The colour of my Idol

2010-10-30 15:01

Tonight, will Lloyd Cele beat Elvis Blue to become South Africa’s first black Idol?

Why are we still making a fuss about having a black Idol? You’d think that we’d be over ourselves by now. Yet the reality show is on season six and still no black singer has managed to win the coveted ­title, hence a campaign by ­motormouth Idols judge Mara Louw to get blacks to vote for black contestants.

“It shouldn’t be a racist thing, but what is South Africa going to do if a black person wins Idols?” she ranted in an interview printed in Beeld last month.

In an ideal South Africa it wouldn’t matter. But let’s face it, a colour-by-numbers mentality still exists in this country and having a black Idol would be significant no matter how much we pretended it didn’t matter.

Before Sindi Nene was voted out on Tuesday every time ­M-Net panned to a shot of her gogo in the audience brandishing a poster it reminded us of our past, and what it would mean to gogo to have Sindi win. Every time we glimpsed Lloyd Cele’s toddler or his Indian wife we saw races coming together. It reminded us of the ideal South Africa, the South African dream, and gave us a view of a present that’s thankfully more picturesque than our past.

According to M-Net, only 17% of DStv’s Premium package subscribers are black – so it stands to reason that if only blacks voted for blacks we wouldn’t have had a black person beyond the top five. And we had three – Sindi, Lloyd and Boki Ntsime – each of whom got my vote week after week.

Having a black Idol would prove that we had moved on; that South Africans voted for talent, not colour. Because let’s face it, if votes were cast on colour alone bland contestants such as Pieter West would still be in the competition.

But more importantly, having a black Idol would mean that Louw would finally be right about something – a black contestant deserved to win this season.

– Alison Visser

For the past six seasons, the show has captivated audiences with its clever marketing, enough for people to believe that fame and fortune come easy in our relatively small entertainment industry.

The previous winners’ biggest success has been winning the ­actual competition and being showered with confetti. After that, not much else has happened. The often corny song put out on radio dies a slow, quiet death on the charts.

The race debate has so often been attributed to our painful past, but we must look to our present to understand why this debate is still so hot. Black president? Check. Black ­moguls? Check. Black socialites and celebrities? Check. Black Idols winner (in a country with 80% black population). Not so much.

The talent in any truly excellent popstar is someone who can sing any song as on-lookers scream, cry and the hairs on the back of their necks stand up. How the colour of anyone’s skin determines this is questionable. Look at those who have made it in the industry without the help of a ­reality TV contest – the guest judges are a good example. Loyiso Bala, HHP and Freshly Ground’s Zolani Mahola are the epitome of pop stardom: well-known, talented and more importantly driven to succeed.

It is drive that interests viewers, fans and judges more than talent. What any Idols winner is going to do with their new-found success is what viewers pin their hopes on each season. Will the winner go back to the town from which they’ve come, or push forward like their international counterparts? The UK’s Will Young recently released a greatest hits album and American Jennifer Hudson turned her ­exposure into true success.

Perhaps the significance of this season of Idols is that ­audiences have voted for people who may just have what it takes to take this “win” and turn it into something. Colour is something on everyone’s skin, each person has some sort of talent, but not everyone has drive.

– Farrah Francis

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