Meet YouTube vlog­ger Co­conut Kelz

Her com­ments can be con­tro­ver­sial but in­ter­net sen­sa­tion Co­conut Kelz is on fire. Le­sego Tl­habi tells us why she’s hav­ing the time of her life

YOU (South Africa) - - CONTENTS - BY THOLAKELE MNGANGA PIC­TURES: ROWYN LOMBARD

SHE votes DA, thinks Mmusi Maimane is the Barack Obama of South Africa and even though her dad works with “like, Cyril and them” she re­ally doesn’t like the ANC. She wore “MK chic” to an anti-Zuma march, her BFFs are “Mich” and “Sê” and she dressed in black for a week in sup­port of white farm­ers who are be­ing killed “in their 10s and 12s”. “I have a lot of friends with farms and I’m al­ways al­lowed on,” she points out. Ash­win Willemse is “just so ag­gres­sive” and re­ally, when you think about it, there’s no such thing as white priv­i­lege, guys. “I mean, my friend Natasha’s dad is like, a su­per­dark-skinned guy and when he comes back from hol­i­day he’s like, ‘Oh my God, Kelz – twinzies!’ So how can that be white priv­i­lege?” This is the out­ra­geous world of Co­conut Kelz, the YouTube vlog­ger who has opin­ions about ev­ery­thing that, like, re­ally mat­ters. And she un­der­stands what’s go­ing on in this coun­try be­cause she, like, knows it all: she’s a black girl who went to a white school so she has a real grasp of stuff. It’s satire at its best – a laugh-out-loud dig at the is­sues con­sum­ing SA and get­ting South Africans hot un­der the col­lar. And Le­sego Tl­habi, the woman be­hind it all, had no idea it would be such a hit. Kelz is an in­ter­net

‘It’s eas­ier to make some­one en­gage with some­thing or some­one once you’ve dis­armed them’

sen­sa­tion with thou­sands of fol­low­ers on Twit­ter, Face­book and In­sta­gram and a reg­u­lar slot on Ra­dio 702’s week­end break­fast show with host Phemelo Motene. “I re­ally didn’t know she’d be so pop­u­lar be­cause she’s quite con­tro­ver­sial,” Le­sego (29) says.

Kelz is a fic­tional char­ac­ter who arose out of real-life in­ter­ac­tions, she ex­plains.

“She was born at school be­cause I’ve al­ways been opin­ion­ated. I used to share my views on Face­book, kind of in rant form. Un­der the same posts would be tons of com­ments from lots of dif­fer­ent white peo­ple who’d say things like, ‘We don’t see colour’ and ‘We don’t see race; why don’t you move on?’ so af­ter a while I felt like it was a joke.”

Frus­trated by peo­ple who didn’t seem to get what she was say­ing, Le­sego de­cided to make those same state­ments back to her crit­ics in the hope they’d see a dif­fer­ent point of view.

“Kelz is also a play on the type of per­son who peo­ple imag­ine comes from a pri­vate school and on peo­ple who have only white friends. Kelz al­ways has a mes­sage.”

Le­sego was in­spired to cre­ate her af­ter watch­ing satir­i­cal sketches on com­edy shows such as Satur­day Night Live and The Pure Monate Show.

The aim, Le­sego adds, is to make peo­ple laugh and get them to en­gage. “It’s eas­ier to make peo­ple en­gage with some­one or some­thing once you’ve dis­armed them.”

And with so much bad news and neg­a­tiv­ity in the coun­try Le­sego hopes the one thing peo­ple take away from Kelz is “we shouldn’t take our­selves too se­ri­ously”.

LE­SEGO has al­ways wanted to be in show­biz but it wasn’t easy per­suad­ing her par­ents. Her mother, Penny Osiris, and fa­ther, Brian Tl­habi, are both doc­tors and wanted her to do a more “se­ri­ous” course once she’d ma­tric­u­lated from the ex­clu­sive St Anne’s Dioce­san Col­lege near Dur­ban in 2006.

“I went to do a BCom at Wits [the Univer­sity of the Wit­wa­ter­srand] but dropped out six months later.”

She begged her par­ents to al­low her to study drama but they still said no. So in 2008 she en­rolled at the Univer­sity of Cape Town (UCT) and stud­ied me­dia for two years be­fore drop­ping out again. It was at this point her mom fi­nally con­ceded her child’s true pas­sion lay in the arts.

With Penny’s back­ing, Le­sego went to Brunel Univer­sity Lon­don in Eng­land to study the­atre and fol­lowed up with an eight-week course at a mu­si­cal the­atre in New York.

“I loved my time in Lon­don,” she says. “That’s what gave me the con­fi­dence to do some­thing like Kelz. Be­fore I’d won­der, ‘What if peo­ple laugh at me rather than with me?’”

Her time away also showed Penny and Brian they’d made the right choice in send­ing her to an arts school. “Now they get it and are su­per sup­port­ive.”

An­other per­son who en­cour­ages Le­sego’s cre­ative side is her step­mother, broad­caster and com­men­ta­tor Redi Tl­habi. In fact, she adds, Redi was in­stru­men­tal in per­suad­ing her dad to al­low her to fol­low her heart.

“She told him how she was a cre­ative too and she’d made it work, so I could too. I hope one day she and I will work on a project to­gether.”

KELZ isn’t all Le­sego does. She’s been work­ing as a scriptwriter, pro­ducer and DJ since her re­turn to SA in 2014 and has been a con­tent pro­ducer for V En­ter­tain­ment, con­tribut­ing to such shows as All Ac­cess Mzansi and Squad Deep on MTV Base. But it was Co­conut Kelz that thrust her into the spot­light. Kelz gets sup­port from all over South Africa, Le­sego says. “From the apartheid gen­er­a­tion, the co­conut gen­er­a­tion, white and black peo­ple. “I’m not try­ing to diss any­one or hurt feel­ings.” And ob­vi­ously, Le­sego adds, she doesn’t per­son­ally agree with Kelz’s views. “Co­conut Kelz is the op­po­site of me. I don’t sub­scribe to any­thing she says.” While she ini­tially strug­gled with peo­ple ex­pect­ing her to be Co­conut Kelz all the time, Le­sego be­lieves she can have a ca­reer where she can be her­self as well as her al­ter ego. She con­cedes there’s con­fu­sion that comes with be­ing “two peo­ple” when it comes to MCing events. “Some­one will ask me to MC a func­tion and I’ll agree but when I show up they’ll be like, ‘Kelz, you’re go­ing to . . .” Le­sego wants to es­tab­lish her­self as an ac­tress too. But, while Kelz is pop­u­lar she’s go­ing to take full ad­van­tage of it. She has big plans for her al­ter ego next year. “I can’t talk about what ex­actly is hap­pen­ing but there are TV shows, books and things.” Le­sego also hopes Kelz leads to her own­ing a pro­duc­tion com­pany. “I want to be in con­trol of ev­ery as­pect of my ca­reer. I want to cre­ate shows and be in all of them, like Oprah. I want to be a con­tent cre­ator for­ever. I want to write for­ever. I want to per­form for­ever.” And, like, if Kelz is any­thing to go by, why not?

ABOVE: Le­sego be­hind the mike at Power 987. TOP RIGHT: The YouTube vlog­ger with her dad, Brian Tl­habi. ABOVE MID­DLE: Her step­mom, Redi, en­cour­ages her cre­ative side. RIGHT: With mom Penny Osiris.

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