Queen of Bling

2012-08-11 06:27

It was vanity that first brought us together.

Khanyi Mbau admired my spanking new set of teeth after a torturous two years of wearing braces, confessing she’d been nursing a desire to fix her smile in a similar way, but could not do it because she was a “brand”, always in the public eye.

Then came the horrific attack of ingrown hairs on my face that sent me to the laser chair to get rid of the folliculitis that was fast deforming my skin.

Khanyi, in her unrelenting pursuit of the perfect “Photoshop look” has been a regular at a few plastic surgeons around town.

And she invited a few cameras along to document her not-so-discreet transformation.

This became our conversation starter over the years until one evening in December 2010, at a dinner with the US-tabloid-royalties Kim and Khloe Kardashian, I asked her to change the topic and rather collaborate with me in writing a book about her life.

It was no secret that hers has been a life well lived (moral judgments aside).

At 25 her story had the potential to enthral and excite any book reader.

She didn’t need much persuasion.

I have always admired Khanyi for her tenacity and immeasurable entertainment value. She took hold of the baton as a tabloid queen where the irrepressible Brenda Fassie left off. Telling her story in a book only made sense.

In January 2011 we discussed the deal and in no time we had our first rendezvous at the Melrose Fire & Ice hotel and later her house in Sandton, which we lovingly called “the condo”.

As we sat she’d tease me: “You are just like me Lesley, we are the same. You are just as vain.”

And of course my protests that my procedures were all for medical purposes would fall on the deaf ears of the self-made Queen of Bling.

She’d roll her eyes and flick her Brazilian weave.

For 18 months I was immersed and entangled in the crazy world of this femme fatale, Khanyi.

She became my second wife. Every day after work I knocked on her door before rushing home to my own family with the clock inching towards midnight.

She took me in like a stray dog and fed me good food and made me promise never to tell that she can cook.

“People should never know that the brand cooks,” she ordered me. And like a docile servant I nodded in agreement.

Some of the most frequently asked questions I’ve had to deal with lately have been, “What is Khanyi like? Is she a bitch? Is she difficult to work with?” And the answer is what you’ve already suspected. She is a cunning, clever and meticulous businesswoman.

She is composed under pressure and doesn’t believe the hype around her. She is conscious that the name of the fame game is relevance and visibility.

One thing I can take away from the process of writing her biography is how unflinchingly honest she was.

Speaking in her hushed deep voice, she unpacked the story of her life and let me watch it unfold like a theatre production right there in her cosy living room with its subtle citrus scent.

While the cold winter wind howled outside, inside the house was warm and welcoming. The TV mounted on the wall was always off, and jazz playing softly in the dimly-lit room gave it the ambience conducive for a heart-to-heart chat.

And on hot summer nights we chatted over juice or a tall glass of water.

Yes, that’s another thing people don’t know about Khanyi – she’s a teetotaller.

And then there were the visitors I ran into who shall remain nameless.

It suffices to say they are top-drawer political elite.

This is a woman with strong political connections, who jealously guards her brand.

Having graduated from the much-cliched school of hard knocks she is a fighter and knows that in this town it’s all about who you know.

And she has a thick skin, as thick as those Hermes Crocodile Birkin bags stuffed in her walk-in closet.

She rolls with the punches and knows how to take the insults, the name-calling and the snide remarks in her stride.

“I like walking through the fire, it is painful when it happens and I hate it, but when I make it to the other side and I look back I smile and realise it was actually a thrill. I am addicted to pain I suppose,” she told me.

When I got queasy and uncomfortable with some of her hard truths, she quickly brought me to book: “I do taboo Lesley, get used to it. Don’t be startled.”

And I would quickly get my composure back and shelve my morally judgmental tendencies.

Our talks were always punctuated by the roars of laughter or the shaking of heads in disbelief or sadness.

She curled up on her sofa in her tracksuits, sans make up, and allowed herself to speak to her heart’s content. In front of me was a woman who had been to hell and back.

At some stage her anger was palpable, I could see fire in her eyes as she related the heart-wrenching episodes of abuse she endured at the hands of her ex-husband Mandla Mthembu or the torrid and sordid shenanigans she got up to as businessman Theunis Crous’ mistress.

She takes equal blame and owns up to the bad choices she made in the 26 years of her life.

And the result is a frank tale of a young starlet seduced by the bright lights of fame and caught up in the glare of a media spotlight playing to the public gallery – often with disastrous consequences, heartache and pain.

But she’s a helluva funny storyteller. I suppose it was easy to relate her story because Khanyi is an excellent one for snappy one-liners and put-downs. She often had me putting down my pen and cracking up at her choice of words and the delivery of some of her lines.

There are special moments that didn’t make it to print but are captured in the virtual time capsule that only she and I have a password to.

I couldn’t have asked for a better, braver and juicier subject.

» Bitch, Please! I’m Khanyi Mbau is released on Wednesday at all major bookstores nationwide

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