Thursday morning, 13 February 2003, roundabout… 8am. My mother has this tendency of telling me things I need to do that day, while I’m sleeping and, of course, the chances of me remembering these are very slim. So she continues to do exactly that, but all I can hear is mumbling. I’m trying to sleep here. As soon as she leaves, as I start to… the damn phone starts ringing! I answer the phone. It’s some lady from YFM, saying that I got a scholarship to study Graphic Design at Boston Media House. I immediately call my mother at work to let her know the good news, but know that she’s not there yet – she only left the house five minutes ago. So I leave a message. She later told me that, that day she arrived at work around 9am. Got my message, and her colleagues started singing praise songs to congratulate her. She said it was one of the best mornings she’d had at work in a long time.
Got to school the very same morning, and I had the chance to speak to the lecturer who’d selected my entry from thousands. Her name was Michelle (damn, she was hot – but that’s not the point). She said that my essay was funny but, honestly, at that time I didn’t really care why I was chosen. I just was. And from that day my life took a different course – a modern man in the making. Boston Media House was a college filled with a great vibe, beautiful women, and it’s a school for the creative. What more could I ask for? I remember when I got the name ‘Gorgeous’ George. There was a foosball table at the basement next to the tuckshop, and that’s how GG was born. From that day I was always known as GG. (It helps that my actual names are George Gladwin.). That same year, I started my clothing label (I need to go back to that someday). I sold T-shirts for R30, so I could buy myself stuff that my mother couldn’t afford. And in my final year, the extra money also came in handy with school projects. My mother bought my one pair shoes that year – that’s all the shoes I had at that time. But it didn’t matter cos I always had fun. I also had different crushes on different chicks on different days; Mpho, Thembi, Charmaine…
After graduating, I started working at TBWA/Hunt/Lascaris – the best place to learn when you’re fresh from college. My salary wasn’t really the most exciting thing ever, but I survived and had fun at the same time. I loved Fridays at work – open bar night – got home drunk every week, thinking that my mother wouldn’t notice. Well, she did. She started complaining that I wasn’t helping around the house and stuff. And most of the time when she complained, she was right. So I stopped getting drunk so much, but I had to do something. Anyway I’d had this idea for a magazine for a while – why not that? Well, I was in Studio at that time (Studio at Hunts is the training ground for art directors and copywriters). The Creative Head for Studio asked us to do murals on our walls and that’s where the name for the magazine, Studio83, came from – and I was born in 1983.
While I was in college I had become good friends with Tshepo – he’s really cool, well not forgetting that he looks like El Vovo (hehehe). And we’ve been tight for years since then. He got an invitation to audition for a local reality TV show at Urban Brew, and he could bring a friend. Me. I went along, and I made it through to be a contestant on The Cut – Tshepo didn’t. I got unpaid leave from work, and went to start shooting. The whole experience was awesome, I learned a lot in the 13 episodes we shot. Fashion, interior design, directing, advertising, pimp my ride, awards co-ordinating… When the episodes started airing on TV, I was slowly becoming that familiar face to many people. People I only see on TV, I now sat next to at restaurants in Sandton, talking like we were old friends. What I had now, everybody dreams about.
The Good Life
The inevitable happens, yep! I stated getting a big head: ‘I’m a celebrity now’, ‘everyone knows my name’, ‘flashing lights’. Everyone knew who I was; girls wanted to know my name; and ex-girlfriends started calling me again. I was living the good life. I got into clubs for free, everyone wanted to be around me – it was awesome! You begin to have fans wherever you go. When they see you they ask you the same questions: ‘what are you doing now?’ ‘where is OD, Lerato, Vusi or Michelle?’. It’s cute in the beginning, but after a while you get tired of it. But I loved the attention; I loved the girls; I loved people knowing my name.
Everything I Am
I love the good life, but too much of something is bad. I had to go back to my not-so-well-paying job. But the best thing I learnt from the show was, that ‘you can do whatever you want – all you need is resources and opportunity’. I moved out of home. My mom wasn’t happy at all. She knew I couldn’t afford it, but I knew that I had to do it. All I had was my CDs, my Apple Mac G4 and my clothes. Tshepo helped me move out. I remember I had no bed – my housemate at that time lent me his blow-up bed. I moved out of home close to my birthday, and she wasn’t speaking to me at that time. On my birthday, in the evening, I started working on my dream. Applying everything I’d learnt my entire life – cos everything I went through made me everything I am.
Studio83 was born. It was just me and my dream; without any guarantees of success. The dream was keeping me awake every night. Every night I was making it better, slicker and faster. I didn’t have a desk, and my machine was on the floor, so I had to work lying on my stomach. It wasn’t the most comfortable position, but I had to make a way. At work they could see that I was losing interest in advertising, so they didn’t give me a lot of work that required creative thinking. That was good for me – I could spend more time on S83. The magazine was getting better and better. My relationship with my mom was getting better. And Dumisani – housemate, friend, mentor, “big brother” –loved my idea of the magazine.
Dumisani lived like a rockstar, but every rockstar has a softer side that only a few get to see. I was lucky to see that side of him. He always protected me from temptations of the worlds – and at times he would take a role of a father to me. He taught me the lessons of life – always told me that I knew the answers to the questions I asked him, and he would get irritated by that. He would make me run bath water for him as soon as I was done taking my bath. Then I’d have to wake him up because he got home at 4am from his girlfriend house. He would give me advice on women. He hated doing dishes, but always blamed me for the house looking a mess when his mother came to visit. And I did the same to him.
I started work at MetropolitanRepublic. It was fun there. I did what I really loved – working and having fun. But like any other relationship, you get over the honeymoon phase. Then you have to deal with the reality of things. I was more in love with my dream than anything else, than anyone else, at that time. (I lost my girlfriend cos I didn’t give her the attention she wanted.) With all that going on, people at work were not making it easier for me – I was starting to hate my job. It was becoming toxic. I decided to resign. I was gonna go solo, freelance or something. I had no plan, but I had to quit. For my sanity, for my dream, for self-preservation. I had nothing to lose – I was only 24, I could afford to fuck up once in a while.
Barry Bonds – ‘We outta here, baby’
The year was coming to an end. I’d paid my December and January rent already. I was kinda broke, but at least I have a roof over my head. So I did some freelance work – and got taxed 25%, on top of being paid late! Yi festive, phela – and I had a grand (including an overdraft) to my name. And that had to last me end of Jan.
Me and couple of friends decided to go to Cape Town for a holiday – we drove down. I hooked up the place to stay and they hooked up the transport. I must say I had the time of my life there – I spent that holiday with beautiful people, good company and good alcohol. But soon, the holiday was over. I had to face reality. My little brother needed to go to college, and it was not cheap (AFDA). I couldn’t really ask my mother to pay for those fees. Besides the fact that she couldn’t afford it, I was already asking for too much from her. Damn! I need a job.