How the vibe in SA entertainment is inspiring us all right now!

As a Content Producer, I have already learned about all the misconstrued assumptions people hold about the broadcasting world.

For one, whenever I tell folks I am a Content Producer and Scriptwriter, they still ask, “So, what do you do?” I tell them that I compile content, which I turn into the scripts that presenters say on air. Confused, they ask, “So, those presenters are not saying what’s on their minds?” Then I chuckle!

While this is a silly misconception or lack of knowledge about the industry, there are other serious daunting issues, like the fact that broadcasting’s cat-fights and dramas are always played out in the public for everyone to see. Each knockout is captured, and to retaliate, the other one hits below the belt and gives the media the juice they need. It’s toxic and messy.

This, unfortunately, leaves a bad name for the industry, especially among women. “Women simply cannot get along,” most will say. This notion is, sometimes, fueled by the media because some claims of rivalry can often be unfounded, concluding to just pure lazy journalism and over-sensationalism.

Unfortunately, sometimes, the smoke that the media blows towards fans and ordinary people is often telling of the fire within entertainment. Yep, amidst its vibrant nature, the entertainment industry is one that we have all been warned against. It’s littered with heavy glitz and glam, drugs, hook ups and break ups occurring faster than the contrast of day and night. Those in it often praise its perks, lament over its fakeness and laugh or cry about speculations that make headlines every single day.

This “IT” girl hates that one, while this other one is now sleeping with that one’s boyfriend. And, although we, as the general public, like to act like ‘these people are so immoral and wild,’ entertainment is just a microcosm of the real world. It’s a window through which we see what’s going on out there. A reflection of our own daily nuances.

 

That said, recently – there has been an incredible paradigm shift. There is a collective energy making the rounds, and it has become very common for the most successful people right now to celebrate each other’s milestones. This is so important because it shows industry key players on one side and perpetuates a deep sense of patriotism. It could be that it’s always been there, but in the past, the story behind the story was left to the media because celebrities didn’t have the power of their own narrative through mediums like Instagram.

There is definitely a greater narrative at play when we see Somzi Mhlongo, Anele Mdoda, Unathi Msengana, Thembisa Mdoda, Basetsana Khumalo, Noeleen Maholwana Sangqu, and others at Minnie Dlamini’s wedding, partying all together and celebrating South Africa’s diamond in her new endevour. Yes, those screen grabs of video chats between Minnie and Unathi are so important, so are the shout outs Anele makes to her sister’s achievements, not forgetting the role of people like David Kau in comedy and Black Coffee in music.

This is definitely related to the idea of passing the baton and opening up the industry where one can. A good example of that is DJ Fresh, who seems to have been key in helping launch many careers in the music industry. Indeed, I have lost count of how many musicians I have heard saying “DJ Fresh actually made a point to play my songs in his show, and that’s how people got to know me.” Apart from his great music and legendary voice on radio, this is what also makes DJ Fresh ever more relevant in our industry – his maturity and understanding that lifting another DJ doesn’t diminish him. This realization is pivotal for anyone in a position to prescribe something to the public, and who knows that if s/he says we must look out for so and so, we definitely do.

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I am not suggesting that influential people have to be friends – that one is their prerogative. Their support of each other motivates and strengthens the rest of us in the smaller industries we might occupy. It also speaks to the idea that when one shines, we all shine and that instead of being bitter about another person’s achievements, it is better to celebrate them and get the lessons you may need from them to attract what is already coming your way.

This type of collectivism is a dire need everywhere; particularly among black people because white privilege and male privilege are already heavy burdens in all industries. People will treat us how we treat each other. If ten celebrities come out to congratulate their colleague in an achievement, viewers are more likely to follow suit.

 

ZAHARA: Can she be #BlackGirlMagic?

A while ago, I had an interesting chat with a friend during Solange’s “A seat at the table” frenzy.

Our conversation wasn’t so much about Solange, but we used her as a case study. If you love artists like Solange and Erykah Badu, you will understand how much #hoteps associate with these artists, as opposed to, for instance, pop sensations like Beyonce and Niki Minaj.

These are the same #hoteps who slam fake hair, but are okay with Solange and Erykah Badu having it, because the two artists are alternative. These are the same #hoteps against Beyonce’s cultural appropriation stunts, but are okay when Solange does it. Those #hoteps. The ones who only celebrate alternative black.

Idiosyncratic blackness and its hypocrisy sometimes bores me to death. In the past, the best version of black was always through a white person’s gaze. Since there is a revolution that currently dislocates the black reality from that aloof gaze, blackness is appropriated by black people whose accents, realities and educational backgrounds come from whiteness. Whitewashed black folks who cage decolonization in colonial gates. Black folks who wanted to be white, who realized that they will always be black and then ran back to us to be gatekeepers of our realities.

Those of us who were always black had to now abort our causes because they changed the black narrative to be about how horrible their lives were in white circles. But, when push came to shove, they would always used their English and privilege to be miles ahead of us.

Disclaimer: I don’t care how much you want to convince me what a tough life you had at Collegiate Girls’ High, it can’t be anything like urine and pads all over toilet floors, and gangsters visiting the school every Friday.

Therefore, this privileged black narrative is the reason I believe South African afro-pop sensation, ZAHARA, is not trending as #BlackGirlMagic after breaking records album after album. Huffington Post reported ZAHARA’s latest album, Umgodi “…certified gold in just six hours and went platinum in under 24 hours of release.” #BlackGirlMagic much? Not only that, after ZAHARA suffered backlash about being a broke artist, she now owns a record label called MLH Records. No? Not #BlackGirlMagic still?

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Don’t get me wrong, I am not disputing the importance of the movement and hashtag, but am arguing for its expansion. I understand that I am as responsible for that as everyone else out there. We seriously need to rescue feminism and #BlackGirlMagic from the hands of (only) privileged black women who get the most time on microphones, and their celebration by privileged black men. They need to be more pervasive.

The politics of privileged black folks can be extremely dodgy. I remember dissecting the problem with one black guy’s type of woman because he refused to admit that he likes white. He is one of those who hate #OPW and Papa Penny in how they (mis)represents blackness.  Okay, I get that. He also likes mixed-race women – uh, okay.

When I probed deeper into him, he argued that he does like black women, just not the ones who wear weaves, flash materialistically and like Gqom music. He likes black girls who are weird, as in alternative, as in with Tatoos, weird piercings, with natural hair or braids. I asked him “how many black girls ekasi look like that?” because it was clear to me that he is the ‘alternative’ group of black men who can date natural-looking black women who can’t utter a word in their mother-tongue, but will not date a woman who mostly speaks SeSotho and has a weave. “Weave girls and religious girls are colonized,” and I assumed those who don’t speak their languages are not. Mind you, the guy also cannot speak his language.

I reminded the brother that most black girls in South Africa are going to celebrate their cars and houses whether in a narcissistic or inspirational way. Those are achievements to us.

It was clear that an ‘alternative’ black girl to him is a girl who carries black aesthetics, not blackness itself. Basically, he likes black girls who grew up in the white world. I knew that although Zahara carries the aesthetics he claims to like in black girls, she would not be his type of #BlackGirlMagic. Unobu lokishi mos uZahara. Typical black girl.

I have no issues with alternative black people and embrace what Inda Lauryn says in an article claiming that “there are many reasons [she] finally realized Black girls could, indeed, be alternative and were in fact catalysts behind many alternative trends and movements. One of them was that [she] realized a lot of the indicators for alternative lifestyles were taken from Black cultures and the cultures of other people of color: tattoos, piercings, scarification, and other forms of body modification, as well as alternative fashion and music almost always originate from Black and Brown people.”

However, having gone to public schools, I thoroughly remember how students from white schools assumed an “importance” and “more clever” status as their parents celebrated what an achievement it was that their children were now studying with whites. They did not even want to date kids from black schools and the inferior/superior relationship between us and them was distinct.

Fast-forward to a few years after High School, the hair revolt at Pretoria Girls’ High happened and although it was pivotal, I could not relate to it in first-hand experience because I never encountered such in black schools. Mine was the “no chairs, textbooks and resources” reality, and whenever it made headlines, it was always a joke and confirmation of how far behind we were to white schooled black children.

For those of us who come from the other side of the margins, Zahara’s story gives us life, the same way that Papa Penny gives some black people life. He is their version of black consciousness the same way Zahara is our version of #BlackGirlMagic. Not many women from Emdantsane have dared to be this brave! We are inspired. We recognize her. We see her. We honor her!

Unathi Msengana: Love in the age of Social Media

Recently,  Unathi Msengana confirmed that she and husband, Thomas Msengana, are no longer together in an interview on E-NCA with Ayanda Allie-Paine.

It was no surprise to many, as speculations were making all the buzz for some time about her “marriage [being] on the rocks,” according to Daily Sun in an article claiming “Unathi and her husband Thomas ‘Bad Boy T’ Msengana are rumoured to be heading for divorce. One of the reasons for the alleged trouble in paradise is Unathi allegedly cheating on her husband.”

That said, Unathi was calm and graceful about what she confirmed in the interview. It is thus, the basis of what she said that led me to write this piece.

Among other things, Unathi spoke about the newspaper speculative reports, which she called false saying “I think we get to a point where we feel like we have to share our private lives.” Speaking about her marriage in relation to navigating being public figures, she said; “We are people who have never used our family for a PR campaign.”

Ayanda asked Unathi if she thought the “it couple” sensation and exaggerated interest on her marriage was due to her and husband’s public figure status, to which she replied, “We’ve never been that kind of couple though.” Their back and forth made me nostalgic of my time in University studying Media Studies, and in one class, delving into “The dumbing down of journalism: Tabloids.” Now, with the addition of social media, I don’t even know how low the dumbing has gone because these days, newspapers aren’t embarrassed to screen-grab tweets, caption them and call that an article.

Needless to say, as soon as the channel posted the interview on the internet, #unathidivorce started trending like Easter Eggs on Easter.

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You will remember that Unathi has had her bout in a Twitter boxing ring. The debacle with a Twitter follower in 2015 ultimately threatened her bread and butter as Metro FM suspended her. What followed was a public apology from the passionate Radio DJ and musician, and whatever was between the lines of her apology was clear anger, disappointment and ‘joys’ of having to be the bigger person.

Now, in 2017, there are obviously different arguments about her divorce; the first being those who have turned it into a joke. One went as far as saying “Badboy T gave unathi a shot in radio now she’s bigger than him she’s leaving him. These whores ain’t loyal udlwe umjita  Others who also shared negative comments about it were “LOLing” and “LMAOing” about how her tears on idols were because of the divorce. I can’t help but ask myself; when did divorce become a joke? When did those who have or are divorced parents forget its effects? And, why are we so hell-bent on laughing at Unathi even though she, with the utmost class, shared information we didn’t even deserve?

The other side of the spectrum is the one that is sensationally throwing the towel on love, alluding to the fact that Zwai and Melanie Bala are also divorcing, as well as Precious Kofi and her husband. In these sentiments, I find a very dangerous association of love only with a partner, which is not true because divorce can also be an act of self-love as well as love for the other person, enough to let them go to where they will be happiest. I also believe love is unattainable when paralleled only with who we think is an “it couple.” We are obviously duped in the #loveliveshere phenomenon of instant gratification, that we seek examples of what love should look like, as opposed to what love should feel like. Some couples do invite the pedestal (which comes with public opinion), and some couples don’t. But, what I am saying is whether it is AKA and Bonang or just plain irrelevant me with my boyfriend, relationships have the same fundamental dynamics and all go through rough patches – moments never captured on Instagram; so, focus on your relationship; let people divorce, damn!

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Latly, the Tweets I personally loved were the ones which seemed concerned about how Unathi was holding up. I think that’s all that matters. How is she and how is her heart… Ultimately, Unathi has a wholesome album, a banging body after two children (already an inspiration to moms wanting to get back on shape) and other things. I don’t know her personally but from her work, she continues to embody an African woman who is not afraid of her truth; who stands in and with it. Of course, we will not agree with all of her views because we all come from different walks of life and think differently. Like dust, she continues to rise. I hope we learn to cut each other some slack some day, soon.