The art of an influencer

By Tassin Albertyn

Today I sit, barely 31, reflecting on my life and an experience that took place 20 plus years ago and all I keep asking myself is how could a child possibly know the magnitude of such an event? Well, I have learnt over the years that when you are that young your mind perceives such influential people with pure emotion. I have realised that the art of an influencer is subtle; they speak a language that science cannot speak. My story begins with such a person, so let me tell you the story of my encounters with greatness.

Before we all knew what was really happening, there were a group of people following the right people. These individuals knew greatness before we could even comprehend what was really in motion and I was fortunate enough to be related to one of them. My aunt, the late, Virginia Engel was Nelson Mandela’s personal secretary. I remember the call like it was yesterday, she knew I was a borderline fanatic of Michael Jackson and at the time he was scheduled to visit one of his hero’s all the way from America which happened to be our then president Nelson Mandela. It was strange that she was telling my mom this and calling unexpectedly, and then she asked the question that every fan dreams of… Would you mind if Tassin accompanies Michael Jackson on a tour around Parliament?

The flood of emotion filled every iota of my body. If you knew my aunt you would know that this was unethical to her. To this day her incredible kids have had few, if any, experiences similar because she served our country with the same values that our late president did.

The day arrived and evidently I wore my best interpretation of Michael Jackson attire which at the time was all my parents could afford. My parents who were both working had asked my grandfather to escort me to parliament and make sure that I didn’t make a total fool of myself on the tour. I was extremely close with my grandfather; he was a legend to many and was the perfect person to share this with. We parked outside of the parliament and approached security. I remember feeling the most surreal emotions; we were transported from the public gates by a dark vehicle that would take us to the door of the prestigious parliament building.

My aunt stood at the entrance waiting and said in the most professional tone, “Tassin I’d like you to meet President Nelson Mandela”.  I looked up at this figure that I can only describe as infinitely boundless. His mere existence filled the room and he embraced me with the sense of protection that only a sincere soul could translate without words. Up to that point I was consumed with the idea of meeting my idol, the man who sang the truth. What I did not expect was meeting the man who was responsible for influencing the mindset of millions. Nelson Mandela was effortless in his thought process; he spoke with such purpose that even witnessing small talk between him and Michael Jackson seemed significant. I remember sitting in his office, just the five of us, Madiba, Michael, Michael’s parents and little old me and although I could not comprehend the conversation, I knew that day that I was in the company of the world’s greatest influencers.

The rest of the afternoon I expected to be asked to leave but instead I walked the hallways of parliament in-between Michael Jackson and Nelson Mandela while he explained the history and visions he had for our country. I was in total ore the entire time and even though I was an insignificant child, in the presence of greatness they constantly made sure I was included. It was an intimate experience that shaped who I am in so many ways that cannot be articulated.

I recollect the smells and history that I saw walking through the corridors of Parliament with immense pride in our people. I can undoubtedly say that the art of influencers will stay with me throughout my life. These people have shaped us on every level and are responsible for what we are today. To the influencers which are the parents, the aunts, the presidents, the idols, the husbands, the children and the fellow citizens of South Africa… we were blessed to live in a time of legends. They have built the foundation that we need to enhance every day and they will be a part of our legacy for eternity!


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