Dimpie Dimpopo on his stardom: 'I didn't expect to blow up this much'

Dimpie Dimpopo. (Photo: Sharon Seretlo)
Dimpie Dimpopo. (Photo: Sharon Seretlo)

Cape Town - He’s been described as a “whole mood” and everything about him, from his funky clothes to his over-the-top personality and high-energy videos, screams “look at me”.

And he’s certainly been noticed by thousands of South Africans who now look to Dimpie Dimpopo to get the party started. Dimpie – real name Nadeem Poen – became an overnight sensation after his infectious videos started trending every day. The excitable 23-year-old is the ultimate hype-man, telling his fans where the hottest parties, biggest line-ups and best jolling joints are in Mzansi.

With his signature “Oh Nkosi Yami” (Oh Lord) tagline and his over the top hand gestures, he rose to fame in a matter of weeks – much to his amazement.

“I really didn’t expect to blow up this much,” says Dimpie, who has amassed nearly 100 000 followers on social media in no time.

“But I have and I’m so grateful to God for that.” It’s all incredibly humbling, adds Dimpie, who has popped into the DRUM offices in the middle of the festive season just days after South Africans started making their own #OhNkosiYamChallenge videos, mimicking his hype. “I’m not even where I want to be yet. I have bigger plans for my career and the fact people believe in me enough to buy into my dream is wonderful. I’m so blessed.”

He’s come pretty far fairly quickly – far enough, in fact, to make a promotional video for Cassper Nyovest’s KwaZulu-Natal concert while chilling in the rapper’s swimming pool and hanging with superstars Kwesta and DJ Black Coffee. 

“I mean, those guys have been in the game for such a long time. They’re big, so for them to see me as someone to hang out with and work with is truly amazing.”

Dimpie, who grew up in Kliptown near Eldorado Park in Joburg, always knew he wanted to be a household name. He loved being the centre of attention so, when he was in primary school, he gathered kids from three grades and entertained them with his brand of stand-up comedy. All his school life he’s been the class entertainer, he says, so much so that his teachers would often tell him he wouldn’t make it past primary school because he talked and clowned around too much.But he proved them wrong by passing Grade 12 at Missourilaan Secondary School, the first member of his family to get a matric certificate.

“It might not have looked like I was serious about my studies but I was. I always knew where I wanted to be and what the road ahead required.“I think passing matric meant more to my parents and siblings than it did to me, actually. They were so proud of me and couldn’t wait for me to fulfil my dreams and go far.”

School was tough for Dimpie, who was often picked on for his albinism and called names such as “whitey”, “different one” and “yellow bone”. Still, he says, he always had a girlfriend.

“Every year would be a different girl. I was quite popular among the ladies!” It helped that Dimpie had a loving home life. His father, Nazeer, and sister, Abida, have albinism so it was completely natural to him growing up. Only his mom, Rihanna, and brother, Naeem, don’t have the condition.

Life was a struggle, though. His dad and mom, who are now both pensioners, battled financially but they did their best to raise their three kids.

“Growing up in Kliptown wasn’t easy. Times were tough, I won’t lie,” Dimpie says. “I remember when other kids were getting expensive gifts for Christmas and birthdays, we wouldn’t have anything because there wasn’t enough money at home for that. “And I mean, as a child, you get very heartbroken and wonder ‘Why me?’, you know? But like I said, there was never a shortage of love.”

His parents are extremely proud of him now, he adds, and are delighted their son is making a name for himself as an entertainer.

“My mom and dad are full of love and support for their children.”

While he’s become a walking gig guide, Dimpie says he isn’t a complete party animal. “I used to be wherever the party was when I was a bit younger – I’d follow the music,” he says.

“But as you grow older, you enjoy hanging out with people close to you. You still have fun, but in a more intimate way. That’s where I’m at right now. “So I still enjoy dancing and parting, but with less crowds around. It’s not a thing of thinking you’re better than others, but you realise that as you get busier, you get more tired and appreciate the time spent with loved ones.”

Even though he’s a hit with plenty of people, there are some who say he’s in danger of growing a big head – and others from his past who call him wanting royalties because they claim to have given him his stage name while they were growing up together.

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“Which is weird because I’ve always had this nickname,” he says, shaking his head.So what’s next for this overnight sensation? “Well, I ’m already working on expanding my brand. I have a lot more alter egos I want to introduce to the public, like Nana,” he says, hinting that the term of endearment he often uses in his videos will become a full-blown character. “Yho that one is something else! So a lot more content to entertain is coming.”

But more than anything, he wants to raise awareness about albinism, Dimpie says, and make people realise it’s only a condition and nothing to be stigmatised for.

“We’re not different or anything like that, we’re people too. Just with less pigmentation than other people, that’s it. And I want people living with this condition to dream big and work at making their dreams come true. Your condition must not be your stumbling block. No, nana.”

His quick rise to fame has shown him that giving up on dreams isn’t an option.

“Work hard and see what you’re capable of. Exhaust all the options God exposes you to and trust me, you’ll reap the benefits.

“There’s nothing more powerful than a made-up mind.”