In the hot seat

2013-05-28 09:30

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TV personality Minnie Dlamini is poised for great things – and doesn’t want to be known as just another pretty face.

While most women her age are still thinking about what they want to do with their lives, 23-year-old media darling Minnie Dlamini has already earned her stripes.

The polished young professional is the sparkly co-host of SABC1’s Soccer Zone and the talent scout for a new sports presenter search which starts next week – and she’s starring in a brand new local series too.

But while Minnie is understandably excited about her new prospects, she’s the first to admit she resents being called an It Girl.

‘I admire the original black It Girls of Mzansi,’ she says. ‘Women like Basetsana Kumalo, Carol Bouwer, Khanyi Dhlomo and Jessica Motaung should be applauded for using the entertainment platform they had to turn themselves into successful business women.’

But Minnie believes the term It Girl suggests fleeting fame.

‘She sets the example of how to have it all – and look good doing it. But unless this magnetism is used properly, it can die quickly. I don’t want to be known as the hot face of the moment – I want to be known as someone who followed her dreams and achieved all her goals.’

Minnie adds that the fact we don’t talk about ‘It Women’ suggests the term is bestowed only on the young, the frivolous and the fleetingly famous. ‘I’m not dissing other people my age who are seen as It Girls,’ she says.

‘And I’m happy that some people think of me as one. But the term can be misleading. Being an It Girl has its season. You are anointed by the media but then you get to the point where you fall out of favour because there is always new young talent right behind you.’

Trends analyst Dion Chang agrees the ‘It’ concept isn’t cast in stone.

‘It is determined by subculture, pop culture, zeitgeist and cultural benchmarks of what is hip and cool,’ he says.

And although the ‘It’ originally meant something quite powerful and rare, being seen as an It Girl nowadays might just mean you’re married to a musician, dating a professional sportsman or about to release a boutique range of designer handbags.

‘It Girls are created in editorial meetings, says communication strategist Sarah Britten. ‘And as a particular celebrity gets more and more coverage, she gets bigger.’

Minnie has managed to sustain her rising star by being really businesslike.

‘I treat myself as a brand,’ she says. 'Some partygoers label me a recluse who lives a lonely life, but I choose to have fun with my two brothers, Maphe and Khosini, who are my best friends. For me, attending functions and events is work.’

And as former Heat magazine editor turned publicist Melinda Shaw says, ‘Building a personality brand takes strategic thinking and the help of the right people. It’s not good enough to just be pretty and talented. You also need a special quality that captures attention wherever you go.

Just look at the current crop of It Girls, such as Minnie, Bonang Matheba, Pearl Thusi, Poppy Ntshongwana and Jeannie D. Without a team of people working behind the scenes to help decide about what to take and what to leave, what to wear and how to handle criticism, it would be hard to maintain It Girl status.’

Sarah adds that ‘it’s interesting how It Girls with longevity never have too much scandal hovering around them – they’re essentially good girls.

They lead glamorous, desirable lives, but somehow manage to avoid the mess that stalks the Lindsay Lohans of this world.

It’s possible that this makes them less interesting than the walking disasters we love to watch tripping along to the next train smash.’ And Minnie is only too happy to keep her image squeaky clean.

She is in hot demand, a flawless beauty who is used to being in the limelight, and determined to continue flying high. ‘I am no psychic, but the plan is up from here,’ she says.

‘I never back away from a challenge. My Hollywood dream is starting to take shape and I couldn’t be having more fun with my new ventures.’

Filming for the new series Rockville (which starts next month on Mzansi Magic) was a real learning curve, the talented actress admits.

‘I play Nosipho, who is the twin sister of Mpho, played by Boity Thulo. Nosipho is a true tomboy, which is very much who I am and how I grew up,’ Minnie says.

‘She has a tough exterior but is a proper softy at heart, and that’s me. She also has a lot of emotional issues, so although she is a minor character in the show, she was fun to play and to style. I hope she’ll be as much fun to watch!’

Produced by and starring power couple Shona and Connie Ferguson, Rockville showcases the two sides of contemporary South Africa – the middle-class world of Joburg’s suburbs where swimming pools, fancy cars and private schools are top of mind, and the working-class streets of Soweto where community reigns supreme.

‘People will definitely find a character or story in Rockville that relates to them,’ Minnie says.

‘For instance, Nosipho and Mpho have a strained relationship, where they take different sides when they should band together. Off-screen, Boity and I have a very professional relationship, but we managed to have fun and be silly in moments where we could.’

Minnie is particulary thrilled about her gig as presenter of the SABC sports presenter search show which starts next week.

She will be putting a number of wannabes through some challenging paces to find out who is the most deserving to be part of the SABC news team that will broadcast from next year’s Fifa World Cup in Brazil.

‘What I love most about the soccer is that it reminds me of the countless weekends spent watching matches with my dad. He was a local soccer coach in Durban and took us along with him to training and matches. He taught me everything I know about the game and I don’t remember a time when we didn’t watch weekend matches as a family.’

Minnie adds that sport has taught her a lot. ‘In the entertainment industry, it is very easy to see other women as competition. But this is crazy. It’s much better to run your own race and to stay in the lane you’ve chosen for yourself.’

The lane Minnie has chosen is clearly the fast one. But she is also incredibly shrewd about her choices.

Before she aligns herself with any brand, she looks at the long-term consequences of her decisions. If it doesn’t tie in with her ultimate goals, she passes up lucrative opportunities.

She wants to be known as a person young people look up to. ‘It’s not that I don’t want to be accessible,’ Minnie says. ‘It’s just that I want to be accessible in the right places.

When she is not in front of the cameras, Minnie is fiercely protective of her personal life. She remains resolutely professional when asked whether celebrities need to offer some of their private lives up for public consumption.

‘I always say each to their own,’ she shrugs. ‘If you feel it’s necessary, then by all means, go for it. There are certain aspects of my life I prefer to keep private, for my own sanity, mostly.’

Having suffered through comments about her rumoured break-up with Bafana Bafana goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune earlier this year and new rumours linking her to Idols winner Khaya Mthethwa, Minnie is still tight-lipped about her love life.

‘I have never publicly spoken about my relationships,’ she says firmly.

‘Relationships are difficult enough without the added pressure of being a known figure. And no, I am not now and never have dated Khaya. We are childhood family friends, whose relationship is more brother-sisterly.’

Minnie says it’s important to remember that celebrities are human, not just subjects to be written about.

‘We’re not islands, but have families and communities who are equally affected by what gets reported, especially when it’s not true. I understand the media has a job to do.

As long as the job and mandate for both parties is respected, you can go through the motions of the industry with a professional mindset.’

• Rockville hits Mzanzi Magic on Wednesday, 19 June at 7pm and her sports talent search show starts on Sunday 2 June on SABC1.

‘The “It” factor is determined by pop culture and zeitgeist.’ - Dion Chang

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