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OPW's Vele Manenje on landing her perfect presenting gig

2019-05-10 14:58
Vele Manenje (PHOTO: Drum)
Vele Manenje (PHOTO: Drum)

It’s not easy taking over as the new presenter of Our Perfect Wedding, but bubbly Vele Manenje says it’s been absolutely worth it to bag her dream gig 

She knew she had big shoes to fill. Our Perfect Wedding viewers were left heartbroken in  December when it was revealed that former host Nomsa Buthelezi was leaving the show.  Even though OPW changes presenters  every 13 episodes, fans were still shocked – they had just gotten used to the Lock down actress as the face of their favourite reality TV show.

Nomsa had taken   over from Thembisa Mdoda, who was so   popular with fans she won the golden   horn for best TV presenter in 2017.  So when it was announced Vele Manenje would be taking over from Nomsa,   she knew all eyes would be on her.  “There’s pressure because it’s a big   show – on primetime and on a Sunday   when everyone is watching,” the actress and presenter tells DRUM.  A little over a month into her new job,   Vele (30) is starting to own the show.   

“Most of the pressure is off because the   show accommodates each presenter   that comes along,” she says.  The Muvhango actress has been preparing for the sought-after role for   a while now. Last year she was tipped to win the OPW Presenter Search, a nationwide hunt for the hostess with   the mostest. It was the second time she’d been invited to take part in   the competition, but she was forced   to drop out due to prior acting   commitments on Ring of Lies. 

But Vele, who says she’s a day 1   OPW fan, didn’t give up on her dream. She longed to be a part of   the  drama  leading  up  to  the  big  day  of  ordinary  South  Africans so much she’d tune in to Mzansi Magic on DStv Channel 161  at  7pm  every Sunday  and    think  of  ways  to  put  her  own    stamp on it.  When the opportunity came knocking to host the show late last year, Vele was ready for   the role of a lifetime.   

She’s no stranger to fame but with its   sky-high weekly viewership, OPW is one   of Mzansi’s most-watched TV shows and even superfan Vele is taken aback by how massive it is. “I never imagined   it would be like this.”  Most fans have warmed   to her bubbly personality,   Vele says, but she’s also   come in for some backlash from the public.  The criticism prompted   predecessor Nomsa (34) to ask fevered fans to give the new OPW host a chance.   

“I told her [Vele] people were going to   criticise her and compare her to me,”   Nomsa told Isolezwe.   “I also told her people were going to   comment about her weight and make   many negative remarks but what is important is that she realises there was a   reason why she was chosen.”  Vele was born in Venda, Limpopo, but grew up in Joburg.  The youngest of    three girls, she spent her childhood days   singing, dancing and acting.

She was a   precocious child “who needed something to keep busy”.   “I was a hyperactive kid – I still am,”   she laughs.  She rattles off one of her favourite childhood memories.  “I was playing    the lead in a school concert and when everything was done I got a standing   ovation for my performance.”  It was then she knew she was born to be a star.

“I saw everyone’s reaction –   they all walked away with smiles. I knew   this is what I wanted to do for the rest   of my life. I always knew I had talent.”   But it wasn’t easy convincing her family to support her career aspirations. “I come from a family of teachers and   principals, so they had doubts about it.  “But I always told myself acting is a working career and it is doable.” Her family eventually came around   and supported her when she enrolled at the National School of the Arts. “After leaving school I was signed by MLA, one of the best talent agencies in   the country,” she recalls.   

“My first ad was for [American singer] Avril Lavigne for her 2005 SA tour.” Though she didn’t get to meet the singer,   Vele was over the moon that she was   now a working actress.   Vele later spread her wings on stage in roles in hit theatre productions Grease, Little Shop of Horrors and Black Bling. 

She became a regular on TV when she presented Takalani Sesame, Siyakholwa   and Rivoningo in her teens.  She later landed a plum part in the   international series Silent Witness and   followed it up with roles in A Place Called   Home and Single Galz, and more recently, Ring of Lies and Muvhango.   OPW is Vele’s biggest role by   far – and at first she didn’t think she’d make the cut.   “I love the camera,” she says, “but I never thought   I’d be a presenter.”   

Her hard work over the years clearly   paid off and for now she plans to make   her mark in showbiz like her role models, American actress Melissa McCarthy and   Ring of Lies co-star Warren Masemola.  “Warren has the ability to transform   and become whoever he is supposed to   be,” she gushes. “Russian character actor Konstantin Stanislavski once said if you   want to be an orange then be an orange.  “If Warren is asked to become the orange, he does.” 

Vele wants to become a household   name like Melissa, who’s famous for comedies such as Spy and Bridesmaids.   And  she  wants  to  be  the  best  –  like    Warren .  “I want to excel at what I do,” she says.  That includes travelling around the   country as she takes a front seat at some of the most romantic and dramatic weddings the country has seen. And now that she’s finally part of the   show she loves so much, Vele is ready to   take on the world.

“Anything I’ve ever   doubted in my life I want to achieve. I’ve learnt that when you speak about the   things you want, they do come true.”  Having started the year as the presenter on the country’s biggest show, we ask what more she could possibly want. Vele breaks into a smile before replying,   “I don’t want to jinx it.”