Sunday Times

Not your usual celebs as ‘Aunty Felicia’ reprises her own heritage

- with Craig Jacobs jacobsc@sundaytime­s.co.za

● She might have left our TV screens in 2004, but Felicia Mabuza-Suttle — sorry Noeleen, Anele and Azania — can still lay claim to being the nation’s most famous talk-show queen.

These days she is based in the US, but the media veteran and entreprene­ur was in Joburg this week to accept an award as a business pioneer. And she made time in her frenetic schedule to invite The A-Listers to spend time with her at an intimate celebrator­y lunch on Heritage Day. It took place at her “home away from home”, the Hyatt Regency in Rosebank, where a lavish spread was laid out in the courtyard.

Greeting “Aunty Felicia”, I noticed that her skin looked flawless, but that she wasn’t quite culturally appropriat­ely dressed for the holiday in her head-to-toe black, finished off with a sun-hat and her signature specs.

Quick as a flash, the 68-year-old acknowledg­ed her error and disappeare­d, returning moments later with her head covered in an animal-print wrap.

As the guests started trickling in, it was interestin­g to note that Mabuza-Suttle had not invited any of the usual celeb crowd.

Instead, I met Felicia’s younger sister Thandi and a dozen men and women who credit her with setting them on the right path.

There was, for example, Nompumelel­o Mthembu, a pastor at a Pimville, Soweto, church; and her younger sister Zanele, who has followed in Mabuza-Suttle’s broadcasti­ng footsteps. She is head of operations for the new DStv news channel, Newzroom Afrika.

It turns out they all attended the dance school Mabuza-Suttle started at her Dobsonvill­e, Soweto, home — a move intended to get young people off the streets — when she was still a journalist for The World newspaper.

They reminisced about the time the entreprene­ur persuaded Anglo American to fund a trip, on which she took some 60 people, many of whom had never left the township before, to dance for King Sobhuza in Swaziland.

Thobi Fihle, another dancer, said the star had so inspired him that he’d started his own dance academy.

I ask if we’ll ever see her back on the box, but she waves away the suggestion. “Some people go on to retirement but I prefer to say I am on ‘preferment’.

“I do what I prefer to do.”

 ?? Picture: John Liebenberg ?? Felicia Mabuza-Suttle with her sister Thandi Mabuza, left, and niece Palesa Mabuza
Picture: John Liebenberg Felicia Mabuza-Suttle with her sister Thandi Mabuza, left, and niece Palesa Mabuza
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