Xandri Redelinghuys, born and raised in the Western Cape Winelands, is a story that many other young professionals can relate to.
Maybe not so much in where she grew up and the school she went to, but definitely when it comes to the never-say-die attitude she so clearly possesses for the industry she’s involved with today.
“I am from Robertson; it’s a small town in the Winelands close to Worcester. I grew up there, went to school there, went to high school in Paarl and studied graphic design in Stellenbosch,” she begins.
Xandri was undecided on what she wanted to study up until a week before admissions closed and she had to get a portfolio of her work together. She attended the Stellenbosch Academy of Design and Photography for two years before she was forced to drop out after sustaining a serious injury from underwater hockey.
“And it got boring because I wanted to study fine art,” she confesses. “But my parents said graphic design is a better option because there are more opportunities. I mean, you don’t even have to apply for a job that is graphic design; I applied for a journalism job and got it because I had graphic design…I also think all the activities I did in school, the clubs that I belonged to, all the extramural activities opened doors for me because they saw on my CV what I did. It tells you a lot about your personality and character.”
The ‘journalism job’ happened to be a one year internship with Food24. Xandri admits that she struggled to make ends meet having to work two other jobs to pay her rent, “but it was rewarding in the end because I built such great relationships in Media24.”
And that’s key. “When you are just breaking into the industry you have to be able to buckle down and just do the work even though it’s not the best, even though it’s not where you want to be – you have to do the groundwork to get to where you want to be and that’s sometimes something that people don’t realise.”
Ever since she was in grade ten she wanted to work in the magazine industry, and after leaving Food24 having been there for two years, she got her heart’s desire to work at Elle Decoration. But it didn’t just fall into her lap. She explains how she applied to literally hundreds of different companies, and Elle was one of the few places that got back to her. “They were very interested and I almost fell off my chair. I was like ‘how can this be?’ It was the job of my dreams. It was very rewarding in its own sense. I wasn’t there for long but it felt like five years in the experience I got there because it was such a small team.”
Xandri was at Elle Decoration for a year till she decided she needed to take a mini sabbatical and has since been freelancing in graphic design and doing odd jobs in illustration which, she says, “isn’t [her] first love but it pays the bills.” Fine art is her passion which she has had more time to devote to and has even entered a few competitions that have motivated her to hone her skill.
Interested to find out what an average day in the life of Xandri Redelinghuys look like, she answers pointedly: “It depends on the job that I have. At the moment I’m working on a cookbook for Cobb. They’re an international brand so somehow I managed to land this gig (I don’t know how!). I got the job as the designer but I ended up cooking the entire book, so that was fun! In the mornings I get up, drink my ‘koffietjie’, sometimes I need to go into the editor’s studio and sit there with her because she stresses a bit so she needs me there. I like change. I thrive on that. Everyday something new which is why freelancing is so nice. It was scary in the beginning but now it’s fine.”
A cool titbit I learnt about Xandri is that she is a huge fan of coffee shops and shamelessly confesses her copious amounts of drinking the black potion while soaking in the vibe of people’s comings and goings around her. She even mentioned an incident where she actually got a job just from being at a coffee shop where a future client happened to also be. Nice one!
Catch up with me again next month as we find out some of the challenges Xandri has faced as well as the joys she’s experienced doing freelance design. She also offers some valuable advice to all young people who are about to embark on their journey into the world of work, whether in the creative industry or not, so make sure you don’t miss out.