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2013-10-30 10:56

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Her gorgeous face and oh-so-amazing body adorn shop fronts and advertising campaigns. Her song ‘My Name Is’ is a hit on the party circuit. And she’s just launched a fashion range. It’s safe to say DJ Zinhle is on a roll.

She’s become a household name in South Africa – thanks not only to her music but because of her range of clothing and watches recently launched in stores across the country. Zinhle Jiyane (aka DJ Zinhle) is an ‘It Girl’ with a capital I and a big, bold G. Yet there’s a lot more to her than meets the eye.

Behind the name, the songs and accomplishments lies a businesswoman with a plan – not bad for a girl from the former coal-mining town of Dannhauser, KwaZulu-Natal, who had no ambition to get into music, let alone fashion.

The 31-year-old was initially interested in marketing, which is why she headed to Jozi to do a diploma in marketing management at the University of Johannesburg. But she learnt the hard way that things aren’t always what you think they’ll be.

‘After my diploma I went to work as a marketing intern for a make-up company,’ she recalls. ‘But I didn’t enjoy it. I was bored. So my brother Zak taught me how to deejay. I wasn’t that interested, but he had the equipment and I had the time to spare.’

She soon discovered she had an aptitude for music, but she continued with marketing while she got the hang of spinning discs and making playlists. It was a sensible move and her diligence paid off as her career advanced, including being brand manager for SAB.

‘I learnt so much during that time, even though I didn’t know it then. I acquired the knowledge I’d one day need to develop and market my own personal brand.’And it’s a brand that prioritises giving back to others in the industry that has made her the happiest.

Please don’t stop the music

Zinhle started to focus on deejaying as a career in 2004 and she’s been at it ever since. ‘It’s a male-dominated industry so it was a challenge to make a name for myself. But I did it,’ she says. ‘I’ve had an amazing journey and I’ve been lucky to work with people such as Oskido along the way.’

As her profile started to rise, Zinhle was inundated with questions about where she had studied – usually from young women.

‘I realised there’s a real gap in the market. So I teamed up with my friend Nomdeni Mdaki and we decided to formalise training and make it strictly for women, because there’s such a shortage of female DJs.’

That was in 2009. Since then, The Firm Understanding of Sound Entertainment (Fuse) Academy has had over 100 graduates. Located in Newtown, Joburg, Fuse Academy teaches aspiring DJs technical, business and branding skills over 10 weeks.

Zinhle’s profile has grown with time too. In 2011 she released the album Feminine Touch through independent label Kalawa Jazmee Records, and has since had a monster hit with the house song ‘My Name Is’ featuring Busiswa.

But running her DJ school hasn’t been without its challenges: in July, the academy’s premises were broken into and there was speculation that Zinhle might shut up shop.

It was a distressing time, she admits. ‘Our equipment was stolen, but I was more worried about the safety of the girls. We live in a country where crime is a problem. It’s scary, but you do have to go on. I wasn’t going to let this close us down.’

Fashionably patient

While she was re-establishing her DJ school, Zinhle entered into talks with the Legit chain of clothing stores about launching her own fashion range. It was a natural progression, she explains.

‘I’ve been deejaying for Legit since 2008, when Bonang Matheba’s range was launched – I’d play at their events. I knew I wanted a range of my own one day.’

She bided her time and dug into her wells of patience, observing the scene for five years. ‘I set goals for myself and I work hard at making them a reality. I don’t let anyone else’s journey affect my plan, and I don’t get jealous of other people’s milestones because I believe in travelling my own path.’

Zinhle credits this outlook to her childhood. ‘My mom was strict, and she taught us the value of waiting for things.

I remember one year she got me a doll in October but kept it from me until my birthday, which is at the end of December! So I’m not new to biding my time.’


Right, so: Music? Tick. Fashion? Tick. DJ school? Tick. What’s left? Ah yes – the Private Life … Good luck with finding out juicy details in that department. The rumour mill has been abuzz with speculation about her involvement with rapper AKA, but she’s not going there.

‘I’m a private person and always have been. I’m also working towards being an inspirational brand, and the best way to do that is through my work. I can strive to be perfect professionally, but I can’t guarantee that in my personal life. I also don’t see how anyone would be inspired by who I am dating.’

Zinhle insists she likes to keep things real in her downtime – and that includes who she hangs out with. ‘I don’t have industry pals or celebrity friends. My two closest friends have been in my life forever; I’ve known Nomdeni for 16 years and Masego since university.

I’m also very close to my brother and my family, and that’s about where my circle ends. I have many peers and associates who I respect, but they’re not close friends.’

Where to from here for Zinhle? ‘I’m going to continue to promote my Legit range, play gigs and focus on my next album. Next year marks a decade of my being in the business so I want to make a 10-track album to celebrate that.’ You go, girl!

Zinhle’s fashion must-haves

1. A pair of jeans that fits just right.

2. Heels – they make all the difference to your posture.

3. Plain white tees, for when you don’t want to overthink your look. They always work with jeans and heels.

Body of work

Zinhle’s body is one of her trademarks and she’s proud of her awesome abs and rock-hard rear – and pays no attenation to the people who have criticised her for being butch and masculine. She keeps in shape by:

Working out three times a week. ‘I have a personal trainer and we do a lot of cardio, and focus on legs and bum.’

‘Eating clean’ six days a week. ‘On Sundays I eat whatever I want, but on other days I try to make healthy options … although I can never quite resist chocolate!’

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