‘I once touched a star’ – In loving memory of Vinolia Mashego

Vinolia Mashego. Picture: Lucky Nxumalo
Vinolia Mashego. Picture: Lucky Nxumalo

I never envisioned being a part of Jam Alley, or being a television presenter for that matter. I thought I would follow in the footsteps of John Kani and Mbongeni Ngema instead.

After turning down countless auditions, there was one particular audition that my drama lecturer at the Federated Union of Black Arts, the late great actor James Mthoba, insisted I attend. I had turned 22 that year, was very passionate about dramatic arts, and I went to audition for a presenter role on Jam Alley. To this day i am grateful to him.

When I arrived at the SABC studios there were familiar faces, but I remained focused on the end goal. The audition process happened in front of a mock studio audience. To my shock, days later, I got the part! I, Nimrod Nkosi, was going to work alongside Vinolia Mashego.

Fast-forward to the recording of the first episode; as I was about to step out of my dressing room for final touch-ups, it was as if time stood still. Remember that Vinolia was already on television. There she was, gorgeous; huge hair bouncing as she walked; high heels; mini skirt; Japanese gown; red lips; sharp nose; with bright eyes and a big smile.

I was certain that I was dreaming. I said to myself: “Here she comes, just shut up and say ‘Pleasure to meet you.’”

Before I knew it, she gave me a hug and said: “Bona fa chomi, go tloba monate. Oska wara, ebile ona le voice e kima. So otlo ipitsa mang mo? [Look here friend, we’re going to have a blast. Don’t worry, plus you have a deep voice. So what are you going to call yourself?]”

Vinolia was well respected among her peers, irrespective of their celebrity status. She gave everything to Jam Alley. She taught me how to navigate adoring fans with grace and humility.

We got ready and I proceeded to the studio, where I was welcomed by the audience. After the formalities concluded, Vinolia made her iconic entrance. You have to understand, once V made an entrance there was no rewind button.

There she was, tiny in stature but with a bombshell presence that could not be denied. Every kid who had a chance to come to Jam Alley was there to see Vinolia.

Then she started to do her thing, telling the audience to beat on the tables. This would become her signature ritual, and I was part of it! She had the audience spellbound. Laughing and lapping at her every word. Before I knew it, it was lights, camera and action.

After the first episode wrapped, Vinolia walked into the dressing room and asked: “Who are you? I am not asking your name, I want to know who you are in this alley? I am V-Mash and you can never be me in many lifetimes”.

Sounding much like an instructer, she said when we shoot the second episode “you better show up. They saw something in you and said that I would be blown away and so far it am not. Show up and find yourself”.

That was when the name The Sheriff was born.

Our synergy was formidable from thereon. The fun I had with her is immeasurable.

Vinolia was well respected among her peers, irrespective of their celebrity status. She gave everything to Jam Alley. She taught me how to navigate adoring fans with grace and humility.

I clearly remember the day she left Jam Alley; it was the end of an era. I have always paid tribute to her, the woman who taught us to show up and find ourselves, to be loved for who we are and never to be fake. She changed the game of presenting. The abnormal was the new normal for that genius. Every child in the township knew that they too had a chance at being a TV star because V-Mash said so.

Vinolia leaves with us her legacy, which her son can hopefully take forward. But what big shoes they are to fill.

We will miss her being the life of the party. I certainly hope that this country can pay tribute to her by naming a street in her honour in Mamelodi.

People from all races and cultures will always fondly remember “the crazy blonde of the airwaves”.

You may not think it to look at me, but I once touched a star.

Rest in power Vinolia “V-Mash” Mashego.

Nkosi is a TV presenter and actor who co-hosted Jam Alley with Mashego


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