Cover Story – Anele Mdoda On Ruling The Airwaves
Anele Mdoda is no stranger to the limelight. In fact — scrap that — she is the limelight! Whether on radio or TV, her enigmatic energy is sure to draw you in!
It’s the morning of our October cover shoot and I arrive at Morrells Boutique Hotel — our set for the day — to loud music pumping in the background and Anele’s booming voice laughing at something the make-up artist had just said. After introducing myself, I step outside to make room for the tons of heels Anele’s brought, as well as the sea of sequinned items our fashion team’s sourced. Photographer extraordinaire, Nick Boulton, arrives and Anele literally jumps out of her chair to greet him. Their casual banter points to a relationship that spans years. At that moment, I knew this would be one of our most relaxed and entertaining cover shoots ever.
Fast-forward to the day of the interview…I arrive at Anele’s house nervous as a firstgrader on their first day at big school, but my anxiety eases when she — dressed in a glam cut-out black top — meets me outside. ‘She’s quite dressed up for a casual day at home,’ I think to myself. We walk to the living room for the interview — and it’s surprisingly quiet for a place that’s home to three children. Anele excitedly explains that she’s busy running errands for their family holiday — first, Mauritius with the kids, then Japan with her man. By now, you would have seen the evidence of the epic getaways on her Instagram!
As we move from one shoot location to the next, Anele’s Bluetooth speaker – blasting 90s hit after hit – keeps us company. She bursts into song when Mbongeni Ngema’s Stimela saseZola comes on, asks for the volume to be turned up when Beyoncé’s hits start playing and requests repeats to Tevin Campbell ballads.
“I’d say I was 11 when I knew for sure that my future career would be in broadcasting,” says the animated TV and 947 Breakfast Club host. Be it family functions, birthday parties or anniversaries, she recalls how — growing up — whenever people needed someone to talk, they’d always call her. “Speaking came naturally to me,” she explains, reminiscing about how she felt when she first watched Oprah Winfrey on TV. “I was like, ‘That’s an older version of me’. I knew then that we were similar in many ways — we had the same personality and sense of humour. Mine, obviously, developed with time”. Anele kickstarted her career in broadcasting at Tuks FM, the University of Pretoria’s campus station. This marked the start of an illustrious radio career that has seen her work for Highveld, 5fm and now 947. I muster the courage to ask why she has, so far, aligned her brand with radio stations known to have a predominantly white listenership. “Tuks FM was purely a rock station. ‘Jou ma’ was our slogan. White radio stations scout from there, so I was always going to get scouted by them,” she shares. She remembers being so besotted with her Highveld gig that her then co-pilot, Grant Nash, had to persuade her to move to 5fm. The pair worked together at Tuks FM, and are still the dynamic duo they once were — except that Grant, now, prefers to work behind the scenes at 947. At first glance, it seems as though the industry has typecast Anele but her versatility continues to set her apart. “There once was a point where I wasn’t white enough for certain things and a time when I wasn’t black enough,” she shares, adding that she lost and won jobs because of this.
Now, with her career entrenched, her experience and talent secure the job — not her appearance. “The onus is on you to prove yourself when you get there, so that those people you weren’t ‘enough’ for can see past what you look like, what you sound like and what you supposedly are to them.” Alakhe, Anele’s 4-year-old son walks in, just as I’m about to ask the question I’m most anxious about. He definitely wants mom’s attention, but eventually retires to his bedroom.
Driving to the shoot that morning, a billboard I’d seen numerous times catches my attention once again. An animated Anele and her 947 Breakfast Club team are displayed, accompanied by the caption “Queen of Morning Radio”. My immediate thought was, “Wow, lentombazane ines’bindi” [this girl has guts]. That’s a heavy title to own!” So, does the crown fit? I ask, wondering if she has received any backlash from other industry players.
“It definitely does! While on air today, I had a moment where I went, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m actually very good at this!’” She delves into an idea she and the team had — to find the best cuddler amongst them — and how they worked tirelessly on the execution before going on air. “People think radio’s glamorous, but I always tell them it’s a lot of hard work and consistency is important,” she explains.“There was some back and forth between us, our station manager, the creatives and the bosses about the phrase ‘The Queen of Radio’. They were like, ‘You’re not just the queen, you kick the guys’ asses too — so you’re the king’. My response was, ‘You can’t put Ruler of
Radio on a billboard so I like the word queen because I love that I’m a woman!’”
She veers off topic and commends her team for the hard work they put in. From Alex Caige who runs the desk, newsreader, Thembekile Mrototo, whom Anele believes deserves an international audience, her co-host, the witty Frankie Du Toit, as well as the nurturing Cindy Poluta on sports. Anele co-owns a production company called Rose and Okes with Frankie. Oh Baby, their first TV production about the booming world of baby showers, will be flighted on 1Magic from Friday 11 October at 20h30 and repeated at 12h00 on Saturdays. There will also be a Mzansi Magic simulcast on Sundays. When Anele put up an Instagram post, in July this year, urging those in the thick of organising baby showers to enter, she received over 500 entries on the spot. “I believe that in a country where 65% of kids are born to single mothers, we put too much unnecessary focus on weddings.”
For weeks leading up to the shoot, the TRUE LOVE team conceptualised everything to a T — from styling, crew to location. We wanted to portray Anele as the queen she is and even pitched our ideas to her, which she absolutely loved. She moved from look to look with ease and the confidence of someone who knows exactly what they want from life — a great relief and time-saver for the team.
Having worked on big productions such as Strictly Come Dancing, SA’s Got Talent, Clash of the Choirs SA, Real Talk with
Anele and The Voice SA, I ask if she thinks she has reached her peak. “No, I’m nowhere near peaking. I must still do a cooking show because I love cooking — and may I add that I’m very good at it [chuckles]. I still have to do another talk show, and this time around it must be international!” Her broadcasting career has mostly oscillated between anchor and presenter roles —except on Clash of the Choirs SA where she was a judge. “I really prefer hosting. I like scripting and planning how to engage and take the viewer on an emotional journey.”
Anele had hit the TV prime-time jackpot with SABC 3’s Real Talk with Anele. It was through that talk show that she cemented herself in viewers’ hearts and minds. “Real Talk with Anele was really one of my biggest heartbreaks — but as with my relationships, girl, I can move on! Things started disintegrating, in what was being put on, and I felt it would compromise all of us. I felt like we were no longer operating at the same level we were on when we first kicked off. I’d been in conversation with my manager, Owen Swanson, for nine months before leaving, she shares.” She adds, “My boyfriend still remembers those days when I’d go straight from the radio show to start prepping for Real Talk with Anele. He started noticing that I was coming home for two-hour naps in between, and said, ‘You don’t enjoy it anymore and it pains me because you love interviewing people’”. At this point, she remembers some of the show’s pivotal moments — one of them being EFF President Julius Malema sharing what a nervous wreck he was when he proposed to his wife. “He said that’s why divorce is out of the question for him because he doesn’t want to, ever, find himself proposing to another woman. He added that he’d rather go to war with the then President Jacob Zuma than pop the question again. That was one of the most difficult moments in his life and I got him to open up about it.”
Anele recently bagged an exciting new TV show in the form of Celebrity Game Night on E!, a 10-episode Emmy-award winning series that features A-list celebrities competing in various games in an at-home studio. The show is set to premiere on Monday, October 28 at 20h00 (CAT). “So basically, it’s game night at my house and we’ll be playing a total of six games. There’s a bar and people are getting toasted because I’m serving them real drinks. There are snacks too, an audience and a band. Listen, every freaking A-lister in this country will be on the show!”
MY MODERN FAMILY
Anele’s phone rings in the middle of our second cover shot — meaning no music for a bit. While laughing, she instructs her assistant to answer and tell her boyfriend that (1) she’s shooting and (2) he’s just interrupted a Tevin Campbell classic. In a few seconds, Come Back To The World, is back on.
Anyone who follows Anele on social media would have noticed that she didn’t announce her separation from her son’s father. “I knew three months after Alakhe was born that the relationship was doomed [chuckles]”. Probing further, I ask if the thought of being a single mother ever haunted her. Without flinching, she responds, “What? It didn’t scare me one bit!” That said, they have a great co-parenting relationship. “You can tell kids things as much as you want but the biggest impact is made on
their feelings. I could’ve faked it and moulded myself into what would make him happy, but I didn’t want Alakhe to grow up in a home where there was constant tension.” Separating with someone often comes with the stigma of failure and the muchdreaded ‘Abantu Bazothini’ syndrome. But Anele felt none of those! “If my dad had it his way, we’d never have boyfriends or get married — we’d just pop out kids! My dad can’t handle an unhappy person in a relationship. He’s like, ‘Leave! Get out! Bring back my child if you don’t know what to do with them’”.
Anele slowly introduced the world to Thoba Mkangisa, the man who has stolen her heart. The pair met through a mutual friend, but it was purely a chance encounter. “I met Thoba when I was pregnant with Alakhe, in this very dining room. We started dating when Alakhe was about two,” she says, blushing in between giggles. Anele narrates how, on the day she first encountered Thoba, she called her friend hoping they could
go get some shisanyama. The friend happened to be at a braai and said she was welcome to come over. Unbeknown to Anele, she was headed to Thoba’s house.
An attentive host, Thoba — tended to Anele’s needs and even insisted on reversing her car out the driveway as it was difficult to navigate with her baby bump. However, she thought nothing of his kind gestures. Their paths crossed again, two and a half years later. Anele was invited for another social at Thoba’s house. “Let’s just say it was Friday and by Sunday I had moved in [chuckles]. At the time, I lived alone with Alakhe and his nanny, Flo. During my weekend ‘visit’ I drove up and down for about three days to fetch clean clothes. Thoba came along on the fourth day. While busy packing a little overnight bag, he just said, ‘We’re not going to do this up and down thing. Just take everything’. When we got back to his house, he’d moved his stuff out of the wardrobe to make space for me and also prepared Alakhe’s room.”
Let’s allow a smitten girl to do all the talking, shall we! “Thoba’s turning 43 and I’m 35, so there’s a measured-ness about him. He’s kind and gets that I’m a hot mess,” she gushes. “There’s a comfort about him that I really enjoy — he’s my favourite place. He’s hilarious, engaging and a socialite”. Just as Anele relates that Thoba has two daughters from a previous relationship, the girls walk in with their paternal grandmother — who’d taken them to get their hair braided for the upcoming trip. The girls, who are mirror reflections of their father, then shyly retreat to another room. She picks up where she left off, “Thoba just wants a baby, guys. I see us together for a very long time [chuckles].”
Anele is an ambassador for Domestos, who are currently on a massive drive to bring proper sanitation and running water to underprivileged communities. “In March 2018, when fiveyear-old Lumka Mketwa drowned when she fell into a pit toilet at her school in Bizana, as a mother, I felt her mother’s pain. I decided that as a society, we can’t always wait for the government to do something”. Anele’s roots are in the Eastern Cape, where pit latrines are the norm, so she kickstarted the project there. “In this country, kids already have big hurdles to deal with — among them sexual harassment and poor quality education. Let’s just take one obstacle away (sanitation).” This social mission is in collaboration with the government. The interview comes to a quick halt as Anele remembers she’s running late for a make-up appointment. “I love permanent make-up when I go on holiday. I can swim and do anything without fussing about how I look”.
It’s the last shot of the day, the sun’s setting over the Northcliff Koppies and everything’s tinged with a sunburnt orange hue. Everyone, but Anele, is moving around listlessly waiting for the final call. Dressed in a silver sequined mini dress, she starts scaling the gate — hoping to nail the final pose. When the final call is made, she shouts, “group picture”. A sign that she’s definitely all about teamwork.