A Day In The Life Of South Africa’s Queen B*, Bonang Matheba

Bonang Matheba talks breaking into the American market, blocking the haters and more in an Okayafrica exclusive.

Photo: Oluwaseye

Bonang Matheba's nickname Queen B* says it all. At 28, Matheba reigns supreme over the South African entertainment industry as one of the top media personalities in Mzansi. A radio host, TV presenter and owner of her own entertainment empire, Matheba stars on the mega-popular South African talk show, Afternoon Express, as well as the long-running lifestyle television show Top Billing. In 2013 she made history as Revlon’s first global brand ambassador.

Her impeccable style, sharp business acumen and various endorsement deals have earned her a legion of social media followers across the globe–over two-million to be exact.

In an exclusive interview with Okayafrica, Matheba talks about breaking into the American market, her red carpet style and what she wants her legacy to be.

Makho Ndlovu for Okayafrica: You're very active on social media. How do you handle the haters and naysayers?

The beauty about all social media platforms is that there's a block button. When it’s meant to destroy, degrade, demoralize, I block it out of my timeline. I don't need to expose myself to negativity. But I do heed and note constructive criticism meant to build and motivate.

What's the most meaningful thing someone has said to you?

From a very young age my mother has always told me that “I'm enough, I'm adequate- and that I'm powerful beyond measure.” Those words have stuck with me all these years and I've used them as a foundation for all I do. Knowing that I'm powerful enough to create and change my destiny, to dream and make them come true, influence people, change lives and ultimately fulfill my purpose. There's immense greatness in learning to unlock your true potential by just knowing that you're enough, you're all you need.

Photo: Oluwaseye

Having made such a huge impact in Africa, is the eventual goal to break into the American market?

Any entertainer who says otherwise is being modest. We all want to break into the big leagues, and America is that for the entertainment world. This year I have consciously begun my journey to set my footprint on the global community by stepping out not just as “Bonang the South African celeb,” but learning the ropes of what it takes to be a global star.

What are some of the differences you noticed between the entertainment industry in Mzansi and in the United States?

There really isn't much, in the delivery. But it’s the precision in execution that left me in awe of the U.S. entertainment industry. In SA most television shows are live, in real time, and it was such an eye opener to experience the mechanics of some of the top television shows and award shows in the U.S. being pre-recorded and how every single detail was executed. One of the most exciting experiences was being at the taping of the E! Fashion Police Grammys special. I was in awe of how everything was run and executed.

With Essence Festival, BET Experience and Okayafrica heading to South Africa, what do you think this means for SA? And the entertainment industry as a whole?

I personally view it as a nod to the strides that we as the entertainment industry in South Africa have managed to put out, especially in the past five years. Our music exports have been amazing, our film industry is growing at a healthy pace, radio is booming and has caught up to international trends, and importantly, so has our television. The South African celebrity landscape has also diversified and there is so much more on offer as an industry.

How would you describe your personal style?

It evolves with my mood really, but it’s mostly elegant and very glamorous. I'm not one to consciously go for trends, but focus more on what fits well with my mood and the occasion. But best believe whether I am off to my radio show or to the mall, I am always camera ready, even in my gym clothes.

What makes a great red carpet dress?

For as long as your dress is fit for the occasion, you will look and feel great. Thus I believe its greatness lies in the carrier of the dress.

Photo: Oluwaseye

What are you like at home with friends and family? Are you always glam or do you have moments of being low-key?

I am the biggest goofball I know. I love to have fun and to make people happy, I cook and we just eat away, laugh and of course dance.

Between hosting a radio show on Metro and hosting on TV, you seem to work nonstop. Is it strange for you to have free time?

In the past year, I have had to teach myself to give myself free time every day so that I don't get frustrated with myself, because once you get frustrated you easily get into destructive mode. I've also found that even in my travels for work, I have to find time for free time so I can reconnect with myself regularly.

Which celebrities have you most enjoyed chatting with? Who have you been most wowed by?

It might sound like a cop-out, but I truly enjoy all my interviews as they all have special meaning to me. From each one of them I walk away with a lesson, whether it’s the billionaire whose lavish house we're showcasing at Top Billing or the anonymous lady calling on The Front Row about her relationship problems. They all add value in the woman and broadcaster that I am and becoming.

What do you look for in a potential partner?

I look for someone who loves and doesn't take themselves seriously. Someone I can laugh with.

Is it ever weird to have the media reporting on your every move?

Since last year, I have learnt to just switch off my emotions from it. Now I look at me making news because I was at the car wash like, “Oh it’s a really slow news day…” I’m really not affected by articles about me that don't seek my truth on whatever they report on.

What are you most proud of?

I am most proud of the level of work that I have put out, consistently for seven years. It has been a long bumpy ride, but the beautiful route has been amazing to live through.

In the exclusive photo story below, photographer Oluwaseye follows Queen B* for the day on her recent trip to New York City.

Makho Ndlovu is a Zimbabwean born-blogger living in New York City. Follow her on Twitter at @MakhoNdlovu.

Photo by Don Paulsen/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Hugh Masekela's New York City Legacy

A look back at the South African legend's time in New York City and his enduring presence in the Big Apple.

In Questlove's magnificent documentary, Summer of Soul, he captures a forgotten part of Black American music history. But in telling the tale of the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, the longtime musician and first-time filmmaker also captures a part of lost South African music history too.

Among the line-up of blossoming all-stars who played the Harlem festival, from a 19-year-old Stevie Wonder to a transcendent Mavis Staples, was a young Hugh Masekela. 30 years old at the time, he was riding the wave of success that came from releasing Grazing in the Grass the year before. To watch Masekela in that moment on that stage is to see him at the height of his time in New York City — a firecracker musician who entertained his audiences as much as he educated them about the political situation in his home country of South Africa.

The legacy Masekela sowed in New York City during the 1960s remains in the walls of the venues where he played, and in the dust of those that are no longer standing. It's in the records he made in studios and jazz clubs, and on the Manhattan streets where he once posed with a giant stuffed zebra for an album cover. It's a legacy that still lives on in tangible form, too, in the Hugh Masekela Heritage Scholarship at the Manhattan School of Music.

The school is the place where Masekela received his education and met some of the people that would go on to be life-long bandmates and friends, from Larry Willis (who, as the story goes, Masekela convinced to give up opera for piano) to Morris Goldberg, Herbie Hancock and Stewart Levine, "his brother and musical compadre," as Mabusha Masekela, Bra Hugh's nephew says.

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