The best of both worlds on ‘Morning Live’

2013-04-03 00:00

FOR nearly a decade Leanne Manas’s smile has greeted viewers of Morning Live on SABC2.

During her time on the show, she’s interviewed a host of international stars and leading figures in South Africa, including Celine Dion, Lionel Richie, Sir Richard Branson, Archbishop emeritus Desmond Tutu, Miriam Makeba, John Legend and the Reverend Jesse Jackson.

But ask Manas to choose her favourites and her reply is immediate: “It’s quite boring because I always say the same thing — [former president] Nelson Mandela and Oprah [Winfrey].

“They are both idols in my life and I was lucky enough to interview them really early on in my career. I think it was in my first year on Morning Live. Everything afterwards has been incredible, but I think that interviewing those two incredible people helped to take the trepidation from any interviews I have done since.”

Manas was described by those in the industry as an “overnight success” after she was chosen to anchor coverage of the elections in 2004.

In fact, she’d been a working journalist for many years, serving as a weekend and late-night news anchor for Talk Radio 702, the news anchor on Classic FM, doing stints on radio stations around the country and working on Summit TV.

She joined the SABC in 2003 and presented two programmes on SABC3 — Business Update and Business Focus — where she could showcase her interest in financial journalism and make use of her post-graduate studies in economic journalism.

“I had no idea what it was like to present the elections. It was massive and threw me into another level in my career,” Manas said of her elections stint.

It also paired her with Morning Live co-host, Vuyo Mbuli, and the bosses at the SABC clearly saw potential in the partnership, which was made permanent when she joined the show in 2004.

Broadcasting live has many perils, but Manas believes that the close working relationship she has with Mbuli helps to smooth over any rough spots.

“We’ve been together for nine years; some marriages don’t last that long! We have an amazing understanding. And even if we individually get embarrassed by something that happens to us, together we keep things going,” she said.

Given her success in the broadcasting game, it comes as a surprise to learn that Johannesburg-based Manas hadn’t planned to make it her career.

“I never knew this was what I wanted to do,” she says, “I wanted to be a radio DJ, to play music, to be in entertainment shows.

“I never thought I was suitable for news, but from my first day in a newsroom, I was blown away and knew that this was what I wanted to do. I was hungry for stories.

“I think being a journalist just suited my personality, my voice, my style. News and I go hand-in-hand and Morning Live gives me the chance to do both hard news and the lighter lifestyle and entertainment stories. I get to experience the best of both worlds.”

Asked what advice she might have for young people thinking of becoming journalists, Manas says: “I’d tell them to go for it. It’s a wonderful profession.

“Without good journalists a lot of the things that are happening in our country would go uncovered. We need to keep pushing. We don’t want to live in a country with no free media.”

While Manas’s passion for her work is clear to see, marriage and motherhood have proved to be equally fulfilling.

Speaking about how her life has changed since becoming a mum to three-and-a-half-year-old Alexandro and seven-month-old Gabriella, she says: “Being a mother brings out a totally different side to you. Having children has humbled me, has brought out the less selfish side of me. They are the light of my life. Out of everything that I have done they are my pride and joy.”

She and husband, investment banker Marc Menelaou, both have demanding jobs, but Manas says that one of the blessings of being on Morning Live is that she gets to be with her children when they’re awake. “I’m not missing out on what’s happening in their lives,” she adds.

Morning Live is one of the flagship programmes on SABC2, which launched its new brand identity and tag line in Johannesburg on March 1.

Manas, who was one of the hosts of the launch event, says she really likes the new look, describing it as “fresh, young and more modern”.

“SABC2 has always been there for viewers and I think it always will be. It was the first channel that we [South Africans] ever had and now it’s moving on, moving in the right direction,” she added.

• Catch Morning Live on SABC2, Monday to Friday from 6 am.

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