Winnie's perfect life

By Drum Digital
27 October 2010

SHE’S one of the mainstays of the South African entertainment industry, a bundle of energy and talent who’s been making music since she was a cute teenager imitating her idol Brenda Fassie.

But Winnie Khumalo long ago emerged from the formidable shadow cast by MaBrrr to become an artist in her own right. Which is why it’s hard to believe that, until two years ago, she was still struggling so much she had to share not only a room but a bed with her two children.Today, however, the 37-year-old singer and her kids, son Thando (18) and daughter Rethabile (16), live in a comfortable three-bedroom home in Protea Glen, Soweto.

The lady of the house, dressed in a stylish knee-length black skirt and black shirt, greets us at her beautiful silver and glass gate and lets us in though the kitchen with its dark stained wooden cupboards and silver appliances.

We follow her into the living room where she invites us to make ourselves comfortable on the black and tan suede couches. Her daughter is supposed to be here too but she’s running a little late, Winnie tells us. “She and my manager have taken her puppies to the vet but she’ll be back any minute.”

She goes off to make drinks and snacks, leaving us to look around the room with its large home entertainment system complete with plasma TV, CD player, DStv and surroundsound speakers. Ice Age 3 is on the TV and Winnie, returning with the tray, says it’s one of her favourite movies.

“I just love it – it’s such a fun little film.”

Fun is something that hasn’t always been in big supply in the songbird’s life. Although she started out in the music industry at 13 and released her first album, Hey Laaitie, at 15, she loved music so much she skipped school and chores at home so she could rehearse and perform. In the process the wheels came off and by the time she was 19 she had her first child with boxer Dingaan Thobela.

She also became involved with manipulative, unscrupulous people in the industry who left her broke – and when baby number two came along, fathered by muso Seabee, she had no choice but to abandon all attempts of living on her own. She returned to her grandmother’s house in Mofolo, Soweto, where she grew up, shared her room and her bed with her kids and wondered where she’d gone wrong.

All that began to change six years ago when Kalawa Jazzmee Records gave her the chance to work with some of their stars. Then in 2008 she recorded Happy Days and the resulting sales meant that Winnie and her children’s dreams could come true: in November 2008 they moved into their own house.

Things couldn’t be better now – she recently played Brenda Fassie in the hit theatre musical MaBrrr, taking over some performances from the star, Lesego Motsepe. And then she released her latest solo album, Woman, which, if it’s anything like her previous offering, Living my Life, will soar up the charts.

WITH her second chance at stardom, Winnie is now more careful.

“Even choosing this house, I was cautious. It had to be comfortable and it had to be in Soweto. Abantu bay a bheka [people watch you] when you move into the suburbs. And if you have to move back home everyone starts talking because they know ukuthi izinto ziya beda [things are bad],” she says as Retha arrives with a puppy in tow.

Read the full article in DRUM of 4 November 2010

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