You Should Love Bonang!

Yeah, that's right. I said you should love Bonang Matheba. You shouldn't love her because she's beautiful. You don't even need to like any of her TV or radio shows. You should love Bonang, because she's a young black woman at the top of her game. In a country where success for black people is still measured by tainted political connections, you should love Bonang because we need it… our future generations need it. 

I was with a friend and I saw a comment Bonang had made on her Instagram to a fan who responded to her post about a new range of her Distraction lingerie line coming up in November. The fan commented that Bonang wants people to support her line which is sold at Woolworths which supports “racist Israel”. Bonang responded by posting that the fan should not make his/her problem her problem.

I cringed when I read that and my dear friend was quick to jump on the wagon and start a conversation about Bonang being fake and a diva. He continued to ask me if I am going to write about this Instagram exchange between Bonang and a fan on my blog. I said NO and he couldn’t get why. 

I have been a proud member of the Bonang fan club for few years now. Trust, it did not happen overnight. At first I found her too prim and self-aware which was a bit of a put off for me. However, once I got to understand her and what she was aiming for, it all made sense to me. She is now the only black entertainer in Mzansi that is actually making it, I am not going to shoot her down over a reaction on social media. 

Often, I'm pushed to defend just why I'm such a big fan. To be honest sharing everything that Bonang does serves two purposes for me, it is a pleasure to do because I AM A FAN and writing about Bonang means people will actually click on the link. It is a win-win for me.

Aside from actually liking her as a person, exactly why am I on the Bonang brand bandwagon? The reason: Bonang Matheba fills an important role in our culture and industry.

With the drama that ensued around Generations, South Africans were able to see that black people in the entertainment industry are still faced by the same limitations that you encounter in your daily life. Though black people are now in charge, we are still treated like beggars who should be grateful that we are given a platform and should not make any demands. 

Black celebrities still do not get paid for magazine covers in South Africa unless it is an exclusive story like, Kelly Talking To Drum About Senzo’s Shooting, or something like that. Generally, the whole notion that you are given some exposure and ought to be grateful still prevails. 

Here comes this girl, whom should not have the level of success that she has because by all account, the only big numbers she commands are on social media, which comprises of just 2% of the nation’s population. 

All of the sudden this girl, who blossomed into a woman, is bagging multimillion rand endorsements, pulls insane amount of media coverage, is lauded as the ultimate measure of stardom in South Africa and everyone is clamoring to be associated with her name.

The list of daunting stats pertaining to how black people are marginalized, often by other black people, in this business really goes on and on. There is a message about black entertainers that they are just props to be used and disposed of at will. We do not own anything and should be grateful to be afforded the opportunity to be made celebrities. 

We are often to blame for this. Take musicians for instance, they are happy to be borrowed a car and fancy house to live in by recording labels and they sign off their talents — not realising that should the label be fed-up with them they will walk away with nothing.

To just be on TV we are willing to not ask for participation in the business decisions made about our talents. Actors and presenters are happy to be paid peanuts while the productions they work for rank in millions, only because we see being on tv as more important than actually having a career that sustains one's livelihood. 

Bonang is a black woman loved by thousands in this country and the continent. She didn't rise to fame on a reality show. She did it the old fashioned way. She earned it through hard work. She's a black woman with control over content and her own creativity.

She has a team which includes publicists, brand manager, lawyers, manager, etc. How many black local celebrities even have a simple thing as a website? They do not take what they do seriously and treat it as a business but they get surprised when people like Bonang seem to get all the businesss opportunities and endorsements deals. 

More importantly, Boanang Matheba is a PROFESSIONAL. Her ability to respect the industry and give 100% every-time she is hired for a job has encouraged people to return and ask to work with her over and over again. That in turn has given her power — the kind of power that affords her the rare privilege of picking who she wants to work with or not. 

Now sure, some of you are thinking but she's just an entertainer. She is not going to change the world or cure some disease. Her response to that fan on Instagram shows that she is not concerned about her influence beyond her paycheque. That is a small flaw in an individual that is a trailblazer and an inadvertent pioneer. 

She's still a black woman who has reached a level success that needs to be seen. It is Because of her that I can say to a production company, I don’t just want to be on a TV show to just be on TV, I want to have a say and own part of the show. It is because of her that a black entertainer can now demand to be treated with the same respect our white counterparts have been for years. 

On the real though, I'm using "love" a bit loosely here. You don't need be an obsessive Bonang fan but you have to recognize black female excellence for what it is. Bonang exudes, personifies and is that.

In a country where 60 percent of young women between 15 and 25 drop out of school and rely on social grants to feed their fatherless babies, we need a Bonang to inspire those babies to not follow in their mothers’ footsteps. 

Bonang is more than just an individual’s name. Bonang is and should be an ideology that transcends the frivolity of celebrity but inspires a generation to know their worth and demand that we get paid our dues. 

I work in the entertainment industry. This is the world I know and in this realm, Bonang reigns supreme because her accomplishments open the doors for many to follow and achieve more. I also understand the influence celebrity culture has on society at large so her inspiration and entrepreneurial drive goes beyond just this industry. 

Blacks who work hard should be recognized and paid accordingly for their talents. Bonang has reached the pinnacle of such. Sure, most of us won't match her status, but that's not the point. The point is; Generations 16 Saga should never ever happen. Never again should we have to read about another entertainer dying a pauper. 

If Bonang's celebrity can inspire any of us to push past those barriers, hell Imma be in her corner because I want to see change and prosperity for my people in this business.

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