In Conversation with Bonang Matheba: 'I Know What Just One Educated Girl Can Do for a Community'
The TV star talks about getting the presidential nod, her new sparkling wine and sending 300 Black girls to university by 2030.
A few weeks ago, South Africans turned out in droves to vote in the most contested elections the country has had. Bonang Matheba was front and center in efforts to get South Africans to the polls. She even brought President Cyril Ramaphosa on her Instagram Live to talk before urging South Africans to vote for whoever they felt would bring about necessary change.
Bonang's love for the youth is irrefutable and the Bonang Matheba Bursary Fund is proof of this. She was recently named this year's Ultimate Pop Culture Icon by E! Africa and co-produced Public Figure, a documentary film about the highs and lows of social media. The film was screened at the Manchester Film Festival in March and was well-received by critics during a time where there's talk about reigning in the influence of large tech companies. Bonang speaks about how she has personally witnessed the impact that social media has on the youth and felt obligated to document that reality.
Perhaps what stands out most is how Bonang is invested in leaving a legacy behind for the Black community. Sure, she's shattering glass ceilings and making lots of money in the process but she's also set her sights on taking as many punches as she can so that all the Black girls who come after her don't have to. "I want girls to be empowered," she says simply. "I want girls to have the freedom to make their own choices, but I also want them to go to school. That's what I want."
We sat down with Bonang to talk about her new Méthode Cap Classique (MCC) sparkling wine, the House of BNG. We also spoke more on why she's so damn passionate about sending Black girls to school.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Are you surprised by the amount of support that the House of BNG has received?
South Africans, especially Black South Africans have taken it on as their product, their brand and their story. I'm not surprised in terms of the execution because those were things I'd been planning for over a year. The fact that the Cosmo cover came out on the 18th [of March], my launch was on the 18th, and the brand was made available in Woolworths on the 18th—that took a year to make sure that all of that happened on one day.
I think because the execution was so good, and then after the execution, it entices you to want to go and try the product and then the product is really good. I think they love the story behind the product, they really feel like it's theirs. It makes me quite happy.
You talk about how this sparkling wine is your love letter to Africa. Talk a bit more about that.
It's my love letter to Africa. It's my love letter to South Africa because this continent, this country particularly, has been such a great support system for me. The House of BNG's going to be a company that sows back into the community. I'm definitely going to build a school, that's something I want to do. Some of the proceeds with every single bottle that's sold is going to go back into sending young girls to school and paying off student debts—a big passion of mine.
You are the first Black woman to be added to this elite circle of wine producers that, in South Africa, is a very White male-dominated space. How did that first feel?
I'm still nervous! I mean, entering into the wine industry is a different ball game—things are serious, it's not play-play. People take wines very seriously and to be added to the Cap Classique Producers Association is crazy. I'm the only Black person there making MCCs and it's about time.
But I'm also asking myself why it's taken so long when women are leading the proliferation of MCCs according to an article I read the other day. I'm there to find out. I think it's my duty to find out, to ask, to see why and then to hopefully try to change it. And that's always been my thing, if I'm there first, make it easier for everybody else that's coming after you.
Courtesy of Bonang Matheba
Are there certain things that irk you about the wine industry that you want to shake up, change or do away with?
A lot of things. The myth that Black people don't drink wine or that Black people don't do a lot of things. I'm not the only Black winemaker in South Africa. I'm going to meet everybody else and I want to learn from them. I'm new to this industry so I'm not going to come in with all these big ass goals, trying to tell people I'm a celebrity.
First of all, one of the reasons why I wanted to be part of this association was to learn, was to get as much knowledge as possible because when you get into a new industry, you are an underdog. You need to climb up the ladder so that's what I'm doing.
What else do you want to fall under your House of BNG empire?
The reason why I called it the House of BNG is because when you say it in French, it's the Maison de BNG and everything in terms of luxury brands is the house of: the House of Chanel, the House of Fenty. So that's where the inspiration came from. It means that it can house many things. I'm starting with a luxury beverage, after this it's shoes. Underneath that is also my movie, Public Figure, so there's going to be television, there's going to be food and there's also going to be clothing.
Tell us a little about your film, Public Figure.
June is youth month in South Africa and Public Figure, my new movie, focuses a lot around the pros and cons of social media that I've seen with the youth. So I'm bringing the film to South Africa. I'm going to get children from around the country to come watch the film because it's a documentary on how social media's going to change the world, what part you have to play in it and ultimately how it impacts you.
Public Figure Trailer www.youtube.com
You've been in this business for over a decade. What do you think has been one of the major driving forces behind your relevance and your longevity?
I have a wonderful team that I spend a lot of money on. I believe in paying somebody what they're worth because I believe in being paid what I'm worth—number one. Secondly, consistency. People love and trust a brand when it's consistent. When people look to the brand that is Bonang, I want them to know that even wherever I am, I'm going to be number one in building brand trust.
Lastly, evolution. I love Madonna. I find her being able to just change herself all the time but also, when you're really, really good at something, you become timeless. And if you put in the time to be great at what you do, you're going to have all the time to enjoy what you do.
What is your biggest hope for Black girls in this country?
That they go to school. That somebody loves them enough to give them education and if it's me, if it has to be Oprah, if it's the government–whoever it is–I just wish that Black girls had an equal starting point with everybody else. The girl child is always the supporting act because the world is designed to support the man. No one speaks on her behalf but I know and I've seen what happens to a community, a family, when you educate her.
"I just want to hold girls and be like, "Do whatever the fuck you want.""
But make sure it is always your choice and that you are empowered—whatever it is that you choose. I don't care whether the world thinks it's bullshit if you are choosing it from a place of power, it doesn't matter. That's all I want. I want girls to be empowered.
Courtesy of Bonang Matheba
What do you know for sure?
What I know for sure is that I'm on the right path and what I know for sure is that my life is in my own hands and that's the most empowering thing I could ever think of. I mean, my House of BNG, is the official bubbly for the inauguration of the President. I couldn't even think of that. It's not a dream that you could even dream, but all I know for sure is that dreams do come true.
I'm actually reading Oprah's new book The Path Made Clear and it says that all of us have a purpose. What I know for sure if that I have a purpose and what I'm trying to do for the next couple of years, is trying to figure out what that purpose is. And I would urge everybody to ask themselves "What is my purpose?"