,” she said. “Some of the people in this room are people that radicalised me, that taught me how to move in the world, and reminded me that I was enough, the way that I am and that’s the thing I’m most grateful of.”

Musical artist and performer S’bo Gyre at the Feather Awards (Photo: David Penney)

Our congratulations to all of the 2023 Feather Awards winners listed below.

Best Styled Individual (Joint Award)
PonaHalo and Yaya Mavundla

Hunk of the Year
Thembinkosi Mthembu

Diva Extraordinaire of the Year
Mrs Mops

Sports Personality of the Year
Andile Dlamini

Role Model of the Year
Tony Kruger

Cutest Couple
Buhlebendalo & Botshelo

Hot Chick of the Year
Homba Mazaleni

Media Award of the Year (Joint Award)
The Lunch League and Sowetan / S Mag

Fag Hag of the Year
Tamara Dey

Designer of the Year
Otiz Seflo

Musician of the Year
Bongezizwe Mabandla

Socialite of the Year

Drama Queen
Lebo M

Social Media Personality of the Year
Sabelo The Creator

Best LGBTIQ+ Initiative: Private Sector

Best LGBTIQ+ Initiative: Public Sector

Best LGBTIQ+ Youth Movement
Phuti Lekoloane Foundation

Best Rainbow Parenting (Joint Award)
Zodwa Rannyadi and Nandipha Jovuka and Abraham Sebidi

African Feather of the Year
Samuell Matsikure

Simon Nkoli Award
Thandiswa Mazwai.

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