The blonde beauty pulls up at our offices in a burgundy Range Rover, carrying Louis Vuitton and Gucci tote bags bulging with clothes from her favourite designers. “This is how I roll, honey,” she says, breaking into booming laughter.
With her bold and boisterous nature, Lethabo “Lejoy” Mathatho (34) has always known she was born for the lime-light. Now she’s breathing new life into the second season of The Real Housewives of Johannesburg.
“I’ve always wanted to be on the show. I love the glitz because I grew up the complete opposite,” Lethabo tells DRUM.
Growing up in Limpopo with her single mom and two siblings, Lethabo had very little. She knows what it’s like to skip school because she didn’t have sanitary towels. “I knew early in life that I don’t want live like that. I want the fake hair, the lashes, the cars, the big house.
“And if you think I’m doing too much, honey, you haven’t seen anything yet,” she says.
It’s this confident and candid attitude that’s caused her co-stars’ claws to come out on the hit show, but Lethabo is unapologetic about spilling tea on wealthy socialites. “With me, what you see is what you get. I am free, respectful and very outspoken,” she says.
“I just don’t get along with people who disrespect others and who are insensitive. Christall [Kay] tends to be insensitive to people’s personal issues, like the time she called babies made through artificial insemination ‘fake children’ because they weren’t created the conventional way,” she continues.
“I called her out because being on TV means you have a responsibility to teach people – not just entertain.” Christall isn’t the only reality star who’s rubbed her the wrong way. “Brinnette [Seopela] and I also had a bit of tension, but we’ve ironed it out. It’s not that I don’t like Christall and Brinnette, I just like Mrs Mops more.”
Lethabo says she and Nompumelelo “Mrs Mops” Mophatlane have become close friends behind the scenes. They FaceTime each other every morning and often meet over lunch to talk business. “Her and I hit it off on the first day we met,” Lethabo says. “I thought I was done making friends at this age, but she won my heart. She is pleasant and the friendship came naturally.”
Lethabo is not really a housewife – she’s in a long-term relationship with her partner, Swedish engineer Pär Thoren. “I’d love to get married and have kids one day. But for now, call me a house partner,” she jokes. Viewers don’t get to see much of Pär because he’s been living overseas for the past two years. “Which is why I travel a lot to Sweden, London and the USA.” The couple met in 2016 at an ice cream shop in Centurion. “I was late for my radio show and wanted to buy ice cream. But he was in front of me and confused about what to get.” She suggested he take a scoop of each flavour. “I was in a hurry and I wanted him to finish. When I paid, I mistakenly paid for his as well.”
When she left, he chased after her and asked for her email address. “He sent me a picture of the empty ice cream tub saying he’s even more confused because they were all delicious.” They’ve been together ever since and even though her man spoils her, Lethabo is a self-made woman. Everything she owns has been bought through her own sweat. “There’s nothing wrong with couples sharing their wealth but I want to inspire women and young people to dream and work hard for themselves.” She wants to use her platform on the show to inspire young people who come from poor homes. “I was able to break the chain of poverty in my family. I built my mom a house, I became successful and I want people to see they can do it too. And I want them to see how I did it.”
The ambitious businesswoman owns a printing company but started out in radio, working at Capricorn FM and Thobela FM. Now that she’s starring in the show her career on the airwaves has taken a back seat. “I love radio so much, but I’m also enjoying being on TV and the life that comes with being a celebrity – attending red carpet events, dressing up and showing up.”
There’s more to her than dolling up though. Lethabo loves helping others and does so through her Lejoy Foundation, which she started seven years ago. “This is very close to my heart. I have done sanitary drives because I know the pain of not having your own sanitary towels.
We paint orphanages, give groceries to families and try to help where we can.” Lethabo gets her generous nature from her mom, Anna Mogadi Mathatho, who raised her, her brother Karabo (22) and sister Tokologo (12) in Seshego, Limpopo. “My siblings are my world. My brother is a pure and utter gentleman. I don’t know where he gets this because we were raised by a single mother.” She has much respect for Anna, who was retrenched from her teaching job when Lethabo was studying journalism at university.
“My mom showed me anything is possible. She raised beautiful and responsible children without my father,” Lethabo says. “My personality is totally from my mother’s side. She is vocal, strong and just doesn’t take nonsense. My dad was a club DJ, that’s where I get my creativity, my love for music and radio,” she adds. Her parents separated when she was young, and she met her father, Elliot Semenya, when she was 16. “I was so happy to meet him, especially after my mom lost her job because I thought he would come in as a saviour, but he disappeared when I brought up money,” she says. Lethabo asked her dad for R20 000 to help her pay her outstanding fees. “He left because of R20 000. I spent many years asking myself if he loved me,” she says.
They may not have had an ideal relationship, but Lethabo forgave her father before he passed away. “I’m content. I hold no grudges,” she says. “I want someone who’s sitting at home to be able to dream that they too can break the curse of poverty – and be unapologetic about it.”