Lo­cal celeb – Hulisani Ravele

TV and ra­dio per­son­al­ity HULISANI RAVELE, 29, opens up about her rise to fame as a child star, los­ing it all and re-es­tab­lish­ing her ca­reer in the en­ter­tain­ment in­dus­try by find­ing pur­pose.

True Love - - News - By PHILA TYEKANA


“Pur­pose, power and im­pact,” is the mantra that Hulisani Ravele lives by. Her fa­ther was a me­chanic, car­pen­ter and taxi owner. He loved cars, she re­calls, and on any day you’d find him fix­ing one. He passed away in 2012 while work­ing on a car – the jack lost its bal­ance and the ve­hi­cle fell on him. “It’s not that I didn’t mourn my fa­ther, but what I took from his pass­ing was that he died do­ing what he loved. I made a de­ci­sion to leave the cor­po­rate world. I may have been good at it, but it wasn’t my call­ing. That’s when I set out a vi­sion to be in­volved in projects that have pur­pose, power and im­pact as I wanted to touch peo­ple’s lives. I be­lieve that I’m meant to do that through en­ter­tain­ment.”

Huli – as her fans call her – grew up in front of our eyes on SABC1’s YoTV, kick­ing off her ca­reer at the age of nine as a pre­sen­ter of Pula and Friends. To­day she works as a ra­dio host at Lim­popo’s Capri­corn FM, as a co-pre­sen­ter of The Vodacom Show on SABC2 and as a voiceover artist on Vuzu’s en­ter­tain­ment news fea­ture V News. She’s even had to in­sure her voice, that’s how se­ri­ously she takes her job.

In Novem­ber 2008, Huli, then aged 20, left YoTV af­ter “the best eight years of my life that shaped me into the pre­sen­ter I am to­day”. As ev­ery for­mer child star says, it isn’t easy shak­ing off the “kid­dies’ show pre­sen­ter” la­bel. Next, Huli worked on a 13-episode game show on SABC1 called Quiz Me, about mu­nic­i­pal elec­tions. While this was a more ma­ture Hulisani, most view­ers still iden­ti­fied with her as the young host on YoTV. This re­sulted in her dis­ap­pear­ing from our TV screens for two years – not be­cause she wanted to.

“New star­lets were on the rise and all the jobs were go­ing to them. I was still seen as a kid­dies’ pre­sen­ter. In hind­sight, that was a bless­ing. I ended up in the cor­po­rate world as, dur­ing my last year of study for my BCom Mar­ket­ing de­gree at the Univer­sity of Jo­han­nes­burg, I in­terned at SABC1 in the PR de­part­ment.”

Af­ter that, things took a turn for the worse. She was un­em­ployed for six months, which was un­heard of for Huli, who’d worked most of her life. “I went into a mild de­pres­sion,” she re­veals. “I had to rely on peo­ple, whereas it had al­ways been the other way around. My fam­ily stepped in to as­sist. My older brother would pay rent and buy me gro­ceries. I had to move out of my place at the end of 2009 be­cause I couldn’t af­ford to pay rent.

“That was rock bot­tom for me be­cause ev­ery­one else seemed to be ris­ing in their ca­reers. I kept think­ing: ‘I’ve been do­ing this for so long and I’m not get­ting any of this. I’m nowhere.’

“I’ve been an over­achiever all my life, so when I hit these snags I felt like I was fail­ing and fall­ing be­hind.”

Af­ter one too many re­jec­tions at au­di­tions, Huli stopped go­ing to them and be­gan work­ing on a talk show, The Hulisani

Ravele Show, which she is cur­rently pitch­ing to TV chan­nels. The con­cept of pur­pose, power and im­pact was birthed. She stopped do­ing mean­ing­less gigs and fo­cused her en­ergy on re­al­is­ing her mantra. “In 2011 I did Vodacom Mil­lion­aires. It was the per­fect time to re­veal that I’d changed my name from CC, short for Ce­cilia, to us­ing my TshiVenda name, Hulisani, which means ‘hon­our and re­spect’. I felt that this was me, and it was a way to show peo­ple that I was all grown up.

“I also wanted to take back con­trol of my iden­tity. When I joined an agency as a child star at age nine, the peo­ple there couldn’t pro­nounce Hulisani and went with Ce­cilia be­cause it was eas­ier for them to say. As an adult I feel if they don’t know how to say it, they’ll learn it.” Huli also worked for a dig­i­tal agency, whose clients in­cluded the or­gan­is­ers of the South African Mu­sic Awards, which she left in 2014. “I left with­out a TV job lined up be­cause I be­lieved in the say­ing, ‘Find what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life’. I re­alised I had a pur­pose to ful­fil in tele­vi­sion, whereas be­fore, be­cause I grew up be­ing on the small screen, it just felt like an ex­tra­mu­ral ac­tiv­ity. The switch in my mind hap­pened af­ter los­ing my dad.” In June 2014, she got a call from news chan­nel ANN7 to host

I Am South African, a show cel­e­brat­ing ex­tra­or­di­nary cit­i­zens mak­ing a dif­fer­ence in the lives of or­di­nary peo­ple, as a lead-up to an awards cer­e­mony of the same name. “It wasn’t a pop­u­lar de­ci­sion but the ques­tion was: Does this speak to what I do?

And the an­swer was: Yes. Is it the big­gest chan­nel? No. It’s about do­ing what you love and what feels right. I was at the point of tak­ing my ca­reer se­ri­ously. In our busi­ness, if you don’t agree with the R2 they give you, they know some­one else will take it. But I knew my worth, so I turned down the ini­tial of­fer. Do­ing this was hard, be­cause I saw ev­ery­one get­ting gigs around me. Plus, I didn’t have an in­come. I felt that God was test­ing me. ANN7 did the show with an­other pre­sen­ter and the day af­ter it aired, they called me back to rene­go­ti­ate and give me the amount I wanted.”

The Soweto-born star says she can take such bold steps, thanks to her faith, which was sparked on a trip to Cape Town with her cousin. “I loved the way my cousin was one with God and how she spoke about Him. She’d left her cor­po­rate job to start her own thing and was at peace with her­self and con­fi­dent. I ad­mired that. That’s how I am now, even if things don’t go my way. I’m at peace with it. And that’s the con­tent­ment I feel now. I think that’s what peo­ple are see­ing.”

This year marks Huli’s 20th an­niver­sary in the in­dus­try. “I’m not the sex­i­est or the most fa­mous per­son, but peo­ple re­late to me. I’m about be­ing hon­est and not suc­cumb­ing to any pres­sures of celebrity. That’s be­cause I started so young in the in­dus­try. There’s some­thing spe­cial about hav­ing peo­ple watch you grow.”

Huli seems un­af­fected by fame. She’s had the same car for 12 years and is fo­cused on pay­ing off her bond. She en­joys trav­el­ling, and has built her grand­mother and mother a house. The star cel­e­brated an­other mile­stone, grad­u­at­ing cum laude with a BA Hon­ours in Mo­tion Pic­ture Medium from AFDA me­dia school. She’s been a top achiever from pri­mary school right through to var­sity. Ed­u­ca­tion was some­thing her par­ents, es­pe­cially her late fa­ther, were strict about. Huli says her lat­est qual­i­fi­ca­tion makes her feel more con­fi­dent when pitch­ing for TV shows un­der her com­pany, Tshim­biluni Pro­duc­tions – a sub­sidiary of The Hulisani Ravele Group. “I don’t want to be just a face. I want to be an ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer and not just own the con­cept but also un­der­stand its in­tri­ca­cies.”

When it comes to love, she won’t talk about her re­la­tion­ship, but is ex­cited to turn 30 this Jan­uary. “I grew up on TV and peo­ple see me as their sis­ter. This has given me the power to stand in my light. It’s taken me a long time to un­der­stand that. There’s enough for all of u00s. I started chang­ing my mind­set. It might take me longer to achieve my dreams, but I’m car­ry­ing my dig­nity with me – and dig­nity is heavy.”

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