Swallow My Pride

The girl with a ‘Fro, who has a keen interest in media and law, is who I am. With some television experience, I couldn’t wait till the day would come again when I could speak to a country that I love so much and touch so many hearts – me. To bring something new, different and meaningful to the eyes, heart, and minds of everyday South Africans who would be glued to their screens – because of me. Then I heard from friends about a presenter search by one of the hottest music shows in the country – and they thought I could do well. Initially, I didn’t think much of it – I wasn’t a party girl and the show did not fit my Afro-centric look. After giving it some thought, though, I gave in and sent in my video and pictures. Besides, I always believe in doing as much as you can because you only live once. There were more than 8 000 entrants, and clearly, the chances of me making it to the top 4 were slim, or so it seemed.

But I got the call for top 200 in Durban. I went, gave them my quirky self, which they absolutely loved – I was ‘fresh and unique’. Then 175 people were cut, and only 25 were called back. Again I was one of them – shocked, but I showed them the talent Durban had. Once I auditioned, I felt that this really could be where my fate lies. Then the real waiting started. The finalists would be announced during the show itself. After the longest hour of my life, as the presenters kept us in suspense, they finally revealed the names – and one of them was mine. Instantly, I got phone calls, FB messages, and tweets… I fell to my knees and thanked the guy upstairs who had been swamped with my prayers.

I didn’t have the typical look for Live, but I was ecstatic! Even more excited was my childhood friend, Minnie, who I was on the phone with from day one. Not only did she enter the competition, she also had made it to the top 4 with me. A strange and surreal experience. We were then flown up, given five-star treatment, rehearsed… and then we were Live. That hour went so quickly, and we were in awe. The minute the show ended, social networks, media, and people were buzzing with who they would vote for. I immediately took on the persona ‘Mnandi-Nandi’. The attention was overwhelming. Before I could even get the call of who won, I got a call from Nonhle Thema’s people saying they were looking for an Afro-centric girl for the new season of an urban show, and they wanted me to audition. It felt like I was in a dream: Me, a finalist for a national presenter search also being asked to be in another search where I’d meet the who’s who from around the world. And, most importantly, they wanted the girl to look Afro-centric?! I couldn’t help but feel this was some strange dream. For the first round of those auditions, I remember the judges saying “what happens if you win the other show for the other presenter search?” And I nervously answered “I’ll just pray for what is needed for me, and to go where my journey needs to take me” looking at the judges I stated that “I am not here for fame, but a legacy.”

I saw myself bringing something new to the industry. Again, I was part of a grueling yet intriguing audition process. I made the Top 25. By the time I made it to the finals for this show, I was notified of not making it on Live. Which led me to think that maybe this was all meant to be; this was where I was meant to be. Once again, I got the call that I made the finals for this presenter search… this was becoming rather entertaining! Flying to Jozi from Durban for each round, I was committed to the dream; to influence African girls and guys to pride themselves of their Africaness and uniqueness, to tell them to appreciate the world by not imitating others, but doing us rather. The day finally came to announce the winner. We waited anxiously as they eliminated us, one by one. Until it came down to myself and Dineo. Again I was in the top two.

I kept thinking how amazing it was that a girl like me so different from everyone else had made it this far, twice. They were willing to have a girl who prides herself of her kinky hair and African accent get this far in an urban show. Were my dreams to come true? To change the perception of what success and beauty should look like? They didn’t. It was a definite no. I was runner-up once again.

Crushed but I couldn’t help but think, yeah my look doesn’t fit the urban theme of the show and it’s too different from the existing presenter. Yeah, what was I thinking… Me, the girl with the Afro and beads across my chest? But wait, all these shows had predecessors who had a look which I didn’t have. Could this be a way that God is creating for me to make my own legacy? Find my own way that’s fresh and new? Is there a reason why I was so different and runner-up twice? Hell yeah! I represent those who are not afraid to express themselves in a different way, not afraid to show who they really are. So, of course, I would not fit the bill for any of the shows I made runner-up for!

After that I knew something awesome would come along in the form of a new show. And there have been a few offers; I just need to find the right show for me. It’s always better to have a brand new show as no one can compare you to your predecessors. It makes for a good story. Yes, Mnandi! Do and be you. That is why I will continue to share my legacy.

Writer // Nandi Mngoma          Photographer //Judd van Rensburg