It’s going to be a good year

By admin
27 January 2011

The call came in November, she says. “Think about it,” the person on the other end of the line said. “There’s no rush.”

But really, what was there to think about? As she puts it, if you’re in showbiz and you’re offered an opportunity like this you aren’t going to dwell on it for long.

The opportunity Unathi Msengana was offered was an audition to judge the 2011 season of Idols and help the panel of judges set a new group of hopefuls on the road to fame and fortune.

She managed to hold off calling M-Net back for a few days, then picked up the phone. Her appointment as the new judge was announced recently, ending speculation about who would step into the shoes of the irrepressible – and controversial – Mara Louw.

Mama Mara, who was on the panel for the past three seasons, was replaced because M-Net reportedly wanted to keep the show fresh. But it’s widely believed the veteran singer and actress overstayed her welcome especially after appearing on the show towards the end of the last season under the influence. She later admitted to having used vodka to take painkillers.

Mara also often accused the show’s voters of being racist. Idols would never have a black Idol, she said, “because it’s on DStv and white people vote for white people and black people get the short end of the stick”.

So now Unathi will sit in the chair vacated by outspoken Mara, alongside Gareth Cliff and Randall Abrahams. “It’s going to be exciting,” she tells us, days after her new role is made public. “It’s also going to be difficult because I don’t like disappointing people.”

So what is she going to be like – tough like Randall? “No,” she says firmly. “I’m just going to be me. And whoever enters should know that even if they don’t win, it doesn’t define their talent.”

Unathi is well qualified to comment on people’s musical talent. She’s a DJ, songwriter and recording artist with two solo albums, My First Time and In Honour, under her belt. She also understands both ends of the music industry: making it and selling it. And she knows all about performance anxiety, which will help her empathise with contestants.

She meets us for lunch at Bliss Lifestyle Lounge in Auckland Park, not far from the SABC headquarters where she works. Unathi co-hosts one of SA’s most popular programmes, the 326 Glenzito Avenue show, with Glen Lewis and Melanie Bala from 3 pm to 6 pm every weekday on Metro FM.

When she knocks off she heads home to her DJ husband, Thomas Msengana, and their six-year-old son, Sinako. And speaking of family, she has a little secret to share: baby No 2 will be joining them later this year.

Read the full article in YOU, 3 February 2011.

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