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VW partners with black ballerina and female combat pilot to launch campaign about shattering stereotypes

To launch its all-new Volkswagen T-Roc, Volkswagen South Africa has teamed up with South Africa’s first black female combat pilot, Major Mandisa Mfeka, and the first black ballerina to dance The Dying Swan in Russia, Kitty Phetla.

VW is telling these women’s inspiring stories in short films as part of a campaign focused on dismantling stereotypes and defying expectations.

Mfeka made history when she became the first black female combat pilot in South Africa, while Phetla transcended cultural barriers when she became the first black ballerina to dance The Dying Swan in Russia at a time when ballet was still very conservative.

Mfeka and Phetla’s online films are part of the new VW T-Roc #TheDrivetoDefy campaign.

Like many industries, the film and communications industry was hard hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, presenting new challenges for production teams.  

The two films were briefed and produced during the lockdown in Johannesburg, Alexandra, Pretoria and Middleburg Airfield, with a core team attending and directing shoots remotely.

Volkswagen’s T-Roc #TheDrivetoDefy campaign tells the story of a girl curious about planes and her defiant journey to becoming South Africa’s first black female fighter pilot. 

Mfeka also made history by being the first woman to form part of the Hawks formation display during President Cyril Ramaphosa’s inauguration in 2019.

“We used to claim that the sky’s the limit, but by being in the sky we are already defining what the limit is and limiting how far we can go,” Mfeka says. 

“I live by the quote that the sky is the baseline. This film resonates with me so much because I got to witness how I chose to ignore the naysayers and go after my goals.”

VWSA head of marketing, Meredith Kelly, says the films are inspired by the many heroes and heroines who didn’t have a roadmap cleared out for them; people who were told to “know their place” and yet “continue to defy and smash glass ceilings and challenge stereotypes against tremendous odds”. 

“The new T-Roc is not what people expect from Volkswagen, which is why it made sense to partner with heroines like Major Mandisa Mfeka and Kitty Phetla, because their stories are all about achieving the unexpected.”

Phetla says: “You have to constantly be in competition with yourself, you have to be a step ahead of yourself to visualise your goals, take them in, accelerate, execute, and own it. ‘Who do you think you are’, you ask… the master of my craft, is who I am.” 

The films were launched on October 22 in partnership with brand and communications agency Ogilvy Cape Town, and produced and directed by Fausto Becatti of Bioscope Films. 

Four additional  films show four more protagonists who embody #TheDrivetoDefy attitude. These were directed by Kyla Philander and the subjects are:

Rasta Mpholo, who worked as a security guard and has defied the odds to become an  assistant director of Cinematography;
Kyla Philander, who battled depression and anxiety to become a revered film director;
Jodi Windvogel, who hallenges stereotypes through photography by giving new perspectives on women like herself and her community; and
Kuda Vazhure, who left Zimbabwe to find his place in the world and now pushes the limits as a stunt and precision driver.

View all #TheDrivetoDefy films on the platform by visiting – The Drive to Defy


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