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Bonang Matheba: The new queen of TV talk

2015-05-03 18:32

Johannesburg - This has been the biggest year so far for SA’s only true A-lister. Bonang Matheba has secured the coveted 3Talk slot and will also be co-hosting a season with African talk show mogul Mo Abudu. Gugulethu Mhlungu caught up with the unstoppable celebrity who’s in need of a new career bucket list

One of the best things about interviewing Bonang Matheba is the generous amount of attention she gives to each chat. I’ve spoken to her on numerous occasions, usually while she’s shooting, and she always manages to pause and be present.

No calls, no side conversations, no fidgeting, no darting eyes, just a Zen-like focus as if this one interview is the most important part of her day.

It’s a day that usually starts early and ends late. It involves a radio show, a TV shoot, possible ambassador duty for one of her numerous lucrative endorsements, an interview and another shoot. Being present is probably what keeps her sane and makes her good at what she does.

When I catch up with her this time, it’s no different. She’s on a TV set, having just finished The Front Row – her daily radio show on Metro FM – and in 30 minutes is due to start filming her new lifestyle talk show that’s widely expected to replace the long-running 3Talk on SABC3. When the new show debuts tomorrow, Bonang Matheba will be South Africa’s new queen of TV talk.


For the average human, four months is not a particularly long time. Very few people can claim major shifts in their career after just a third of a year.

For Bonang, a lot can happen in four months. When we spoke in December last year, Queen B had a meticulously planned 2015, which included trips to Morocco at the invitation of the king and two new shows.

But as the saying goes, life happens while you’re planning it, and new opportunities became available this year.

Because of the shows, Bonang has had to change her life. She’s moved to Cape Town to shoot the new TV show, a gig that stretches from 1pm to 9pm almost every day. But she still spends a small part of her week in Joburg. She says the Cape Town move wasn’t planned.

“The new show was meant to be shot in Joburg, but there were various challenges and it didn’t happen. So it is being done from Cape Town,” she explains.

The new show has been up against a gruelling deadline after the end of 3Talk with Noeleen in March. If this chunk of talk time isn’t speedily replaced, the public broadcaster could find itself failing to meet its local quota on talk TV.

But Bonang is unfazed by the speed with which it’s all happening and the unavoidable long hours.

She says: “Some people move continents for their jobs. I’ve only had to move cities ... The move to Cape Town is permanent for now, and for as long as the SABC decides the show is working.”

Known for her love of Johannesburg and its energy, Bonang does admit that Cape Town is an adjustment.

“Moving to Cape Town was never in my plans. I’ve always thought of it as my holiday destination. Cape Town is very strange. The energy is quite low and things happen quite slowly, which has been an adjustment for me.

“But it’s really cool. It’s just a city. It’s not a big deal and I’m settled. I have a home, a car, a routine.”

Still, her schedule is terrifying.

“Top Billing links happen at night, Presenter Search on 3 happens on days when I’m not shooting the talk show ... Some shooting is on the weekend, and so far it works.”

One of Bonang’s favourite songs from last year is Dr Sid’s Dorobucci.

Dr Sid – the Nigerian dentist turned singer – says Dorobucci means “a person or an individual who is awesome, amazing, rich, swagged-out, sexy...”

It makes sense that Bonang loves this song because, by all accounts, she’s pretty doro. And now she’s taking her brand of doro to west Africa.

“The first two shows were planned. I knew about those. But then we got an offer from EbonyLife TV in Nigeria to do another talk show,” she says.

The deal means she will be co-hosting a new season of Moments with Mo with Nigerian media mogul Mosunmola Abudu.

It’s considered the most successful syndicated talk show in Nigeria.

Moments with Mo is also the first syndicated daily talk show on African regional television and is watched in virtually every country on the continent.
Bonang is about to go huge and more routine changes are inevitable as the practicalities of her EbonyLife TV contract get worked out.

“My manager Zoe [Msutwana] is working out the details, logistics and money, but it’s as good as done.”

She adds that Moments with Mo “would also mean finding time to go to Lagos and shooting there, and possibly banking episodes, or finding time to shoot here at home”.

She says this deal was perfect in terms of her five-year plan to extend her work to the rest of Africa. Lagos in Nigeria is one of her favourite cities and she’s been spending more time there.

“Lagos is such a great city, or at least I think so. And maybe it’s because the people I see in Lagos are great,” she says, as her call time approaches and the end of our chat approaches.


So what can we expect tomorrow when we tune in to her new show? Bonang says it’s not a regular talk show.

“It’s more than just talk. It’s not Oprah, sit-down type talk.

“But there is an element of talk. It’s the perfect show for that 4pm weekday slot. It’s Wendy Williams (who Bonang catches every evening when she can) and a bit of Ellen Degeneres ... It’s fresh and modern.

“We call it a talk show because of its genre, and the element where we’ll be sitting down and talking to people. But it’s travel, fashion, food, entertainment, hot boys. It’s going to be a good show.”

And conquering Oprah’s America? She says: “As much as people say, ‘Oh Bonang, you should go to LA and work with Ryan Seacrest!’, that’s really not so easy. But it’s also in the plans, so I’m starting to go to auditions, sending out my showreel and seeing how it goes.”

She’s particularly keen on E! entertainment shows like Fashion Police for her now-revised five-year plan.

“I’ve had to sit down and think about new plans, goals and dreams with my team because everything we set out to do has been done, which is crazy.”

She pauses, almost incredulously, and as if realising it for the first time, says: “By the age of 28, all my dreams have come true.”

-  Bonang’s new show debuts at 4pm on SABC3 from tomorrow and will be on daily during the week

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