Neo Iyana Masilela changed her life and now helps other people change their lives.
The 24-year-old was in the corporate world and is now a life coach and facilitator and a member of Comensa (Coaches and Mentors of South Africa). Her desire to help people heal and foster growth and personal transformation led her to establish the Neo Healing Institut, an organisation through which she hosts and facilitates Queerhood Circle Evenings, workshops and retreats in the country.
Her personal journey has not been easy, being an African trans woman on a continent that believes being queer is unnatural and unAfrican. She faced threats and discrimination in her neighbourhood, in taxis and in her former workplace.
Her work focuses on contributing to the evolution, the liberation and the healing of human consciousness, particularly in the black and the queer communities. In 2021, she wrote Voyage to Self, a guide to spiritual growth, enlightenment and abundance. Neo was also the executive producer and writer of a short film, Queer Is.
In addition to her work, Neo volunteers as a trained peer counsellor through the Johannesburg Parent & Child Counselling Centre. She is also a member of the Youth Empowerment and Personal Growth in a Creative Council Network, BYCCOSA, which works with about 215 creative entrepreneurs, where she runs programmes. Neo’s most valuable lesson was learning that “we are all one. We all experience the rising and the setting of the sun in our lives, regardless of who we are.”
What is the best piece of advice you've ever been given?
You cannot solve a problem if you do not know what the problem is.
Our theme this year is Accelerating Equality & Empowerment in Women. How do you empower yourself and women around you?
Holding space for women to be themselves, to learn from each other and to teach one another through the workshops that I facilitate is how I empower myself and women around me.
If you could change or achieve one thing for South Africa today, what would it be?
It would be to provide equal quality education and access to higher education for every black child in South Africa. It would be relevant education about our history, culture and heritage, about our agriculture and mining industry and about our African spiritual systems, because that’s what defines us as African people. This would be offered in dignified spaces, for every learner in every corner of the country, to bridge the gap between the richest and the poorest.